Nursing is a healthcare career field with growing opportunities for employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for registered nurses will grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, which is must faster than the national average for other occupations. If you’re looking for a stable, exciting career with growth potential that makes a difference, nursing is a great field to consider.
Many licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are taking advantage of the flexibility of online nursing degree programs to increase their career opportunities and salaries. Exploring different programs can help you decide which programs would be best for you and your career goals. Below youâll find a list of online nursing degree options, the career outlook, salary forecast, education requirements, and even a list of colleges offering online nursing degrees.
Online Nursing Degree Options
There are a variety of degrees that can lead to a career in nursing, from an associateâs degree to a doctorate degree. The following is a description of each nursing degree and the job opportunities they bring.
Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ADN typically takes about two years to complete. Unlike a bachelor’s degree, an ADN focuses on technical skills instead of academics. Once you finish your ADN and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, you can become an entry-level registered nurse. This means you can work in pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, infant nursing, or medical-surgical nursing. You can also become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Many programs allow you to do your clinical work at local healthcare facilities, so you can complete an online ADN from almost anywhere.
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN): A BSN teaches more than just clinical skills but ÂÂit places an emphasis on management, supervision, and community health. Some programs allow you to specialize your degree in areas such as neonatal care or oncology. Many nursing careers require a BSN. Some online programs include an accelerated option for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.
Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN): An MSN will lead you to a variety of specialized career options, such as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, a midwife, or a nurse educator. It iÂÂs also a step toward getting a doctorate degree or preparing for a leadership role.
Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP or Ph.D.): There are two kinds of doctorate degrees in nursing. The DNP focuses on the practice. IÂt prepares you to be an expert as a practitioner and to apply new research findings to your work. A Ph.D. in nursing is a research degree.Â It qualifies you to conduct independent research and publish what you discover to improve the quality of care you give to your patients.
Online Nursing Bridge Programs
Some colleges also offer online bridge programs, in which you earn two degrees at once. An online bridge program saves you time and money because you will not need to take courses covering material that you have already learned.
Some programs are asynchronous, meaning you can log on and complete as much coursework as you want, whenever you want. Other programs are synchronous, meaning you log on at a predetermined time to meet remotely with your professor and classmates.
A bridge program is ideal for a student who wants to be a registered nurse but has a bachelor’s degree in another field or who has their LPN or associateâs degree and wants to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree. Common types of nursing bridge programs include the following:
LPN to ADN: You do not need to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to get an ADN, but many programs will give you credit for your LPN to use toward your associateâs degree. In many programs, having an LPN will allow you to finish your ADN faster because you will not have to take courses with the information you learned when becoming an LPN. The program will probably require clinical hours, but many online programs allow you to complete your practical study at a local clinic or another healthcare facility.
LPN to BSN: Instead of earning your BSN in several courses by taking an LPN to RN program and then an RN to BSN program, you can start with your LPN and then earn your RN license and BSN degree in one program. An LPN to BSN program includes general education courses, such as English and humanities, alongside nursing courses and clinical requirements. Most bachelorâs degree programs take about four years to complete, though some LPN to BSN programs may be shorter. The program length varies depending on how many transferable college credits you earned previously.
RN to BSN: These programs are designed for students who have at least an ADN and have their registered nurse license. When you graduate with your BSN, you’ll be eligible for positions such as a clinical nurse manager, case management director, or a director of education. You will also be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam.
BSN to MSN: The BSN to MSN program is an accelerated nursing program, typically for students interested in nursing who already have a bachelorâs degree in another non-nursing field. This program helps you finish your BSN faster (about two years) so you can get started on your MSN degree sooner. Nurses with an MSN degree often seek specialized positions, such as a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
RN to DNP: If you earned your RN license when you took the exam for your BSN and want to get your MSN and DNP as well, you can then enroll in a program that will allow you to get your graduate degrees at the same time. These programs teach you how to use research to improve clinical care and teach other nurses what you’ve learned.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 there were about 3 million registered nursing jobs. Job opportunities in nursing are expected to grow. In 2016:
61% of registered nurses were employed in hospitals
8% in doctors offices and healthcare clinics
7% in nursing homes
5% in government services
3% in educational services
The fastest growing nursing positions are home health aides, who help take care of patients in their homes, and advanced practice registered nurses, who hold advanced degrees and practice a specialty such as a nurse midwife or nurse anesthesiologist.
The list below outlines the projected job growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in various nursing positions from 2016 to 2026.
Projected Growth Rates for Nursing Careers, 2016 to 2026
Home Health Aides: 41%
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: 31%
Registered Nurses: 15%
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: 12%
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: 11%
Salary Forecast for Careers in Nursing
Nursing can provide a good living, generally near or above the national average annual salary of $70,00, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest earning career is that of an advanced practice registered nurse, with an average annual salary of $110,930 in May 2017.
Median Nursing Annual Salary, May 2017
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: $110,930
Registered Nurses: $70,000
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: $45,030
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: $27,510
Home Health Aids: $23,130
How to Apply to an Online Nursing Program
Admission requirements for online nursing programs will vary by school and program. However, there are some criteria that most schools will require. These are some of the most common admission requirements for online nursing degrees:
Most schools require you to have a current RN license.
You will also need a minimum GPA from your previous studies (for example, many colleges look for a minimum 2.5 high school GPA for online BSN programs).
You will most likely be required to provide transcripts from other schools you’ve attended, whether they come from a high school or university. It will need to show that you’ve taken nursing-related courses or you will also have to have a diploma in nursing.
Many schools, especially at the graduate level, require professional and/or academic references.
Some programs, particularly graduate programs, require you to pass specific exams, such as the NCLEX-RN.
A criminal background check, physical examination, and/or a drug screening is also necessary for admission into many programs.
In some cases, you may have to submit a personal essay answering a prompt about the program and your interest in it.
What are the benefits of an online nursing degree vs. an on-campus nursing degree?
Online programs are generally more flexible than on-campus programs. In many programs, all of your coursework is completed online. This means you can either log on whenever you want and complete the assignments at your own pace, or you log on at a specific time to remotely meet with your professor and class.
Either way, you can take classes from the comfort of your home. Many schools also allow you to complete your clinical and practical experience at healthcare facilities near you, so it is possible to earn your degree without ever setting foot on campus.
Online degrees can also be much less expensive than on-campus programs. Since you do not get charged fees for campus maintenance or resource usage (such as the library), you will typically pay less per credit than an on-campus student.
Education Requirements for Nursing
The degree you earn will determine which type of nursing position you are qualified for. The following is a list of degrees typically required for various nursing careers.
Home Health Aids: High-school diploma
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: Certificate or license
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: Master’s degree
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: Associates degree