The Best Online Pre-Nursing Programs

by Doug Wintemute
TheBestSchools.org

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With an associate degree in pre-nursing, you can pursue a service-filled career assisting people medically and helping better their lives.

While an associate degree in nursing (ADN) prepares graduates for registered nursing (RN) licensure, pre-nursing associate degrees prepare learners for bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) programs. Pre-nursing training may reduce the time and the cost of a BSN, contribute to nursing licensure, and help qualify graduates for the nursing field by providing necessary prerequisites.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects more than 220,000 new RN jobs between 2019 and 2029. To help prospective students make the most of this opportunity, we ranked the best online associate degrees in pre-nursing.

The Best Online Pre-Nursing Programs

Holmes Community College true View School Profile Goodman, MS 52% Holmes Community College is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC).

Holmes County Community College operates a central campus in Goodman, Mississippi as well as satellite campuses and regional centers in Ridgeland, Kosciusko, Grenada, and Webster County. Originally an agricultural high school, HCC began offering community college courses to working professionals in the community in the early 20th century.

Since then, HCC has continued its evolution by offering several programs online, including one of the nation's strongest online pre-licensure nursing programs. This associate program prepares graduates to transfer to a bachelor of science in nursing program. All students must complete 64 credits total of a curriculum that combines general education courses with a comprehensive slate of pre-nursing studies, including psychology, chemistry, biology, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, and human growth and development. This particular degree usually takes students four semesters — two years — of full-time study to complete. The program's only admission requirement is a high school diploma. There are no tuition differences between online students, on-campus students, Mississippi residents, or out-of-state students.

HCC delivers online coursework in the program both synchronously and asynchronously through the Canvas platform. HCC holds membership in the 14-college Mississippi Virtual Community College, which allows students in HCC's pre-nursing program to take online courses at any of the other 13 schools. All students who enroll in the pre-nursing program gain access to HCC's library, IT support, academic advising, and NetTutor services.

Georgia Military College true View School Profile $ Milledgeville, GA 32% GMC is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC).

Georgia Military College operates its central campus out of the former state capitol building, although the majority of the school's students attend classes at a satellite center or online. GMC consists of a middle school, high school, junior college, and military-specific junior college. As a whole, GMC primarily focuses on the liberal arts. Nevertheless, the college also includes pre-professional studies, offering one of the best online pre-licensure nursing programs in the country.

GMC's pre-nursing program allows students to choose between an associate of arts and an associate of science degree. In either case, students complete a set of general education requirements and a set of pre-nursing concentration courses. These offerings include studies in biology, psychology, and either math, chemistry, or physics. In both cases, students must complete between 93 and 98 quarter hours, a process that takes the usual four semesters, or two years.

GMC does not list admissions requirements beyond a high school diploma and charges students the same tuition regardless of location or delivery method. When students enroll in the pre-nursing program at GMC, they gain access to dedicated admissions, financial aid, and academic advisors who focus specifically on online students. Additionally, GMC provides students in the program with the option of either completing the program entirely through asynchronous online coursework or through blended learning.

Allen County Community College true View School Profile $ Iola, KS 49% Allen Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Although Allen operates physical campuses in Iola, Kansas and Burlingame, Kansas and provides its six-county service area with a variety of on-campus degrees, the school began focusing more on distance education over the past decade. Allen now offers several of its programs online both synchronously and asynchronously through Interactive Television, including a pre-nursing degree.

Allen's associate of science program in pre-nursing requires students to complete 67 credits, which usually take the customary two years — four semesters — of full-time study. Differentiating itself from comparable associate programs, Allen's pre-nursing curriculum limits general education courses in favor of a more robust pre-nursing concentration. Consequently, all students in the program must complete courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, chemistry, developmental psychology, and biology. Furthermore, the program's curriculum includes at least one lab course each semester and five in total. This quantity of lab courses constitutes a more extensive requirement than most online pre-nursing licensure programs.

Prospective students must hold a high school diploma in order to apply to the program. Aiming to assist its graduates, Allen maintains transfer agreements with nursing programs at six Kansas schools: the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Newman University, Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, and Washburn University. All online students at Allen pay the same tuition as both Kansas residents and on-campus students.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College true View School Profile $ Hayward, WI 82% LCOOCC is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College aims to serve Anishinaabe communities — an indigenous people primarily based in the upper Midwest and Canada, including in and around LCOOCC's Hayward, Wisconsin campus — through postsecondary education. LCOOCC, operated by the Ojibwa tribe, strives to advance Ojibwe culture, history, and language. As such, LCOOCC maintains a policy of never refusing admission to Native American students, who make up a sizeable portion of the college's population.

Nevertheless, LCOOCC welcomes students from all backgrounds, especially to the school's online programs, which include one of the country's best online pre-licensure nursing programs. This associate degree requires students to complete 68 or 69 credits, a process that typically takes full-time students two years. The curriculum includes pre-nursing courses in specific areas like nutrition, microbiology, and chemistry. The program also prepares graduates to meet Native American healthcare needs. Therefore, all students must also complete an introductory course in Ojibwe culture.

The program uses a blended learning model, requiring students to complete 13 courses on campus and six courses online through Moodle and asynchronous coursework. LCOOCC does not list any requirements for admission to the program beyond a high school diploma. Additionally, as a community college, LCOOCC charges online students the same tuition as on-campus and in-state students.

Best Online Programs

Online Pre-Nursing Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

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Featured Online Pre-Nursing Programs

What Is an Online Associate in Pre-Nursing Degree?

While earning a pre-nursing associate degree online, learners complete prerequisites for entering a nursing bachelor's degree program.

Many schools offer these programs as direct-entry 2+2 pathways. Students who complete requirements for the two-year associate degree may transfer into a two-year bachelor's program. This helps learners who cannot qualify for a BSN directly. Students can also get a feel for the field before committing to a four-year program.

Associate nursing degrees can offer cost savings, with many costing less per-credit than bachelor's degrees. General education credits earned for pre-nursing degrees may be relevant to other bachelor's programs, particularly those in healthcare disciplines. Pre-nursing programs cover skills in communication and human understanding, foundational healthcare, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

What's the Difference Between an Associate Degree in Pre-Nursing and a Nursing Diploma?

Typically, an ADN or nursing diploma leads to nursing licensure, whereas a pre-nursing associate degree leads to a BSN degree first and then licensure. Pre-nursing degrees often have more accessible admission requirements than ADN degrees. Some schools offer both pre-nursing and ADN programs to accommodate different students.

In addition to preparing for BSN degrees, pre-nursing degrees can qualify graduates for entry-level nursing field careers, such as medical assistant or health information specialist.

What to Expect From a Pre-Nursing Program

Pre-nursing programs prepare BSN students with general education and healthcare foundations courses. Course offerings vary between programs, but the following list highlights common options. Titles and descriptions may vary.

Pre-Nursing Curriculum

  • Principles of Nutrition: This course looks at the connection between nutrition and health, exploring what nutrients are required for healthy living. Training may cover federal dietary guidelines and program planning.
  • Pharmacology: Students learn about the development of medications, including their intended usage and effects. These courses focus heavily on terminology.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: These courses cover the human body, including its systems and how they interact with each other. Learners also study terminology.
  • Microbiology: Microbiology courses explore microorganisms and their interactions with the human body. It covers pathogens and helpers, along with cell types and functions. Students may learn how to identify and conduct experiments using microorganisms.
  • Chemistry: Chemistry courses teach about the properties of matter — such as acids, bases, and atomic and molecular structure — and chemical reactions. Courses offered to pre-nursing students may focus on nursing-related applications of chemistry.
  • Nursing Pathophysiology: Nursing pathophysiology courses teach students about common disorders and diseases in humans, including effects, testing methods, and treatments.

What Online Nursing Prerequisites Do I Need to Take?

Online prerequisites for nursing degrees vary by school and program. Pre-nursing curricula work in concert with BSN programs, providing general education prerequisites, such as English and social sciences. Other prerequisites may include psychology and biology.

For admission to a pre-nursing degree, students typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent, along with English, math, and science courses.

Choosing an Online Nursing Program

When finding the right online nursing program, students should consider program cost, program options, admission requirements, and accreditation. Other factors worth considering include in-state tuition options, residency requirements, and synchronous and asynchronous delivery types. The links below can help learners pick the right online program.

Degrees to Consider After Your Pre-Nursing Degree

A pre-nursing degree provides the prerequisites for many nursing degrees, including an online bachelor's in nursing. While a BSN and RN licensure are common, graduates can also pursue a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree.

With each level of training, graduates gain access to new professional opportunities, such as advanced practice nursing careers and management positions. According to the BLS, master's and doctoral degrees lead to the highest salaries among all nursing-related occupations.

Nursing Certifications and License

After completing online prerequisites for nursing bachelor's degrees, aspiring RNs need to get licensed. That means passing the National Council Licensure Examination from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Students must answer 75-145 questions in four major areas: safe and effective care, health promotion, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.

For test eligibility, applicants need to meet their state's requirements, which may include completing up to 500 clinical hours in addition to the standard accredited nursing education. Candidates may also need to pass a criminal background check. RN hopefuls should check state requirements before choosing a program.

Once licensed, RNs maintain their credentials through regular employment hours and continuing education credits. Licenses typically need renewal every two years, though state requirements range from 1-4 years. Through the Nurse Licensure Compact, RN licensure earned in some states can transfer to more than 30 others.

After earning licensure, healthcare professionals can pursue specialty certifications. For example, RNs can certify in areas like gastroenterology nursing, emergency nursing, and surgical nursing. Specialty nursing certification can improve employment opportunities and earning potential.

Nursing Careers

While most pre-nursing students pursue a career in nursing, they have other professional options, especially those in the medical field. Below, you will find some common career paths available to graduates, along with each position'’s median annual wage.

Nursing Careers & Salaries
Career Median Annual Wage (2020)
Home Health and Personal Care Aides $27,430
Clinical associate, medical assistant $35,850
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) $38,640
Phlebotomists $42,310
Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists $57,850
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nursing Organizations

  • National Student Nurses' Association: NSNA promotes healthcare education and assists nursing students. The association also provides mentorship and licensure support.
  • The American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN works to improve the healthcare system by setting professional standards and supporting practitioners. The association hosts a professional network and offers leadership and professional development opportunities for members.
  • American Nursing Association: Since 1896, ANA has advocated for nursing professionals and their well-being. The association strives for improved standards and health and safety measures.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing

true Do Nursing Schools Accept Online Prerequisites

Yes. Most schools accept online prerequisites for nursing programs. In fact, many programs run their own pre-nursing programs that provide online prerequisites for nursing.

true Is Nursing a Competitive Major?

No. While nursing is one of the most popular majors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, high program availability keeps it accessible.

true What Is the Hardest Nursing Prerequisite?

Terminology, systems, and lab components in anatomy and physiology courses are often the most difficult. However, each student will have a different opinion about what is most challenging.

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

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