Online Degree Programs for Nursing

Nursing is an age-old profession that involves caring for the sick and injured as well as educating patients on the condition of their health. Registered nurses develop a plan of care for patients, take medical histories, administer medications, monitor patients’ conditions, and advise patients and their families on how to manage their conditions, among a myriad of other tasks. Online degree programs in nursing are a good fit for students who enjoy helping others, who want to serve as valued members of a healthcare team, and who want the opportunity to specialize their healthcare career to suit their passions. Some of the most common online registered nursing degree programs are RN-to-BSN programs that allow registered nurses who hold a diploma or associate degree in nursing to transfer their credits toward completing a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing entirely online. The best online nursing degree programs will hold specialized accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC). Nursing programs are available at the following degree levels:

Online Associate Degree Programs for Nursing

Online associate degree programs in nursing are hybrid programs that allow students to take their didactic courses in nursing online while completing their clinical rotations at a healthcare facility near where they live. In addition, lab requirements associated with online courses must be completed at a nearby campus. For example, Kaplan University’s online Associate of Science in Nursing follows this pattern, allowing students to take online course work while incorporating hands-on training through clinicals and on-campus labs. Required courses typically include anatomy and physiology, nursing pharmacology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, mental health nursing, and more.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Nursing

Online bachelor degree programs in nursing are widely available as RN-to-BSN programs, allowing students who have already earned RN licensure and a two-year degree the chance to advance their education to a four-year degree. Accelerated online degree programs in nursing are limited, but do exist; for example, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh offers a one-of-a-kind accelerated online bachelor’s-to-BSN that makes it possible for an individual with a bachelor’s degree in another area to earn a BSN in one year. Course work may include foundations of nursing practice, research methods in nursing, pathophysiology, adult health, community health, nursing leadership and management, and more. As with other online programs, clinical requirements take place at real healthcare organizations, like hospitals and clinics.

Online Master’s Degree Programs for Nursing

Online masters degree programs in nursing are a good choice for practicing RNs who hold a BSN degree and who are interested in transitioning into advanced practice nursing, nursing management, or even considering becoming a college-level nurse educator. Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are available in a wide range of specializations, including family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse administrator, nurse informatics, nurse midwifery, and more, depending on individual career goals. Online master’s programs for advanced practice nurses will incorporate clinical rotations that must be completed in healthcare organizations, while other online MSN programs can be completed entirely online or incorporate shorter-term clinical practicum experiences. Required course work can vary greatly depending on the specialization, but courses might include advanced health assessment, health policy, biomedical ethics, research methods for healthcare providers, and advanced concepts in pharmacology.

Online Doctoral Degree Programs for Nursing

Accredited online nursing degree programs are also available at the doctoral level. The two most common doctoral degree paths include the Ph.D. in nursing, with a focus on research, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), with a focus on clinical practice. As with MSN programs, course work will vary greatly based on student’s specialization, but as an example, the Medical University of South Carolina’s online Ph.D. in nursing, which is focused on cultivating the nurse scientist, features courses like Health Policy & Advocacy, Introduction to Social and Applied Epidemiology, Applied Statistical Methods for Nursing Research, and Knowledge Development in Nursing Science. Such programs are a good fit for individuals who want to pursue top-level positions in university nursing programs. Online students may have mentored teaching opportunities, if they are preparing for a career in higher education. Ph.D. programs conclude with a dissertation, while DNP programs emphasize field experience, incorporating clinical practicum experiences throughout.

Online Degree Programs in Nursing in the Work Place

Registered nurses must have a minimum of an associate degree in nursing (or an approved nursing diploma) and meet all other requirements in their state to obtain RN licensure. The median yearly salary for registered nurses was $64,690as of May 2010; nurses working in private general medical and surgical hospitals had a higher median salary, at $66,650,according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, these figures are not indicative of starting salaries, and instead reflect nurses of all levels of experience and education. Salaries of advanced practice nurses, who hold master’s degrees, are typically higher than nurses who do not have advanced clinical skills, and salaries are also highly dependent on one’s type of employer. Faster than average employment growth is projected for nurses, with 26% employment growth projected between 2010 and 2010, the BLS noted.

Students can explore a wide range of career paths in nursing. A sampling of nurse specializations includes critical care nurses, genetics nurses, neonatal nurses, nephrology nurses, and addiction nurses, the BLS explains. Nurses with master’s degrees in an area of advanced practice nursing may pursue careers as clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners. Advanced practice nurses enjoy a higher level of autonomy than other nurses and are even able to prescribe medications in most states.