The Top Online Nursing Programs of 2013
Start by clicking on any school to get information on each of the top programs.
It’s no secret that we need nurses to coordinate and provide quality patient care, educate individuals and the public about health issues, and work a variety of jobs in hospitals and clinics. With a 26% increase in nursing jobs between 2010 and 2020, the demand for qualified nurses will be on the rise for years. If you’re a compassionate, caring, and sensitive individual with the discipline to learn complex health and administrative procedures, you might start investigating your options in the field of nursing.
Online nursing degrees have been developed in recent years to respond to this increased demand. Before starting your search, consider which degrees are right for your career.
Types of Nursing Programs
- Registered Nurse (RN) diploma programs offer basic training through hospitals in an apprenticeship model of learning. Students learn the basics of patient care as well as the administrative and ethical obligations that they’ll need to adhere to on the job. Online programs are rare, though some hospitals do offer distance-learning options.
- The Associate’s Degree (ASN or ADN) is for students looking for a broader education than the vocational training offered in diploma programs. They will still need to work directly with real patients in clinical settings and under the supervision of experienced healthcare professionals. As a result, these online programs need to be supplemented through partnerships in clinics and hospitals.
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a baccalaureate degree that also incorporates required coursework from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences as part of a nurse’s training. This degree offers its holders access to more job opportunities, advancement, and leadership opportunities once they’ve entered the workforce.
- A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) allows a student to specialize in a subfield of nursing (pediatric, public health, or maternity, for example.) It’s necessary if you want to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP.) Most students will need a BSN to begin their studies and often already have professional expertise, which they’ll use as a theoretical foundation in their coursework.
- The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the terminal professional degree in the field of nursing. It’s primarily intended for those who still want to work directly with patients or in healthcare administration positions. They also are qualified to evaluate the effectiveness of particular programs and policies in hospitals and other settings where nurses work. This degree generally requires 2-3 years to complete.
- A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science (PhD) is an academic, research-oriented degree that is intended for those with professional interests in academic settings. They perform complex research on health problems, healthcare delivery and management procedures, and organizational and social nursing issues. Taking 4-6 years to complete, and requiring the completion of a dissertation, these graduates are prepared to work as lecturers or faculty members in universities and other institutions that look at the “big picture” problems in nursing.
Nursing Degrees Online vs. Traditional, “Brick-and-Mortar” Schools
Prospective nursing students should seriously consider the difference between online nursing programs and traditional programs offered through universities, colleges, and hospitals. Most students are interested in becoming RNs after graduating and entering the nursing workforce, and the diploma, an ASN or ADN, and a BSN each satisfy the educational requirements for most entry-level nursing jobs.
Whether you are pursuing an RN diploma, an ASN or ADN, or a BSN, you should be aware that clinical practice is still the cornerstone of nursing training and the best indicator for your success as a nurse. In clinical practice (frequently referred to as your “clinicals”) you will work with real patients and under the supervision of seasoned nursing and medical staff. There’s no substitute for this experience, which can’t be simulated online.
Thankfully for those inclined to pursue a distance education, many nursing programs online make partnerships with community clinics and hospitals that allow their students to get real experience. Before you start a program, make sure that it can provide actual clinical training that employers will require of you.
What Kind of Careers can I Have With an Online Nursing Degree?
Choosing the right nursing school, and making sure it fits your academic and career aspirations, is the first start to a rewarding career. RNs beginning their career can expect to provide on-the-ground support to medical staff, educate patients and the public about health issues and conditions, and offer their care and support to the other parties involved in patient care (families and friends, for example.)
Nurses work in a variety of settings, not just hospitals. They might also work in physician’s offices, home healthcare services for the elderly or disabled, nursing care or Alzheimer’s care facilities, summer camps and schools, and the military. The most common entry-level requirement for RNs is only the associate’s degree (the ASN or ADN.)
Those nurses who have chosen to continue their career by pursuing advanced degrees often specialize in one particular issue in the field. They are thus positioned to transition from patient care environments into academic, institutional, educational, or organization settings. Those who hold a PhD work as professors and lecturers in the discipline and may not work at all as clinicians. Instead, they produce and disseminate research in conferences, schools, and governmental organizations.