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2023 Best Online Nursing Programs in Illinois

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 7/18/2023

Explore the best online nursing programs in Illinois for 2023 using our handpicked list. The appeal of online nursing programs has surged recently, attributed to their flexibility and convenience, which allows future nurses to balance their education with other life responsibilities. If tuition costs are influencing your program selection, consider also looking at the most affordable nursing degrees.

Our 2023 list includes colleges in Illinois that offer online nursing programs and have available NCLEX data, so you can easily determine which online nursing program results in graduates with the best pass rate.

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Online Nursing Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Online Nursing Programs in Illinois

School NCLEX Pass Rate Online Enrollment
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale 100.0% 2,086
Western Illinois University 100.0% 1,061
Rush University 97.0% 574
Illinois State University 96.0% 600
Dominican University 95.0% 145
DePaul University 90.0% 1,892
Loyola University Chicago 89.0% 1,175
St. John's College of Nursing - IL 88.0% 8
Methodist College 87.0% 36
Northern Illinois University 86.0% 334
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Becoming a Nurse in Illinois

There are over 129,000 registered nurses working in the Prairie State. In order to keep up with the demand of new hires, online nursing programs in Illinois offer a plethora of study options. Regardless of what type of nursing career or nursing degree a student chooses to pursue, Illinois requires extensive healthcare training as well as a state-sanctioned nursing license.

Nursing licenses are distributed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The department awards licenses to registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and advanced practice nurses (APRNs). Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are registered by the Health Care Worker Registry of the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs in Illinois may also offer licensure tracks. But students should ensure that a program specifies this before enrolling.  

There is a wide range of colleges and universities to consider when it comes to finding a nursing program in Illinois. The Illinois Board of Nursing has approved a number of pre-licensure nursing education programs to help students.

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

How To Get CNA Certification in Illinois

A CNA is responsible for helping nurses with their patients. In addition to medical care, a CNA helps patients eat, dress, and bathe. Job opportunities aren't limited to hospitals, either; a CNA can also find work in settings such as long-term nursing homes and home health agencies. 

There are several ways to obtain an Illinois CNA license: 

  • An individual can become a CNA in Illinois after completing a state-approved training program from online nursing schools in Illinois and passing a CNA competency test. 
  • Another option exists for nurses who have qualified as CNAs through the United States military or through an equivalent program in another state or foreign country. The state can issue an equivalent certificate in these cases. 
  • Finally, applicants who have previously worked as CNAs in the state but have allowed their registry to lapse may qualify for reinstatement. Once they're approved, CNAs can be added to the Health Care Workers Registry maintained by the Illinois Health Care Worker Registry.

One viable career path for registered Illinois CNAs is that of a medication aide. If candidates hold current CNA licensure and have completed 2,000 hours of practice in the field, they may qualify for this role. Interested applicants will also have to pass the Medication Aide Certification Examination (MACE). Medication aides distribute medications and ensure that patients don't suffer any adverse reactions.

How To Get an LPN License in Illinois

LPNs are medical professionals who perform their duties under an RN or physician. Becoming an LPN requires completing training in nursing techniques to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to work in a clinical setting. Students can achieve this through online nursing programs in Illinois. 

Prospective LPNs have two options when it comes to acquiring a license

  1. The first is to apply for licensure by examination and take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for practical nursing, known as the NCLEX-PN. This mandatory test is scored on a pass/fail basis. 
  2. The second option is to apply for licensure by endorsement. If an applicant was granted LPN licensure in another state, they may be eligible to apply under these parameters. These applications are online. 

In both cases, candidates are expected to submit proof of education, verification of fingerprint processing, and an application fee.

An Illinois LPN license is valid for two years. The renewal date occurs every even-numbered year. Licensed practical nurses who want to work in the state should remember that Illinois does not participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As a result, a nursing license specific to Illinois is required for anyone who wants to work as an LPN in this state.

How To Get an RN License in Illinois

The first step to becoming a registered nurse is to acquire the appropriate level of education through online RN programs in Illinois. To become a registered nurse in the state, candidates must earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. 

Once prospective RNs have finished their education, they can apply for licensure. There are two ways to obtain an Illinois RN license

  1. The first is to receive a passing score on the NCLEX-RN. 
  2. The second method is to obtain licensure by endorsement. This applies to nurses who are already registered to practice in another jurisdiction.

Regardless of the licensure method an applicant pursues, an Illinois RN license application requires several accompanying documents: proof of graduation from a nursing school in Illinois or an endorsement from another state, verification of fingerprint processing, and payment of an application fee.

An Illinois RN license is valid for two years at a time. Renewal takes place every even-numbered year. It's also important to note that Illinois does not belong to the NLC, so anyone wishing to practice nursing in the state must obtain an RN license specific to Illinois.

How To Get an APRN License in Illinois

In Illinois, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are called APNs. To earn an APN license, candidates must start with an Illinois RN license. Because an APN employs more sophisticated diagnostic skills in performing their duties, this level of license has a few additional requirements.

The first extra criterion is education. An aspiring APN must hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in nursing. They must also be nationally certified in one of the following specialties: nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist. An Illinois APN license requires applicants to submit proof of graduation, an application fee, and verification for any licenses obtained from another state. 

The Illinois nursing board has made its detailed application requirements available online for the benefit of aspiring APNs.

Because obtaining an APN license may take some time, applicants receive a temporary permit to practice advanced nursing work while an application is pending. These temporary permits are typically valid for six months or until the final APN license is granted. An applicant can finish their application at their convenience.

For students who don't want to renew their nursing license, there are also options for nurses to change careers and work in a similar healthcare or health administration role

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in Illinois

Are There Online Nursing Programs in Illinois?

Students can choose from several nursing degree options online in Illinois, including some from nursing schools in Chicago. There are different tracks to choose from, such as an RN to BSN or a CNA track. Some students may choose to pursue an online MSN that continues beyond their BSN or other nursing certifications

Are There Online ADN and BSN Programs in Illinois?

Several colleges offer online ADN programs in Illinois, such as Danville Area Community College and Lincoln Land Community College. Many students use their ADNs as stepping stones to BSN programs, which are also readily available from community colleges and universities in Illinois.  

How Long Does It Take To Become a Registered Nurse in Illinois?

The length of time it takes to become an RN depends on your previous education. High school graduates just starting their nursing career track will likely need two years to complete an ADN and four to finish a BSN. You should also account for a few months to register for the NCLEX-RN, take the test, get your results, and apply for a license. 

How Much Does It Cost To Be an RN in Illinois?

Tuitions for RN programs in Illinois can range from $5,000 to well over $30,000. Community colleges tend to feature much lower costs overall, so these might give the most affordable options for earning an ADN. 

OnlineU's list of affordable accredited online colleges offers even more resources for the best nursing colleges in Illinois and around the country based on tuition costs. 

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