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Online Schools with Undergraduate Nursing Programs: How to Choose

Prospective students interested in enrolling in an online nursing program have the option of choosing an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Many of the online bachelor's degree programs are designed for current registered nurses who are seeking additional knowledge in the nursing field.

Choosing an online undergraduate nursing program means looking at where your current experience level stands in nursing. Although some programs allow you to complete everything online, those starting at the beginning will most likely have to spend at least some time on campus.

How to Select an Online Undergraduate Nursing School

Schools around the country at both the 2-year and 4-year levels offer online options for current and would-be nurses. Students will have to consider the program type and level as well as the capstone project when selecting a school.

Program Type and Level

Deciding between an online associate's degree in nursing and an online bachelor's degree in the field is largely dependent upon a prospective student's professional standing. For example, current registered nurses (RNs) are more likely to enroll in an online bachelor's degree program in nursing. The reason for this is that a majority of the online bachelor's degree programs in nursing are RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) completion programs that require no clinical experiences. The RN to BSN program can be completed entirely online.

Prospective students beginning their nursing careers are more likely to enroll in an online associate's degree program. These programs are often hybrid in nature and require some in-person clinical classes or hospital work. The location of the hospital should figure into a prospective student's decision when choosing between competing associate's degree programs in nursing.

Capstone Experience

The inclusion of a capstone project in either an online associate's degree in nursing or an online bachelor's degree in the field is an important consideration. Although the specifics of a capstone component may vary from school to school, the goal is to give students the opportunity to put into practice some of the theories and knowledge learned from a nursing curriculum.

Some schools may offer this course as a research-based offering, requiring no residency on campus. Research is conducted in a student's free time and is often guided with help from a professor or advisor. In contrast, some schools will require that students complete this course at a local community health care provider while under the supervision of a nursing professional. For these types of capstone experience courses, students should consider their proximity to the capstone site.

List of Online Undergraduate Nursing Programs

Online Associate of Science in Nursing

Online associate's degree programs in nursing are very rarely 100% online. This is because most students in the program are about to begin their nursing education for the first time and must complete a clinical component in a supervised clinical setting. General education courses are required. Core nursing courses include topics such as:

  • Nursing care and health safety
  • Reproductive health
  • Pharmacology
  • Informatics
  • Health assessment

Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

Students who are enrolled in an online bachelor's degree program in nursing have already completed some training and are licensed as registered nurses. Online RN to BSN degree programs are prevalent because they commonly require little to no clinical component, although this differs from school to school.

Some colleges require that students complete an in-person capstone project at a health care organization, such as a hospital or a community health care center. Other schools offer capstone experiences that are research-oriented and include no residency requirement. Common nursing courses found in online RN to BSN programs include:

  • Nursing leadership and management
  • Health assessment
  • Advanced nursing theoretical foundations
  • Ethical and legal issues in nursing
  • Nursing research and statistics

Schools with Online Undergraduate Nursing Programs

Wilkes University offers an RN-to-BSN program that can be completed online. Students must have either an associate degree or a diploma in nursing, as well as an RN license and proof of high school graduation or its equivalent. This program can be finished in as little as two years.

Villanova University's online RN-to-BSN program is tailored for the working nurse. Each course is offered online, although there are two clinical courses that will require a visit to a healthcare facility local to each student.

Southern New Hampshire University's program includes ten nursing courses as well as general education courses and electives, totaling 120 credit hours. Classes are provided 24/7, over eight-week periods, and there is no need to attend any live meetings. Up to 90 total credits can be transferred toward the BSN, with 30 needing to be taken at SNHU.

Students opting to choose online programs for their undergraduate nursing studies will want to note whether or not their program requires any clinical campus visits, and whether or not their school offers options to further their academic career in nursing.

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