What To Look For In An Online Nursing Degree Program

Are you thinking about enrolling in an online nursing degree completion program? To find a program that will fulfill your specific needs, you must unearth specific information that will enable you to make a completely informed decision.


Do you have a desire to further your nursing education? Are you in the process of selecting an online nursing degree completion program? In this technological day and age, prospective students have a multitude of online nursing programs from which to choose. In fact, the choices can seem endless! To find the online nursing program that has the highest likelihood of meeting your unique needs, it is imperative that you scrutinize important details to become informed and make sound decisions regarding your educational future. The following questions will assist in making a fully informed choice.

Is the school's nursing program nationally accredited?

In the United States and its territories, two organizations grant national accreditation to nursing programs. These two entities are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Although other national nursing accreditation bodies exist, the CCNE and the ACEN are the two main ones. If you are thinking about enrolling in an online nursing program that is not accredited by one of these organizations, buyer beware. While you do not need to attend an accredited program, some important educational and professional doors might be forever closed if you complete a non-accredited program.

Is the school regionally accredited?

In addition to national nursing accreditation, the college or university should also possess institutional accreditation from one of six regional associations. The six agencies are the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Transferability of credits is made easier if the school you attend is accredited by one of these organizations.

Some online nursing programs are accredited by entities such as the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Although this agency is legitimate and recognized by the US Department of Education, any credits earned might not transfer to a regionally accredited school if you wanted to further your education.

Is the online nursing program reputable?

Some hiring managers secretly admit to tossing job applications and resumes into file number thirteen (a.k.a. the wastebasket) if they see that the applicant has completed an online program through a commercial, for-profit school. While many nurses have enjoyed wildly successful careers after attending online investor-owned nursing programs, you may want to speak with hiring managers in your geographic area to see how they feel about hiring graduates of the schools you are thinking about attending.

In general, you cannot go wrong with nonprofit land-based schools that offer completely online nursing degree completion programs such as the University of Wyoming, Arizona State University, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt University, Indiana State, Villanova, or the University of Cincinnati.

How much will my degree cost?

The tuition of online nursing degree completion programs can vary greatly depending on several factors. For instance, nonprofit land-based schools tend to be more affordable than their private university counterparts. As of the time of this writing, Drexel University charges $612 per credit for the online RN-to-BSN degree completion program, whereas the University of Texas at Arlington is currently charging $257 per credit. As you can see, the difference is astounding. Of course, many students would bypass the affordable regional state university to earn an online degree from the more prestigious institution, even if the costs are greater.

Does my computer meet the technical requirements?

Some online programs use Blackboard, whereas others use different types of platforms to deliver the course materials and content to students. You need to find out whether or not the school offers 24-hour technical support in case something goes wrong. Moreover, a high-speed internet connection is preferable. In other words, you must find out about the technical requirements for your course of study.

Is online learning appropriate for me?

An online learner will need to possess enough computer literacy, at the very minimum, to navigate the internet and use a computer without any coaching. In addition, you will need to be self-directed, resourceful, disciplined, and able to learn a great deal of the course material independently. If you are the type of student who requires plenty of guidance, look for an online program that assigns you to a personal mentor. Also, hybrid programs allow you to attend campus-based classes one day per week if you need in-person interaction with instructors and classmates.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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Has 12 years experience.

Thanks for posting this!! EXTREMELY. Helpful!


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Also add, is the nursing program recognized by the State Board of Nursing. Example, some of the for profit online only University's are not recognized by the state board of nursing within their respective state, therefore they are not approved to opperate in all areas.


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Specializes in occupational health. Has 15 years experience.

I am currently working on my MSN at Grand Canyon University (where I also earned my BSN). GCU is accredited and has an agreement with my hospital for a 10% reduction in tuition.

Check out GCU!


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The last question is important. One should first set their mood for online learning. Sometimes, indulging into online learning becomes waste especially when one is not yet ready for such.


Guest jeannieccarver

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This is what I do……. thank you!

Great article. Luckily my school has all of these. But I have been contacted by schools that when I asked these questions, they avoided the question.

Specializes in Nephrology. Has 8 years experience.

Good advice. I was contemplating a specific online RN to BSN program that was accredited so I thought it would be fine, but when talking to nurses in the area, it turns out it's often not looked on very kindly by hiring managers. If I hadn't asked, I could have had difficulty getting a job and not even known why. I'm going to go with a state school now instead.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 17 years experience.
I was contemplating a specific online RN to BSN program that was accredited so I thought it would be fine, but when talking to nurses in the area, it turns out it's often not looked on very kindly by hiring managers. If I hadn't asked, I could have had difficulty getting a job and not even known why. I'm going to go with a state school now instead.
Which specific online RN-to-BSN degree program is not viewed kindly by hiring managers in the area where you work?