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2023 Best Online Bachelor's in Nursing Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 2/6/2023

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Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. They provide critical care and support to patients in hospitals and medical treatment facilities. There are a variety of specializations to choose from, with a growing number of new jobs expected in the next decade. Online nursing degree programs offer a path for existing Registered Nurses (RNs) to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This is a great way to advance your career after you've received your nursing license and generate upward mobility in the healthcare industry. First you'll need to find an RN to BSN online nursing degree that fits your budget, schedule, and career goals.  Some require in-person residencies, while others are accelerated to speed up the learning process. 

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Online Nursing Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In


2023 Best Online Bachelor's in Nursing Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Mercy College 100 100 $115,215
# 2 #2 Pacific College 100 $114,248
# 3 #3 California State University - Dominguez Hills 95 $102,298
# 4 #4 University of Providence 93 $99,225
# 5 #5 California State University - Stanislaus 92 $98,218
# 6 #6 Bay Path University 92 $97,800
# 8 #8 Bushnell University 90 $93,757
# 9 #9 Farmingdale State College 90 $93,684
# 10 #10 Pace University 90 $93,622

2023 Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 Mercy College

  • Salary Score: 100
  • Median Starting Salary: $115,215
  • Locations: Dobbs Ferry (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Mercy College is a medium-sized nonprofit that offers an online Nursing RN to BS requiring 120 credit hours. The curriculum aims to prepare students for leadership roles in nursing. Some core classes in this major include Leadership and Management and Nursing Informatics. To graduate, students must complete all program requirements including upper level nursing courses and 135 hours of clinical health work, which can take up to two years with a full-time schedule. Graduates of the program may go on to explore careers in research and leadership in the healthcare industry.

At Mercy, students use Blackboard to access their coursework, which is fully online. Online students have access to faculty and advisors.

#2 Pacific College

  • Salary Score: 100
  • Median Starting Salary: $114,248
  • Locations: Costa Mesa (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Pacific College (PU) is a small, private institution that offers an online RN to BSN program. The program focuses on critical thinking, leadership, and health promotion. To apply, students must already have an associate degree in nursing, or a comparable amount of credits. The program consists of 49 credit hours, including classes such as Technological Impact on Society, Health Assessment, Education, & Promotion, and Nursing Research. This degree program may take a year and a half to complete with a full-time schedule, and students must successfully pass the capstone course: Nursing Management. Graduates may work as advanced practice nurses, case managers, administrators, and more.

At PU, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is entirely online. Students may complete coursework either synchronously or asynchronously, depending on their preference. Online students have access to all university resources.

#3 California State University - Dominguez Hills

  • Salary Score: 95
  • Median Starting Salary: $102,298
  • Locations: Carson (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

California State University - Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) is a large, public institution that offers an online RN to BSN program requiring 120 credit hours. The curriculum delves into professional nursing practices, including core classes that range from Cultural Diversity in Healthcare and Nursing Research Utilization to Community-Based Nursing. Students must complete a two-day health assessment seminar via Zoom and 90 clinical hours. All in all, the degree can be completed in 30 weeks with a full-time schedule. Alumni may enter careers in professional nursing and healthcare leadership roles.

At CSUDH, students use Blackboard to access their online coursework, which is completed asynchronously except some required clinical time. Online students have access to the You CSUDH app, which offers a variety of mental health, community, and academic services.

#4 University of Providence

  • Salary Score: 93
  • Median Starting Salary: $99,225
  • Locations: Great Falls (MT)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

University of Providence (UP) is a small, non-profit institution that offers an online Nursing RN to BSN program requiring 120 credit hours. The curriculum covers a variety of professional skills in nursing. Some core classes include Research Methods and Statistics, Evidence-Based Practice, and Organizational Leadership in Quality and Safety. To graduate, students must complete all program requirements, such as upper-level nursing courses and a mandatory face-to-face program immersion day. Overall, the program can take one year at a full-time pace.

At UP, students use Moodle to access their coursework, which is fully online. Distance learning students have access to digital libraries and career services.

#5 California State University - Stanislaus

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Median Starting Salary: $98,218
  • Locations: Turlock (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The California State University - Stanislaus (Stanislaus State) is a medium-sized, public university. It offers an online BSN with an RN to BSN track, which requires applicants to have their RN license and either an associate degree in nursing or 60 transferable credit hours completed. This program can be finished in three years with a full-time schedule, including a required Writing Proficiency Screening Test and the associated course. Some courses in this program are Nursing Leadership and Management, Advanced Pathophysiology, and Advanced Health Assessment. Graduates go on to assume leadership positions in health care facilities, policy-making, and financing.

Stanislaus State students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is 100% online. Distance learning students have access to all on-campus university resources.

#6 Bay Path University

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Median Starting Salary: $97,800
  • Locations: Longmeadow (MA) (and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Bay Path University (BPU) is a small nonprofit that offers an online RN to BSN program requiring 120 credit hours. The curriculum teaches the latest skill requirements and technologies in the nursing field. Some core classes include Nursing and Global Diversity and Research for the Nursing Profession. To graduate, students must complete all core nursing course requirements, including an investigative capstone project, which can take 18 to 24 months with a full-time schedule. Graduates typically enter careers as nurse generalists.

At BPU, students use Canvas to access their coursework, which is fully online. Online students have access to learning support services from advisors, professors, and staff.

#8 Bushnell University

  • Salary Score: 90
  • Median Starting Salary: $93,757
  • Locations: Eugene (OR)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Bushnell University (BU) is a small nonprofit that offers an online RN to BSN program requiring 120 credit hours. The curriculum goes into detail about nursing research, practices, and ethics, with core classes such as Ethics in Nursing, Leadership in Nursing Practice, and Foundations for Lifelong Learning in Nursing. Students must complete all 30 major credits, which includes a nursing capstone project. This degree can take 12 months to finish with a full-time schedule or 20 months with a part-time schedule.

At BU, students use BeaconLearning to access their coursework, which is fully online. Online students have access to career development services.

#9 Farmingdale State College

  • Salary Score: 90
  • Median Starting Salary: $93,684
  • Locations: Farmingdale (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Farmingdale State College (FSD) is a medium-sized, public institution that offers an online Nursing RN to BS requiring 120 credit hours. The curriculum equips students with professional nursing skills for a variety of healthcare settings. Some core classes include Art of Nursing in Professional Practice and Health Promotion, and Patient Education. To graduate, students must complete all program requirements, such as applied learning courses and writing intensives, which can take two years with a full-time schedule. Alumni may go on to enter leadership careers in nursing.

At FSD, students use Blackboard to access their coursework, which is fully online. Students have access to an online career center for advice and guidance.

#10 Pace University

  • Salary Score: 90
  • Median Starting Salary: $93,622
  • Locations: New York (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Pace University (PU) is a medium-sized, private institution that offers an online RN to BSN program, which can take two to three years with a full-time schedule. The program requires students to have their RN license as well as an associate degree (which can be completed at PU). This BSN program includes core courses, such as Core Competencies for Multidimensional Care, Leadership & Management, and Health Assessment & Clinical Reasoning. Overall, it focuses on the integration of theoretical knowledge and evidence-based strategies in nursing practice. Graduates may work at facilities, such as the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York-Presbyterian, and the Westchester Medical Center.

Students at PU use Blackboard to access their coursework, which is entirely online. Distance learners even have the option to finish the degree at an accelerated rate.

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Overview of Online Nursing Bachelor's Degrees

Nursing is one of the most popular majors, and hundreds of schools now offer nursing degree programs virtually. Students typically learn to assess health conditions, develop comprehensive care plans, educate patients and the public about health, monitor admissions and discharges, and supervise staff.

Some programs have concentrations so students can tailor their studies to a focused area of practice, such as family medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, hospice, or public health.

Online nursing programs require students to complete much of their coursework remotely and then engage in on-site clinical practice activities at approved healthcare facilities near their homes.

Which Nursing Level Is Best for Me?

The best type of nursing degree depends on which type of nurse a student wants to become. Those who are eager to enter the workforce may want to consider becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Students can enter these careers with only a nursing certificate or diploma, which typically takes one year to achieve.

For those who want to become registered nurses — taking on more responsibility and earning higher salaries than LPNS and LVNs — a two-year associate degree in nursing may be a better choice. Generally speaking, a nurse's earnings increase with their level of education, so a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing may be the best option for some. The most common online nursing programs are RN-to-BSN programs for RNs who have earned either a certificate or an associate degree and now want to complete a bachelor's degree in nursing. However, there are also online BSN programs for students who are not yet RNs and have no previous nursing education.

Nursing Classes

BSN programs prepare students for professional nursing practice. Coursework helps students develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, research, education, and leadership.

Some classes will involve hands-on, experiential learning activities, and most nursing programs online require a practicum in which students work in a supervised healthcare setting to gain a required number of clinical hours.

Some of the most common nursing courses include those below.

Community Health

In this course, students learn how to care for individuals, families, groups, and high-risk populations in community health settings. They learn to care for patients of all ages by recognizing physical, psychological, social, and cultural needs in order to provide interventions as needed. The course often requires hands-on application of concepts as students work in various community health environments.

Evidence-based Practice

This course provides nursing students with a systematic process for using current evidence and data to make decisions about patient care. Students learn how to research health literature, identify relevant qualitative and quantitative data, and analyze this information to make informed decisions.

Health Assessment, Education, and Promotion

Students transition to a higher level of nursing practice in this course, where they learn to conduct a comprehensive physical examination, including collecting, organizing, interpreting, and recording patient data. They also explore the role of nurses as educators by learning to use health education and promotion strategies and to overcome patients' barriers to change.

Health Informatics

Health informatics faculty introduce students to the latest information technology used in nursing practice. Students will use these tools to communicate data and other knowledge to inform patients and work with them to manage their care.

Types of Nursing Bachelor's Degrees

There are two main types of online bachelor's programs in nursing: direct-entry BSN, RN to BSN, and second-degree BSN. Each degree combines information-based classes with on-site clinical experience. Many online nursing programs also come with an accelerated option.

The table below highlights typical prerequisites, the average time to completion, and additional links for each degree.

Degree Type Typical Prerequisites Average Time to Complete
Direct-entry BSN High school diploma Four years
RN to BSN RN license One to two years
Second-Degree BSN Non-nursing bachelor's degree Two to three years

Bridge Programs

Online nursing bridge programs may help nurses with existing credentials gain a higher degree in less time. For bachelor's students, the relevant program is the RN-to-BSN path. These programs usually require one year of work as an RN, but some programs allow students to submit an essay on nursing topics instead.

Bridge programs also generally require that nurses transfer 60 credits of general education and nursing courses. Applicants must have completed foundational courses in physical sciences, math, social sciences, and humanities.

Accelerated Nursing Programs

Accelerated and second-degree programs might help students to graduate college early by giving credit for previous experience or letting them take more classes in less time. Second-degree programs in nursing are designed for students who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing area.

Accelerated programs are intensive and generally have high admissions standards.


Most second-degree programs in nursing advise incoming students not to hold a job while completing the program, as the coursework and clinical practicums are very demanding.


Nursing Degrees by State

To learn about online nursing programs and requirements in other states, explore our list of accredited nursing degrees by state below.

Nursing Degrees by State

Cost of an Online BSN Degree

The median annual tuition for an online bachelor's degree in nursing is $12,601, according to our analysis of 360 schools.

Future nurses who opt for online nursing schools may save some money in the process. All students pay charges that vary by institution — such as facility fees or book and supply costs — but online students usually don't need to pay for room and board or other campus-based fees. At some public schools, virtual learners pay the same lower tuition rate as in-state students. Additionally, online nursing students may need to pay for transportation to the healthcare facilities where they gain clinical experience, although these costs are usually minimal because the chosen facilities are generally near students' homes.

To practice nursing, graduates must have a license, and there are several fees involved in obtaining and maintaining a nursing license. Application fees vary widely by state, and the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) certification exam fee is $200. Licensed nurses must also pay a renewal fee periodically, usually every two years.

In addition to the up-front cost of a nursing degree through tuition and related fees, students should consider the payoff after finishing their program. To help with this, we've provided the online schools with the highest alumni salaries in the rankings list above.

How to Choose an Online Nursing Program

Career goals, specialization, and relevant experience will dictate which online nursing programs may suit you best. You'll need to decide how far you want to go with your career and what your plans are for the future. Once determined, you can start looking at specific schools and programs and what they have to offer that will help you meet your goals.

Below are some other factors to consider when choosing an online nursing program.

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures program curriculum, faculty, and learning outcomes meet state and national standards and is necessary for licensure. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) programmatically accredits many traditional bachelor's and master's programs, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredits those online. Either is accepted for licensure. The US Department of Education can help identify accredited nursing programs.

Cost

It's important to choose an affordable program that meets educational and career goals while mitigating any student debt that you may incur. Earning transfer credits at a community college can help save money. Along with federal financial aid, students often choose to apply for private scholarships to help offset costs. You might also consider the costs associated with obtaining and maintaining a nursing license.

Degree Level

Students should pick the level appropriate to their background and career goals. It may help to look at several careers to note the degree requirements and research employers of interest to find out what they specifically want in a healthcare worker.

Exam Pass Rates

The NCLEX was developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) as a way for nursing graduates to prove competency and earn state licenses. Most schools post NCLEX pass rates on their websites, allowing students to gauge the quality of their nursing programs by how many students pass on the first try.

Support for Online Learners

It can be challenging to complete a nursing program online without staff and faculty nearby. Therefore, it's essential to consider what kind of support for online students is available. For example, schools may offer writing and tutorial services online, library services and access to librarians, tech support, and opportunities to engage with other students through online clubs and associations. It's also important to ask about the best way to contact faculty and how quickly they typically respond.

Nursing Careers

Graduates can become registered nurses with a nursing certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. This career pays median annual wages of $77,600 and features a 6% growth rate in new jobs through 2031.

Online BSN programs typically prepare students to pass their nursing certifications, including the NCLEX exam, and to obtain a license to practice nursing. Each nursing degree option also opens the door to different specializations. Prospective nurses who want to pursue a particular area of focus should pick a program that allows them to reach their desired level of specialization. We've listed a few specializations below.

Cardiac Care Nurse

These heart specialists provide care to patients during hospital or outpatient stays, including monitoring ongoing cardiac conditions. A large part of their work involves educating patients on the best ways to take care of themselves. RNs typically need one of several specialty certifications to find work as cardiac care nurses.

Geriatric Nurse

Geriatric nurses specialize in working with older adults. They perform assessments, administer medications, and prepare and update nursing plans for their patients, among other tasks. RNs can become geriatric nurses with only an associate degree, but some states require a BSN and possibly additional certification.

Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses are RNs who work with children. They provide routine check-ups, administer medications and immunizations, and conduct screenings for developmental conditions. Many states require pediatric nurses to have a BSN, and some require them to obtain special certification in addition to their nursing licenses.

We've put together guides to popular nursing jobs, which you can explore for more information.

Licensure

How Do I Get a Nursing License?

To legally practice as a nurse, all nursing candidates in the U.S. must first graduate from an accredited nursing program. They must then apply for an RN nursing license from their state nursing board, which requires passing the NCLEX, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

There are two types of examinations — the NCLEX-RN, which is for registered nurses, and the NCLEX-PN, which is for practical nurses. The tests are designed to ensure that nursing professionals have the appropriate healthcare and professional knowledge before they begin working with patients and handling sensitive healthcare information. Nursing students can find more details about the contents of the exams on the NCSBN website.

In addition to passing the appropriate NCLEX exam, nursing candidates must meet their state's board of nursing requirements to obtain licensure. Some states also require licensed nurses to complete continuing education hours during each license renewal period to demonstrate their knowledge and update their skills. Students can check with their state board to learn more about their specific licensing requirements.

What Are the Requirements for Renewing a Nursing License?

Requirements for renewing a nursing license vary by state, but in most cases, nursing licenses need to be renewed once every two years. Some states set a specific deadline for renewal, such as the nurse's birthday.

Almost every state requires nurses to complete a documented number of continuing education hours, called CEUs or "contact hours," in order to maintain their licenses. The number of contact hours required may vary depending on whether the nurse works full or part time. If a license lapses, delinquency fees may occur. However, fees can be avoided if nurses request to have their licenses put on inactive status during their time away from work.

Approximately two-thirds of the states in the U.S. have entered into the Nurse Licensure Compact. This interstate agreement allows nurses who qualify for the multistate license to practice on-site nursing, telenursing, and nursing education in any of the states in the NLC without obtaining separate licenses for each state.

Is an Online Bachelor's in Nursing Degree Worth It?

A bachelor's degree in nursing can open up many career opportunities. However, there are some specific advantages and disadvantages students may want to explore when deciding whether to pursue a BSN, particularly through distance learning.

Potential Benefits

  • This degree has the potential to pay off in terms of salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary is $77,600 for RNs with bachelor's degrees, as compared to licensed nurses with associate degrees who earn a median annual salary of $48,070.
  • The BLS predicts that about 195,400 new jobs for registered nurses will emerge over the 2021-2031 period, and a bachelor's degree could help make graduates more competitive in the job market.
  • Earning a BSN online allows students to choose from a broader range of schools without moving to a new location. It also means that they can complete coursework on their own schedules and fulfill requirements for clinical hours at healthcare facilities close to home.

Potential Drawbacks

  • A BSN requires two additional years of education beyond an associate nursing degree, which means a higher cost for the degree and more time out of the workforce are required.
  • As with other distance-learning programs, some online nursing students may feel somewhat disconnected from their peers, and they may not always reap the rewards of sharing information and experiences with classmates, which often occurs within the classroom environment.
  • Some nursing jobs require long shifts during nontraditional hours, especially when working in a hospital or emergency care environment. Aspiring nurses who want a more traditional work schedule may prefer a career in a physician's office.

FAQs About BSN Degrees

How Long Will It Take to Earn My Degree?


It depends on how much nursing education you already have. If you have an associate degree in nursing (ADN), you might finish an RN-to-BSN program in 1-2 years. Administrators design traditional BSN programs to take four years with a full-time schedule, but most college students take more than four years to finish.

Can You Get a Nursing Degree Online?


Many colleges offer fully online nursing degrees at all levels, including the bachelor's level. However, each program requires a certain amount of clinical experience hours in a healthcare facility.

Are Online Nursing Degrees Legitimate?


Accredited online colleges are legitimate — not to mention increasingly respected — so make sure to only consider schools with institutional accreditation. These institutions work to ensure that their online programs feature the same level of quality as on-campus offerings.

Is Nursing a Good Career?


Although everyone's criteria differ, nursing is a stable, relatively high-paying occupation compared to many others. RNs' median annual salary is about $32,000 more per year than the median salary for all jobs combined, which is $45,760. The job outlook is average for RNs, but more advanced nursing roles are experiencing blazing-fast growth, so it might be worth considering a graduate degree in nursing.

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