Find the Best Program for Completing Your Online Nursing Degree

Want to know which online nursing degree could help elevate your career? Deciding on the right online nursing degree largely depends on your career goals, lifestyle, personal aspirations and financial situation. Comparing different accredited nursing programs and measuring them against your individual goals can help.

Ask yourself some questions

The number of online nursing degree programs doesn’t have to make finding the right program and going back to school a daunting task. Start your journey by asking yourself the right questions. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What area of nursing excites you the most? Bedside nursing or management? Clinical or research? Do you prefer working with children or adults?
  • Which nursing jobs match your personality? Some experts say introverts do well in nursing informatics, nurse legal consultancies, forensics and education. Extroverted personalities, however, thrive as emergency, med-surg and critical care nurses, as well as family nurse practitioners.

Choose a clear career path

Ultimately, your career path dictates which online nursing degree will be most appealing.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree opens nurses up to jobs as bedside nurses, nurse managers, nurse advocates or nurse informaticists, with opportunities to work in specialties like oncology, as an example. BSN degrees also offer a high degree of flexibility.

Nurses with an MSN can work as educators or in administration. Nurse educators make on average $77,000 in salary while nurse administrators make $80,000 to $85,000.

Having a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree can lead to careers as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who treat patients of all ages without physician oversight. DNP holders are paid the highest salaries in the nursing field. The average salary for APRNs with a DNP degree is $125,000, according to BLS data.

Aspiring nurse professors and researchers opt for their PhD or terminal degree, which is considered the highest level of education. PhD educated nurse professors make $95,000 per year, on average. It’s reported that a chief nursing officer and other executive titles earn over $150,000 annually.

Nurses can use various online resources to guide their online nursing degree decisions, including:

Hybrid programs

Hybrid nursing degrees are found in many varieties and at every level of education. Many of the following programs are designed for the working nurse.

  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • RN to BSN
  • RN to MSN accelerated track
  • Post-master’s DNP

Hybrid education is the marriage of online learning with a hands-on, face-to-face component. The convenience of online classes is a key benefit compared to programs run strictly on campus. Depending on the program, students in hybrid programs typically take tests on campus.

Some hybrid RN to BSN nursing programs have students meet face to face for a few hours on alternating weeks with the remaining class time spent online. Students in these programs also connect with peers and instructors using online discussion threads.

Clinical requirements vary by state. Illinois has specific guidelines about licensure, something to consider if you plan to work in more than one state. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) provides a wealth of information that’s broken down by state and nursing degree.

Students should ask where they can fulfill clinical requirements and whether their chosen healthcare facility has appropriately trained medical staff that meets their hybrid program criteria.

Diving into the application process

Applying to nursing school can be fiercely competitive. When applying for a BSN, MSN or PhD online program, it’s your job to stand out. Give them proof that you deserve a spot in their program.

For BSN programs, admissions committees like to hear about your volunteer work. Having several hundred hours of volunteerism can increase your chances of getting an acceptance letter. Volunteer work such as for the Red Cross, for instance, also builds a list of reliable references for the application and builds your leadership skills.

Letters of Recommendation from reputable people and places also helps you stand out to the admission committee. Think about the professional nurses you have worked with and ask them to give a genuine reference about your character and work ethic.

The application process varies by school, and so do program requirements. Always read instructions carefully and allow enough time for deadlines. Always follow up to confirm receipt of transcripts.

Flaunt your writing prowess with a strong essay. Tell a compelling story about why you are drawn to nursing. Explain how you plan to advance the profession and improve patient outcomes by having an advanced degree.

Look at each program’s mission statement to see how it aligns with your goals. Then, give the admissions committee reasons why you fit their program based on the mission.

Remember to proofread all letters and applications before submission.

MSN application requirements require a bachelor’s degree with minimum 3.0 GPA. Some schools require GRE test scores with official transcripts. Some universities will require a background check and drug screen. Each state has its own rules on fingerprinting requirements.

NCSBN does not enforce fingerprinting but does support the idea of fingerprint-based criminal background checks prior to receiving nursing licensure. The Council of State Governments reports that 36 states adhere to this background check requirement.

DNP online nursing programs for nurse practitioners might require an interview – either face-to-face or online. During the interview, questions are likely to focus on how a DNP could assist you professionally. Plan to answer questions about current events, policies and leadership.

Prior to the interview, do some homework by visiting professional nursing associations to become familiar with the scope of practice and upcoming legislation related to DNPs.

The Doctors of Nursing Practice lists professional DNP associations and information about university programs that you may find helpful.

And if you want to take a deep dive into a particular subject, Sigma Repository, previously known as the Virginia Henderson International Nursing Library is another go to resource to help expand your nursing knowledge.

Now that you have information about the various online nursing degrees, which program will you pursue?

Related Articles

Find the Best Program for Completing Your Online Nursing Degree
Find the Best Online Nursing Degree Program
Compare accredited nursing programs with your goals.
What Online Nursing Programs Really Look Like
What Online Nursing Programs Really Look Like
Find out if online nursing programs are the right fit for you.
Make Online Nursing Programs Work for You
Make Online Nursing Programs Work for You
Take your career to new levels through online nursing programs.
Day in the Life of Students in Online Nursing Programs
Day in the Life of Students in Online Nursing Programs
Flexible online programs can increase your learning enjoyment.