Behind the scenes in digital classrooms at BSN, MSN, PhD and DNP programs

How would you know if online nursing programs are right for you? Everyone can be a successful learner, but picking the right program is essential. Take time to understand your personal preferences to find a program that matches your personality and learning habits.

Personality, right program equals success

Are you someone who likes to collaborate with others in groups? Do you prefer a quiet environment and thrive as an independent worker?

Do you learn more easily with lots of visuals, such as pictures? Or do you prefer verbal cues? Knowing your learning preferences can help you ask better questions about nursing programs so it’s easier to compare them.

Experts say online learning can be especially good for introverts and people with varying learning styles. Introverts may thrive better in online programs with fewer group projects and more self-paced independent projects. Before you enroll, it can be helpful to ask how many group vs. independent projects are required in the online nursing program that catches your fancy.

As for extroverts, look for online programs that play to your strengths. These include online programs with collaborative projects, group discussions and community-based service learning projects. Ask how many classes provide live discussions or chat sessions to bring a sense of human connection into your online program.

Educational programs are not one size fits all. All learners have different strengths and weaknesses, and online education can address these differences.

BSN online learning

Full-time students in Bachelor of Science in Nursing online programs usually complete a degree in eight semesters. If you’re in a part-time program and working full-time, it will take longer. In this case, degree completion can take about 12 to 24 months.

All RN to BSN programs vary in terms of clinical hour requirements. Generally, clinical days may range from eight to 12 hours, up to two times per week. However, some RN to BSN online programs may not require clinicals if you currently work as an RN.

The time commitment for studying varies by person. According to a review of various online nursing schools and forums, students are expected to allow for about four to six study hours per day for full-time students.

MSN online programs

To obtain an online Master of Science in Nursing degree, time commitments largely depend on a student’s current level of education, demands of the program and the desired degree. Let’s say you’re pursuing an MSN degree to become a family nurse practitioner, many programs take about two years to complete, if you already hold a BSN degree.

Plan to devote adequate time for MSN studies, depending on your situation. Some colleges suggest about 15-20 hours per week to study for online MSNs. Others suggest allocating two hours of study per credit hour. Full-time students with 15 credits may need 30 hours a week of study time.

Ask if your program will apply time at work, if you’re a practicing RN, toward practicum requirements.

PhD/DNP online programs

Nurses who are seeking jobs in research or teaching gravitate toward the PhD track. Nurses who lean into their clinical roots often go the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) route, which can lead to jobs such as psychiatric nurse practitioner or certified nurse anesthetist, two of the highest-paying DNP jobs.

How long it will take to complete these degrees?

  • Depending on whether you are full- or part-time, a program may take from about two to three years to obtain your DNP.
  • The PhD nursing program ranges from about 48 to 60 credits, depending on if you already have an MSN degree. Plan on at least three years in a full-time program.

Tips for success

Self-discipline is non-negotiable. Assignments, term papers and exams come with due dates. Making enough time to study the material and finish assignments on time only adds to your overall success.

Networking is important for all nurses, regardless of which online program they choose to attend. Joining a professional or student nursing association is a great way to meet peers outside the hospital walls. Associations also introduce you to experts and potential career opportunities.

Networking with diverse medical professionals also exposes you to new ideas and better problem-solving methods. People in different communities and geographic regions attending conferences share ideas outside your scope of awareness, and you can do the same for them.

Seek out networking events such as career fairs, lectures, conferences and hospital-sponsored events. Also look for professional nursing groups on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thanks to social media, it’s easier to find specialty nurse groups in your ZIP code or across state lines. Plus, social platforms can help you locate mentors and connect with legislative and policy groups.

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