Best Online Bachelor’s in Nursing 2021

by TBS Staff
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Bachelor of science in nursing programs prepare students for licensure and help them stand out from nursing candidates who only have associate degrees.

Registered nurses (RNs) care for patients, conduct health screenings, and promote wellness in their communities. Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees meet the requirements for RN licensure and careers like pediatric nurse, acute care nurse, oncology nurse, and public health nurse.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data projects that in 2019-2029, employment for RNs will continue to grow more quickly than the average job. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased demand for nurses. RNs earn above-average salaries, with the median RN salary exceeding $73,000 per year in 2019. Many employers prefer to hire nurses with bachelor of nursing degrees, making education a valuable investment for prospective nurses.

Our list ranks the best online BSN programs to help aspiring nurses find the right one for their career goals. This article explores online bachelor of nursing degrees, popular nursing careers, and the RN licensure process.

Featured Online Nursing Programs

The Best Online Bachelor's in Nursing Programs

University of Central Florida true View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% 57% University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1963, UCF confers over 17,000 degrees across more than 230 degree programs each year.

The UCF College of Nursing offers a traditional bachelor of science in nursing and an RN-to-BSN program. Traditional BSN students study the fundamentals of nursing through online classes and hands-on clinicals. Students in both tracks take online classes in pathophysiology, community health nursing, and health care policy.

Applicants for the traditional BSN program should apply to the College of Nursing just before their junior year after completing the prerequisite courses. If transferring to UCF, they must apply to undergraduate admissions three months prior to the nursing admissions deadline.

Florida International University true View School Profile $ Miami, FL 58% 34% 65% Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Miami's only public research university, FIU teaches a student body of nearly 54,000 each year.

FIU's fully online bachelor of science in nursing program builds on the work experience of registered nurses to provide a foundation in evidence-based practice. Coursework covers nursing leadership, health assessment, and psychosocial nursing.

To graduate, students must complete 120 credits and a 120-hour practicum. Students must transfer a minimum 60 credits of lower-division courses, including science prerequisites with a C grade or better, and complete 30 credits of clinical equivalency exams.

Applicants must hold an unencumbered Florida RN license and demonstrate a 2.75 GPA from previous nursing coursework.

University of Florida-Online true View School Profile $$ Gainesville, FL 88% 27% 100% University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Since its origins in 1858, UF has grown to offer more than 300 degree programs, conferring more than 16,000 degrees each year.

UF offers a part-time, online bachelor of science in nursing program for registered nurses. Coursework covers health assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology, and legal and ethical issues in nursing.

Applicants should hold an associate degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 2.8 for all nursing coursework, as well as an unencumbered registered nurse license.

University of Louisiana at Monroe true View School Profile $ Monroe, LA 44% 40% 34% University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

With more than 80 years of experience in educating students, ULM now offers more than 35 fully online degree programs.

ULM's bachelor of science in nursing prepares registered nurses for advanced nursing roles in a variety of healthcare settings. Coursework covers pharmacology, nursing management, and public health nursing. Classes take place fully online and in eight-week sessions.

To graduate, students must complete general education requirements, 30 credits of nursing core classes, and the RN-to-BSN capstone project.

Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing or nursing diploma with a GPA of at least 2.0, as well as an unencumbered RN license.

McNeese State University true View School Profile $ Lake Charles, LA 45% 36% 57% McNeese State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1939, McNeese offers more than 100 undergraduate and 36 graduate programs to its students.

McNeese's nursing program offers an online bachelor of science in nursing degree for registered nurses. The 30-credit curriculum covers informatics, evidence-based practice, and community health nursing, as well as advanced nursing concepts and professionalism in a nursing role.

Students can complete the program in as little as 10 months while continuing to work as a nurse. Each class lasts seven weeks.

Applicants must hold an unencumbered RN license and a nursing diploma or assiciate degree.

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus View School Profile $$$$ University Park, PA 71% 48% 100% Pennsylvania State University-World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Since its launch in 1998, Penn State World Campus has grown to offer more than 150 online programs.

Penn State World campus offers an online bachelor of science in nursing degree for currently licensed RNs. The curriculum covers nursing informatics, community health concepts, and advanced health assessment.

The RN-to-BSN program requires 120 credits for graduation. Students may transfer credits from other programs, provided at least 36 credits are completed at World Campus.

Applicants must hold an active RN license in the state in which they will complete their clinical hours.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire View School Profile $$ Eau Claire, WI 67% 54% 28% University of Wisconsin Eau Claire is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1916 as a school for teachers, UWEC now offers nearly 170 graduate and undergraduate degree programs.

UWEC teaches its bachelor of science in nursing completion program in a flexible hybrid format, allowing students to complete courses in seven-week cycles while still working as a registered nurse. Courses cover evidence-based practice, community health nursing, and leadership and management.

Applicants must hold a current Wisconsin RN license and an associate degree in nursing. The applicant's official transcripts should demonstrate at least 30 transfer credits and three science courses, all with a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Southeast Missouri State University View School Profile $$ Cape Girardeau, MO 49% 45% 45% Southeast Missouri State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1873, SEMO offers more than 200 graduate and undergraduate programs. Of these, 60 degree programs focus on the healthcare industry.

SEMO offers an online RN-to-BSN nursing program for working nurses. Students take just six nursing courses, covering research, holisitic assessment, and leadership. Students may complete some general education requirements at SEMO if needed.

Applicants must hold a valid RN license and professional CPR licensure. Previous coursework should demonstrate a minimum GPA of 2.5. Additionally, applicants must be a resident of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, or Arkansas.

Oklahoma State University-Main Campus View School Profile $$$ Stillwater, OK 61% 43% 40% Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded on Christmas Day in 1890, OSU now teaches nearly 25,000 students each year.

OSU offers an online bachelor of science in nursing program for registered nurses looking to complete their degree. Courses cover community nursing, leadership and management, and nursing theory. Full-time students who have completed all prerequisite courses can graduate in as little as two semesters.

To graduate, students must complete 32 credits, clinical experiences in community health and management, and a capstone course.

Applicants should hold a current RN license and demonstrate 30 advanced standing credits.

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin View School Profile $ Odessa, TX 41% 24% 71% University of Texas of the Permian Basin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1969, UTPB enrolls nearly 6,000 students across 53 graduate and undergraduate degree programs each year.

UTPB's online bachelor of science in nursing degree provides a flexible curriculum for working RNs. Courses emphasize nursing practice in a multicultural setting and leadership and management in the profession. As part of the program, graduates earn a nurse management certificate from Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society.

Applicants should hold an unencumbered RN license from Texas or a Nurse Licensure Compact state and a degree or diploma from an accredited nursing program. Official transcripts should demonstrate a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Northeastern State University View School Profile Tahlequah, OK 35% 44% 63% Northeastern State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded among the heritage of the Cherokee Nation, NSU enrolls nearly 5,000 students each year.

NSU's fully online RN to bachelor of science in nursing program can be completed in as little as 10 months. The 30-credit curriculum covers health assessment, cultural competency, and leadership and management. Students may be required to complete additional credits in general education if not covered in previous degree programs.

Applicants should hold a current RN license and an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Transcripts should show a minimum GPA of 2.0 and no grades below a "C" for nursing classes.

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay View School Profile Green Bay, WI 52% 46% 51% University of Wisconsin Green Bay is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1965, UW-Green Bay enrolls nearly 8,500 students across 50 degree programs.

UW-Green Bay offers an online bachelor of science in nursing program for working RNs. Courses cover research and evidence-based care, leadership and management, and chronic care management. The flexible course schedule allows students to take courses in seven- or 14-week formats.

Applicants must hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing with at least a 2.5 GPA for all post-secondary coursework. Students must transfer at least 60 credits of general education coursework into the program and may transfer up to 90.

University of North Dakota View School Profile Grand Forks, ND 55% 48% 49% University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1883, prior to the confirmation of North Dakota as a state, UND enrolls over 13,500 students each year.

UND's online bachelor of science in nursing program helps active RNs advance their career through deeper nursing education. Courses cover pharmacology, population-based health, and evidence-informed practice. Full-time students can expect to complete the program in just one year.

To graduate, students must maintain a 2.75 overall GPA and meet UND's general education requirements. General education credits may be transferred or taken at UND.

Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing and an unencumbered RN license.

Appalachian State University View School Profile Boone, NC 72% 48% 20% Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

With a student population of over 20,000, Appalachian offers more than 150 graduate and undergraduate programs.

Appalachian's bachelor of science in nursing program for registered nurses takes place in a part-time and fully online format. Working RNs can complete coursework in just one year.

Courses cover nursing care for communities and older adults, as well as leadership, informatics, and research for nurses.

Applicants must hold a diploma or associate degree in nursing as well as an active RN license in North Carolina or a compact state. Transcripts should show an overall GPA of at least 2.5.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University View School Profile Weatherford, OK 34% 51% 50% Southwestern Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1903 as a school for teachers, SWOSU now teachers more than 5,000 students across two campuses each semester.

SWOSU's online bachelor of science in nursing empowers working RNs to broaden their nursing practice. The curriculum covers nursing practice for acute and chronic care, nursing for children and families, and more. Courses take place in eight-week formats.

Applicants must submit proof of RN licensure by the end of their first semester of coursework. Transcripts from prior coursework should show a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

St Luke's College View School Profile Sioux City, IA 57% 82% 85% St. Luke's College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

St. Luke's roots in nursing education stretch back to the late 1890s, although it wasn't officially founded until 1966.

The 100% online bachelor of science in nursing program provides advanced nursing education to current RNs. Courses cover pathophysiology, information, and population-focused nursing. Students may take classes on a full- or part-time basis to meet their schedule requirements.

Applicants should hold an active RN license. Students may transfer previous coursework to meet general education requirements.

University of Arkansas View School Profile Fayetteville, AR 66% 37% 27% University of Arkansas is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A top public research university, U of A teaches 27,000 students from all over the world each year.

U of A's online RN-to-BSN program prepares students to adapt in the changing field of nursing. Asynchronous courses take place in eight-week sessions to allow working nurses the flexibility to complete their degree in just three semesters.

Applicants must hold an unencumbered RN license and demonstrate at least 1,000 hours of work experience over the previous two years. Recent nursing graduates who have passed the NCLEX exam may take up to six nursing credits prior to licensure.

Cabarrus College of Health Sciences View School Profile Concord, NC 69% 66% 62% Cabarrus College of Health Sciences is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1942 as a small nursing school, Cabarrus College now offers several degree programs in nursing and allied health from the Atrium Health campus.

The online bachelor of science in nursing program offers a flexible curriculum to working RNs looking to expand their nursing knowledge. Students can graduate in as little as 18 months thanks to the adaptable five-week course format.

The curriculum covers nursing leadership, research, and informatics. Up to 72 credits from previous coursework may be transferred to the BSN program.

West Texas A & M University View School Profile $$ Canyon, TX 44% 47% 58% West Texas A&M University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Established in 1910, WTAMU now offers 100 graduate and undergraduate degree programs to just over 10,000 students each year.

WTAMU's online bachelor of science of nursing degree expands career opportunities for current registered nurses. Coursework covers ethical nursing, cultural competence, and quality management.

To graduate, students must earn a grade of "C" or better in all nursing coursework, as well as foundation courses in biology, chemistry, psychology and math.

Applicants should hold an unencumbered RN license and complete a satisfactory background check.

Arizona State University-Skysong View School Profile $$ Scottsdale, AZ 14% 55% 97% Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Frequently recognized as an innovative university, ASU enrolls 120,000 students each year.

ASU's online bachelor of science in nursing leverages the existing knowledge of registered nurses and prepares them for advanced nursing roles. Courses include health across the lifespan, nursing innovation, and public and global health.

The curriculum includes just 10 classes, which each last 7.5 weeks. Full-time students may graduate in as little as 14 months.

Applicants should hold an active RN license and demonstrate a 2.5 GPA or higher. Students from Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington are not eligible for this program.

Online Bachelor's in 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.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

What Is an Online BSN Program?

An online BSN program offers a flexible route to an RN license and nursing careers. Online nursing enrollees complete coursework requirements through a virtual learning platform. Depending on the program, degree-seekers may also need to join live meetings or watch recorded lectures. Many online nursing programs offer flexible schedules to help healthcare workers balance their studies with work.

In addition to online coursework, distance learners complete clinical requirements in their local areas. For example, enrollees often have clinical rotations at local hospitals, working under the supervision of approved preceptors. The blend of classroom and practical learning builds the skills required for RN jobs.

Earning a BS in nursing online is a great option for busy professionals, RNs seeking bachelor's degrees, and students who don't have access to nursing programs locally.

What Is the Difference Between a Diploma of Nursing, a Bachelor of Nursing, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing?

A diploma of nursing - also called an RN diploma - is typically awarded after an apprentice-like program at a hospital. However, these programs are relatively rare and getting rarer. It is more common for nurses to earn associate or bachelor's degrees.

Technically, a bachelor of nursing is a degree only available in Canada. In the United States, what some people call a "bachelor of nursing" is usually shorthand for a bachelor of science in nursing degree - one of the most common pathways for prospective registered nurses.

Both an RN diploma and a bachelor of science in nursing degree prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure as a registered nurse.

Choosing an Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program

With many available online BSN nursing programs, prospective nurses may struggle to narrow down their options. Evaluating programs based on accreditation status, specialization options, and placement records can help applicants identify the program that best aligns with their personal and professional goals.

What to Expect When Getting Your Nursing Degree Online

During a bachelor of nursing degree, majors study community health nursing, health assessment, and evidence-based practice. These courses strengthen patient care and nursing practice skills. In addition to core nursing classes, undergraduates complete general education requirements and clinical practicums to prepare for nursing licensure. Exact curricula vary, but a few common courses are explained below.

BS in Nursing Online Curriculum

  • Children and Their Families: Nurses learn about caring for children and interacting with their families. The course emphasizes partnering with families to provide care and explore topics related to children and managing their health.
  • Community Health Nursing: Students examine the role of community health services, including nursing practice in home and agency settings. Coursework covers health promotion, community health practice, and community wellness.
  • Evidence-Based Practice: Learners learn how to interpret nursing research and apply their findings when caring for patients. The course builds critical evaluation skills and trains nurses to integrate research into their practice.
  • Health Assessment: RNs conduct health assessments on patients of all ages. In this course, enrollees strengthen their critical thinking and clinical skills while exploring the ethical obligations of nurses when conducting health assessments.
  • Pathophysiology: Students learn about disruptions that affect bodily functions in patients. The course covers common health issues and the process for intervention with each.
  • Pharmacology: Nursing students study drug classifications, the principles of pharmacology, and the clinical use of drug therapies. Coursework prepares enrollees for related material on the NCLEX-RN exam.

Online BSN Clinicals

Nurses enrolled in online BSN programs complete clinical requirements as part of their training. Practicums, labs, and simulations help build the practical experience nurses need to enter the workforce.

Some requirements, such as simulations, can operate in an online format. Other clinicals must take place in person. For these clinical hours, nursing students usually work at local sites, such as hospitals or community health clinics.

Nursing programs work with students to arrange and approve clinical practicums and preceptors. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) can often complete their clinical requirements in their current workplaces. Learners with no prior nursing training must arrange practicum locations with their programs.

Certificates and Licenses

Each RN needs a license to practice, and each state sets its own licensure processes and requirements. While the exact process varies, every state requires nurses to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and complete accredited nurse training programs.

Many BSN programs incorporate the NCLEX-RN in their curricula, often including the exam as part of graduation requirements. The test evaluates nurses on care management, risk reduction, infection control, and basic care skills. After passing the exam, nurses can apply for RN licenses. Some states also require a background check or additional certifications, such as CPR, basic life support, or advanced cardiac life support training.

In addition to an RN license, nurses can earn certificates to demonstrate specialized skills. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center offers board certifications in areas such as ambulatory care nursing, cardiac vascular nursing, informatics nursing, and pain management nursing. Other organizations, such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, also offer specialty certifications.

Certification candidates need an active RN license and a minimum number of hours of clinical practice in the relevant specialty area. Maintaining certification requires continuing education coursework. Typically, the certification remains valid for five years.

Nursing Careers

A bachelor's degree meets the requirements for RN licensure and employment in a variety of specialties, including pediatrics, critical care, and oncology. Across specialties, RNs benefit from strong job growth projections with a median pay of $73,300 per year as of 2019 — a significant increase over the earning potential of LPNs and LVNs.

Earning a bachelor's degree also qualifies nurses for master's programs in nursing. Graduates can pursue employment as advanced practice registered nurses, nurse educators, and nurse administrators.

Nursing Fields

  • Critical care
  • Community health
  • Coronary care
  • Emergency room
  • Hospice care
  • Obstetrics
  • Oncology
  • Post-anesthesia care
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatric-mental health
Education Requirements and Median Salaries for Nursing Careers
Career Median Salary Degree Required
Licensed Practical Nurse $47,480 Certificate
Licensed Vocational Nurse $47,480 Certificate
Registered Nurse $73,300 Associate or Bachelor's
Nurse Midwife $105,030 Master's
Nurse Practitioner $109,820 Master's
Postsecondary Teacher $79,540 Doctorate
Source: BLS

Questions Surrounding Nursing Programs

true Can You Get a BSN Online?

Yes. Many nursing schools offer online BSN programs or RN-to-BSN programs for learners seeking flexible course schedules. In online programs, nursing students complete coursework online while meeting clinical requirements through local hospitals or clinics.

true Can I Get a BSN Without Having an RN?

Yes. A prospective nurse can earn a BSN without holding an RN license. Many four-year colleges and universities offer stand-alone BSN programs for majors with no prior nursing experience.

true What Does a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Do?

During a bachelor of science in nursing, majors study evidence-based care, patient-centered nursing, and clinical practice. The degree prepares graduates for licensure and careers in nursing.

How Long Does It Take To Become an RN With a Bachelor's Degree?

Earning a bachelor's degree in nursing degree online generally takes four years for full-time students. Students with transfer credits or an associate degree can often finish more quickly.

What Does a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Do?

During a bachelor of science in nursing, majors study evidence-based care, patient-centered nursing, and clinical practice. The degree prepares graduates for licensure and careers in nursing.

What Is a BSN Degree in Nursing?

employment with an associate degree or diploma in the field, many employers now require a bachelor's-level education.

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