How to Become a Nurse Online

Dec 03, 2019

Becoming a nurse requires that you earn the right educational credentials and obtain a state nursing license. Learn more about how you can become a nurse, including which steps of the process can be completed online.

Essential Information for Becoming a Nurse Online

A nurse needs to be able to administer basic patient care, monitor a patients' vital signs, administer medications or treatments, keep records about a patient's care and health, and communicate with doctors and about a patient's care. Nurses must complete a nursing diploma program, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree and obtain a state license. Some of this can be completed at least partially online but each one has in-person components, making this career somewhat difficult to pursue online.

Required Skills Detail-oriented, speaking, emotional, interpersonal skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 12% (Registered Nurse), 11% (Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses)
Median Salary (2018)* $71,730 (Registered Nurse), $46,240 (Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses)

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Online

The type of nurse you can become depends on the type of educational credential you earn, with licensed practical nurses needing to complete a nursing program that leads to a diploma and registered nurses needing to earn a college degree in nursing. While there are online nursing programs of all types, most of these programs require real-world clinical experiences, which cannot be completed online.

Step 1. Attend a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Program or Vocational Nursing (LVN)

To become a licensed practical nurse, you must attend an LPN program. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, are administrated by community colleges or technical schools, and typically lead to a diploma. Usually, in an online LPN program, you will be able to complete your general coursework requirements in an online format. You then need to complete some nursing coursework, simulation labs, and clinical experiences on-campus.

If you reside in Texas or California, then you could attend an online vocational nursing (LVN) program. There is no real difference between LPNs and LVNs other than the job title. Simply put, Texas and California, use the LVN title instead of the LPN title.

Step 2. Earn an Online Associate Degree in Nursing

To become a registered nurse, you must have a college nursing degree. The most obvious option is earning an online associate degree in the field of nursing (ADN). These are generally 2-year programs that feature online coursework as well as real-world clinical training.

Step 3. Or Earn an Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing

If you want to work as a registered nurse in a hospital, you may want to earn an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Like all of the other nursing programs discussed above, online BSN programs consist of online coursework as well as real-world clinical rotations and possible campus visits. Typical online BSN programs take about 4 years to complete.

Step 4. Prepare for a State License

After you complete your educational requirements for nursing, you must then obtain a state license. The major requirement for licensing in all states is graduating from an approved nursing program and taking and passing the National Council Licensure Examination, which cannot be done online. However, online study materials for the exam are available online including videos, tutors, practice tests and prep courses.

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