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Top Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Online RN-to-BSN programs are designed to help RNs advance their careers in a flexible format. Learn about some of the top schools and their online programs, as well as common courses and requirements for the degree.

Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Registered nurses (RNs) looking to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can find many different online options for RN-to-BSN programs designed with flexible schedules for working professionals. Many of these programs allow students to complete their BSN in 1 to 2 years, which is less than the traditional 4-year bachelor's degree program, and some of the best online RN-to-BSN programs offer unique practical experience opportunities, full- and part-time formats, and/or 24 hour accessibility. Explore a handful of the top online RN-to-BSN programs and what makes these stand out.

1. University of Kentucky

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Lexington, KY$12,24595%

The University of Kentucky has an online RN-to-BSN program that can be completed in 2 years and totals 120 credits. Students in the program must complete 2 practical experience courses that help expose students to a wide range of experiences in the field, including quality-improvement projects and working as a nurse educator. Courses in the program are 4, 8, or 16 weeks in length, and online students have the opportunity to be mentored by faculty members.

2. University of Iowa

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Iowa City, IA$9,26792%

RN's can complete an online RN-to-BSN from the University of Iowa, or can participate in the school's 3+1 partnership programs with local community colleges. For the traditional online program, students must complete a practicum course where they can be placed at a site in Iowa or complete an immersion practicum in Swaziland, Africa if they are from out-of-state. The 3+1 programs allow students to stay at their 3-year nursing program and then complete their BSN in 1 year through the University of Iowa's online program.

3. University of Kansas

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Lawrence, KS$11,14886%

The University of Kansas offers an online RN-to-BSN program that can be taken full- or part-time. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as 1 year, while part-time students can take up to 5 years to complete the program. The program is accessible 24 hours a day and does not require any campus meetings or on-site clinical requirements. Students must have completed 60 core prerequisite courses to be eligible.

4. Michigan State University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
East Lansing, MI$14,46066%

Michigan State University has an online RN-to-BSN program that is taken part-time in 5 semesters. Students in the program complete clinical practices in their local region and can sign into online courses at any time during the week. The program is approved by the Michigan Board of Nursing and has accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

5. Illinois State University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Normal, IL$14,51686%

Illinois State University offers an online RN-to-BSN program that can be completed in 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time. Students are admitted on a rolling basis and the program does not require statistics or chemistry as a prerequisite. The school's online format for the program is quality-certified by Quality Matters, a non-profit organization. The online program has been available for 14 years, per the school's website.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6James Madison UniversityHarrisonburg, VA$12,01663%
7East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NC$7,18881%
8South Dakota State UniversityBrookings, SD$8,76492%
9Mississippi University for WomenColumbus, MS$6,940100%
10George Mason UniversityFairfax, VA$12,46276%
11Maryville University of Saint LouisSaint Louis, MO$28,470100%
12Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, VA$14,49381%
13University of Southern MississippiHattiesburg, MS$8,62494%
14Texas A & M University-College StationCollege Station, TX$11,87076%
15The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxville, TN$13,00694%
16Fitchburg State UniversityFitchburg, MA$10,35490%
17Lock Haven UniversityLock Haven, PA$10,87894%
18University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbia, MO$9,97285%
19California State University-StanislausTurlock, CA$7,07292%
20University of Wisconsin-Stevens PointStevens Point, WI$8,23989%
21St Luke's CollegeSioux City, IA$20,440100%
22University of South DakotaVermillion, SD$9,06195%
23Wichita State UniversityWichita,KS$8,27089%
24Kent State University at KentKent, OH$10,31296%
25University of ArkansasFayetteville, AR$9,13077%
26University of Southern IndianaEvansville, IN$8,34994%
27Appalachian State UniversityBoone, NC$7,36471%
28D'Youville CollegeBuffalo, NY$26,75081%
29West Virginia UniversityMorgantown, WV$8,85689%
30Georgia College & State UniversityMilledgeville, GA$9,34696%
31Salem State UniversitySalem, MA$10,64290%
32Missouri State University-SpringfieldSpringfield, MO$7,37691%
33Mount Carmel College of NursingColumbus, OH$13,90793%
34Nicholls State UniversityThibodaux, LA$7,95295%
35University of Hawaii at ManoaHonolulu, HI$11,97082%
36Fort Hays State UniversityHays, KS$5,13098%
37The University of Texas at El PasoEl Paso, TX$8,19888%
38University of ToledoToledo, OH$10,29395%
39University of CincinnatiCincinnati, OH$11,00083%
40Ohio UniversityAthens, OH$12,19294%
41Columbia CollegeSonora, CA$1,16674%
42Slippery Rock University of PennsylvaniaSlippery Rock, PA$10,75793%
43Marshall UniversityHuntington, WV$8,12896%
44Old Dominion UniversityNorfolk, VA$10,56093%
45University of North DakotaGrand Forks, ND$8,69590%
46University of Northern ColoradoGreeley, CO$9,91893%
47University of UtahSalt Lake City, UT$9,22285%
48University of Colorado-Colorado SpringsColorado Springs, CO$8,52384%
49University of South Carolina-ColumbiaColumbia, SC$12,61891%
50University of Central MissouriWarrensburg, MO$7,67394%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year.

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Prerequisites for RN-to-BSN Programs

Before entry to an online RN-to-BSN program, students must hold a nursing degree, typically an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or diploma in nursing, and have their RN license. Many programs also have a minimum GPA requirement for applicants, which varies by school, but may range from a 2.0 to 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.

Although the courses for these programs may vary, most if not all RN-to-BSN degree programs require students to complete a list of prerequisite courses prior to entry to the BSN program. Usually, some or all of these courses are fulfilled during an ADN or diploma program, and some RN-to-BSN degree programs may have articulation agreements from a variety of local community colleges to make transferring credits for the courses easier. Some common prerequisite courses for RN-to-BSN programs include:

  • Anatomy and physiology with a lab
  • English composition
  • Psychology
  • Speech
  • Statistics
  • Microbiology with a lab
  • Chemistry with a lab
  • Global awareness/issues
  • Nutrition

Outside of coursework, nursing and other health science students may need to meet specific health and clinical requirements for their program. These requirements are usually based on standards used by clinical partners who allow students to come into their organization for practical experiences. Most commonly RN-to-BSN students need to have certain vaccinations, such as tetanus and hepatitis B, pass a background check, take a TB test, and/or have a health screening.

Overview of Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Online RN-to-BSN degree programs are quite prevalent and are usually designed in flexible formats for working nurses and students. These programs can commonly be taken in full- or part-time formats, and many programs are accessible 24 hours a day. When taken full-time, these programs can usually be completed in 1 to 2 years, although there are some programs that allow experienced nurses to complete the program in as little as 9 months. Part-time programs may allow students to complete the program between 2 and 5 years.

Online RN-to-BSN programs do not usually offer specializations, but students may be able to find specialization in areas like mental health, ethics, technology, or transcultural nursing. Typically, RNs can specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as pediatrics, ambulatory care, or gerontology by seeking certification in that particular area from a professional association after earning their degree.

Most of these degree programs cannot be completed entirely online, due to the hands-on nature of nursing and practical requirements that most programs have. Students usually will take 1 or more courses that require on-site clinical and/or hands-on learning experiences.

Common Courses for RN-to-BSN Programs

Most online RN-to-BSN programs range from about 30 to 35 credits, but some programs may require the traditional 120 credits required for a bachelor's degree, which typically includes prerequisite course requirements. Students in these nursing programs usually take a range of core nursing courses and conclude the program with practical requirements. Some common courses for these degree programs include topics in:

  • Pharmacology- Courses in pharmacology train students what to expect and watch for with various drug interactions in patients: both positive and adverse side effects. Students may discuss a nurse's role in drug administration, as well as other ethical and legal issues concerning drugs.
  • Pathophysiology- Courses in pathophysiology are designed to help train students to look for changes in patients and how these changes tie in to providing quality nursing care. Students in these courses may also study how these changes may vary across a lifespan.
  • Evidence-Based Practice/Decisions- Students in evidence-based practice or decision-making courses learn how to look at clinical evidence and other data to provide the best nursing care possible. Students study how to incorporate information and data into care planning and apply research to clinical practice.
  • Quality Improvement- Quality improvement courses aim to equip students with the necessary skills to notice and act on possible areas of improvement in healthcare. Students learn how to use data to examine quality issues and the methods used to test new quality and safety changes.
  • Population Health- Nursing students usually take a course that explores different topics in population-based healthcare. These courses explore healthcare in communities, treating diverse populations, and improving community health and safety. Students may also discuss issues in healthcare disparities and health policies.

Practical Requirements

Online RN-to-BSN degree programs usually have some in-person requirements. Often these requirements can be completed at sites that are local to the students, but some programs may require or give students the option to attend on-campus or sites near campus. Some programs may allow working professionals to complete their requirements at their place of employment.

Typically, these hands-on experiences are part of a final project, capstone course, or practicum experience. The goal of these courses is to allow students to incorporate all of the skills and knowledge they have gained from the program and apply them to real-world situations in various healthcare settings.

How to Choose an Online RN-to-BSN Program

There are many different factors to consider when choosing the online RN-to-BSN program that is right for you. One of the main factors to consider is the timing and formatting of a program. Students may wish to consider aspects like rolling admissions, full- and part-time formats, and accessibility. Students may also want to consider the practical requirements for the program to see if they are able to complete the requirements locally or would have to travel. Students who plan to further their education may want to find a program that allows students to earn credits for their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) while earning their BSN. Below, we discuss a few other important considerations for choosing an online RN-to-BSN program in more detail.

Accreditation

While many colleges and universities are accredited by organizations like the Higher Learning Commission, students may want to consider attending a nursing program that is accredited by a nursing organization. This usually ensures the quality of the program's academics, and some programs may also have the approval of the state's board of nursing.

Many online RN-to-BSN degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This organization works to accredit programs that demonstrate effective education methods and strives to help improve public health. The CCNE accredits programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as nursing residency programs.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Another factor to consider when choosing an online RN-to-BSN program is the cost of the program and availability of tuition assistance. The total cost of a nursing program varies by school, and students also need to consider any additional costs of a program, such as an immersion practicum experience. Some programs may total more than $14,000.

However, most schools still accept and/or offer financial aid and/or scholarships for online students. Like on-campus students, online students should still complete the FASFA to see what kinds of financial aid they qualify for. This may include grants and/or loans.

Some schools may offer additional scholarships specific to nursing students. For example, the University of Kansas has a Kansas Nursing Service Scholarship for students committed to practicing nursing in the state. There are many other organizations that also offer scholarships for nursing students, such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). Students can find a list of links to nursing scholarships at the website Nurse.org.

Career and Salary Information for a BSN

Most graduates with their BSN begin or continue to work as an RN. However, while some RNs may only have a diploma or ADN, some employers may prefer nurses who have their BSN. This is especially true for hospitals and/or nursing positions in consulting, teaching, research, and administration that commonly require a BSN or higher.

RNs typically work full-time, but may work around the clock on various shifts, depending on the needs of their healthcare organization and patients. This may also include working weekends and/or holidays. RNs can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, physician's offices, schools, community centers, outpatient care centers, and even in patients' homes.

There are many different kinds of RNs who may choose to specialize with a particular population of patients, such as rehabilitation nurses, addiction nurses, or critical care nurses. In general, RNs help provide patient care by recording medical histories, observing and assessing patients' conditions, giving medications and treatments, using medical equipment, and communicating with doctors and other healthcare professionals concerning patients. Nurses are also support providers as they talk with patients and their families, help explain treatment plans, and answer any questions or concerns they may have.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that RNs had a job outlook of 12% from 2018 to 2028 and an average salary of $75,510. The website, PayScale.com further breaks down nursing salaries by degree and reported that graduates with a BSN made an average salary of $83,000, as of January 2020. In contrast, PayScale.com reported that those with only an ADN made an average salary of $69,000 during the same time period.

Professional Organizations in Nursing

There is no shortage of professional organizations in place to help support nurses and/or advance and improve the field of nursing. These organizations are designed to help certify nurses and provide resources and continuing education opportunities. Some of these organizations even specialize in the types of nurses they support, such as the ARN or National Association of Hispanic Nurses. Explore some of the professional nursing organizations and their resources below.

American Nursing Association

The ANA offers membership and certification to nurses, as well as credentialing programs for healthcare organizations. The organization also provides a variety of continuing education opportunities for nurses and several different annual conferences and summits.

American Academy of Nursing

In addition to resources, membership, and events, the AAN offers competitive fellowships for professionals dedicated to improving the field. The AAN also has a number of initiatives, such as the Institute for Nursing Leadership.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

The AACN is an organization that includes the CCNE accreditation board and provides a number of resources to nurses and nursing students, including scholarships. The organization also offers membership, career resources, and an entire graduate student nursing academy.

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses

The ARN provides an array of resources that specifically cater to rehabilitation nurses, including membership, conferences, and certification. The organization has an online community, special interests groups, chapter resources, and information for fellow designation.

National Association of Hispanic Nurses

The NAHN is designed for Latino nurses and is dedicated to advancing healthcare in Hispanic communities. The organization has a range of online publications and events for Hispanic nurses. The NAHN offers membership at the individual, chapter, and corporate levels.