Choose the Best Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Online Program for You in 2020
Interested in taking the next step in your nursing career but not sure where to begin? Whether you’re already a registered nurse (RN) with an associate degree or you have an undergraduate degree in another field and are hoping to make a change, an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program might be a suitable path for you. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing emphasizes that “BSN nurses are prized for their skills in critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion, and for their ability to practice across a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings.”
A number of online programs are designed to help you develop these skills and allow you to continue working part-time or full-time while completing your courses, making them an accessible and viable option for aspiring or practicing nurses.
Choosing an Online School for Your BSN Program
For some, choosing an online BSN program may be a big decision that comes with considerable financial costs and time commitment. To help you make an informed decision, we’ll go over some common terms and requirements for online BSN programs.
On-campus vs Online BSN Programs
While the curriculum for on-campus and online BSN programs are generally the same, you can still expect some differences between the two types of programs. The former may require you to travel to campus for class. At times, you may even have to rearrange your personal schedule to accommodate the demands of in-person learning. If you’re looking for a program that grants you flexibility, an online BSN program may be a good fit.
Some online BSN programs may require you to attend scheduled classes each week—so, you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate video conferencing software in order to participate. But others allow you to complete all coursework on your own time. Keep in mind, however, that some online BSN programs include an in-person clinical requirement that you’ll have to complete in order to graduate.
Accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs
Before applying for a nursing license, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). In order to take the NCLEX, you must verify the completion of an accredited nursing program. Both the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredit nursing programs, and you can search their website to see if a university has been approved to teach nursing.
Beyond being a requirement for licensure, accredited programs can help ensure you cover all the information necessary to practice safely and effectively in the field. Although some employers may approve programs that aren’t accredited, a degree from an accredited program may prove useful in helping you advance your career in the field.
Many online BSN programs have a clinical requirement, allowing nursing students to gain valuable first-hand experience in a health care setting. Because students enrolled in online programs are often dispersed across a given state—or even the country—some universities may allow you to select a location to complete your clinical rotation so you can stay close to home.
Although admissions requirements vary by school, there are some materials you’ll need handy for program application. For example, if you’re interested in RN to BSN programs, you may need an associate degree, diploma, or certificate from an accredited nursing school. You may also need an active RN license. Meanwhile, high school students interested in earning a BSN must typically submit their academic transcript and complete prerequisite coursework. Check your program’s unique admissions requirements for more information.
In most BSN programs, coursework will include core courses in nursing theory and practice, nursing science, and more general science courses—like biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and clinical microbiology. Nursing-specific courses may cover topics like ambulatory care nursing and healthy aging, among others—and teach you how to analyze data, make health assessments, and deliver quality patient care.
Over the course of your program, you can also expect to hone technical and soft skills through courses focused on professional leadership & communication in health care.
Potential Careers for BSN Nurses
With your bachelor’s degree and an RN license, you may be prepared to enter a field that’s growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029. Registered nurses earned a median salary of $73,300 in 2019.
Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) degree holders can pursue a number of nursing specialties—it all depends on which area and patient population sparks their interest. Below are a few of the potential nursing career paths BSN-prepared professionals can consider:
- Case management nurse. Similar to social work case managers, these nurses advocate for patients. They help manage care plans and serve as a resource for patients and their families. Case management nurses may work in hospice and palliative centers, outpatient clinics, and cancer institutions—commonly providing holistic, comprehensive care to a range of patients, from the elderly to those who are chronically ill.
- Public health nurse. Public health nurses combine their clinical education with broad knowledge of epidemiology and populations to help the communities they serve. They may monitor large trends, like immunization levels and mortality rates, or evaluate health services offered by the government.
- Informatics nurse. The field of nursing informatics merges technology and traditional nursing practice into one. As an informatics nurse, you may use your expert knowledge of electronic health records and data analysis to improve patient care.
- Neuroscience nurse. These nurses specialize in the treatment of patients with neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s, strokes, and brain injuries. Often, neuroscience nurses work in rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics, helping patients on the road to recovery.
- Nurse executive. Nurse executives play a key role in health care leadership. They help create policies, budgets, and procedures, and also manage finances within health care organizations—making this a viable career path for nurses who are more interested in the policy aspect of the field instead of the clinical side.
- Emergency room (ER) nurse. ER nurses are skilled at handling high-stress situations—regularly treating patients with critical injuries and conditions. After gaining general nursing experience, you can specialize as an ER nurse by attaining a Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) certification.
Aside from preparing you for RN licensure, a BSN may be helpful when applying for graduate programs to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
Certifications and Licenses
As we’ve previously discussed, you’ll need to obtain your RN license to legally practice nursing in your state. Each state has a slightly different licensure process, with varying requirements for applications and renewals. In every state, you’ll need to graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the NCLEX exam in order to qualify for a license.
After gaining experience in the field, you may wish to become certified in a particular nursing specialty. For instance, to become certified as a pediatric critical care nurse, you’ll need to complete practice hours—providing direct care to critically ill pediatric patients. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses offers this certification and more.
If you don’t have the proper credentials or if you let your nursing license expire while you continue to practice, you will likely have to pay a fee. Check out your state’s licensing renewals requirements, as these typically involve continuing education hours and a renewal fee every few years.
Additional Online Nursing Programs
There are a number of different online nursing programs, as well as graduate and doctoral nursing programs, that you can complete from the comfort of your home. Here are a few types of programs you can pursue to obtain your BSN—and further your education afterward.
- Accelerated BSN programs. Accelerated nursing programs are baccalaureate programs for those with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. These types of programs are a viable option for those looking to switch careers, but there are also accelerated RN-to-BSN programs which allow you to earn a nursing degree in less time than completing an entire undergraduate program.
- RN-to-BSN bridge programs. Some nurses earn their license after completing an ADN program, but later decide to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. For these nurses who may already have college credit, an RN-to-BSN bridge program allows them to earn a higher degree while still incorporating the nursing knowledge they’ve already gained in their careers.
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. In order to become an advanced practice registered nurse, you’ll want to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Like their traditional, on-campus counterparts, online MSN programs may prepare you for both advanced clinical and non-clinical roles, and may help you increase your earning potential and grow your career. There are even RN-to-MSN programs available, if you have your nursing license but don’t have a bachelor’s degree yet.
- Post-master’s certificate. Already have a master’s degree in nursing but looking to switch specializations? A post-master’s certificate may allow you to do that, regardless of your current nursing specialty or role. Similar to MSN programs, the post-master’s certificate may take two years to complete.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. These days, you not only have the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree online, but also a doctoral degree. An online DNP program may provide you with leadership expertise to make assessments about best clinical care practices and improve outcomes for patients.
BSN Scholarships for Nursing Students
Let’s face it—college can be expensive. If tuition costs pose an issue for you, there are a number of financial aid and nursing scholarship opportunities that can help you overcome financial barriers and achieve your educational goals. There are several others so be sure to research options and eligibility requirements.
Want to learn more about online BSN programs? In this section, we dive into some common queries about online BSN programs—so, you can decide whether they’re a good fit for you.
Can I complete my BSN online?
Yes, you can complete your BSN online. Online BSN programs allow you to further your education at your own pace.
Are online BSN programs good?
Just as reputable as on-campus programs, online BSN programs are often offered by esteemed state and private universities, and widely recognized by employers and graduate programs. When choosing a BSN program, however, be sure to find one that’s accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Accreditations will help ensure you’re receiving a degree that’s worth your time and money—and one that employers will value.
How do online BSN programs work?
There are a few different formats for online BSN programs, including synchronous and asynchronous programs. Synchronous programs closely resemble traditional degree programs, in which students watch a lecture and participate in real time. This takes place virtually.
On the other hand, asynchronous programs can be completed on your own time, whenever it’s convenient, and may involve pre-recorded lectures or modules. Some programs offer a combination of these two formats, allowing for both flexibility and an optimal learning experience.
How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree online?
RN-to-BSN programs typically build on students’ previous nursing experience. For that reason, they’re generally faster than traditional BSN programs which last about four years. In an accelerated program, you can earn your BSN in as few as 12 months, but typically they last around two years. These timelines may vary, depending on your school and whether you choose to study on a part-time basis.
Can I complete an online BSN program without a nursing experience?
If you don’t have prior experience in nursing, rest assured—there are still avenues for you to complete a BSN program online. Online programs for non-nurses allow you to pivot toward the nursing field, using your prior undergraduate experience as a launch pad. Clinical field experience will also allow you to get a sense of what it like to provide direct care to patients.
Information on this page was retrieved in September 2020.