What Are the Different Kinds of Online Nursing Programs?

While one of the most popular online nursing programs is the RN to BSN program, there are several other options to choose from, depending on your unique educational needs. Here we will outline what kinds of nursing programs are readily available online by accredited institutions.

Those online programs include:

  • LPN to BSN programs
  • RN to BSN programs
  • RN to MSN programs
  • MSN programs
  • Doctoral programs

LPN to BSN programs, like those offered online at Indiana State University, are a way licensed practical nurses (or licensed vocational nurses, in some states) can complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), opening the door for increased job opportunities. These programs are open to practicing LPNs who have completed a practical nursing program and hold an active LPN license. Credits from their former program are transferred to the university. Clinicals, the essential hands-on portion of a nurse’s education, are typically arranged at a medical facility near where the student lives (naturally, clinicals cannot be done online). Graduates can then apply to sit for their NCLEX-RN degree.

RN to BSN programs are the most commonly offered degree program online. They are similar to LPN to BSN programs in that they require licensure as a qualification to take the program; in this case the prospective student must be a licensed RN. Online RN to BSN programs are designed for working RNs who have already begun their careers. The focus of your studies will depend on your school. Some, like those offered at the University of Phoenix, offer liberal arts components along with more directly-related nursing classes.

RN to MSN programs are designed to let a licensed RN proceed all the way to their master’s degree, taking core requirements for a master’s program while completing their BSN. Those in RN to MSN programs end up taking the master’s program in a condensed format after reaching their BSN. Like RN to BSN programs, these programs accept associate’s or diploma-level nurses. Some programs also accept licensed RNs with a bachelor’s degree in another field. The advantages of this option are you can earn your MSN more quickly and often at a lower cost than moving from BSN to a standard MSN program separately.

MSN programs allow you to move up to your master’s degree online once you have obtained your BSN. When you get to the master’s degree level, online schools allow you to specialize. Kaplan University, for example, offers nurse administrator and nurse educator specializations.

Doctoral programs, while less common online, are effective for students wishing to earn their PhD after obtaining their MSN. Capella University, for example, offers of Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a nursing education specialization. The purpose of this specialization is to advance the field of nursing through the student’s doctoral research, particularly of interest to nursing faculty.

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