How to Earn an Online Nursing Degree

Online nursing schools offer an alternative that can be both more accessible and more economical for your needs than having to physically attend a traditional nursing school. They can be especially useful if you still need to work while studying, if you're incapacitated for any reason, or if you live in a remote location. Although there are clinical and laboratory components to all nurse training programs that must be completed at a real-world facility, most basic coursework can be completed at home over the Internet and for some courses. This article will help you make a decision about how to enroll and pursue an online nursing degree in the United States.


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    Consider carefully what is involved in being a nurse. The responsibilities, the long hours and the relatively low pay involved in a nursing career can be challenging. However, it is important to balance these challenges with the rewards of serving for the greater good of society and helping others, including the knowledge that you are genuinely helping to make the lives of many patients a lot better. One of the most compelling reasons to become a nurse is its many job opportunities; the Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast a large shortage of nurses in the coming years with the aging baby boomer population.[1] Do some research online to see what nurses say themselves (there are lots of forum posts you can check out), and ask nurses to find out what they believe is good and bad about the job before making your decision.
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    Decide on which degree course is right for you. If you already have nursing experience, or a nursing degree, you might be looking for more advanced online degree work than if you're starting out for the first time. In general, you can expect to find the following degree courses on offer:
    • Online or Credit-by-Examination Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) -- this degree leads to RN licensure, and is a good option if you are already a paramedic or a practical/vocational nurse (LPN/LVN)
    • Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) - this will result in you becoming a registered nurse (RN)
    • Online RN-to-BSN - if you already have a nursing diploma or an associate degree, this is a "fast track" way to get a BSN
    • Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - this is about specializing in one area of advanced practice
    • Online Nursing Doctorate - further specialization in advanced practice or clinical research, when you are seeking a leadership role.
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    Find a suitable online nursing degree course. There are numerous courses available on the Internet and you will need to spend time sifting through them. There are two main search methods - one is to go to a university that is reputed for its nursing school degrees (ask friends, nurses you know, at the local hospital, etc., if you're not sure), or you can use one of the many online degree collating portals that mention all the major, reputable universities. It is really important though to ensure that you are looking at a reputable degree course; you might get some help by reading wikiHow's article on ensuring online degree credibility to help you avoid any pitfalls. Once you have chosen an online degree that seems right for you, take your time to read up on the terms and conditions, the frequently asked questions, and to learn whether or not everything offered meets your needs and interests.
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    Consider your time availability. It is also a good idea to decide about how much flexibility you want from your degree - if you still need to work while completing your course, find a course with the best flexibility to adapt to your schedule. Most online courses are already aware that their students keep working, and accommodate this well.
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    Complete online enrollment for your basic courses. The courses will likely include: Introduction to Professional Nursing, Nursing Management, Health Policy Issues, Nursing Administration, Health and Disease Management, Research Methods, Nursing Theory, and more. Check about residency requirements - many online nursing schools won't have this, although you will need to complete the laboratory and clinical requirements at some stage, so it is important to think in advance about how you will accommodate this at the time.
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    Make arrangements with the school to fulfill the clinical requirements at a medical facility near their place of residence. This will need to be done once basic coursework has been completed and should be something to keep in mind as part of your enrollment process, in case you also need to plan for a temporary stay elsewhere.
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    Work out your ability to pay for the degree. Expect current online nursing programs offered through public universities to cost between $110 and $170 per credit hour. Depending on the school’s academic calendar, this could be anywhere from 60 to 90 credits. As an online student, you usually won’t be charged out-of-state fees and tuition. There are scholarships and grants available for online nursing degrees, in place to encourage people to enter the nursing field; just look at the university's scholarships and grants section on the Internet, or ask for advice.


  • One way to cut costs and save time is to consider taking credit for basic prerequisites by examination. Most nursing programs require that the candidate has taken course in basic biology, chemistry and mathematics; the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) enables students to earn credits in these subjects for 10% of what it would cost to take the full course.
  • Take advantage of reputable sources that provide a guide to online degrees and online schools.


  • Make sure it is a real school by going to the site above and double-checking.
  • When pursuing an online degree, it is important to make sure that the school is properly accredited. Most online college websites provide this information; you can also learn more about accreditation by visiting the U.S. Department of Education website at

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