For nursing professionals, continuing education to the BSN level is essentially a requirement of the field. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80% of nurses in the U.S. attain a bachelor’s degree by 2020. Additionally, educational institutions are encouraging nurses who graduate with an associate degree or diploma to earn their BSN within five years.
One of the most challenging aspects of keeping up with these requirements is finding the time to complete the degree. Nurses have long hours and rotating schedules. With this in mind, a flexible online degree program is a great option.
Busy professionals can complete coursework on their own timetable, and the degree can be finished in an accelerated format. Nurses can remain marketable and competitive in the workforce by completing a BSN while continuing to maintain their jobs as RNs. With over 2.5 million registered nurses employed in the U.S. as of 2014, making this effort to stay ahead of the pack is well worth it.
As more and more nurses pursue a BSN, institutions are responding by offering more and better online programs to meet the demand. This has resulted in a new, wide array of choices for nursing students. To help narrow the search, we offer the following list of the top online RN to BSN degree programs.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Allen College||Waterloo||$$$$$||1990 Heath St|
Waterloo, IA 50703-1999
Located in Waterloo, IA, Allen College has been a hub for excellent healthcare education since its establishment in 1925. Today, the school offers a number of academic programs, including an RN to BSN online degree. Students may pursue this bachelor of science in nursing degree full-time or part-time and coursework is completed entirely online, excluding clinical requirements, which are completed locally at an approved site with the guidance of an academic adviser. Students complete 124 credit hours of general education, registered nurse work, and major courses. Because it is a degree completion track, the first two requirement categories must be completed at another institution prior to matriculation in the Allen program. The actual RN to BSN curriculum totals 30 hours and includes courses in field-related leadership, informatics, and ethics. Students are introduced to evidence-based practice and the philosophy of and techniques in nursing research. Allen College cannot guarantee that all out-of-state residences will be able to enroll in online classes, so students must check with an admissions counselor.
|2||University of Central Florida||Orlando||$$$$$||4000 Central Florida Blvd|
Orlando, FL 32816
The University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, enrolls over 63,000 students annually and offers a number of degree programs, including an online RN to BSN degree completion track. Catered to all registered nurses with a related associate degree or diploma, all courses in this program can be taken online; students usually earn their degrees in as little as three semesters. Like other online RN to BSN programs, applicants must satisfy the general education requirements and eight nursing prerequisites prior to the start of the program. The remaining 30 credit hours are taken in major coursework, with topics including health assessment, professional research, and community in public health, which requires a practicum. UCF nursing students also have the opportunity to join professional organizations, like the Associate of Pre-Nursing Students and the Student Nurses Association, where they can receive invaluable support and career opportunities. Tuition is based on residency status and scholarships -- including specific institutional awards for nursing students -- are available.
|3||University of South Florida||Tampa||$$$$$||4202 East Fowler Ave|
Tampa, FL 33620-9951
The University of South Florida’s main campus is located in Tampa, FL and offers an RN to BSN online degree sequence that is ranked as one of top programs of its kind in the United States. In order to enroll, students must reside in Florida or Pennsylvania and have earned a 2.5 cumulative GPA as an undergraduate, excluding courses done in their associate of science nursing courses. They must also complete -- or be in the process of completing -- a number of state-mandated prerequisites. The curriculum totals 30 credit hours and can be completed part-time in five semesters or full-time in three. In addition to courses in population health and information technology skills, students also choose elective courses from three concentrations: leadership/management, patient/staff education, and clinical excellence. RN to BSN students must also complete a number of service learning practicum hours at either their place of work or at an approved site chosen with the guidance of a program adviser.
|4||Arizona State University - Skysong||Scottsdale||$$$$$||1475 N Scottsdale Road - Ste 200|
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Arizona State University’s Skysong campus is located in Scottsdale and offers a number of academic programs for distance learners. Among the catalog is an RN to BSN online degree, designed for registered nurses who want to move into advanced practice and gain their credentials in just 15 months. The curriculum consists of general education, nursing prerequisites, and major requirements. Students may transfer up to 64 credit hours from an approved community college, up to 75 if that college is part of Arizona’s higher education pathway programs, and still more if they’ve attended a regionally-accredited university. The remaining credits are completed in upper division courses in topics like management, research, and innovation in nursing practices. Students must also complete a capstone course, where they articulate a personal philosophy of nursing by synthesizing what they’ve learned into the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of a health-related project.
|5||Liberty University||Lynchburg||$$$$$||1971 University Blvd|
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Located in Lynchburg, VA, Liberty University offers a number of academic programs through its School of Nursing, including one of the best online RN to BSN programs in terms of cost and co-educational opportunities. Courses are taught in eight-week formats, ideal for students who want to complete their degree while maintaining their nursing positions. Students must achieve 120 credit hours in order to graduate, 61 of which are completed in nursing courses. Registered nurses in good-standing anywhere in the United States receive 31 nursing credits upon entering the Liberty program. Combined with general education and other transfer credits, a student needs to only take 30 credits at Liberty before receiving bachelor’s degree. Liberty students have the special opportunity to engage in international health service missions to Haiti, Rwanda, and Guatemala where they gain hands-on experience in the field and build a more comprehensive understanding of nursing care.
|6||Clarkson College||Omaha||$$$$$||101 S 42nd St|
Omaha, NE 68131-2739
Clarkson College was established in 1888 as Nebraska’s first school of nursing. Over 125 years later, Clarkson carries on that tradition, and offers a number of nursing programs, including an online bachelor of science in nursing for registered nurses. Coursework emphasizes real-world scenarios and professional challenges, and is nicely suited for professionals with an associate degree or appropriate diploma credentials. Totaling 130 hours of general education and nursing courses, the curriculum can be completed in three semesters for full-time students and six for part-timers. Similar to other RN to BSN online programs, Registered Nurses receive a direct transfer package of credits in their major upon entering the program. They complete the remaining advanced coursework and capstone project at Clarkson. The degree plan also includes service requirements which demonstrate ethical consideration, compassion, and commitment to community health. A variety of financial assistance is available, including state grants and merit-based scholarships.
|7||East Carolina University||Greenville||$$$$$||East 5th Street|
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
East Carolina University (ECU) enrolls 29,000 students annually and offers a number of academic programs through its 12 colleges and schools, including a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing degree pathway. Recognized by the American Nurses Association as one of the leading online RN to BSN programs, ECU prepares professional nurses for management positions in a variety of healthcare environments. Courses are taught in an accelerated format (five-and-a-half weeks during the summer and seven during the fall and spring semesters), enabling Registered Nurses, who may use prior academic and professional experiences to towards their degree completion, to gain their bachelor’s quickly. The curriculum is rooted in a liberal arts and natural sciences education and students take courses in advanced topics like community health and leadership and finance skills. A practical experience capstone is also required and may be completed at a student’s current place of employment or at another local approved location. Tuition is based on residency status, and distance education through ECU is only available in certain states outside of North Carolina.
|8||University of St. Francis||Joliet||$$$$$||500 N Wilcox St|
Joliet, IL 60435-6188
Located in Joliet, IL, the University of St. Francis facilitates an RN to BSN online adult degree completion track through its Leach College of Nursing. Designed to prepare students for leadership positions in emerging health service areas, the program emphasizes decision making and critical thinking. Coursework totals 128 hours and includes general education and prerequisite nursing requirements that can be fulfilled through transfer credits from prior schooling and professional experience. Advanced major topics include pathophysiology, research methods, and a professional nursing practice sequence that culminates with a senior seminar. USF students can expect one-on-one advising throughout their time in the program from faculty and administrators invested in their success. Over 96% of undergraduate students receive a form of gift assistance from the school. Enrollment eligibility at USF is based on a student’s state of residence.
|9||Clemson University||Clemson||$$$$$||201 Sikes Hall|
Clemson, SC 29634
Situated at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Clemson University is South Carolina’s premier national university. Clemson offers comprehensive nursing programs, including an RN to BSN completion track. With a combination of transfer credits and credit by examination for previous experience, registered nurses may enter the Clemson program as juniors and earn their bachelor’s degree in two years or less. To graduate students must earn a minimum of 125 credits, and advanced nursing courses include topics like health assessment, mental health nursing, leadership and management, and care of women and families. Students may further personalize their degree by pursuing a minor, with popular options such as psychology, sociology, and Spanish, the latter of which accommodates the growing hispanic and latino populations in the United States. Clemson nursing students benefit from one of the most career-oriented online RN to BSN programs available, with the option to earn certificates in leadership and global health to bolster their employment prospects. They also gain membership in the Clemson Student Nurses Association and benefit from the networking and professional development opportunities.
|10||Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale||$$$$$||3301 College Ave|
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7796
Nova Southeastern University, located in Fort Lauderdale, FL, established its School of Nursing in the early 1990s and today offers a rigorous RN to BSN degree completion program. Designed for working registered nurses, students enter the program with more than half the degree requirements completed, and with full-time enrollment, may earn their bachelor’s in as few as four semesters. Core BSN courses cover genetic concepts, ethics, and the business of healthcare, all with a focus on developing an understanding of evidence-based research and current nursing practices, particularly in complex healthcare systems. Students also complete a class in population health, which includes 50 practicum hours designed to emphasize positive health promotion and disease prevention and management. Nova’s tuition rate is among the lowest of any online RN to BSN programs and various forms of financial assistance are available, including a large number of undergraduate institutional scholarships and awards.
|11||Ball State University||Muncie||$$$$$||2000 University Ave|
Muncie, IN 47306
Located in Muncie, IN, Ball State University offers 190 undergraduate majors across its eight colleges, including a registered nurse to bachelor of science degree program. Ranked as one of the best RN to BSN online programs in the country, BSU’s completion track is presented in an asynchronous format. Working students can accommodate their schedules by pursuing the degree part-time or full-time, and earn their degree in six semesters or three, respectively. BSU’s program emphasizes public health -- particularly the care of women, children, and other vulnerable populations -- by training students to collaborate with nonprofit organizations and government agencies. All coursework is completed online and students can fulfill their clinical hours at their place of work or through an approved nursing mentor-preceptor in their community. In addition to standard general education and science prerequisite requirements, students take advanced nursing courses in areas like health assessment, management and leadership, and research ethics.
|12||Drexel University||Philadelphia||$$$$$||3141 Chestnut St|
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Drexel University is located in Philadelphia, PA and offers an RN to BSN degree program for distance learners. Totaling 180 quarter credits, Drexel nursing students take courses in four 10-week quarters per year, enabling them to complete classes at an accelerated rate. Registered nurses enter the program with up to 135 quarter credits, and fulfill the remainder in advanced or tier three courses, such as transformational leadership, issues in aging and longevity, and a senior capstone in nursing. Students must engage in a service experience where they help to build and promote health within a community by working for one of several organizations, agencies, and outreach groups in the United States and Paraguay. Like other RN to BSN online programs, applicants must hold an accredited degree or diploma in nursing, have a GPA of 2.0 or above, and furnish official transcripts that show completion of necessary prerequisite courses. Drexel's RN to BSN students have access to a variety of financial assistance, including a fixed tuition agreement if they complete their degree within three years.
|13||The University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa||$$$$$||739 University Blvd|
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166
The University of Alabama is the state’s oldest public university and offers a wide variety of academic programs, including an RN to BSN degree track. Designed for professionals with an associate degree or diploma in nursing, most of the curriculum (excepting science courses) can be completed online. Students are required to complete core courses via transfer credits or at UA before enrolling in major-specific nursing courses. Advanced major classes prepare graduates for leadership positions in hospitals, clinics, hospices, and other healthcare environments, and include topics in complex client systems, informatics, and management role transitions. UA also offers an accelerated degree path that enables students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s in nursing concurrently. The tuition for distance learners are priced per credit and financial assistance is available, including awards specifically designated for students in the Capstone College of Nursing.
|14||University of Arkansas||Fayetteville||$$$$$||Administration Building 425|
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Established in 1871 as the state’s first public institution of higher education, the University of Arkansas now enrolls roughly 28,000 students annually and offers 85 undergraduate academic programs, and the school’s RN to BSN online program is one of the most highly recognized in the nation. The bachelor's completion track offers completely remote, asynchronous classes year-round, providing flexibility for working nurses. With a major curriculum of 29 credits and no campus visits required, students can earn their degree in three semesters if enrolled full-time or five if taking classes part-time. Topics in advanced nursing courses include informatics, health promotion, theories of community health, and a professional role synthesis. One clinical immersion experience is also required and can be completed at the student’s job site or at an approved professional environment elsewhere in their area. Online students also have the option to join Sigma Theta Tau -- the international honors society of nursing -- and gain access to networking, career, and research opportunities.
|15||Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion||Marion||$$$$$||4201 S Washington St|
Marion, IN 46953-4974
Indiana Wesleyan University - Marion was founded in 1920 as a small institution for liberal arts education and career training. Today IWU is the largest private college in the state and offers more than 80 undergraduate majors, including a bachelor of science post-licensure program for registered nurses. Offered in an onsite or hybrid format, with education centers throughout Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, as well as completely online, this program is one of the most flexible RN to BSN online programs around. Students have the option to take courses in the conventional one-at-a-time sequence or they can opt for the accelerated track to hasten their degree completion. For registered nurses who transfer in the maximum amount of general education and prerequisite science and nursing requirements, only 31 credits in major coursework are needed to graduate. In addition to advanced classes in leadership, population health, evidence-based research, students also have the opportunity to personalize their curriculum by choosing from a number of special topics. A capstone project is required and evaluated on its potential or actualized real-world impact.
|16||The University of West Florida||Pensacola||$$$$$||11000 University Parkway|
Pensacola, FL 32514-5750
The University of West Florida, located in Pensacola, is recognized nationally for its dedication to community engagement and service. USF offers 45 undergraduate programs, including a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing degree completion track. Designed for students who earned their associate degree or diploma in nursing, courses in this program can be taken entirely through a distance learning format. And students complete clinical practice requirements complete in their local community. As is common of RN to BSN online programs, students must have completed their general education and foreign language requirements before taking major coursework. And though state-mandated nursing prerequisite requirements can be completed concurrently with the advanced curriculum, it is highly recommended that a student complete these course to ensure timely progress through the degree. The UWF program is grounded in the treatment and prevention of diseases among at-risk populations within a community. Students take courses in public health education, nursing systems management, and have the opportunity through their upper division elective choices to pursue this or a complementary focus area.
|17||The College of Saint Scholastica||Duluth||$$$$$||1200 Kenwood Ave|
Duluth, MN 55811-4199
Located in Duluth, MN, the College of Saint Scholastica was founded in 1912 and today, enrolls over 4,000 students annually. CSS offers a variety of academic programs for distance learners, including a registered nurse to bachelor of science degree completion track. With an aging population and an increasingly complex healthcare system in the United States, nurses must stay abreast of new policies and techniques in order to ensure that their patients receive the best care quickly. Courses in this 46-credit major curriculum can be taken completely online and includes topics like population care, leadership in nursing, and holistic assessment. Students are also tasked with creating a portfolio that demonstrates their progress, articulates their own philosophy to nursing, and reflects their prior work experience for which they will receive credit. Registered nurses transfer in general education and nursing/science prerequisite requirements, and with enough prior work, students can gain their bachelor’s degree in a year. CSS offers a fixed and reduced tuition rate for its nursing students, making it one of the most affordable RN to BSN online programs in the country.
|18||Villanova University||Villanova||$$$$$||800 Lancaster Avenue|
Villanova, PA 19085-1699
Villanova University is a co-educational institution in Pennsylvania rooted in the liberal arts and an ethic of service to others. Through its six colleges, Villanova offers a number of academic programs, including an RN to BSN online program that boasts the same curriculum as the campus degree with the convenience and flexibility of a 24/7, video-based classroom format. Many employers consider a bachelor’s degree a fundamental step into the professional side of nursing management, and the Villanova curriculum is designed to emphasize the necessary skills for registered nurses to take on effective leadership roles. Sixteen major courses are required in topics like statistics for healthcare research, global health imperatives, and ethics for healthcare professionals. Students must also complete a practicum in community health promotion, and field work in leadership and management, which includes clinical hours that can be completed in their local community with the guidance of a faculty adviser. Students may transfer up to 80 credits (out of the 122 needed to graduate) from prior academic and professional work.
|19||Pennsylvania State University - World Campus||University Park||$$$$$||128 Outreach Building|
University Park, PA 16802
Through its World Campus, Pennsylvania State University offers a number of remote degree programs, including one of the most recognized online RN to BSN programs. Designed for professionals with a valid United States registered nurse license, students can take classes in a hybrid format if they live near a Penn State campus or completely online, where they can fulfill their clinical requirements near their home. Students may also pursue the accelerated format, taking courses in compressed seven-and-a-half sessions, enabling them to accommodate their busy schedules or earn their bachelor’s degree quickly. Totaling 120 credit hours, the curriculum consists of 15 courses in general education, 14 in the advanced core, and 11 in the additional core (which can be fulfilled by registered nurses through professional verification). In addition to topics like ethics and community health, RN to BSN students may also pursue specialized certification in management, informatics, and forensics in order to set themselves apart in the eyes of employers.
|20||University of Massachusetts - Amherst||Amherst||$$$$$||374 Whitmore Building 181 Presidents Drive|
Amherst, MA 01003
The University of Massachusetts - Amherst offers a registered nurse to bachelor of science degree program designed for established professionals with clearly defined career and/or academic goals. Combining online instruction with student-directed practice, UMass Amherst’s program has start dates in the spring and summer. And with an adequate amount of experience and credentials, students can graduate in one year even while working full-time. The curriculum consists of 60 non-nursing credits completed before enrollment into the program, 30 credits gained from the rn licensure, and 30 credits in advanced nursing courses in topics such as cultural diversity in health and wellness, writing ethics, community-focused nursing, and vulnerable and underserved populations. Students must also complete a capstone that demonstrates their ability to assist in the health needs of a special population. UMass Amherst is a world renowned research institution and its students benefit from quality faculty and available financial assistance, making this one of the best online RN to BSN programs available.
|21||University of Massachusetts - Lowell||Lowell||$$$$$||1 University Ave|
Lowell, MA 01854-5104
The University of Massachusetts - Lowell enrolls over 17,000 students annually in its various academic programs, including a registered nurse to bachelor of science degree completion track. With fully remote or hybrid course options, the program is designed for professionals who want to earn their degree part-time while working. Students who want to earn their degree more quickly may opt for the fast-track option, which involves full-time enrollment and accelerated coursework. In order to graduate, students complete 120 credits. Registered nurses usually enter the program having earned over half of what is needed; more if they have application general education elective credits. Remaining credits are fulfilled in advanced nursing courses, with topics in leadership, research, and health assessment. UML’s curriculum is among the most community-focused online RN to BSN programs, as students are asked to not only complete a practicum in public health promotion, but also create, implement, and assess a project meant to improve the health of their community.
|22||George Washington University||Washington||$$$$$||2121 I Street, NW|
Washington, DC 20052
George Washington University is an internationally renowned institution of higher education, enrolling approximately 26,000 students annually. Among its offerings of academic programs is an RN to BSN online degree track. Courses are offered through the part-time four-semester curriculum and can be completed entirely through the distance education platform, enabling registered nurses to pursue their degree while continuing to work. Building upon a student’s associate degree in nursing, GW’s bachelor’s of science curriculum totals 21 credits and includes courses in population health, evidence-based practice, patient safety, and health care quality. Certain courses in the major sequence can also be transferred into a graduate program should a student want to pursue further schooling. Students create a professional portfolio, which charts their professional progress, explains their personal nursing philosophy, and describes their future career and academic goals. A number of generous scholarships are available for nursing students, including awards through the GW Hospital Nursing Scholars Program and the Washington Squared program.
|23||Michigan State University||East Lansing||$$$$$|| |
East Lansing, MI 48824-1046
Located in East Lansing, MI, Michigan State University offers over 200 academic programs to traditional students and distance learners. Among these offerings is an online bachelor of science degree for registered nurses. Designed as a part-time completion program for working professionals, applicants must hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing with a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher, and have completed their general education courses and nursing/science prerequisites. The 30-credit major curriculum builds upon prior academic and professional experiences and includes health promotion, pathophysiology, and a number of integrative seminars which teaches students to apply what they’ve learned to real-world challenges. Students must also complete a clinical immersion experience in community health and leadership with guidance and support from nursing faculty and trusted preceptors at sites near their home. MSU provides a number of scholarship opportunities for nursing students as well as professional and academic support through its Nurse Scholar, ACCESS, and international outreach programs.
|24||George Mason University||Fairfax||$$$$$||4400 University Dr|
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
George Mason University, located in Fairfax, VA, enrolls 34,000 students in its 10 schools and colleges devoted to a variety of fields of study. Among the programs offered is an RN to BSN pathway for distance learners facilitated through the College of Health and Human Services. Totaling 120 credits, 30 of which must be taken at GMU, the curriculum prepares students for leadership roles in the expanding and increasingly complex healthcare field. The program emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention, training students in new early detection techniques and health maintenance, particularly among at-risk and underserved populations. General education and “Mason Core” credits can be fulfilled through prior college work and registered nurses can fulfill prerequisites by the nature of their associate degree or diploma, or through the credit-by-examination process. Tuition is priced based on residency status and a number of scholarships, including several endowed awards specifically for nursing students, are available.
|25||Regis University||Denver||$$$$$||3333 Regis Blvd|
Denver, CO 80221-1099
Located in Denver, CO, Regis University was established in 1877 and offers a variety of academic programs through its five colleges, including a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing completion track. Offered entirely online or through a hybrid structure that can be accelerated to five-week courses, students have the flexibility to pick the delivery system that best suits them, and may complete their degree in as little as 13 months. The curriculum totals 12 credit hours and is divided into general education, nursing prerequisite, and upper division major courses. Registered nurses who hold an associate degree usually enter the Regis program having fulfilled the majority of their credit hours, and they complete their degree by taking 30 hours in advanced topics like professional role development, management techniques, and community health nursing, which includes a seminar and practicum. The culmination of the RN to BSN degree plan is a capstone in nursing leadership, which asks students to synthesize all they’ve learned into a project that offers a solution to a pertinent challenge in the field.
A BSN offers nursing professionals immense career advantages. Not only are they qualified for more positions, their clinical skills are strengthened, preparing them for a broader range of practice. Nurses with a BSN experience financial payoff as well. Payscale.com reports that the median RN salary is $39,100, while those with a BSN have a median salary of $69,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 19% growth in nursing jobs from 2012 to 2022. As the nursing industry continues to grow, completing a BSN will allow nurses to make the most of new opportunities. Many specialties require a bachelor’s degree, and an increasing number of healthcare settings require a BSN degree as the minimum educational level for employment.
The following is a sampling of jobs requiring advanced degrees in nursing, including the median salaries and expected job growth percentages.
- Nurse administrator/manager: $88,580 – 23%
- Nurse anesthetist: $148,160, – 25%
- Nurse practitioner: $89,960, – 34%
- Nurse midwife: $89,600 – 29%
Keys To Online Success
Leverage previous education. A majority of the credits needed to complete an RN to BSN program have already been attained in general education and basic nursing studies. Most programs offer credit for this coursework. Research any programs being considered to ensure the school accepts as many previous credits as possible. Don’t let any previous courses go to waste unnecessarily.
Leverage previous experience. Depending on the program, clinical requirements can also be fulfilled by either previous work experience or through current employment. Don’t work a second job to complete field experience hours if you don’t have to.
Use technology to your advantage. Online RN to BSN programs typically utilize virtual patients, simulations and other technology to provide instruction. Take advantage of these opportunities as often as you can. With the field of medicine making technological advances every day, the more exposure you can to it in the field, the better.
Consider continuing your education. While a BSN launches you into a new field of opportunity, a master’s degree can bring you to the next level. For continued career advancement, it may be wise to stay on the education track a bit longer.
Keep licensure current. It is important to keep your nursing license active. Requirements vary by state, so check with the board of nursing in your state for fulfillment obligations. Many states have one- or two-year renewal periods. Common requirements include a specified number of contact hours and a minimum number of continuing education credits.