Nursing is a popular field and there is ample demand for nurse practitioners. Registered nurses with a nursing license require a bachelors degree in nursing for a better career.
Registered nurses with an associate degree can complete an RN to BSN program online. First, the associate degree can be completed at a local community college in any US state, followed by passing the NCLEX-RN exam for licensing. As a practicing nurse, you can certainly complete your BSN completely online.
Nursing theory can be taught completely online but while studying for the associate degree and before becoming an RN, the student will require clinical labs and training in a medical facility which is provided as part of the associate degree curriculum.
Best Online Nursing Programs
Associate in Nursing
For affordability, the best option would be to choose a nursing associate degree at a community college that is close to home. Public community college fees are usually affordable at about $6000+ for an entire year.
In any case, there will be a good amount of practical training required before writing the NCLEX exam for a nursing license. So it is best to attend a local community college which will provide opportunities for all the clinical labs at a medical facility.
Here is a list of community colleges that have accredited nursing programs in California. For your particular state, please check with a local community college for more information on their associate in nursing degree.
Online Associate In Nursing
Excelsior college offers an Associate of Science in Nursing program which is an online program. Most of the courses are online and there is a portion of clinicals that need to be completed depending on where you live. You should be able to complete these at approved medical facilities right where you live.
To reduce the cost of this Online Associates in Nursing, it would help to complete many of the general ed courses through external online courses or exams such as CLEP/DSST, Study.com, Sophia, StraighterLine and so on.
This is another way to minimize the cost of the associate in nursing degree while still having a majority of the courses and learning completed online.
Note: Some states do not accept Excelsior graduates for their state licensing requirements. So it is best to simply complete the associate degree at a local community college.
NCLEX-RN: National Council Licensure Examination
As part of the associate degree program, most colleges provide additional preparation for taking the NCLEX exam in your US state. In case you are looking for additional test preparation, study.com has excellent preparation material for the NCLEX.
Please note that you can only appear for your NCLEX exams after you have completed your associate in nursing degree (ADN).
The good news is that the RN to BSN program can be completed entirely online. As a registered nurse (RN), you are likely already working as a nurse or have at least completed your clinical practicals and training.
To be eligible to write the NCLEX exam, you need to have complete an associate degree in nursing or at least a predefined set of nursing curriculum. So the fact that you are an RN already means you have the practical training to function as a junior nurse.
The online BSN program will next equip you to practice as a senior nurse and to take on additional responsibilities.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTING ONLINE RN-BSN PROGRAM
Here is my criteria for selecting good colleges for the RN to BS program:
1) The program needs to be delivered completely online.
2) The program needs to be at least as affordable as the typical fees in a public community college.
3) The fees for out-of-state students should not be much higher than the in-state tuition.
4) There should be a way to transfer a lot of the credits from the associate degree and the RN to the BS degree program. This will further reduce the overall cost and time taken to complete your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree.
LIST OF COLLEGES FOR THE RN TO BSN DEGREE
So here is the list of colleges I recommend:
- Granite State College (NH): Granite’s Online Nursing program is available in about 24 US states. The online tuition cost per credit for non-residents is quite low at about $365 per credit. Moreover most of your credits from the associate degree and RN are likely to transfer to Granite State.
- Western Governor’s University or WGU (UT): WGU is an excellent program for RN-BSN and on average 81 credits from the associate degree and RN program transfer to the BSN program at WGU. The fees is also quite low at $3,475 for every 6 months. This could add up to about $6950 if you complete the remaining 40 of the 120 credits within a year of joining WGU.
- Empire State College (NY): SUNY (State University of New York)’s Empire State college has an online RN-BSN program in which the out-of-state tuition is only $353 per credit. Similar to Granite, most of the credits from the RN and associate degree could transfer to Empire State’s BSN degree program.
- Charter Oak State College (CT): In 2020, Charter Oak’s RN-BSN program received full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The fees for out-of-state students is a bit higher at about $419 per credit, but just like Granite state, Charter Oak is likely to transfer in a lot of your credits from you associate in nursing and the RN curriculum.
- SUNY Delhi (NY): SUNY Delhi has an online RN-BSN program and the out-of-state tuition fees for the online program are equally low at $353. So this is definitely worth checking out. It is unclear as to how many of your associates in nursing and RN credits would transfer to SUNY Delhi and that’s the main reason it’s last in our list.
Can you become an RN with an online degree?
To be eligible for writing the NCLEX exam for an RN license, the aspiring nursing student needs to have completed either an associate in nursing degree or a predetermined set of nursing curriculum required for the NCLEX test.
As past of this learning, there will be clinical practicals and clinical labs that need to be completed which will be hands-on at a medical facility. So the best option for becoming an RN would be after a regular fulltime or parttime associate in nursing degree.
However, the RN-BSN can certainly be done completely online and so can an MSN degree, if you choose to complete your Masters in Nursing.
Are online nursing programs credible?
The confusion about the credibility of online nursing programs seems to stem from the fact that there is some amount of practical training required before someone can become a registered nurse (RN).
Though I’ve found a few online associate in nursing degree programs, most of them are quit expensive and to actually practice as a licensed nurse in any state in the US, the clinical practicals and labs are most certainly necessary.
Once you’ve completed these practicals and are already working as a nurse in a hospital or clinic, completing the Bachelors in Nursing or the Masters (MSN) online is definitely possible and very much credible.
Accelerated Nursing Programs
The programs described above are certainly accelerated since most of the credits from the associate in nursing and from the RN will transfer to the BSN degree.
For example, WGU is able to transfer about 81 or more credits by awarding 50 credits for successfully completing the RN.
This would mean that once you enroll into the RN-BSN program at WGU, you only need to complete about 40 or 30+ credits through WGU’s courses. Many of the other 80+ to 90 credits can be transferred in from the associate in nursing and 50 course units for the RN.
To be eligible for these transfer credits, the student needs to have all the original transcripts sent to WGU before the student’s first term start date.
This restriction is not available with the other programs with Granite, Empire State or Charter Oak, these colleges can transfer the credits anytime when the original transcripts are received, for the entire duration of the BSN student enrollment.
By enrolling to a BSN degree with one of these colleges, you can certainly complete your BSN degree within 12 to 18 months from the start of enrollment.
To further accelerate your associate degree in nursing, you can take either AP exams or CLEP/DSST exams for many of the General Ed requirements of the nursing associate degree, prior to actually enrolling into this degree program. This would apply for the English, Algebra, Technical Writing credits and so on.
Online Associate Nursing Programs
To be eligible for taking the NCLEX exam for the RN license, it is mandatory that the nursing student complete in-person clinical hours. So any online associates degree will still combine these in-person hours in addition to the online courses.
Some of the online associate in nursing programs also tend to be expensive. Also, college scholarships are available more to fulltime students rather than for online students. So in this case, the best option for the nursing associate degree would be to complete it fulltime at a college facility.
The Future of the Nursing Profession
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a median pay of $75,330 per year for registered nurses with over 3 million available job positions. Senior nursing positions will certainly be much more toward about $90,000+.
So nursing is definitely a great profession for anyone who likes to provide care for patients. There are various areas to specialize in such as pediatrics, acute care, general practice and so on.