Many students who are thinking of studying for a bachelor’s in nursing online are considering doing a nursing bachelor online because of the many benefits that studying online offers. These benefits include a flexible schedule the ability to study at institutions all over the country, the affordability of many programs and being able to take classes at their own pace. Many students who pursue a bachelor’s in nursing online are already working full-time as RNs. They may need to pursue an online degree because of their work schedule.
In the early days of online education, taking classes or doing a degree this way was looked down upon. This was mostly due to the proliferation of unaccredited online schools charging students for essentially worthless degrees. However, the landscape of online education has changed dramatically in recent years. Today, many reputable universities offer online nursing programs accredited in the same way as their traditional programs. Pretty much every major university seems to have various degrees that can be completed completely online.
Our Method: Ranking the Best Online Nursing Programs
To determine the best RN to BSN online programs, the editors at Best Health Degrees did a wide-ranging search for fully online and hybrid programs offered by accredited, reputable colleges and universities in the US. From our initial pool, we ranked programs according to their Tuition Cost, Reputation, Alumni Salary, Graduation Rate, and Job Placement Rate. These five factors (with data from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche) tells potential students that they can trust these programs to make a difference in their career.
1. Indiana University
The best online nursing programs focus on helping you accomplish your long-term goal and the RN to BSN online program at Indiana University offers a solution for nurses who want to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The fully online program offers two programs for professionals who want a BSN degree: the RN to BSN program and the LPN to BSN program. Indiana University is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN, for the online BSN program.
A key advantage of focusing on a degree at Indiana University is the expectation that you are a working adult. The online degree program recognizes that working nurses may have unusual hours and makes it easy to keep up with your course work by allowing you to work when you have the time and energy. It allows you to focus on your obligations and then work on your degree.
Degree: RN to BSN or LPN to BSN
2. Ohio State University – Columbus
When it comes to the best RN to BSN online programs, Ohio State University at Columbus is among the top options for your career goals. The school focuses on maintaining a low student to teacher ratio to ensure that you have the individualized attention you need to accomplish your goals. The fully online program also takes the challenges of working as a nurse into account and gives you a flexible schedule to fit your needs.
Ohio State University at Columbus stands apart by focusing on quality in education. The school sets high standards for students and follows an evidence-based approach to nursing. It ensures that students are ready for the challenges of a career as a nurse and have the tools to keep up with the needs of their patients. It also commits to flexibility for better student health by allowing you to take classes online full-time or part-time. Ohio State University at Columbus is ranked number 3 in the country by U.S. News and World Report for its online bachelor’s degree programs.
Degree: RN to BSN
3. Penn State World Campus
When you want to focus on obtaining your education in nursing from the best online BSN programs, Penn State World Campus offers a program to assist with your goals. The online degree program builds on the skills you develop as a registered nurse and allows you to gain more advanced skills to advance in your career. You also learn leadership skills that may allow you to take on more complex roles as a nurse. Penn State also offers an accelerated RN to BSN program that makes it easier to obtain your degree in a short amount of time.
A key difference that sets Pennsylvania State University at its World Campus apart from other programs is its focus on nursing education. The school allows students to take an online program for their RN to BSN degree. It also allows students to move into more advanced studies through the post-graduate certification programs and the doctoral program. The commitment to nursing education allows students to consider their options for a long-term career in nursing.
Degree: RN to BSN
4. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The online RN to BSN program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst offers the opportunity to advance in your career. The degree program teaches students the value of holistic care for patient health and ensures that nurses are prepared to offer long-term care to their patients. It also recognizes the importance of evaluating cultural differences to provide quality care without causing discomfort for patients. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst allows students to complete their RN to BSN within one year and gives you the flexibility to work on your degree when it fits your schedule. You have access to classes and technical support 24 hours per day.
A key way the University of Massachusetts at Amherst differs from other nursing programs is the renowned faculty. Students in the online RN to BSN program are taught by the same professors as students in the on-campus classes. That means students have access to qualified professionals who have experience in nursing and bring their experience into the classroom. That allows students to gain a different perspective on their studies.
Degree: RN to BSN
5. University of Utah
When you are considering the best online BSN programs, you want to look into the University of Utah. The RN to BSN program from the university offers a flexible schedule to students. You can complete your degree in two semesters, or take classes part-time and finish your degree in four semesters. The flexibility makes it easy to keep up with your classes, even when you are working full-time as a nurse and have uncommon hours. The University of Utah allows RN to BSN students to adapt their program with a Geriatric Nurse Leadership specialization that can be applied to a graduate program or can assist with career goals.
The University of Utah differs from other programs by assigning students an Academic Program Manager or Program Director to assist students with the decision-making process as it relates to their current lifestyle and long-term goals. The Program Manager or Program Director is dedicated to helping students accomplish their goals.
Degree: RN to BSN
6. Arizona State University
Arizona State University offers one of the best online nursing programs when you want a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The RN to BSN program takes an evidence-based approach to nursing and focuses on providing students with the skills they need to handle the concerns of an aging population. The program is fully online and gives students innovative classroom experiences from the comfort of home or any location with an Internet connection. Arizona State University students who obtain a BSN have a 92 percent pass rate on the NCLEX on their first attempt.
A key advantage of Arizona State University is the innovative approach taken by professors. They recognize that students need to adapt quickly when working as a nurse, and they give students an opportunity to work on their problem-solving skills through unique and creative strategies. The school is in the top 11 percent of the most innovative online programs according to U.S. News and World Report.
Degree: RN to BSN
7. University of Illinois at Chicago
The University of Illinois at Chicago offers one of the best RN to BSN online programs to help with your career goals. The degree program allows you to start at three different times of the year: fall, spring, and summer. The flexible online program lets you work around your personal schedule or obligations so that you are able to finish the degree when you have time. The University of Illinois at Chicago has a high graduation rate with 94% of the students in the online RN to BSN program graduating and moving forward with a nursing career.
A key difference that sets the University of Illinois at Chicago apart from other programs is student engagement. The university is the number nine school for student engagement in their nursing program. Since the school focuses on engaging students in the curriculum and keeping them interested in their studies, students are able to enjoy the coursework and learn valuable skills for their career.
Degree: RN to BSN
8. West Virginia University
West Virginia University offers an RN to BSN program that allows registered nurses with an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing to work on more advanced studies. The degree program is fully online for students who have completed their general studies courses and it gives students the flexibility to work around their work schedule. Students at West Virginia University who take the online RN to BSN program pay in-state tuition, regardless of their state and location when they start taking the classes.
West Virginia University is a CCNE accredited school that offers nursing students the skills they need to focus on their career goals. The program only requires ten courses for 28 credits, with an additional two credits in an elective course that allows students to qualify for residency when working on their nursing degree.
Degree: RN to BSN
9. University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas offers an online RN to BSN program that helps students accomplish their goals as a nurse. The degree program focuses on teaching students critical reasoning skills and analytical skills that improve their ability to offer treatment to their patients. It also ensures that students have a strong foundation in nursing ethics and standards of practice to qualify for leadership roles. The University of Arkansas has been accredited by the CCNE since 2002 for their online RN to BSN program and it provides an opportunity to focus on research in nursing as one of the top public research schools.
A key advantage of the University of Arkansas is the asynchronous courses. Students can apply for the online program when they have time and start taking classes at a variety of times throughout the year. That gives students greater flexibility to complete their online degree and focus on career goals. It also makes it easier for students to work out solutions for personal or career obligations that may limit their time for their education.
Degree: Online RN to BSN
10. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida’s online RN to BSN program provides an opportunity to obtain your bachelor’s degree in nursing. The degree program gives students a chance to focus on learning the skills they need for their career goals. The school recognizes that a bachelor’s degree offers the opportunity to take on a leadership role in nursing and gives students a chance to work toward their degree after evaluating their schedule. The University of Central Florida allows students to get a head start in more advanced studies substituting up to nine credit hours of graduate course work. That helps students who plan to move into a master’s program or a doctoral program.
A key advantage of obtaining a BSN from the University of Central Florida is the school’s approach to learning. The school focuses on taking a scientific approach to the process of nursing and gives students the chance to learn scientific skills that give them valuable skills for their career. Students will understand the latest scientific studies and the way they can apply the scientific method to their work as a nurse.
Degree: RN to BSN
11. Drexel University
The RN to BSN program at Drexel University prepares you to focus on your career and challenge tradition as it applies to nurses. The degree program takes an evidence-based approach to nursing and encourages students to gain experience in nursing. The curriculum stands out by taking an action-focused approach that teaches students to take action and develop practical skills that improve patient outcomes. Drexel University also offers an accelerated online program for nursing students. You can complete your RN to BSN in 12 months.
A key advantage of obtaining a degree from Drexel University is the focus on nursing performance. Students learn to think critically about a situation and take action to improve the outcomes of their patient’s health. The focus on evidence and critical thinking help students learn the leadership skills they need to work in more advanced roles in their career.
Degree: RN to BSN
12. University of St. Francis (IN)
The University of St. Francis in Indiana offers an RN to BSN program online that prepares students for the rigors of working as a nurse. The degree program focuses on leadership immersion and teaches students to apply findings from research to their patient’s health. The evidence-based approach ensures that students are prepared for the challenges of working in a modern medical facility. The University of St. Francis in Indiana allows students to take an accelerated program and finish their degree in 12 months or take a slower approach and finish the degree in 24 months.
The University of St. Francis stands out from other programs by following Franciscan Values as it applies to nursing. It takes a caring and service approach to help patients. The focus on compassion and kindness allows nurses to give their patients the attention they need when facing a challenge with their physical health. Students learn to take a patient-centered approach to healing that allows them to work with a patient’s wishes and their family for better health outcomes.
Degree: RN to BSN
13. Florida International University
The RN to BSN program at Florida International University prepares students for more advanced roles in nursing. The degree program focuses on relevant skills based on the modern medical environment. Nurses prepare for the challenges of their career through a fully online program that works around their current work schedule.
Florida International University stands out by focusing on nurse leadership and cultural understanding. The program recognizes that nurses may interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds, so it strives to teach students to address potential challenges that may arise when cultural concerns impact patient health. Florida International University was ranked number three by Value Colleges in 2017 for its online programs.
Degree: RN to BSN
14. University of Alabama at Birmingham
The online RN to BSN program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham allows students to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing, making it easy for students to focus on their career goals and obtain an education when it fits their schedule. It gives students a flexible solution to help with personal goals while working full-time. The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers students an option to focus on more advanced studies with the alternate pathway to obtain a master’s degree.
A key way the University of Alabama at Birmingham stands apart is the flexibility of the program. Students are able to complete their bachelor’s degree in two semesters if they focus on full-time studies. They also have an opportunity to slow down and take classes part-time if they have limited time available for a degree.
Degree: RN to BSN
15. University of Louisville
The fully online RN to BSN program at the University of Louisville prepares students for the challenges of working as a nurse. The degree program offers a support system with access to professional assistance when working toward a degree. It also recognizes that students may benefit from focused classes and allows students to take one or more classes to fit their own situation.
A key difference that sets the University of Louisville apart is the eight-week courses. Each class is eight weeks long, which means students are able to complete their degree at an accelerated pace, or at a slower pace with focused instruction. The University of Louisville has small class sizes that ensure that students have personal attention from professors.
Degree: RN to BSN
What Are the Advantages of an Online BSN Program?
One of the biggest benefits of online learning for many students is the flexible schedule offered by online classes. Traditional on-campus classes require that students be at a certain location at a certain time, which can be difficult or even impossible for working students. Students already working in healthcare may have long hours that leave pursuing a nursing bachelor online as their only option to advance their educations.
Another huge pro of online education is the opportunity to take BSN online nursing courses at schools that would be out of commuting distance. Taking a traditional degree at out-of-state colleges would be impossible without moving. BSN online nursing students can attend a prestigious nursing school or find a specialized program not offered by schools in their area when they are taking online classes.
Will Employers Trust an Online BSN?
Even universities that aren’t as famous can have perfectly respectable online nursing programs. The most important thing is that the university is regionally accredited. If they are, then their online degrees are just as legitimate as their traditional degrees.
When it comes to nursing specifically, there is another type of accreditation beyond regional accreditation that students should look for in accredited RN to BSN online programs and other nursing programs. CCNE accredited schools have the approval of one of the leading organizations of nurses. Employers who are hiring nurses prefer grads from CCNE accredited schools. Prospective students should look for online nursing programs accredited by CCNE as well as a regional accreditation association.
A CCNE list of accredited nursing schools can be found on their website. This list includes schools with accredited RN to BSN online programs and more. When students are wondering nursing school accreditation what to look for, one of the things they should check is whether a program is on this list of accredited nursing schools. Searching for “nursing school accreditation what to look for,” will provide evidence that a CCNE-accredited program is highly desirable.
What Kinds of Specializations are Available in an Online BSN Program?
Students who already know what types of nurse specializations they are interested in may be concerned that online bachelor of science nursing programs won’t offer their chosen specialization. Online BSN programs are generally geared toward working RNs or ADNs. Clinical experience is always required for all of the different types of nursing degrees, and online nursing students can usually get this experience through their job. To put it simply, online nursing students will be able to pursue one of the different nursing specialties in demand as long as they or their school can organize clinical experience in this specialization. It may be a little trickier to get the specialization that you want in online bachelor of science nursing programs as compared to traditional nursing programs.
Nursing specialties in demand, such as NICU, ER, and pediatric intensive care may be a little harder to get into through an online program. However, other popular specialties like community health and gerontological medicine are more common types of nurse specializations for online programs. Students may be able to get into their desired specialization by pursuing different types of nursing degrees.
Many online BSN programs offer students the opportunity to progress to MSN programs. Some nursing specialties, such as nurse anesthetist, require that a nurse complete a masters degree anyway to enter that field, whether they are pursuing an online degree or a traditional degree. This is also true of midwife nurses, who specialize in delivering babies. Students can even complete a DPN online at some schools. Most schools don’t offer online graduate nursing degrees, but there are enough reputable accredited schools that do to allow students to find an online DPN program that fits their needs. Many experienced nurses who want to go into the management of nurses follow this path.