Accredited Online Schools That Offer Nursing Degrees

Nurses are a truly rare breed of individual. They are empathetic yet flexible, they are excellent communicators but also have an astute attention to detail; they are emotionally stable, respectful and caring.

Those that work well under pressure, enjoy solving problems and generally love to be around people are well-suited to enter the field of nursing. If this sounds like you, nursing could be a career field you should consider.

Nurses work in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, medical office, school, community health center, or nursing home – providing health care services such as physical exams, health education and counseling, administration of medication or wound care, and much more, in collaboration with other healthcare professionals like doctors, technicians, and anesthesiologists.

The field of nursing is more important than ever. With rising demands due to an aging baby boomer population, the field not only has an incredibly strong job outlook, but is also seeing a growing demand for greater and more specialized education.

The median salary for a registered nurse in 2016 was $68,450 per year; with more specialized education, earning potential will only increase.

In answer to rising demand within the field, the availability of online programs has increased. From online nurse practitioner programs to RN to BSN online programs, these options are flexible, convenient, and especially ideal for those who may need to study part-time while working in the field. There are also a variety of advanced programs for nurses who want move ahead in their career.

The availability of accredited online nursing programs is in vast supply. These online RN to BSN programs offer just as much weight as an advanced degree from a brick-and mortar school.

This guide will explore nursing as a career path, examining the different degree options one can study in preparation to enter the field, along with offering helpful tips to find the right accredited online nursing degree.

Careers in Nursing

A wide variety of career options exists within the field of nursing. While some nurses may stay in a particular role or field for the duration of their career, it’s much more likely that nurses will gain specialization with additional education and experience as their career develops.

Nursing positions require varying education, and hold a range of earning potentials based on the education and experience required within each role. Generally, nurses that have earned a bachelor’s degree and are working within a role that requires one will earn 30-50% more than a position that does not require a bachelor’s. Candidates with a master’s degree will generally earn 30-60% more than those with a bachelor’s, depending on experience and area of expertise. Many nursing positions will also require further licensure within a specialized area.

While there are many more nursing positions than are on this list, here is a snapshot of some of the most popular roles within the field.

Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Description: Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. These nurses work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.
  • Degree Required: Postsecondary nondegree award
  • Salary: $44,090 per year
  • Job Growth: 16% (Much faster than average)
Registered Nurse
  • Description: Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients about health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Salary: $68,450 per year
  • Job Growth: 16% (Much faster than average)
Home Health Aide
  • Description: Home health aides help people with disabilities, chronic illness, or cognitive impairment with activities of daily living. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to dispense medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.
  • Degree Required: No formal educational credential
  • Salary: $22,600 per year
  • Job Growth: 38% (Much faster than average)
Nurse Anesthetist
  • Description: Nurse anesthetists monitor a patient that has received anesthetic for a hospital procedure, constantly evaluating every important body function and individually modifying the anesthetic to ensure maximum safety and comfort.
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Salary: $164,030 per year
  • Job Growth: 3.7%
Nurse Midwife
  • Description: Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare. The scope of practice varies from state to state.
  • Degree Required: Master’s degree
  • Salary: $107,460 per year
  • Job Growth: 31% (Much faster than average)
Pediatric Nurse
  • Description: Pediatrics nurses assess, plan, and provide nursing care for children who are suffering from a wide variety of conditions including diseases, illnesses, and cancer, or who are recovering from surgery.
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Salary: $107,460 per year
  • Job Growth: 31% (Much faster than average)
Nursing Home Nurse
  • Description: The primary job of a nurse working in a nursing home is to care for the needs of elderly patients. At a basic level, nurses make sure patients maintain acceptable levels of personal hygiene, have clean beds, and receive proper nutrition. However, more advanced responsibilities include monitoring vital signs, giving IV’s, administering medication, and drawing blood. Nursing homes typically hire three types of nurses. These include nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses.
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Salary: $107,460 per year
  • Job Growth: 31% (Much faster than average)

Online Nursing Degrees

There are a variety of online nursing degrees available, however by far the most popular option is an RN to BSN online program.

While longer four-year nursing programs may start you further ahead in your career, there are many advantages to getting a quicker degree that allows you to begin working in the field in less time. It’s quite common for nurses to work their way up the degree levels, for example with an RN to BSN online degree, while working part-time.

While most advanced degrees, such as a master’s of science, will result in a higher salary, they will also give you the opportunity to specialize your degree and experience, opening up doors to more job opportunities.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common online degrees in the nursing field:

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Degree

LPN or LVN degrees typically take about a year, and are offered at community colleges and vocational schools. You’ll learn about client care and nursing license preparation; however if you want to practice as a registered nurse, you’ll need to earn an associate degree (LPN to RN) or bachelor’s degree (LP to BSN). LPN training and courses will count toward your future degree.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An ADN will prepare you to become a registered nurse, and can typically be earned in two years from a community college or online nursing program. You’ll study nursing courses and liberal arts courses. Once you complete your degree you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam to begin working as an RN.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Online BSN programs typically take three to four years and will include nursing courses in addition to liberal arts courses. Although you can practice as an RN with an associate degree, nurses with a bachelor’s degree will generally earn a higher wage, and are offered positions with greater seniority and responsibility.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Master of Science online nursing programs are desirable when an RN wants to move into a particular area of expertise while he or she advances their career. Typically, MSNs can specialize in different areas such as nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), or certified nurse midwife (CNM).

For those that are already working as a registered nurse and who have an associate degree, an online RN to BSN program is a great option. Online RN to BSN programs are incredibly popular and can typically be completed in under two years. Nursing is an evolving industry with increasing demands and opportunity. In fact, the Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80% of all nurses have a bachelor’s by 2020, so this particular program is an effective and flexible option for registered nurses who are currently working and wish to study part-time.

Registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree can undertake a master’s degree if they wish; programs typically take two years and will require clinical hours in addition to classroom or online learning time and assignments.

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    The Importance of Accreditation

    Accreditation is awarded to schools that offer a well-rounded education that meets a particular board standard and teach curriculums designed to prepare nurses for taking their licensing exam.

    Accreditation can be awarded based on state and/or national standards, and is not required by a program to operate. National organizations that accredit nursing programs include The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    It’s important for students to look for an accredited online degree program to ensure they receive proper training and preparation for their licensing examinations; selecting a non-accredited program could impact your future employment. However, is it so easy to determine if a prospective university is accredited? While, most schools are proud of their accreditation status and display it prominently on their website and information materials, if you are unsure, you can contact the institution by phone or email to ask them. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers a website solely for the purpose of researching accredited undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

    Licensing, Certifications, and Exams

    Licensing

    A nurse must be licensed before he or she can practice. Licensing refers to the process of state specific boards granting prospective nurses permission to practice based on approval that they display the necessary competency to perform a unique scope of practice.

    Licensure is issued by state; specific requirements and information vary state to state, and are outlined by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

    Typical requirements include: graduation or eligibility for graduation from an approved pre-licensure RN or LPN/VN nursing education program, successful completion of the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN examination and, in some states, a criminal background check.

    Exams

    Regardless of state, all nurses are required to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) exam. The test determine if prospective nurses meet the safety requirements and practical check for an entry-level vocational nurse. The exam, sometimes referred to as “the boards” is administered by individual state boards of nursing, and the requirements for eligibility are determined by the board of nursing/regulatory body (BON/RB) in each state.

    Specialized Certifications

    For nurses who wish to specialize in an particular discipline, there are a variety of certifications offered through the ANCC (American Nurses Credentials Center), such as:

    • Nurse Practitioners Certifications
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist Certifications
    • Specialty Certifications (e.g. Forensic Nursing or Pediatric Nursing)

    Clinical Experience

    The majority of nursing programs will require clinical experience, however the number of clinic hours required will likely vary depending on the program, degree, state, or type of specialization. A 3:1 ratio of clinical hours to learning hours is often used, with hours ranging from 500 to 1,000 or more.

    Schools typically allow students to complete clinical hours at a healthcare setting near their residence, potentially one they are already working at, if they are completing an RN to BSN or MSN degree.

    Professional Associations

    There are a number of professional associations within the field of nursing. Typically, joining a professional association will give a nurse the opportunity to network with other nurses and stay abreast of important trends in the field.

    There are many popular and widely regarded nursing associations; while further research will most certainly identify regional and specialist associations, premier national associations include:

    Additional Resources

    Beyond professional associations, there are a wide range of additional resources available to nurses online; from job boards to educational resources, and community networks to research boards – check out a few of our favorite resources below.

    • All Nurses: A resource for nurses to network and share with their peers.
    • Nurse Groups: A comprehensive job board with resources for continuing education.
    • Nursing Jobs: Find nursing jobs, including opportunities abroad.
    • Medscape: Offers the latest medical news, expert perspectives, and drug and disease information.
    • American Mobile NurseZone: America’s leading travel nurse company; the site offers blog posts, information about career development, and job opportunities for travel.
    • Nurse Recruiter: Search for nursing jobs by specialty, by city, or browse prospective applicants if you’re looking to hire a nurse.
    • Internurse: A UK resource for peer-reviewed nursing content, and home to the British Journal of Nursing.
    • Nursing Scholarships: Offers 100+ resources and links to find nursing scholarships.
    • Discover Nursing: Compiles information and resources from schools, organizations, and hospitals designed to provide opportunities to students and nursing.
    • The Truth about Nursing: Examines a variety of blog topics with the intent to shed light on the role nurses play in modern health care.