Table of Contents

Get Your Degree in Nursing Online

How to Get a Nursing Degree Online? Ultimate Guide for 2024

You’re ready to advance your career in healthcare, but attending campus classes doesn’t fit your schedule. That’s where online nursing degrees come in. They’re flexible, accessible, and can be the key to unlocking new opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of earning your nursing degree online—from accredited nursing programs to graduation timelines. We’ll help you understand the benefits, address potential drawbacks, and navigate to the best schools, ensuring you’re prepped for success in the nursing field.

What Are Online Nursing Degrees?

Online nursing degrees are academic programs you can pursue via the internet, combining online coursework with in-person clinical requirements. These online degrees offer the flexibility to study from home while still ensuring you gain the necessary hands-on experience. 

When you choose an accredited online nursing program, you’re ensuring that the education you receive meets industry standards and prepares you for your future role in healthcare.

Most online nursing programs require you to complete clinical hours in a healthcare setting, which is a critical component of your training. This practical experience allows you to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Online nursing education isn’t just about convenience; it’s about providing a comprehensive learning experience that equips you with the skills needed in a dynamic and demanding field.

Top 5 Well Known Nursing Programs 

As you explore well-known nursing programs, you’ll find that courses like Psychology and Statistics are integral to understanding patient behavior and data analysis.

You’ll also encounter specialized subjects such as Basics of Mental Health and Community Health Nursing, which are essential for providing holistic care.

Furthermore, a strong grasp of pharmacology is crucial, as it equips you with the knowledge to administer medications safely and understand their effects on the human body.

Here’s some detailed information about each of the online nursing degree courses you’ve listed under the heading “Nursing Programs”:

1. Psychology

  • Psychology courses in nursing programs provide students with a foundational understanding of human behavior and mental processes, which is crucial for effective patient care. Topics covered may include developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, and behavioral interventions.
  • These courses help nurses develop interpersonal skills, empathy, and the ability to communicate effectively with patients and their families, especially in high-stress situations.

2. Statistics for Nursing Research

  • Statistics courses are essential in nursing education as they equip students with the skills to interpret and analyze healthcare data. Nurses use statistical knowledge to make informed decisions, assess patient outcomes, and contribute to evidence-based practice.
  • Students learn to understand research findings, conduct basic statistical analyses, and critically evaluate healthcare studies. Proficiency in statistics is vital for evidence-based nursing care and research.

3. Mental Health

  • Mental health nursing courses focus on providing care to individuals with psychiatric and psychological disorders. These courses cover topics such as psychiatric assessment, therapeutic interventions, and the promotion of mental well-being.
  • Students learn about different mental health conditions, treatment modalities, and the legal and ethical aspects of mental healthcare. Mental health nursing is crucial in addressing the growing need for mental health services in today’s healthcare landscape.

4. Community Health Nursing

  • Community health nursing courses prepare students to work in diverse community settings, addressing the healthcare needs of populations rather than individual patients. This includes understanding public health principles, health promotion, and disease prevention.
  • Topics may include epidemiology, community assessment, health education, and healthcare policy. Community health nurses play a vital role in improving the health of communities through education, advocacy, and preventive care.

5. Pharmacology Training

  • Pharmacology courses provide nursing students with knowledge about medications, their effects, and safe administration practices. Nurses must understand how different drugs work, their potential side effects, and how they interact with each other.
  • This training ensures that nurses can administer medications accurately, monitor patient responses, and educate patients about their medications. Pharmacology is a critical component of nursing practice, ensuring patient safety and effective treatment.

Online nursing degree programs typically offer these courses as part of their curriculum. The flexibility of online learning allows students to balance their studies with work and other commitments, making it a convenient option for aspiring nurses. These courses, along with clinical experiences, help students acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become competent and compassionate healthcare professionals.

Can You Get A Nursing Degree Online?

Yes, you can get a nursing degree online. Many accredited colleges and universities offer online nursing programs, including Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Registered Nurse (RN) to BSN programs, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and more. 

These programs are designed to provide the same rigorous curriculum as traditional on-campus programs, with the added convenience of being accessible from anywhere.

When searching for the best online nursing programs, look for those with comprehensive coursework, accredited status, and positive student outcomes. While the theoretical parts of your degree can be completed online, clinical will require in-person attendance to gain hands-on experience.

With dedication and a well-chosen program, earning your degree online is a viable path to a career in nursing.

How Do Online Nursing Programs Work?

To understand how you can earn your online nursing degree, it’s important to grasp how online nursing programs are structured and delivered. These programs, offered by accredited schools, allow you to complete most coursework virtually. You’ll engage in lectures, discussions, and collaborate with peers through digital platforms.

You might enroll in an RN to BSN program, which caters to existing registered nurses aiming to advance their education. Though much of the learning is online, hybrid programs necessitate in-person clinical rotations to hone practical skills in healthcare settings. This blend ensures you’re prepared for the realities of nursing.

Additionally, online programs include NCLEX exam prep to qualify you for your nursing license. With determination and the right resources, you’ll be equipped for a thriving nursing career.

How Long Does It Take To Complete An Online Nursing Degree?

The duration of an online nursing degree program can vary based on the specific degree and the individual’s circumstances. Here are some general timelines:

Online BSN Programs: Typically take around 3 to 4 years for individuals starting with no prior nursing education. For those with prior nursing education or an associate degree, RN to BSN programs can often be completed in 1 to 2 years.

Online MSN Programs: These can take 2 to 3 years for those with a BSN. However, some accelerated MSN programs may be completed in as little as 12-18 months.

Online Doctoral Programs (DNP or PhD): These can vary widely in duration, with most DNP programs taking 3 to 4 years and PhD programs often taking longer, around 4 to 6 years, depending on the research and dissertation requirements.

Keep in mind that part-time or accelerated program options, as well as individual pacing, can also impact the time it takes to complete an online nursing degree.

Do Online Nursing Students Need To Come To Campus?

It depends on the online nursing program. Some programs are fully online, while others may require occasional on-campus visits or clinical rotations in local healthcare settings.

Here are some common scenarios:

Fully Online Programs: Many online nursing programs are designed to be completed entirely online, allowing students to complete coursework, clinical requirements, and exams remotely. In such cases, there is typically no requirement to come to campus.

Hybrid Programs: Some programs may have a hybrid format, combining online coursework with occasional on-campus requirements. These on-campus sessions might include skills labs, simulations, or clinical orientations. The frequency of on-campus visits can vary among programs.

Clinical Placements: All nursing programs, including online ones, require students to complete clinical rotations in healthcare settings. These clinical experiences are typically arranged locally, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in their communities.

It’s essential for prospective students to review the specific program’s admission requirements and curriculum to understand any on-campus obligations.

How Do Instructors Evaluate Students’ Nursing Skills Online?

Instructors assess your nursing skills online through a combination of virtual simulations, video assessments, and remote proctoring of practical examinations. When you’re enrolled in online nursing programs, you’ll find that nursing degrees require rigorous evaluation of your abilities.

For tasks that demand a hands-on approach, such as those you’ll encounter in BSN programs or on the path to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse, your instructors will often use video submissions. You’ll demonstrate procedures on manikins or with the help of volunteers, ensuring your techniques are up to professional standards.

Additionally, virtual simulations allow you to make critical decisions in lifelike scenarios, while remote proctoring tools ensure the integrity of your practical exams. Through these methods, nursing online maintains a high standard of competency, despite the physical distance.

How To Get Clinical Experiences When Studying in an Online Nursing Program?

Often, online nursing programs partner with local healthcare facilities to provide you with the necessary hands-on clinical experiences. These are critical for honing the practical skills you’d expect from a traditional program. If you’re enrolled in an online nursing school for an associate degree or higher, you’ll typically be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours.

To arrange these experiences, your nursing school will likely have affiliations with hospitals and clinics near you. They’ll match you with a site where you can observe and participate under the supervision of experienced nurses and healthcare professionals. It’s your responsibility to treat this opportunity as a key component of your education, as real-world practice is indispensable in nursing.

Engage actively and absorb as much as you can during these sessions.

Can I Get Financial Aid For An Online Nursing Degree?

Yes, you can get financial aid for an online nursing degree. In fact, many online nursing degree programs qualify for financial aid, which you can access to help manage the costs of your education. To determine your eligibility, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

This application is crucial for unlocking various types of financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities that can be applied to both traditional and online programs.

It’s important to research and choose accredited online nursing programs to ensure they meet the criteria for financial assistance. With careful planning, the best online nursing degrees can be made more affordable through higher education financial aid.

Don’t let the price tag deter you; with the right resources, you can invest in your future without breaking the bank.

Requirements For Online Nursing Programs

To enroll in an online nursing program, you’ll need to meet specific requirements:

  1. Educational Prerequisites: Most online nursing programs require completion of general education courses such as anatomy, microbiology, and statistics.
  2. Collegiate Nursing Education Guidelines: Accredited nursing schools expect you to meet these guidelines, which often involve having a high school diploma or equivalent, and possibly a minimum GPA or entrance exam scores.
  3. Clinical Experience: Clinical experience is a non-negotiable component, even in online programs. You may need to complete certain hours in a healthcare setting. However, some programs offer exceptions for individuals with an ADN, current RN license, or prior clinical hours, potentially streamlining your path to a BSN.

How To Choose A Nursing Program Online?

When choosing an online nursing program, follow these steps:

  1. Research Top Programs: Start by researching reputable online nursing programs with a track record of helping students obtain their RN license.
  2. BSN Degree: Look for programs offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, as it’s increasingly important in the healthcare field.
  3. Accreditation: Ensure the program is accredited to guarantee that your education meets industry standards and is recognized by employers.
  4. Schedule Flexibility: Consider the flexibility of the program’s schedule, especially if you have work or personal commitments.
  5. Nursing Specialties: Explore the nursing specialties offered by the program and ensure they align with your career aspirations.
  6. Support Services: Check for support services like tutoring and career counseling, as they can play a pivotal role in your success.

6 Benefits Of Studying Nursing Online

When you choose to pursue a nursing degree virtually, you’ll benefit from the ability to review material on your own schedule, ensuring you fully grasp complex concepts.

Adaptive online classrooms offer a more personalized learning experience, with increased interaction that caters to a variety of learning styles.

Moreover, the overall cost is often lower compared to traditional programs, allowing you to save money while advancing your education and career.

1. Review Material

Studying for a online nursing degree offers you the flexibility to review course materials at your own pace, accommodating your personal and professional commitments. Whether you’re aiming for a bachelors degree or advancing to a master’s degree, online graduate programs provide an extensive archive of lectures, readings, and resources that you can access anytime. This means you can tailor your study schedule around shifts, family time, or other studies.

Moreover, if you’re in a state that’s part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, your online education can seamlessly support your eligibility for licensure in various states. Plus, online platforms often facilitate credit for previous education, so you don’t have to repeat what you’ve already mastered.

2. Learn At your Own Pace

You’ll appreciate the ability to set your own study tempo with an online nursing degree, ensuring the program fits into your unique lifestyle and commitments. Many online nursing programs are designed to accommodate diverse schedules, allowing you to progress at your own pace. This flexibility means you can balance work, family, and other responsibilities while pursuing your nursing career.

The best online school for you is one that not only offers online nursing programs but also provides the support and resources you need to succeed. By studying online, you won’t be forced to rush through material; instead, you’ll absorb content thoroughly, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the challenges of the healthcare field.

3. Adaptive Classrooms

Flexibility in your educational journey continues with adaptive online classrooms, where you can interact with course materials that adjust to your personal learning style and pace.

As you aim to get a nursing degree, whether to become a certified nursing assistant, a licensed practical nurse or to pursue nurse licensure at a higher level, online programs offer an individualized approach.

Content delivery is tailored, allowing you to grasp complex concepts more effectively.

This personalization, crafted by professional education writers and nursing experts, ensures that you’re not just another face in the crowd.

You’ll experience practical and detailed coursework designed to meet your unique needs, making your path to a nursing degree not just a possibility, but a custom-fit reality.

4. More Interaction

Despite common misconceptions, many online nursing programs offer you more direct interaction with faculty and peers than you might find in traditional classroom settings. These programs are designed to ensure that even without a physical presence, you have ample opportunities for engagement. 

You’ll participate in online forums, video conferences, and one-on-one sessions that may surpass the interaction levels of a crowded lecture hall.

Starting from your high school diploma, your journey to working in a medical facility involves building relationships and networking. Online nursing degrees facilitate this by providing platforms for collaboration and conversation, ensuring you’re not just a face in a crowd but an active participant in your educational community. This interactive approach is both practical and essential, fostering a deeper understanding of nursing concepts.

5. Lower Cost

Studying for your online program can often be a more affordable option, as you’ll save on many of the expenses associated with on-campus education. You won’t have to worry about the costs of commuting, parking fees, or on-campus housing. Additionally, many online programs offer digital versions of textbooks, which can be significantly less expensive than their physical counterparts.

Furthermore, online nursing programs may have lower tuition rates, as they don’t have the same overhead costs as traditional colleges. By eliminating the need to fund campus facilities and services, these savings can be passed on to you. It’s also possible to maintain a job while studying, which can help offset tuition costs and reduce the need for student loans.

6. Technology Skills

By engaging with an online nursing program, you’ll develop proficiency in using various technological tools and platforms, an essential skill set for today’s healthcare environment.

You’ll become adept at navigating online learning management systems, teleconferencing software, and digital record-keeping. This experience directly translates to the clinical setting, where electronic health records (EHR) and telehealth services are becoming the norm.

You’ll also gain experience with online research databases, enhancing your ability to stay current with medical literature and best practices. These tech skills not only make you more marketable as a nurse but also improve your ability to provide informed patient care.

As healthcare technology evolves, your comfort with digital tools will be invaluable, keeping you at the forefront of nursing innovation.

4 Disadvantages Of Studying in a Online Nursing School

While you’re eager to embark on your online nursing studies, it’s important to consider some challenges you might face.

Without the structure of a traditional classroom, you’ll need strong self-discipline to stay on task, as completing coursework online often requires a higher level of self-motivation.

You’ll also miss out on immediate feedback from instructors and the benefits that come from face-to-face interactions with peers, which can be crucial in a hands-on field like nursing.

1. Difficult To Stay On Task

Pursuing an online nursing degree can be challenging when it comes to staying focused. The absence of a structured classroom environment means you’re responsible for managing your own schedule. Self-discipline and time-management skills are crucial. Distractions at home, like social media and chores, can lead to procrastination. To combat this, establish a regular study routine, create a dedicated workspace, and use online tools to block distractions. Consistent engagement with coursework and fellow online students can help maintain motivation and productivity.

2. Not Receiving Immediate Feedback

In online nursing degree programs, a drawback is the lack of instant feedback from instructors. This delay can hinder your progress, especially when dealing with complex medical concepts or skills. Responses to assignments or questions may take hours or days. To mitigate this, proactively seek peer support and use available online resources to clarify doubts. Adjusting to this delayed feedback compared to traditional classrooms is essential.

3. Limited Face To Face Interaction

Pursuing a RN degree online reduces opportunities for personal interaction with instructors and peers. This lack of face-to-face engagement can impede the development of crucial interpersonal skills for patient care. Observing body language, practicing bedside manners, and hands-on experiences are limited. Networking and forming study groups are also more challenging. While online tools can help bridge the gap, they can’t fully replace in-person exchanges. Seek alternative methods to gain these vital communication skills proactively.

4. Not All Online Programs Are Accredited

Not all online nursing programs are accredited, which can affect your eligibility for licensure and employment. Accredited school ensures a program meets educational standards. Check if your chosen program is accredited by recognized agencies like CCNE or ACEN.

Without accreditation, you might be unable to sit for the NCLEX, required for RN licensure. Employers often prefer candidates from accredited programs, impacting your job prospects. Always verify a program’s accreditation status before enrolling to secure your future in nursing.

Best Online Nursing Schools

You’ll often find that Capella University and the University of Texas at Arlington are consistently ranked among the top choices for obtaining your RN degree online. These institutions provide comprehensive programs tailored to meet the needs of aspiring nurses.

Consider these top-tier online nursing schools:

  • Capella University: Offers RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP programs, which are designed for flexibility and career advancement.
  • University of Texas at Arlington: Provides an acclaimed RN to BSN program, as well as RN-to-MSN and RN-to-MSN (FNP) programs for those aspiring to higher levels of nursing practice.
  • Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies: Renowned for its BSN-to-DNP and MSN programs, allowing for specialization in several nursing fields.
  • Southern New Hampshire University: Features seven online programs, including an accelerated RN-to-BSN-to-MSN track.
  • Walden University: Offers a variety of master’s programs, an RN-to-BSN, DNP, and a PhD in nursing for those looking to lead in the field.

Can You Get A Job With An Online Nursing Degree?

Yes, you can get a job with an online nursing degree. Online nursing degrees, when earned from accredited programs, are recognized by employers and meet the requirements for nursing licensure. Your ability to secure a job will depend on factors such as your degree level (e.g., BSN, MSN), clinical experience, and licensing exams, in addition to the reputation of the nursing program.

You’ll find that many healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices, respect the rigorous standards of accredited online nursing programs. These programs often mirror the curriculum of their on-campus counterparts, ensuring you receive the necessary training to excel in the nursing field.

When you’ve completed your online degree, you’ll be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN, the licensing exam for registered nurses. Passing this critical exam demonstrates your competence and opens doors to employment. 


1. What is the oldest age to become a nurse?

There is no specific age limit to becoming a nurse. Nursing is a versatile profession, and individuals can pursue it at various stages of their lives. Many people choose nursing as a second career or later in life, bringing valuable life experience to their nursing practice.

2. Which program is best for nursing?

The best nursing program depends on your individual goals, circumstances, and preferences. It’s essential to consider factors like program accreditation, location, cost, and whether you prefer traditional on-campus programs or online options. Research and choose a program that aligns with your career aspirations and fits your needs.

3. What is the cheapest online college for nursing?

The affordability of online college programs can vary widely, and it’s essential to research options based on your specific financial situation. Several factors, including residency status and financial aid availability, can impact the cost of online nursing education. It’s advisable to compare tuition rates and financial aid opportunities at different institutions to find the most cost-effective option for you.

4. What is the fastest program to become a nurse?

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs or direct entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are some of the fastest routes to becoming a nurse for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. These programs typically take around 12-18 months to complete.

5. What is the easiest online BSN program?

The ease of an online BSN program can vary depending on your prior education, experience, and learning style. What may be “easier” for one person might not be the same for another. It’s crucial to consider factors like program reputation, faculty support, and the curriculum’s alignment with your interests and goals when choosing an online BSN program.

6. What is the difference between a BSN and an RN?

A BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) is a degree, while RN (Registered Nurse) is a professional licensure. RNs can have various educational backgrounds, including an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Diploma in Nursing. A BSN is a more comprehensive nursing degree that typically includes a broader curriculum, including additional coursework in areas like leadership and research. BSN-prepared nurses may have more career advancement opportunities and are often preferred for certain nursing roles.

Wrapping Up: How to Get a Nursing Degree Online

Earning your nursing degree online can offer flexibility and accessibility, but it’s not without its challenges.
You’ll need to be self-disciplined and proactive in your studies.
The best online programs provide comprehensive training that’s respected by employers, so be sure to choose a reputable school.
With dedication and hard work, you can complete your degree and enter the rewarding field of nursing, fully prepared for the demands of this vital profession.

Rebecca White
All Posts
Recent Posts
back2college logo

At Back2College, we’re firm believers that the pursuit of knowledge is an ageless odyssey.