Best Online RN to BSN Programs

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In virtually every healthcare setting, registered nurses (RNs) staff the frontlines and provide thoughtful, patient-centered care. These professionals work in hospitals, assisted living facilities, clinics, homes, schools, and the military, sometimes even moving around the world as travel nurses. They also serve a wide range of patients at all different stages of the life cycle -- from pediatrics to gerontology. Some may also specialize in work with those suffering addictions or seeking emergency care.

Although the day-to-day responsibilities of an RN may vary, their duties are typically quite straight-forward. Common tasks include recording medical histories, administering medicines and/or treatments, assessing the condition of their patients, creating care plans, consulting with doctors, performing diagnostic tests, and teaching patients to manage their injuries or illnesses after being discharged.

There are three common paths to becoming an RN: a diploma program, an associate degree in nursing (AND), or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Although all of these academic paths lead to RN licensure (a requirement to practice in any state), they are not created equally. While individuals with a diploma or ADN are competitive for entry-level roles, those with BSNs qualify for higher paying administrative positions. And as the healthcare system becomes increasingly complex, more nurses taking on these roles are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree. In fact, a 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine recommended that the number of nurses with a BSN should increase by 80% by 2020.

RN to BSN online programs are an excellent path for current RNs who want to take the next step professionally, and move into a more meaningful role that offers higher earning power and more responsibility. Read on to learn what’s required to take this exciting professional step.

What Are the Top Online RN to BSN Programs?

After learning about the benefits of an online BSN degree -- and what it takes to move from an RN to BSN online qualification -- read on to find a program that meets your needs. Our carefully curated list of online RN to BSN programs accounts for a variety of important factors to help you find the best programs from around the nation. Because accreditation is critically important within the field of nursing, you can rest assured knowing that every online BSN in this ranking is fully accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Wondering which metrics were used to rank the schools you’ll find below? One of the most telling data points of great accredited online RN to BSN programs is the NCLEX exam pass rate of their graduates. These numbers factored heavily into the ranking, as well as a few other variables. A full methodology is included at the bottom of this page.

The Rankings

Rank School Featured Image Cost Location Quick Facts Description

What Jobs Can You Get With a BSN Degree?

Completing an RN to BSN online opens the doors to many exciting career opportunities, some of which can only be attained with a baccalaureate degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that roles for qualified RNs will grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026, a rate that far exceeds the national average for all jobs. Much of the increased need for these professionals is due to an aging population that requires higher levels of care than younger patients. Though RNs with diplomas or associate degrees qualify for many of these roles, healthcare facilities and hospitals are increasingly hiring individuals with higher levels of education.

The BLS projects that the job growth rate for BSN holders will rise even higher than the 15% projected for the entire field, especially for those who have existing work experience or specializations in a specific area of care. Aside from two years of additional learning and advanced coursework, RN to BSN online programs also provide graduates with far more clinical experience. This allows graduates to negotiate higher salaries upon graduation than those without a baccalaureate education.

Review the table below to learn more about the industries employing graduates of online nursing degrees, as well as information about median annual wages for each.

Government $73,980
State, Local, and Private
Ambulatory Healthcare Services $64,660
Nursing and Residential
Care Facilities
Educational Services;
State, Local, and Private

A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum degree requirement for nurses who want to advance to administrative positions, along with positions in research, consulting, and teaching.

The following table provides information about average salaries for online nursing degree graduates considering administrative and/or managerial roles after completing an online BSN program. All information is provided by Payscale.

Registered Nurse (BSN) $61,153
Nursing Manager $83,028
Clinical Nurse Manager $79,571
Registered Nurse Supervisor $70,715

Advantages of Online RN to BSN Programs

In addition to potentially higher salaries and career advancement, RN to BSN programs offer many other benefits. According to a 2015 study by Institute of Medicine, BSNs rank as the second most popular major for online undergraduate students. Because the vast majority of nursing programs online are taught asynchronously and on a part-time basis, degree seekers already working in the field can complete their degree while continuing to work and balance personal obligations.

Another reason RN to BSN online programs are so popular is their affordability. Many programs allow distance learners to pay in-state tuition, regardless of their location, while also providing savings on many other associated costs of campus-based learning. Online students don’t need to worry about transportation, since they can study from anywhere with an internet connection, and those with children can spend less time finding a sitter and more time studying.

Online RN to BSN Program Requirements

Before applying to an online RN to BSN degree, it’s important to ensure that all program requirements have been met. The field of nursing has unique requirements for admission, as do individual schools, so it’s worth reviewing these before submitting an application and fees.

  1. An associate degree in nursing or diploma in nursing: Diplomas in nursing typically take one year and focus exclusively on nursing topics, while associate programs typically take two years and include general education coursework. Regardless of the program, it must be from an accredited institution to qualify for an online nursing degree.
  2. A current license as a registered nurse: All registered nurses must hold a current, unencumbered nursing license within the state they work. Licenses are granted to nurses who have graduated from an accredited institution and passed the NCLEX-RN examination.
  3. Proof of work: Depending on the online RN to BSN program, some may require students to have a few years of work experience. Applicants must submit a verification of work from their past/current employer(s).
  4. Background check: Because graduates of online BSN programs care for patients and handle sensitive documents and data, many programs require applicants to pass a background check to be admitted. Some programs may also require a drug screening.
  5. General admission requirements: Admission requirements for online BSNs vary by school but typically include meeting a benchmark GPA along with providing an essay, resume, and letters of recommendation.
  6. Completion of prerequisites: Some schools may allow online BSN applicants to complete any unfinished prerequisites once enrolled, while others mandate that degree seekers must have all of these courses on their official transcript before being admitted.

RN to BSN Prerequisites

Before moving into an online RN to BSN program, it’s necessary for applicants to satisfy a number of prerequisite requirements. Academic requirements total approximately 60 credits, including a range of nursing-specific classes and general education courses. Online BSN degree seekers who have previously completed a baccalaureate program in another area of study may already meet many of the requirements for general education prerequisites, while those who have a diploma may need to complete a few more classes before being fully admitted to an accredited online RN to BSN program. Some of the prerequisites required for an online RN to BSN program include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Human Growth & Development
  • Nutrition
  • Chemistry
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • English Composition
  • Statistics

Common Courses in an RN to BSN Program

Introduces students to the physiologic foundations of various health issues occurring throughout the lifespan, with special emphasis given to specific diseases and their treatments.
Aging Populations
Blends studies in biology, psychology, sociology, and other health disciplines to understand how patients age and how to care for them best during times of transition.
Health Assessments
Nursing students are taught to assess patients in pediatrics to gerontology care. Topics include use of assessment tools, communication, and taking a patient’s medical history.
Health Policy
An in-depth look at the factors affecting the delivery of care, including cultural, ethical, economic, social, and political considerations.
Students explore the latest technology and data concepts within the field, including the ethical issues to consider when using advanced methods in practice.
Nursing Research
This course introduces the various research processes within the field, including defining research problems and advancing research to enhance the field.
Health Therapies
This course reviews naturopathic therapies, including reflexology, acupuncture, hypnosis, and aromatherapy.
Innovations in Healthcare
New trends within healthcare delivery are examined, with an emphasis placed on technology advances, new and emerging research, and patient-centered services.
The Ethics of Healthcare
With a focus on the American Nursing Association Code of Ethics, this course examines clinical practices, academic research, and healthcare policy from an ethical standpoint.
Healthcare Leadership
Students are given an overview of hierarchies within the nursing profession, while also learning how organizational structures contribute to a more streamlined delivery of care.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an RN to BSN Program?

Requirements for completing an RN to BSN online program vary based on both the student and the individual program they complete. The majority of online RN to BSN degrees require between 120 and 128 credits, and students who have already earned an accredited associate degree should have approximately half of those credits already completed. With that in mind, most full-time students can earn their RN to BSN online degree in approximately two years. Factors to consider when estimating your own timeline include whether you meet all prerequisite requirements and whether you’ll be studying on a full- or part-time basis.

About Our Rankings

Note: In most cases, eligible candidates must possess current unobstructed state licensure; some online RN to BSN programs, however, will admit students who plan to take the NCLEX within a specified time frame. Please check with your RN to BSN online program of interest before applying.

Methodology for The Best Online RN to BSN Programs

  1. Offer an online RN to BSN program.
  2. Offer employment services for students, on-campus daycare, placement services for completers, or academic/career counseling services for students (via IPEDs).
  3. Offer campus-based RN to BSN coursework and have been accredited by one or both of the two main nursing education agencies: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

These colleges then have been ranked by average reported NCLEX scores. We used this as an indicator of the overall strength of the school's nursing programs. Schools that met the above criteria, but did not have reported NCLEX scores, were still included because they demonstrate traits of a comprehensive RN to BSN online program. Their NCLEX scores have been marked as "n/a" and they appear at the end of the list.

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System - IPEDS), National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), State Nursing Boards, Institutions' Websites.

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