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Top Nursing Programs

As the U.S. Department of Labor continues to project a 19% growth in the field over the next decade (with an estimated 1.05 million new job openings by 2022), there simply aren’t enough nurses to meet the increased demand. And as the previous generation continues to age to the point that they require increased healthcare, that supply gap will only grow wider. Add to that the demands of nationwide healthcare reform, and you have an industry standing on a precipice.


The outside factors contributing to this shortage come at a time when internal change is also sending ripples through the industry. Though the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree has been around for some time, it has never been the entry-level degree into the industry. The minimum requirement to take the NCLEX-RN exam (required to be licensed as a registered nurse) has either been a nursing diploma or associate’s of Science in nursing degree, despite calls within the industry for higher education requirements since the 60s. However, in March 2005, the American Organization of Nurse Executives officially called for all registered nurses to be educated at the baccalaureate level in order to meet what they saw as the ever-increasing demands of a complex industry. Then in 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report in which they also called for 80% of the nurses in the workforce to be baccalaureate-prepared.


Many in the industry have heeded that call and made it a company mandate. Nearly 80% of employers are now requiring that their nurses have a BSN degree. And this isn’t just affecting new-hires. Many existing RNs are being given a deadline to obtain their bachelor’s degree, or face demotion and possible termination. Some nurses who have worked decades in the field with only a diploma or ASN are suddenly seeing their jobs on the line because of their education level. And if not their jobs, than most certainly their job security and opportunities for advancement.


But none of this is meant to sound negative or foreboding. In fact, quite the opposite. The country desperately needs nurses, particularly those with a bachelor’s degree. The only uncertainty in the industry is where the nurses will come from, not if there will be a market for them. This provides an unprecedented opportunity for anyone looking to join a growing job field with a median salary of $66,640 a year. Fortunately, this nursing crisis comes at a time when advancements in online education have made it easier than ever for working professionals to earn a BSN degree on their schedule and in the comfort of their own home.


But the internet sometimes resembles a big, congested city. It’s can be hard to navigate and it has its own bad parts of town with dark alleyways. There are hundreds of available nursing programs out there, but not all of them are reputable. That’s why we here at ONP.net wanted to create a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to earn a quality, accredited nursing degree online, particularly those existing RNs looking to advance their education with a bachelor’s degree and beyond. Our hope is that you can add our extensive research to your own in order to choose the right online nursing program for you. It’s the least we could do. After all, we’re those people who have been positively impacted by nurses too.

Top Online RN to BSN Programs

One of the most attractive aspects of pursuing a degree online is the flexibility it affords. Often, course lectures, materials, and assignments can be accessed and completed by students at any time of day, making classes easy to fit into the busiest of schedules. But perhaps no programs are more specifically designed to accommodate working professionals than online RN to BSN programs. Schools recognize the need and desire of current, working RNs to further their education and obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. They have made it easier than before by offering asynchronous programs, completely online, that have various timeframes for completion. Typically requiring 30 credits of coursework, programs usually range in length from 12 to 24 months, with several options between. RN to BSN programs move quickly because they recognize the applicant’s existing nursing diploma (or ASN) and work experience and use it to satisfy most of the prerequisites, lower-level classes, labs, and clinical work of a typical bachelor’s degree. The programs then focus instead on upper-level classes in the areas of public health, management, research, and science.


In order to select the best RN to BSN programs to present to you, we started by meticulously researching nearly 650 online nursing programs. We then used several weighted metrics to grade them in the following key areas:

  • Value: The term “affordability” is a subjective one. So instead of just focusing on low tuition costs, we focused on value. We weighed tuition cost against factors like salary potential and debt prevention in order to arrive at a score.
  • Reputation: Some employers pay as much attention to where a degree came from as to the degree itself. We graded every program on where they placed on popular college ranking systems, as well as their accreditations and graduation and retention rates.
  • Response: As convenient as they are, online programs sometimes present their own unique challenges, particularly in communication. Without a traditional campus setting, where questions can be answered on the spot, students can end up waiting for pertinent information. Therefore, we graded each program on the timeliness and quality of their response to our inquiries.
  • Curriculum: We also closely examined the faculty, courses, content, number of credit hours, and program accreditations in order to grade what is actually being taught in the classes.

After all of the grades had been calculated, we ranked the schools in order. The following list represents the top 10 online RN to BSN programs:

#1 University of North Florida

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $285 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 15,984

Retention Rate: 83%

Graduation Rate: 55%

Overall Grade: A

Value Grade: B-

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: A+

Curriculum Grade: B

#2 Georgia Southern University

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $204 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 20,517

Retention Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 51%

Overall Grade: A

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A

Response Grade: B+

Curriculum Grade: A

#3 Appalachian State University

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $152.51 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $620.01

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 18,026

Retention Rate: 88%

Graduation Rate: 70%

Overall Grade: A

Value Grade: A

Reputation Grade: A

Response Grade: C+

Curriculum Grade: A

#4 University of South Dakota

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $325.25 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 20,517

Retention Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 51%

Overall Grade: A

Value Grade: B-

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: A+

Curriculum Grade: A

#5 University of Arkansas

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $276.92 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 26,237

Retention Rate: 83%

Graduation Rate: 62%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B-

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: C+

Curriculum Grade: A

#6 Indiana University – Bloomington

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $257.35 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $888.23

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 46,416

Retention Rate: 89%

Graduation Rate: 78%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: C+

Curriculum Grade: A

#7 Winston-Salem State University

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $109.40 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $449.80

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 5,220

Retention Rate: 79%

Graduation Rate: 46%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: A

Reputation Grade: C+

Response Grade: A-

Curriculum Grade: A

#8 Western Carolina University

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $147.77 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $498.88

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 10,382

Retention Rate: 79%

Graduation Rate: 46%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: A

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: C-

Curriculum Grade: A

#9 Ball State University

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $209.50 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $402.50

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 20,655

Retention Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 59%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: B-

Curriculum Grade: A

#10 DeSales University

Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $515 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation:Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing (ACEN) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 3,190

Retention Rate: 84%

Graduation Rate: 71%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: D

Reputation Grade: A

Response Grade: A+

Curriculum Grade: C

Top Online Master’s in Nursing Programs

With the new focus on the BSN as the entry-level degree into the nursing field, by extension the master’s of Science in Nursing degree also increased in importance. Many key specializations and administrative positions in the nursing industry today require an MSN for consideration. For those working nurses with a BSN looking to advance their knowledge and careers, an online master’s of Science in Nursing is very similar to the online RN to BSN degree in convenience and structure.


Admission to online MSN programs is often non-competitive. Like the RN to BSN, they are designed to help working professional nurses obtain their degree with as little intrusion into their working life as possible. There are a variety of part-time, full-time, and accelerated options available.


Using the same methodology we applied to the RN to BSN programs, we have graded and ranked the top 10 online master’s in Nursing programs:

#1 Florida State University

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Leader

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $579.32 (average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1210.72

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 41,226

Retention Rate: 92%

Graduation Rate: 79%

Overall Grade: A

Value Grade: C+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: B+

Curriculum Grade: A

#2 Ball State University

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $386 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $579

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 20,665

Retention Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 59%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: B-

Curriculum Grade: A

#3 East Carolina University

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $342.35 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour:$791.59

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 27,511

Retention Rate: 81%

Graduation Rate: 59%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: B-

Curriculum Grade: B

#4 West Virginia University

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $406 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour:$1160

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 29,175

Retention Rate: 77%

Graduation Rate: 57%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A

Response Grade: B+

Curriculum Grade: B

#5 University of Mississippi

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $408 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour:N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation:Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 22,503

Retention Rate: 85%

Graduation Rate: 61%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: B-

Curriculum Grade: A

#6 Winston-Salem State University

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner or Advanced Nursing Educator Concentration

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $408 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 5,220

Retention Rate: 79%

Graduation Rate: 46%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: A

Reputation Grade: C+

Response Grade: A-

Curriculum Grade: B

#7 University of Cincinnati

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $649.75 (above average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $662.25

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 35,313

Retention Rate: 86%

Graduation Rate: 60%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: A

Reputation Grade: C+

Response Grade: A-

Curriculum Grade: B

#8 Missouri State University – Springfield

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $315 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 21,816

Retention Rate: 75%

Graduation Rate: 55%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A-

Response Grade: B+

Curriculum Grade: A

#9 University of Kansas

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $404.25 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $980

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 27,180

Retention Rate: 80%

Graduation Rate: 60%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: B-

Curriculum Grade: B

#10 University of Arkansas

Degree Type: Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator

In-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: $429.94 (below average)

Out-of-state Tuition Per Credit Hour: N/A (same as in-state)

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (verification)

Programmatic Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (verification)

Department Website: Link

Institution Type: Public, non-profit

Student Population: 26,237

Retention Rate: 83%

Graduation Rate: 62%

Overall Grade: A-

Value Grade: B+

Reputation Grade: A+

Response Grade: C+

Curriculum Grade: B

Frequently Asked Questions of Prospective Nursing Students

Q: If I’m a working RN, is it worth getting a BSN if my company hasn’t mandated it?

Possibly, depending on your ultimate career goals. Though a BSN may not be required by every employer to work as an RN, many higher positions require knowledge in management, research, and social sciences that isn’t typically covered in an ASN or nursing diploma. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that RNs with a bachelor’s degree tend to earn a median salary nearly $12,000 more than registered nurses without. Therefore, if you wish to advance higher in your career and significantly increase your salary, a BSN could be a wise investment.

For more information, read our articles on the subject:

Q: Can I keep working while earning my BSN or MSN degree?

Online RN to BSN programs are specifically designed with working registered nurses in mind. They offer the flexibility required to work your regular full-time schedule while going through the program. Most online MSN programs operate the same way. They also provide the added benefit of being able to apply your new knowledge at work immediately as you learn it.

Q: How many credits are required for an RN to BSN program?

A typical bachelor’s degree in any subject requires 120 credit hours of study. RN to BSN programs give you the 60 lower-level credit hours earned through your previous ASN (or diploma) and work experience, leaving 30 credits of upper level classes and 30 hours of clinical training or equivalency exams. Programs vary, so be sure to check with the school you’re applying to, but 30 credits is the standard for an RN to BSN.

Q: How long does an online RN to BSN program take to complete?

Like most questions, the answer to this one depends on the school and program. Because of the flexibility that online education affords, there are a variety of different timeframes for completion. There are full-time programs, part-time programs, and accelerated/expedited programs. Programs can be can range from 12 months to 36 months depending on those options.

Q: What are the requirements for being accepted into an online RN to BSN program?

Admission requirements vary from school to school and program to program. For specific admission information, be sure to check with you the school you’re interested in applying to. However, typical requirements you may encounter include:

  • A valid nursing license
  • A criminal background check
  • A diploma or associate’s degree in nursing, plus transcripts
  • A cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
  • A personal essay

Q: How do I know if a program is accredited?

All of the programs in our rankings for top online nursing programs are verified to be accredited, both at an institutional level and at a program level. However, if you are interested in a program not included in our list, a quick search for “accreditation” on the school and department webpages is the best place to start. If the accreditation information is not readily available, the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator tool lists accreditations in their search results. Also, for specific information and verification of any nursing program accreditation, you can go directly to the source. The two main accredited bodies for college nursing programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Both allow you to search current accreditation status and reviews.


For more information on accreditation, read our articled on the subject:

Q: Do online RN to BSN programs require clinical work?

That depends on the program. Some use your existing ASN, work experience, and equivalency exams to satisfy clinical requirements, while others do require a set number of practical work hours before graduation. Some that require it will assist in placement, while others place the responsibility on the student. Always check your prospective school’s program guide for specific details on clinical requirements.

Q: How do online classes work?

Typically, online class content is delivered via the internet one of two ways: synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous delivery means that classes are streamed in real-time. You must be at your computer at a scheduled time in order to view and be a part of the lecture. Asynchronous delivery means that lectures are recorded and can be accessed at any time. There are still deadlines for coursework and exams, but within that timeframe, you can complete coursework on your schedule. Because they are designed for working nurses, most online RN to BSN and MSN programs are asynchronous.


For more information on online classes, read our articles on the subject:

Q: Is there any difference between degrees earned online versus on campus?

No. Online graduates receive the same degrees as their on-campus counterparts. A school’s online program is accredited through the same bodies as their traditional classes. That means that the curriculum is verified to meet specific standards. So, you can rest assured that you aren’t receiving a “lesser” degree through distance education. The only difference is the delivery method.


For more information on taking classes online, read our articles on the subject:

Q: What are the advantages of continuing my education beyond a BSN?

Earning a master’s of Science in Nursing degree allows you the opportunity to obtain positions at the higher levels of the nursing field. An MSN qualifies you to become a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. There are also many concentrations within an MSN degree for anyone wanting to specialize in a particular area of nursing such as a critical care nurse, certified nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, and nurse educator, among many others.


For more information on online MSN programs, read our articles on the subject:

Q: Can I apply to an out-of-state RN to BSN or MSN program if I’m only licensed as a nurse in my home state?

That depends on the state in which you want to apply. Some mandate that students be licensed in their state if they’re going to attend school there, even for distance learning. Others only require that students have a valid license, regardless of the state that issued it. Always check the state requirements for any school you’re interested in.

Q: I’m not ready for a BSN. Can I still take online classes to become an RN?

Absolutely. While our rankings focused only on bachelor’s and master’s programs, there are plenty of reputable, accredited options for obtaining either a nursing diploma or associate’s of Science in Nursing degree online. In fact, many of our top ranked BSN and MSN schools also have ASN programs, so be sure to check out their department webpages for more info. Keep in mind that, though the program is online, there may still be some on-campus classes, labs, and clinical work required. RN to BSN programs don’t necessarily have those requirements because the students already have the diploma or ASN plus work experience to satisfy them. However, even though physical classes may be required, online RN programs still offer more flexibility and convenience than traditional programs.


For more information on online RN programs, read our articles on the subject:

Q: Is there financial aid available for online nursing programs?

Your first step for any financial aid should always be the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Office. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the gatekeeper for all federal education assistance funds. The FAFSA is also required for receiving state-level aid and many school-sponsored programs. Always check with your desired school’s financial aid office for information on any programs they may have. There are plenty of scholarships out there if you’re willing to do the research to find them and the work to earn them.

Scholarship Directory for Nursing Students

Because nursing is such a specialized field, and one in desperate need of quality, educated workers, there are numerous scholarship opportunities for prospective nursing students. Scholarships are essentially free money for tuition, fees, and supplies. They aren’t loans, and therefore don’t need to be paid back. Of all the forms of financial aid available, scholarships go the farthest in reducing the financial burden of pursuing a college degree and also lowering your debt potential after graduation. In order to save you from a lengthy internet search, we’ve created a convenient directory of over 400 scholarships created specifically for those pursuing a degree in nursing. All scholarships are competitive, but our hope is that somewhere within this directory you will find the right opportunity that paves an easier path to college and career success.




Online Nursing Program Finder