Online associate degree programs in nursing are an increasingly common option among those looking for training in the field. It allows for some flexibility in scheduling and makes part-time education more convenient. No nursing program can ever be completed entirely online, as nursing programs require a level of hands-on clinical work. Indeed, laboratory assignments and clinical assignments will require students to be on campus at least once a week. Students who are looking to earn a fully online associate's degree in a healthcare-related field may consider an associate's degree in healthcare administration. While this program does not provide nursing training, it does provide an avenue for work in the healthcare industry.
Nursing associate degrees with distance learning components are typically found at public community colleges as well as some private universities or colleges. They are designed to take about two years to complete. Accredited programs train students to complete the National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) so that they can become RNs in their states. Some programs require applicants to have prior nursing aide training or practical nursing credentials.
Associate Degree in Nursing
Because nurses provide direct care to patients and practice under state regulations, prospective nursing students must meet certain requirements in order to be admitted to a degree program. These vary, but could include the following:
- Minimum placement test scores and GPA
- Prior nursing aide training or practical nursing credentials
- Criminal background check
- Drug screening
- Immunization documentation
Additionally, some schools may only allow students to enroll in a nursing associate's program with online learning if they have previously earned a bachelor's degree in any field.
In order to meet licensure requirements, online and on-campus associate programs in nursing have the same coursework requirements. Students must take general education courses in addition to learning about physiological functioning of the body and nursing practices. Nursing managerial issues and communication methods are also discussed. Programs may offer multiple courses exposing students to the unique needs of certain populations, such as the elderly, children or mental health patients. Typical coursework in a nursing associate's program includes the following:
- Introduction to Psychology
- Basic Human Anatomy
- Medical Terminology
- Life Span Health Care
- Health Care Management
- Developmental Psychology
Schools offering online learning options in their nursing associate's programs use a virtual classroom so students can complete coursework any time of day. Lecture materials, assignments, videos or simulations and discussion boards are some of the tools used in a distance learning class. In hybrid classes, students complete written work online and laboratory assignments on campus. Online students should expect to attend campus or another clinical setting on a weekly basis for the duration of the course. Clinical capstone experiences in real healthcare settings typically last one semester.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs represent one of the fastest growing occupations in the country (www.bls.gov). RNs fulfill a wide range of tasks within the health care system, from providing basic patient care and performing administrative duties to performing assisted living and home care tasks. The following are some of the places where nurses can find job opportunities:
- Physician's offices
- Nursing care facilities
- Outpatient care centers
- Home health care services
- General and surgical hospitals
The BLS reports that employment of registered nurses will increase 16% in the 2014-2024 decade. Those with bachelor's degrees could have better prospects when on the job hunt. As of May 2015, these healthcare professionals earned an annual salary of $71,000 on average, according to the BLS.
If you want to become a nurse, an associate's degree in nursing can be a great place to start. These introductory programs are generally offered in hybrid formats, combining online coursework with campus-based lab training.