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The Best Online Nursing Programs in 2024

22 Min Read Published March 24, 2023
The Best Online Nursing Programs in 2024

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. Here’s your full guide to the best online nursing programs of 2024, 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

Best Online Nursing Programs 2024

There are so many types of online nursing degrees and 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 2024. This list takes numerous factors into consideration including:

  • Accreditation
  • Clinical hour requirements
  • Clinical placement assistance
  • Cost
  • Graduation rate
  • Location
  • Program length
  • Program ranking
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Total credit hours

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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* - Sponsored

Designed by nurses, this for-profit university program is designed in 10-week online courses. Students can choose the FlexPath option and complete their studies at their own pace, or pick the GuidedPath option for more structured faculty guidance throughout the program. Students can also apply to the Accelerated Master’s Pathway (AMP) option. This allows you to take master’s-degree level (MSN) courses that apply toward your BSN. 

Application Deadline: Rolling Admission

Tuition: Visit capella.edu for tuition details.

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

2. The University of Oklahoma

This online  RN to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program can be completed in as little as nine months but can also be completed on a part-time basis.

Benefits of this program include 100% online courses with flexible clinical practice hours, no direct patient required, and virtual course orientations at the start of each semester. 

Application Deadline: June 1st (for fall) and October 15th (for spring)

Tuition: In-state tuition $11,928, out-of-state tuition $28,298

Accreditation: CCNE

3. University of Central Florida

This bachelor’s degree program consists of 30 credit hours which can be completed in three semesters at a full-time pace or as slowly as ten semesters or five years. Students can take up to nine credit hours of graduate-level work to apply toward an MSN degree. 

Application Deadline: March 1st, July 1st, and November 1st

Tuition: 

  • In-state: $179.19/hr or $6,988.41 for the program

  • Out-of-state: $715.80/hr or $21,474 for the program

Accreditation: CCNEand the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

4. Arizona State University*

ASU students take ten classes that each last 7.5 weeks during this RN to BSN program. Current RNs can finish this program in approximately 15 to 18 months. While this program is 39 credits and longer than most other online programs, students take classes that are considered more innovative than other traditional BSN programs. 

Application Deadline: Rolling Admission

Tuition: $561- $661 per credit hour

Accreditation: CCNE

5. Herzing University*

A time and money-saving program, this program is very unique in that it offers rolling admission which allows students to apply whenever is most convenient. Furthermore, it allows students to start the program at their own pace. Classes are 8 weeks and the degree can be finished in as little as 12 months. Students can also take master's degree classes while completing the online BSN degree. 

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

Ranked as one of the Best Online Programs by U.S. News and World Report, UCF’s program educates the most newly licensed BSN programs in the state. Programs are convenient, flexible, and more affordable than most other programs in the state and country. 

Admissions: Applications are accepted three times a year with summer, fall, or spring start dates.

Tuition: 

  • In-state: $179.19/hr or $6,988.41 for the program

  • Out-of-state: $715.80/hr or $21,474 for the program

Accreditation: CCNE )and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

2. University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming offers an online, self-paced RN-to-BSN completion program with competitive rates. Courses are eight weeks and students can finish at their own rate.

Admissions: Applications are accepted two times a year with fall and spring start dates.

Tuition: 

  • In-state:$6,450 per year 

  • Out-of-state: $$23,100 per year

Accreditation: CCNE and Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. University of South Florida

USF offers real-world experience to students earning their BSN degree, even those that are already working at the bedside. With state-of-the-art simulation labs (including online access), students can experience different aspects of nursing that they might not experience otherwise. 

Admissions: Applications are accepted three times a year with summer, fall, or spring start dates.

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

Accreditation: (CCNE) and SACSCOC

4. Appalachian State University

Appalachian’s RN to BSN program provides a flexible, affordable, and practical pathway for working RNs to complete 100 percent of their coursework online and position themselves for advancement in a growing field. The RN to BSN program requires 30 credit hours and is offered part-time.

Admissions: Applications accepted Feb 1 through Aug 1 (for fall)

Tuition: $203/hr or $6,090 plus additional lab fees, online fees, and additional University associated costs.

Accreditation: CCNE

5. University of Texas Arlington*

As one of the most popular online programs, nurses find this educational platform very easy to use and course schedules are convenient and flexible. 100% of the coursework is completed online and there are multiple start dates during the program. 

Admissions: Applications are accepted two times a year with fall and spring start dates.

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

Accreditation: CCNE and SACSCOC

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 2024

1. Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University offers two MSN degree options: Nurse Administration and Nursing Education. The program requires clinical practicum experiences; therefore, students need to ensure they have clinical sites as the school does not coordinate placements.

Application Deadline: February 1 (for summer), July 1 (for fall), and Oct 1 (for spring)

Tuition: $6,806.40 per year plus fees and supply costs ($298/credit hr)

Accreditation: CCNE

2. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins offers a variety of MSN online programs, including tracks for an MSN in Healthcare Organizational Leadership or MSN in Healthcare Organizational Leadership/MBA.

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

Accreditation: CCNE

3. Simmons College

Simmons offers two online MSN degree options: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). Simmons does assist with clinical placements which is a HUGE draw.  The programs require a total of 48 credit hours.

The Simmons MSN programs are incredibly flexible and there are options to work with any schedule. Full-time programs take 24 months, and part-time programs take 28 months. There is also an extended program that students can choose that stretches the program over 32 months.

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions with five start dates over the year

Tuition: $1,235 per credit hour

Accreditation: CCNE

4. The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama offers several online MSN options:

  • MSN in Nurse Administration

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and 

  • Dual Psychiatric Mental Health and Family Nurse Practitioner

Postgraduate certificate programs with Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner options are also available.

Application Deadline: March 1, August 1, and December 1

Tuition: $440 per credit hour

Accreditation: CCNE

5. Baker University

Located in Baldwin City, Kansas, Baker University offers online MSN programs in two specialties: Nursing Education and Nursing Administration. Students can earn their MSN in as quickly as two years, depending on their transfer credits.

Tuition: $480 per credit hour 

Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions - classes start every Jan, June, and August

Accreditation: CCNE and Kansas Board of Nursing (KSBN)

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

Fort Hays State University offers two MSN degrees: Nurse Administration and Nursing Education. Fort Hays works with clinical sites across the country to accommodate out-of-state students and notes that if an acceptable site can not be found in your area, a site will be made available to you on their campus. The program does not accept students from Tennessee, Utah, Alabama, or Washington based on licensing restrictions.

Application Deadline: February 1 (for summer), July 1 (for fall), and Oct 1 (for spring)

Tuition: $6,806.40 per year plus fees and supply costs

Accreditation: CCNE

2. The University of Alabama 

The University of Alabama offers four specialized online MSN concentrations

  • MSN in Nurse Administration

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and 

  • Dual Psychiatric Mental Health and Family Nurse Practitioner

The programs are available 100% online, with clinical sites chosen by you (although they are subject to approval by the college of nursing) and two on-campus sessions that have to be completed over the course of the study. 

Application Deadline: March 1, August 1, and December 1

Tuition: $440 per credit hour 

Accreditation: CCNE 

3. University of Texas-Tyler

Also boasting a low per-credit tuition cost and a low credit requirement for degree completion, the University of Texas-Tyler has multiple MSN tracks, which include:

  • Business Administration

  • Nurse Administration

  • Nurse Education

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Informatics, Quality, & Safety

  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP

Anyone enrolling in the NP program must have an RN license in Texas as all clinical hours are required to be completed in Texas. The other degree tracks, however, are completely done online.

Application Deadline: Rolling Admission 

Tuition: $945/ credit hr

Accreditation: CCNE

4. Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff comes in at one of the cheapest online MSN-NP programs with a variety of advanced track specialties--students can choose to specialize as a Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric Mental Health Care Practitioner. 

Additional requirements to enroll include that you must have an RN license valid in Iowa and the ability to demonstrate with a letter from your employer that you have worked at least 2,000 hours as an RN within the last two years to be eligible to apply.

Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions 

Tuition: $538/per credit hr

Accreditation: CCNE 

5. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona offers one of the fastest available MSN programs, allowing you to earn an MSN in Nursing Clinical Systems Leadership completely online in as little as 13 months. The program offers two pathways:

  • RN-MS (for students with a BSN), completable in as few as 13 months

  • RN-MSN (for students with an ADN), completable in as few as 24 months

This program has the advantage of being made up of 7 week-long courses, so admission rotates every five months, allowing students three opportunities per year to enroll. To be eligible for admission, you must have a BSN or ADN and have passed a 3-credit, college-level statistics class within the last five years, test out, or take the class at the start of the program.

Application Deadline: Rolling Admission

Tuition: $702/per credit hr

Accreditation: CCNE, AACN member

>> Find MSN Programs Accepting Applications Now

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. 

Non-clinical degrees, however, such as MSN administration degrees, 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 must pass your nursing boards 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 rarer, if you happen to have both your RN and your bachelor’s in another degree, you can also use the accelerated BSN program to earn your BSN. 

Show Me RN-to-BSN Programs

Direct-entry MSN Programs

Similar to accelerated BSN programs, direct-entry MSN programs let anyone with 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. 

Show Me MSN Programs

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 degree. 

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 on to 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 – to become a Nurse Practitioner or a CRNA, for example – 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) Programs

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 specialty program may take a little longer. 

Online NP programs typically take 2-3 years full-time and include 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.

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Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) & Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) Programs

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. 

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

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) Programs

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

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Programs

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 specialty in order to deliver specialized care at the bedside. 

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

Nurse Educator Programs

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 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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Nurse Administrator Programs

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

Healthcare Administration Programs

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 halfway through. 

Some programs--like a BSN or a non-clinical MSN or an 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 for you, or may be required at hospitals or facilities the school already has an arrangement with. It’s important to know the school’s policy for in-person requirements, 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 heading for a more expensive degree, like a DNP. 

The final cost will also depend on what type of financial aid package you receive, if you can 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 meets all the requirements you need 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 giving you what you need to pass an exam at the end. Additionally, if you are 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 specialty 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 on 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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Chaunie Brusie
BSN, RN
Chaunie Brusie
Nurse.org Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

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