EDUCATION
September 25, 2021

The Best Online Nursing Programs in 2022

If you’ve ever wanted to go to nursing school, or to further your education as a registered nurse, the time has never been better. 

Not only is there a critical nursing shortage in the U.S. right now--an estimated 3.8 million nurses will be needed by the end of 2030--but online programs for both becoming a nurse and advancing your career as a nurse are more plentiful than ever. In short, it’s never been easier, or more important--to consider work in the nursing field. 

Here’s your full guide to the top online nursing programs of 2022, whether you’re looking to become an RN, add on your BSN, advance your career with a master’s in nursing, or go straight to the top with a DNP. 

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Top Online Nursing Programs 2022

There are so many types of online nursing programs it can be overwhelming to choose the one for you. To help you with this decision, we've compiled some of the top online nursing programs in 2022.

Top Online RN-to-BSN Programs

If you have your ADN and are looking to go back to school to earn your BSN, check out these top online RN-to-BSN programs:

1. Capella University

Tuition: $9,600–$22,400 per/year

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 

2. The University of Oklahoma

Tuition: $22,185 per/year

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 

3. University of Central Florida 

Tuition: $5,728 per/year in-state, $22,880 per/year non-resident

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 

4. Arizona State University

Tuition: $10,888 per/year

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

5. Herzing University

Tuition: $14,200 per/year

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Top Cheap, Fast Online RN-to-BSN Programs

If you want to earn your BSN as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible, check out these top 5 fast & affordable online RN-to-BSN programs:

1. University of Central Florida

Tuition: $5,375.70 ($179.19 per credit hour) including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Institution by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

2. University of Wyoming

Tuition: $5,370 ($154.00 per credit hour) including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Higher Learning Commission.

3. University of South Florida

Tuition: $3,152.10 ($105.07 per credit hour) plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

4. Appalachian State University

Tuition: $6,720 ($224.00 per credit hour) plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

5. University of Texas Arlington

Tuition: $8,995 ($257.00 per credit hour) plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Show Me RN-to-BSN Programs

Top Online MSN Programs

Already have your BSN, or ready to jump straight into an MSN program? Here are the top 5 online MSN programs of 2022

1. Fort Hays State University

Tuition: $2589.75 per semester

Accreditation: Committee on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

2. Johns Hopkins University

Tuition: $1,688 - $1,772 per credit hour

Accreditation: CCNE

3. Simmons College

Tuition: $1,210 per credit hour

Accreditation: CCNE

4. The University of Alabama

Tuition: $420 per credit hour

Accreditation: CCNE

5. Baker University

Tuition: $450 per credit hour 

Accreditation: CCNE and Kansas Board of Nursing (BON)

Top Cheap, Fast Online MSN Programs

If cost and program length are your major concerns when looking for an online MSN program, check out these fast & affordable online MSN programs:

1. Fort Hays State University

Tuition: Cost per credit hour: ~$87

Accreditation: CCNE accredited

2. The University of Alabama 

Tuition: Cost per credit hour (as of November 2019): $420

Accreditation: CCNE accredited 

3. University of Texas-Tyler

Tuition: Cost per credit hour: ~$460, but varies based on how many credit hours you take 

Accreditation: CCNE accredited

4. Briar Cliff University

Tuition: Cost per credit hour: $525

Accreditation: CCNE accredited

5. University of Arizona

Tuition: Cost per credit hour: $680 

Accreditation: CCNE accredited, AACN member

Show Me MSN Programs

Types of Online Nursing Programs 

Nearly every type of nursing degree can be completed online. However, any type of degree that requires clinical work, such as your initial RN or an NP degree, will require a combination of both online work and in-person clinical work. 

Degrees that are non-clinical, however, such as adding a BSN or advancing to a DNP or some masters in administration roles, can be completed entirely online. Here’s a closer look at each type of nursing degree program you can choose. 

LPN to RN Bridge Programs

LPN to RN bridge programs take you from an LPN to RN. After completing the coursework, you will need to pass your nursing boards in order to earn your RN license in your state. If you have your LPN, you can choose to get your RN with an associate’s degree or enter a bridge LPN-BSN program. An LPN-RN with an associate’s degree will take about two years; an LPN-BSN-RN program will take around three to four. 

RN to BSN Bridge Programs

An RN to a BSN program is appropriate for anyone who has already earned their associate’s degree to become an RN and wants to add a Bachelor’s degree to their resume. RN-BSN programs are one of the most popular online programs available and can be completed entirely online, since you have already done the clinical nursing portion. 

Accelerated BSN Programs

If you have a Bachelor’s degree in another non-nursing field, you are eligible to apply for an accelerated BSN program. You can use an accelerated BSN program to go straight from a non-medical field and earn your RN and BSN all at once, in as little as 12 to 18 months. And although it’s more rare, if you happen to have both your RN and your bachelors in another degree, you can also use the accelerated BSN program to earn your BSN. 

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Direct-entry MSN Programs

Similar to accelerated BSN programs, direct-entry programs let anyone who has a bachelor’s degree in another field go straight into earning their RN and MSN all at once. And incredibly, it’s not that much longer of a program than just getting your BSN. A direct-entry MSN program can also be completed in as little as 18 months. Most of these programs don’t actually confer a BSN onto you; instead, you just earn your MSN. 

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RN to MSN Programs

If you already have your RN and want your MSN, you can go straight into an online MSN program. You have two options with an RN-MSN program: you can go the accelerated route and go straight from your RN to earning your MSN, skipping right over the bachelor’s part (so you’ll end the program with just your MSN). Or, if you want the whole thing, you can earn your RN-BSN and master’s. 

The accelerated RN to MSN will be faster, requiring a little less coursework. In most cases, the RN-MSN program prepares you for a more non-clinical role, such as in administration, unlike a Master’s degree as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), which we describe in the next section. 

BSN to MSN Programs

If you’re already the proud owner of a BSN and would like to advance onto earning your Master’s of Science in Nursing, you’re in luck: there are a ton of online options for furthering your career. 

If you want a master’s in a clinical role, like in order to become a Nurse Practitioner or a CRNA,  your program will be a combination of online work and in-person clinicals. However, the advantage of an online program is that many times, the school will work with you to arrange clinicals locally to your area as opposed to you traveling to on-site locations only near the school. 

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Many types of online NP programs will prepare you to become a Family Nurse Practitioner, FNP. But there are also specialized NP programs that can prepare you for a specific type of NP, such as a Women’s Health NP or a Geriatric Care NP. In general, the program lengths will be similar, but a speciality program may take a little longer. 

Online NP programs typically take 2-3 years full-time and will include both online coursework and in-person clinical work. They can be completed part-time as well, although some schools will have caps on how long you can take to finish the program. 

Show Me Nurse Practitioner Programs

Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP)

If you had planned on becoming a CRNA, you will now have to enroll in an DNAP program. That means that the program requirement has gone from a master’s degree to a doctorate degree. 

A DNAP program will take three full years, and many schools ask students to only plan on being able to work full-time for one year of those, with the plan to quit employment for the last two intensive years. 

Show Me CRNA Programs

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

A CNM is an RN who earns a master’s degree in midwifery in order to care for women during their reproductive years and beyond. A CNM degree will take about two years and will include clinical work that will not be online. 

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

A CNS is similar to an NP, but will focus on a clinical specialty at the bedside. NPs often deliver primary care, while a CNS will focus on a hospital-speciality in order to deliver specialized care at the bedside. 

To become a CNS, you will follow a similar path as an NP: enroll in an hybrid online masters in nursing program and choose your CNS specialization. CNS can prescribe medications in a majority of states in the U.S. 

Nurse Educator 

A nurse educator is someone who works in an educator role, typically educating other nurses or future nurses. They are the people who will communicate updates to nurses and other healthcare staff at a hospital level, or become a teacher at a university or college in order to prepare the next generation of nurses. 

Most professor roles require a minimum of a master’s degree, but many nurse educators choose to also earn their DNP as well. These degrees can be completed entirely online. 

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Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Speaking of your DNP, there are also a few pathways you can take to earn it online. Depending on where you’re at in your educational pathway, you can choose from the following online DNP programs:

  • RN-DNP - about 4 years in length (full-time)
  • BSN-DNP - about 2-4 years in length
  • MSN to DNP - about 1-2 years

​​Show Me DNP Programs

Nurse Administrator 

A nurse administrator will work as a manager at a healthcare facility and can choose a MSN degree that is geared towards administration. Typically, these are non-clinical degrees and can be completely entirely online. 

Healthcare Administration

If your goal is to work in healthcare administration, there are other routes you can take outside of just earning your MSN as well. For instance, depending on your goals, you can choose a master’s degree in a related health field or a general master’s degree in business or administration. Some of the common master’s degrees that an RN might choose for a career in healthcare administration include: 

Show Me Healthcare Administration Programs

What to Expect in an Online Nursing Program 

Online nursing programs operate in different formats. Some schools may feature live instruction from a teacher that you watch virtually or a later, recorded version, while others may use a virtual classroom with self-paced instructional videos and educational materials like slideshows for presentations that you work through on your own. 

All online nursing school programs will require written work from you in the form of research papers, essays, and online discussion boards to collaborate with your classmates. If your program requires any on-campus days, those will be clearly outlined before you begin. For instance, some online programs require an “immersion” weekend at the beginning of the semester or even half-way through. 

Some programs--like a BSN or a non-clinical MSN or a MPH--can be completed 100% online. Any nursing program that requires clinicals, practicums, or internships, however, will require in-person time as well. 

Depending on your school’s policy, these can be arranged locally to you, or may be required at hospitals or facilities the school already has an arrangement with. It’s important to know what the school’s policy for in-person requirements are, especially if you are not local to the school. 

Online Nursing Program Cost

The cost of an online nursing program can obviously vary quite a bit, depending on whether you’re choosing an RN-ADN program or you’re heading for a more expensive degree, like your DNP. 

The final cost will also depend on what type of financial aid package you receive, if you are able to secure any scholarships, and if you have any other type of tuition assistance (for instance, such as if your employer offers any help paying for your degree.)

In general, the costs for online nursing programs are: 

  • RN-ADN: $10,000 - $20,000
  • RN-BSN: $10,000 - $80,000
  • MSN: $30,000 - $65,000
  • DNP: bridge programs can cost as little as $17,000, but DNP programs could go as high as several hundred thousand dollars (really)

Show Me RN-to-BSN Programs

Online Nursing Program Accreditation

When choosing an online nursing program, the single most important thing you need to do is ensure that the program you pick is accredited. Especially with online programs, accreditation is necessary to ensure that the program you enroll in will actually meet all the requirements you need in order to graduate and pass any licensing exams you will need. 

Without accreditation, there is no standard that the program has to meet, which means that the education you receive could be subpar and equally as troublesome, not actually give you what you need to pass an exam at the end. Additionally, if you will be using financial aid to attend school, you might not be able to use your entire financial aid package unless you attend an accredited school, so it’s very important. 

You’ll want to look for schools that have at least one of the following accreditations, depending on the speciality you’re choosing:

Overall, if you are interested in pursuing any aspect of nursing, from your RN all the way up to your DNP, know that a large majority of your nursing degree can be completed totally online. And depending what degree you pick, the entire program can be done 100% online. 

Nursing school has never been easier to complete online, and this nation needs nurses more than ever, so get started today by reaching out to an accredited school to see what type of online nursing programs they offer. 

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