Advance your nursing career with an RN to BSN online program
There are three ways to receive training to become a registered nurse:
- Complete a three-year diploma program.
- Earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) at a community college; or
- Earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) from a four-year college or university.
In all cases, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination to become fully licensed.
Who should pursue an online RN to BSN?
The RN to BSN degree is appropriate for those RNs who have the diploma or ADN. It requires additional coursework and typically includes a hands-on clinical portion to increase awareness of patient care and community/public health concerns.
RN to BSN programs are usually one or two years in length. Many are available either through online programs or healthcare facilities, allowing nurses to continue their careers while completing their advanced studies.
What are the benefits of an RN to BSN program?
The top RN to BSN programs not only delve deeper into science and nursing, but help RNs develop even more skills that will better prepare them for career advancement. RN to BS online programs include coursework to enhance a nurse’s professional development, including studies in social issues, culture, and economics. The coursework in an RN to BSN program helps to expand a nurse’s understanding of the healthcare profession and patient care.
Studies show that when registered nurses make the RN to BSN transition, there are significant improvements in patient safety, lower mortality rates, and enhancements to overall patient care. As a result, more hospitals and other healthcare facilities are making the BSN a required degree as they hire new staff.
Because of their advanced coursework, BSN nurses also have strong communication, analytical, leadership, and problem-solving skills.
Many RNs choose to advance their education while continuing to work. Some of the best online RN to BSN programs facilitate advanced educational opportunities for RNs while having the latitude to maintain their other responsibilities including jobs and families.
In addition to improved nursing skills, career advancement, and an overall well-rounded education, an online RN to BSN degree allows RNs who may have families or other responsibilities an opportunity to advance their education in a way that meshes with their professional and personal life.
What are the clinical requirements for RN to BSN programs?
Clinical work is not required to complete an online RN to BSN program. However, many employers and graduate programs look favorably on programs that included clinical hours as part of the online BSN program. Clinical hours will enhance your own skills and professional development.
- You receive hands-on experience that supplements the theoretical coursework.
- Clinical time provides an opportunity to demonstrate practical knowledge.
- Some clinical experiences allow students to qualify for extra certifications. For example, completion of California State University, Fullerton’s Community Health course qualifies students for a Public Health Nursing certification.
- Most accredited programs include clinical hours to allow students to demonstrate competence within the nursing field.
- Some programs may assist you with clinical placement and help you find a placement that can work in your existing schedule.
- The American Association of Colleges of Nursing strongly recommends all RN to BSN programs include clinical hours as part of the degree.
Why Choose an Online RN to BSN program over an in-person one?
Online RN to BSN program benefits
- Convenience and flexibility
- Learning style sometimes suits students who prefer an option to think about what they want to say
- Online communities/connection with other professionals
In-person RN to BSN program benefits
- May be more viable or comfortable for traditional students
- Includes non-verbal cues in communication that are lacking in online interaction
- Less writing intensive
How do you choose the best online RN to BSN program?
Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider. Accreditation affects eligibility for employment, future educational opportunities, and the availability of financial aid. Many online RN to BSN programs are accredited by regional and state accreditation bodies; however, very few of these online programs are accredited by national entities; specifically, The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). When considering options, the best RN to BSN Online programs will carry the ACEN or CCNE accreditation.
How are online RN to BSN programs accredited?
There are two accrediting bodies, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both are recognized and respected accreditation agencies, and there is no consensus within the nursing profession that one is better than the other. Both the ACEN and CCNE list accredited programs on their websites.
There are also accreditation entities for specific advanced fields, such as the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) for midwifery programs.
What are the differences between CCNE and ACEN?
Accredits only BSN and graduate programs
Accredits RN to BSN programs
ACEN (formerly the NLNAC)
Accredits all levels of nursing programs
Accredits RN to BSN programs
How does accreditation affect financial aid available for an RN to BSN online program?
Top RN to BSN online programs are accredited – this ensures that you have the proper education to be credentialed – and you also must apply to an accredited RN to BSN program if you plan to seek federal financial aid. A program needs state and/or regional accreditation to qualify for federal financial aid; however some scholarship programs, including may expect ACEN or CCNE accreditation as well. You may also need to be enrolled in an accredited program online RN program or online BSN program if you plan to seek tuition reimbursement from your employer. Having a degree from an accredited RN to BSN online program is also important if you plan to seek a graduate degree in the future.
Keep in mind that to qualify for financial aid, attending a college accredited by state or regional higher education accreditation bodies may be sufficient; however some employers will only hire graduates of an ACEN or CCNE accredited program.
Am I eligible to attend an online BSN program with a diploma or ADN?
Your BSN eligibility depends on whether or not the program you plan to attend will accept the course credit you earned during your RN training. If you haven’t yet earned your diploma or ADN, you should do your research to make sure your coursework is transferable to a BSN program later.
What are the licensing requirements for online RN, BSN and RN to BSN programs?
All nursing programs, including RN to BSN, should carry licensing from the State Board of Nursing in the state in which it operates.
How long does an RN to BSN program typically take to complete?
Most RN to BSN programs take 18 months to two years to complete. Ideally, online RN to BSN programs take the same amount of time as brick-and-mortar programs, however time to completion may vary based on a full- or part-time study.
What are the application requirements for an RN to BSN program?
For a RN to BSN program, you will need to first acquire your RN licensing and then apply to the program. If you do not yet possess your RN, you can apply to a BSN program as a freshman or transfer student.
Basic RN requirements
Graduate from an ADP/Diploma/BSN program that is approved by the State Board of Nursing
Passing score on state licensing NCLEX exam
Basic RN to BSN requirements
Current RN license in your state with your ADN/Diploma
Transfer completed coursework
Complete additional coursework and clinical work
What will I learn in a RN to BSN program?
The RN to BSN program will include coursework in research, ethics, leadership, teaching, community/public health, and advanced medical/science coursework, such as epidemiology. You will also need to complete additional non-nursing courses in science or liberal arts. You will also complete coursework in a clinical setting such as a hospital, clinic, or public health facility, where you will be guided by a preceptor (specialist) who oversees your training and evaluation.
Ideally, your program will offer advanced study in science, medicine and patient care, but will also include a foundation in liberal arts, general education and basic sciences.
In any nursing degree – including an online RN program, online BSN program or online RN to BSN program – the more chances you have to work with experienced faculty and professors, the better prepared you will for future academic and professional opportunities.
How do I find the best RN to BSN program for me?
For your best chance of future career success, look for programs that have CCNE or ACEN accreditation, and that also include a clinical component. You should also ensure the program has been licensed and approved by the appropriate State Board of Nursing.
You can search for RN to BSN programs on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s website.
You might also consider RN to BSN programs that provide any or all of the following:
assistance with placement for clinical work and careers
part-time or flexible hours (if you have a full-time job)
flexible start/end dates
statistics on graduation and placement rates
positive reviews from students who have successfully completed the program
support for non-traditional students
resources to support online learning and, preferably, a strong track record in online education