Online Pre-Nursing Degrees: Overview of Programs and Courses

Some colleges and universities offer online programs for prospective nursing students to help them obtain the prerequisite coursework needed to apply to a nursing program. Keep reading to find out more about pre-nursing programs online, and get an overview of some of the courses available.

Pre-Nursing Programs - Overview

Most pre-nursing programs take two years to complete and are designed to prepare students to enter an associate or bachelor's degree program in nursing; some entry-level master's degrees are also available. Pre-nursing programs are not usually offered as degree programs in and of themselves; instead, they contain specific prerequisite coursework required for admission to many nursing programs. Several colleges and universities offer pre-nursing programs online.

Nursing and Pre-Nursing Programs

In general, a nursing curriculum to qualify graduates to become registered nurses, whether in the form of an associate or bachelor's degree, is a two-year program. Students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program will usually take the prerequisites for the nursing portion of the program during their first two years in school, along with any other general education courses the school mandates.

However, students with a bachelor's degree in another area, as well as those with no degree at all, will need to complete specific coursework in order to get into a nursing program, if they don't want to complete a 4-year BSN. This prerequisite coursework is standard for most nursing schools and usually includes coursework in the arts and humanities, as well as specific coursework in the sciences. Examples include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • English composition
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Nutrition
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Sociology

Individuals with a bachelor's degree may not need all of these classes; for example, nearly all bachelor's degree programs include requirements in English composition, and students may have taken some of the other courses to fulfill other requirements for their degree.

Online Nursing Prerequisite Courses Available

Not many colleges offer their pre-nursing curriculum online. This may be due to the fact that several of the courses have required labs. However, a few colleges do offer distance learning options. Here are a few descriptions of some common prerequisites, offered online.

Human Anatomy

Students learn about the structure and function of the different bodily systems, such as the musculature, skeletal, integumentary, circulatory, nervous and other systems. Students study both gross and microscopic anatomy through online lectures, textbook readings and labs. Some schools require an on-campus lab, while others provide a virtual lab that students can access from their home computers. The lab usually has a human cadaver component.


This course covers various types of microorganisms and how they interact with the environment and the body. Students learn about the different classes of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, helminthes, protozoa and viruses. They also learn about the metabolic processes necessary for microbes to survive, and how microbial drugs can interrupt pathogens. A lab component is part of this course.


Participants in this class study the six classes of nutrients and their roles in maintaining the health of the human body. Also discussed are information on food labels, nutrition in different developmental stages and the relationship between eating habits and chronic disease.

Human Physiology

Students in this class learn about the chemical processes undertaken by several bodily systems. Course topics include electrolytes, lymphatics and digestion. A laboratory component, virtual or in-person, complements the lecture topics.


In this course, students obtain an introduction to basic concepts of and methods used in statistics for the health sciences. Participants learn to summarize and interpret data through graphs, examine correlations and linear relationships and describe density curves.

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