Nurses are the backbone of the health care industry, providing lifesaving interventions, critical patient education and essential routine care.
Healthcare is booming. On the whole, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the industry to add 2.3 million jobs through 2024, or a 19% increase in employment —— more than double the average rate. If we break those numbers down for nurses, we see that RN employment is expected to grow 16% (440,000 jobs) and APRN’s a whopping 31% (53,000 jobs). In other words, prospects are good if you’re a nurse.
But now isn’t the time to rest on your laurels, because concurrent with the increase in labor is an increase in labor competition; and what might have passed as industry standards a decade ago probably won’t pass muster in the future. Case in point: currently 55-60% of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and yet The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80% of nurses in the United States hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020. Not only are jobs becoming more competitive, but the job’s requirements are radically changing, too, increasingly emphasizing digital literacy in areas like healthcare informatics and EMR.
Fortunately, registered nurses who have already earned an associate’s or diploma can complete an RN to BSN degree, which typically only take 1-2 years (hence their practicality and popularity). Below, we’ve compiled the top 10 RN-BSN degrees offered online, which combine academic rigor with flexibility and affordable tuition. Keep reading for the top 10!
- Academic Prestige (1/3): Each institution’s rank according to national data.
- Flexibility (1/3): The range of flexible options in the program, including the ability to accelerate degree completion, work part-time, choose different concentrations, get credit for prior experience, and other unique degree options.
- Affordability (1/3):Tuition per credit hour.
1) University of North Florida
Founded in 1965, University of North Florida has a total enrollment of 15,700. US News ranks UNF in the region’s top 20 public schools, with additional high marks for veteran services and overall regional rankings. The university’s 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes both a collaborative and intimate educational atmosphere, including personalized instruction. A third of classes have fewer than 20 students and less than 10% have 50. For those interested in financial aid opportunities, UNF has shown a solid record: 51% of full-time undergrads receive some form of tuition assistance, and the average need met is about 90%.
North Florida’s nationally recognized online RN to BSN consists of 30 major credits: Health Assessment, Family/Community Assessment, Perspectives in Chronicity, Applied Nursing Ethics, Leadership Management in Nursing, and Socialization to Professional Nursing, among others. Students will also complete 3 rounds of Nursing Science courses and several pieces of practicum course work to gain hands-on, real-world experience at organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or any community hospital, clinic, or health group. All online classes are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate adult learners and working professionals, and, as an accelerated track, some students can complete the degree in as little 12 months.
- Tuition Per Credit: $285
2) Northwestern College
Northwestern College, founded in 1882, is a private Christian liberal arts school in Orange City, Iowa. Ranked among the top 10 colleges and universities in the region, Northwestern IA made the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2014 for its work in areas across the world, including Japan, the Netherlands, Bolivia, South Africa, India, Kazakhstan, Uganda, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, and numerous other countries. The school is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and incorporates a Christian worldview throughout its core curriculum. With an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio, classes are kept intimate and create a tight-knit learning community. Two-thirds of classes have less than 20 students, and 73% of full-time undergrads receive some form of financial aid. Admissions are rolling.
Northwestern offers an online RN to BSN that totals 30 credits, including classes like Cross-cultural Nursing, Nursing Science and Informatics, Public/Community Health Nursing, and Nursing Leadership and Clinical Scholarship. Required cognates include Principles of Sociology, Biostatistics, Pathophysiology, and College Chemistry; and as a Christian school, the program integrates several religious courses —— e.g., Shalom and Nursing Science, —— as well. Elective options allow students to customize the degree to areas of professional interest, and the accelerated 8-week course blocks reduce program duration to just 1.5-2 years (or 4-6 semesters) for adult learners and working professionals. (Northwestern grants up to 66 prerequisite credits to working nurses with confirmation of 7 years RN experience along with an ADN degree or Hospital diploma.) To fit students’ schedules, there are multiple entry points each year. The program is accredited by the CCNE and approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing.
- Tuition Per Credit: $325
3) Georgia Southern University
Founded in 1906, Georgia Southern is a public university with a total enrollment of about 20,500, representing 48 states and 89 countries. Ranked among the top Tier 2 schools in the region, the university’s 21:1 student-to-faculty provides individualized instruction and collaborative learning, combining the resources of a large research university with the small classes of a liberal arts school. A quarter of classes have less than 20 students and only 11% have 50. For students interested in financial aid, 65% of full-time undergraduates receive some form of tuition assistance, and the average need met is over 50%. In particular, GSU emphasizes academic distinction, excellent teaching, research, and student success.
Georgia Southern’s online RN to BSN is a nationally recognized program, consisting of 31 major credits: Conceptual Basis of Nursing, Health Assessment/Lifespan, Community Health Nursing, Critical Inquiry, Complex Nursing Concepts, Nursing Leadership Management, and more. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility, and part- and full-time tracks are available to fit students’ needs on an individual basis. With synchronous and asynchronous course work, students are able to complete some work on their own time, as well as participate in live virtual classes that simulate the traditional face-to-face classroom. Group discussion boards, live chat rooms, streamlined e-mail, and posted assignments are all available 24/7 through the university’s dynamic learning platform. Additional services include academic advising, tech support, library assistance, course selection and scheduling assistance, and transfer services. The program is accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $204
4) Colorado Technical University
Founded in 1965, Colorado Technical University is located in Colorado Springs, with a satellite campus in Denver. Total enrollment stands at 20,000 students, many of which are online, and there are over 70,000 alumni worldwide. Offering undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional programs, all CTU degrees are grounded in a career-oriented, practical curricula that prepares students for real-world experience. The 28:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes collaborative, peer-to-peer learning, and CTU’s program M.U.S.E. (My Unique Student Experience) allows students to customize their preferred delivery method, including 100% online, hybrid, and blended options, for maximum flexibility. CTU has been rated “Best of the Best” in the Education and Academia category of the Computerworld Honors Program.
CTU offers one of the fastest RN-BSN programs available —— a 48-credit core which can be completed in as little as 9 months, thanks to accelerated blocks and CTU’s generous transfer policy. Among the areas of study include Nursing Informatics, Population-Based Nursing, Alternative and Complementary Interventions, Health and Wellness Assessment, Evidence Based Practice and Applied Nursing Research, Innovation in Nursing, a nursing capstone to round out the curriculum. Elective options are available for customization, and eight entry dates per year help to ensure maximum scheduling flexibility for practicing RN’s and adult learners. For those interested in related administrative tracks, CTU also offers a bachelor’s in Healthcare Management, with a Health Informatics concentration, and a BBS, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. The RN-BSN is accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $260
5) Kent State University
Founded in 1910, Kent State University is a public research university in Kent, Ohio, with campuses in New York, China, Italy, Switzerland and India. Kent State has also significantly expanded its online education initiative in recent years, with more than 30 programs in a wide variety of disciplines. US News ranks it among the best national public colleges and universities, and the Carnegie Foundation ranks KSU among the top 80 public research universities. With a total enrollment of 30,000, Kent State’s 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio is excellent for a school of its size, combining a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere with individualized instruction. Over half of classes have fewer than 20 students and only 9% have 50.
Kent State’s 100% online RN-BSN consists of 30 major core credits, including Health Promotion, Healthcare Policy, Health Maintenance and Restoration for Professional Nursing Practice, and Leadership and Management for Professional Nursing Practice, among others. A final capstone project gives an added hands-on angle. Courses deliver in accelerated 7-week blocks, and students may be able to complete the degree in as little as 12 months, thanks to the university’s generous transfer policy. With entry dates in the fall, spring, and summer, rolling admissions help accommodate working professionals and adult learners find a track that fits their schedule. For those interested in a related program, KSU offers several accelerated tracks in Nursing, a traditional BSN, and at least 4 graduate degrees in Nursing. The RN-BSN is accredited by the CCNE and approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing.
- Tuition Per Credit: $400
6) Western Governors University
Western Governors University, founded in 1996, is a 100% online university based in Salt Lake City, emphasizing flexible, self-paced higher education through its unique competency-based credit programs, which award students for previous life and work experience, accelerating completion time, lowering costs, and eliminating redundant course work. Fast Company, TIME, NBC Nightly News, and CNN have recognized the university’s innovation in EdTech, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded WGU $4.5 million in funding. It is the country’s top producer of math and science teachers, and is a multiple winner of the 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning from the United States Distance Learning Association.
WGU’s online RN-BSN consists of 24 major credits in Health Sciences, Nursing Theory and Practice, Foundation of Success, Nursing Science, Chemistry Content, and the Advanced Standing for RN License. Many courses can be waived through transfer —— on average, students transfer 81 credits into the program —— and 81% of students finish the track in 22 months, with some finishing in just 6 months. Individual advisors help tailor the curriculum to suit your particular needs, and customization options mean you can specialize in areas of professional interest. Graduates have gone on to careers in a wide range of health fields; Intermountain Healthcare, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Synergy Home Health, HCA Healthcare, and Peace Health are just a few employers of WGU alumni. It is accredited by the CCNE, and The National League for Nursing named WGU’s nursing programs a Center of Excellence™ in Nursing Education for creating environments that enhance student learning and professional development.
- Tuition Per Credit: $270
7) Bowling Green State University
Founded in 1910, Bowling Green has a total enrollment of 17,000, representing all 50 states and 70 countries. US News ranks it among the best universities in the country, as has Washington Monthly, Forbes, and several other publications. The 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio allows for both peer-to-peer learning and personalized instruction, and over 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students. In addition to a tight-knit educational community, Bowling Green emphasizes rigorous academics, engaged citizenship, and experiential learning —— co-ops, practicums and internships, education abroad, fieldwork, undergraduate research —— many of which are completed in collaboration with public and private partnerships. 70% of full-time undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is over 75%.
Bowling Green’s online RN-BSN covers 30 core credits: Theoretical and Professional Foundations in Nursing, Interpersonal Skills in Nursing of Older Adults, Applied Nursing Research, Applied Health Assessment, Applied Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, Nursing Leadership and Management, and Population Focused Care. In particular, the curriculum focuses on Orem’s self-care deficit theory and a person-centered approach to healthcare, involving family, community, and self-care. BGSU online courses are built to accommodate busy schedules, and part- and full-time enrollment tracks are offered to ensure flexibility. Students services include academic advising, career services, tech support, library assistance, and more. The program is is accredited by the CCNE and approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing.
- Tuition Per Credit: $397
8) University of Arkansas
Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas has a student enrollment of 26,700, including 7,500 students who are enrolled in at least one online class. US News ranks it among the best Tier 1 national universities and in the top 100 for veteran services; in 2016, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching categorized UA as a top-tier research university. Despite its size, Arkansas is able to maintain a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which supports individualized instruction and a vibrant educational environment. Nearly half of classes have less than 20 students and less than one in five have 50. For those interested in financial aid, 41% of full-time undergrads receive some form of tuition assistance, and the average need met is 55%.
Arkansas offers an online RN-BSN that totals 29 major credits in areas like Teaching and Health Promotion, Health Assessment and Clinical Reasoning for RNs, Leading and Managing in Healthcare Micro-environments, Research in Nursing, Health Care Policy, and Pathophysiology in Nursing. From there, two capstone-like syntheses act as comprehensive overviews and offer students the chance to demonstrate mastery of material in a real-world, immersive setting. Course work is designed for flexibility, including asynchronous, self-paced classes, and students can take anywhere between 16 months and 2 years to complete the degree on a part- or full-time basis (either of which would be an accelerated track). There are two entry dates available per year. The program is the longest standing CCNE accredited bachelor’s in the state of Arkansas.
- Tuition Per Credit: $290
9) Georgia College and State University
Georgia College and State University, founded in 1889, has a total enrollment of about 6,900 students, the majority of which are undergraduates. In addition to being ranked among the top 30 colleges and universities in the region by US News, GCSU places 20th for veteran services, 9th for public schools, and 4th for faculty. The 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio balances one-on-one instruction with a collaborative, vibrant learning environment. Over a third of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 5% have 50. For students interested in financial aid opportunities, 50% of full-time undergrads receive some form of tuition assistance.
GCSU’s online RN to BSN features 23 hours of major requirements, including Survey of Health Science Information, Legal & Ethical Aspects of Professional Nursing, Nursing Research in Professional Practice, Community & Population Based Care, and Leadership Management in Nursing. Designed for maximum flexibility, the accelerated course work can be completed in as little as 3 semesters (12 months), or longer if preferred on a part-time basis, and asynchronous classes allow students to progress through each course on a self-paced schedule. Following the university’s liberal arts missions, the program emphasizes evidence-based practice, lifelong learning, and civic participation through clinical reasoning and professional nursing skills. It is accredited by the Georgia Board of Nursing and the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $373
10) Lamar University
Founded in 1923, Lamar University has an enrollment of 15,000. US News ranks it as a top Tier 2 school, and Lamar is one of only 16 higher learning institutions to receive an “A” rating from the ACTA for core curriculum standards. To meet increasing demand for distance education, Lamar has expanded its online offerings in recent years, including a free online dual credit program with UT Arlington for in-state high school students. The 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes collaborative learning, personalized instruction, and a tight-knit educational community.35% of classes have less than 20 students and just 1 in 10 have 50. Particular areas of emphasis are STEM, global and multicultural studies, and experiential teaching via partnerships with business, government, and other higher ed institutes. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 63% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 50%.
Lamar’s online RN-BSN totals 30 major credit hours in subjects like Comprehensive Holistic Health Assessment, Nursing Inquiry and Evidence-Based Practice, Synthesis in Professional Nursing, and three nursing practice tracks in Care of Communities, Leadership and Management, and Compromised Multiple Health States. Courses deliver in accelerated 8-week blocks, accommodating for working professionals and allowing students to complete the degree in as little as 13 months on a flexible, customizable track. Further, with 8 entry dates available each year, Lamar offers a variety of schedules to fit students’ needs on a case-by-case basis. Additional benefits include a variety of student services, tech support, and the Blackboard learning platform, featuring group discussion boards, live chat rooms, video conferencing, and more.
- Tuition Per Credit: $308