Earning Your Nursing Degree Online
Considering a degree in nursing, but can’t find the time for all of the in-person classes? Online nursing programs are on the rise. In fact, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, online nursing programs have grown by more than 30% in the last two years.
And it’s no wonder: jobs in nursing are expected to grow 16% by 2024 — quicker than the average for any other occupation. As people are living longer, and there are higher instances of chronic health problems, nurses are in high demand. Experienced registered nurses can expect a median salary of $68,450.
In online nursing programs, a combination of traditional lecture-style courses and online seminars allow busy adults to increase their earning potential and advance their career, all while balancing other work and family obligations. Students complete the same curriculum, but with a more flexible schedule. Even online nursing programs that include an in-person clinical component have flexible terms, allowing students to complete clinicals through labs on campus, at local hospitals, or at their hospital of employment.
Costs vary depending on which institution you choose, but online nursing programs are typically cheaper than their in-person counterparts, as students are not required to pay fees for on-campus facilities or technology costs.
Job Outlook for Nursing Graduates
Graduates from any type of college degree program usually have one thing on their minds: will I be able to find a job? Luckily for those who have completed nursing degrees from accredited online nurse practitioner programs, job placement rates for recent graduates at every level of nursing are considerably higher than other fields.
These rates will vary slightly based on the graduate’s institution, but where the applicant resides in the U.S. does have significant bearing on their job future. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that for those graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the West have a 41% job placement rate after graduation, compared with their counterparts from the South at 70%. Job placement rates also go up significantly with the attainment of advanced degrees.
The AACN also found that employers show preference to nursing candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Research has shown that nurses with this degree provide better care, causing lower death rates and increased patient outcomes. One AACN study surveyed 582 nursing schools, and found that while only 47.4% of them require new nursing hires to have at least a bachelor’s degree, 83.5% of employers at said nursing schools have at least a preference for hiring nursing candidates who have a bachelor-level education.
A 2014 study by the National Association of Colleges found that of the nearly 44,000 students surveyed in all majors, only 29.3% had job offers at the time of their graduation. For those graduating with a degree in nursing, however, prospects are much higher.
|Job Placement % After Graduation||Job Placement % 4-6 months After Graduation||Average Salary After Graduation||Average Salary with 5 Years Experience|
|Bachelor of Science in Nursing||61%||90%||$51,896||$75,072|
|Master of Science in Nursing||73%||94%||$86,056||$90,625|
Types of Nursing Careers
Geriatric nurses work with elderly patients, as they are often in need of acute, frequent care. Geriatric nurses receive a general education in nursing, but also have the added expertise of caring for older populations and those who are at greater risk of illness and injury. Typically, nurses in this field help with administering medication, pain management, and assisting with rehabilitation after a patient is injured.
Geriatric staff nurses earn an average annual salary of $66,295.
Nurse midwives can be trained through online family nurse practitioner programs to provide care during childbirth, and at the prenatal and postpartum stages of pregnancy. They track development of the fetus, perform gynecological exams, and work with expectant mothers on proper nutrition and care for themselves and the baby.
Nurse midwives earn an annual average salary of $107,460.
Nurses in oncology work with both patients who have been diagnosed with cancer as well as those at risk of the disease. They prescribe medication, perform chemotherapy, and administer other treatments. Oncology nurses track patient care, maintain lab and pathology results, and advocate for patients to help them better understand their diagnoses.
Oncology nurse practitioners can earn an annual average salary of $101,672.
Neonatal nurses work with newborns who have health issues or problems, including those having experienced a premature birth or suffering from a congenital defect. The neonatal period is defined as the first four weeks of life, but since some of these issues last longer than a month, neonatal nurses may care for babies for much longer. Nurses monitor babies using specialized equipment like incubators and ventilators, administer medication and specialized feedings, and provide support and education to the baby’s family.
Neonatal nurse practitioners earn a median annual average salary of $95,106.
Nurses in pediatrics work with children all the way through young adulthood. Pediatric nurses perform developmental screenings, and check vitals and growth during wellness visits. They often administer immunizations and vaccinations, and examine symptoms to help diagnose potential illnesses in young patients.
Pediatric nurse practitioners earn an annual average salary of $89,792.
Types of Nursing Degrees
Depending on the type of nursing job you are looking to pursue, there are various levels of nursing degrees. When selecting the degree that’s right for you, consider your individual career aspirations and the time commitment it requires.
|Degree Level||Definition||Possible Concentrations||Median Annual Salary|
|Associate||ASNs focus on technical skills in two year program. Students take courses in nursing, anatomy, and biology, and are required to complete a clinical component.||Paramedic ASN, Registered nurse||$59,540|
|RN to BSN||This is a two-year bridge-program for RNs that want to become BSNs, allowing previous courses and work experience as credit toward the program.||Staff nurse, Nurse midwife||$68,450|
|Bachelor’s||3-4 year program that includes both general education requirements and nursing science classes.||Nursing Manager, Nursing specialists: ICU, emergency room, operating room||$61,765|
|Master’s||The MSN takes 18-24 months, and allows students to specialize in an area of nursing interest, such as pediatrics or psychiatry.||Nurse administrator, Nurse educator||$72,829|
Nursing Certifications and Licensing
For nurses, a license is more than just a piece of paper that allows you to practice: it’s a confirmation to yourself and to your patients that you have mastered the coursework and training necessary to provide excellent nursing care. Each state, as required by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, mandates that graduating nurses take one of two licensing exams.
Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but are generally comprised of nursing education, a passing score on the licensing exam, and the character of the applicant. These requirements are evaluated by the Nursing State Board in the state in which you will be practicing.
For LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses) and LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses), states require completion of an accredited educational program, most of which are about a year in length, and include coursework in biology, nursing, and pharmacology. From there, candidates for licensure have to take the NCLEX exam, an online test that evaluates competency in safe and effective care, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. Full licensure, in addition to passing the NCLEX exam, includes successful background checks and character references for the nursing candidate.
Licenses must be renewed every few years; renewal requires a small fee and confirmation that any out-of-state licensees are in good standing.
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicts 1.6 million new jobs for nurses through the year 2020. As the need for nurses continues to grow, and many organizations and hospitals have taken note, there is an increasing number of scholarship opportunities to help potential nursing students with the cost of their education.
Foundations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have created initiatives and funds to support future nurses, citing that “nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.” Even the US Health Resources and Services Administration has joined in the efforts, offering scholarships for tuition and fees through their NURSE Corps Scholarship Program. Below are just some of the scholarships available to those interested in pursuing or advancing their career in nursing:
- Geraldine 'Polly' Bednash Scholarship
This scholarship is awarded to students enrolled in a bachelor’s or advanced degree nursing program at any American Association of Colleges of Nursing school affiliated with Castle Branch. Students must have a 3.2 GPA in current school or last school attended in order to qualify.
- Amount: $5,000
- Deadline: January 31, April 30, July 31, and October 31
- Hurst Review Services
In partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the scholarship is awarded to students pursuing professional nursing degrees. Students must attend an AACN school to be eligible for the award.
- Amount: $2,500
- Deadline: January 15 and July 15
- American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Professional Development Scholarship
The scholarship supports students in order to advance health professionals who want to enhance their leadership skills. Applicants must be a licensed nurse interested in professional development to qualify.
- Amount: $1,500
- Deadline: December 1
- NURSE Corps Scholarship Program
This scholarship promotes learning for students enrolled in an accredited nursing program at any level, who do not have federal liens or federal debt.
- Amount: Varied, including tuition, fees, learning costs, and monthly stipend
- Deadline: May 2017
- National Black Nurses Association Scholarship
This scholarship is awarded to multiple nurses who wish to advance their careers through continuing education. Applicants must be a member of NBNA in a local chapter, enrolled and in good standing in a nursing program, and with at least one year of school left.
- Amount: $1,000-$6,000
- Deadline: Varies
Joining a professional organization is like hanging out with a group of your friends who can relate to you and who have your back. They all understand the latest nursing lingo and have relatable on-the-job stories. Professional organizations are great for nurses at every level, whether they are still in school or ten years into the job. They can help members find jobs, connect with mentors, and offer opportunities for professional development. These organizations are also great for students enrolled in online nurse practitioner programs and online nursing programs, bringing networking opportunities to students from all over the country. Professional organizations keep their members informed of changes and updates in the field, and encourage continuing education and certification opportunities.
Fees and membership dues vary for professional organizations, but most offer discounted rates for students and young professionals. Some organizations even offer scholarship awards to college students studying in the field. There are a variety of professional organizations out there to fit the specific needs of its members, including this sample selection below:
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners: AANP is the largest national membership organization for nurse practitioners, holding annual conferences and offering free continuing education opportunities. Members pay annual dues of $135 ($55 for students) and receive a daily SmartBrief newsletter, filling them in on the most recent news and events for nurse practitioners.
- American Nursing Association: The ANA represents registered nurses by advocating for the rights and well-being of practicing nurses. The ANA offers members discounts on personal insurance costs, ANCC certification testing costs, and annual Nursing Quality Conference expenses.
- National League for Nursing: The NLN works with those in nursing education, offering professional development, networking, and advocacy on public policy initiatives. The NLN publishes a bimonthly research journal, and gives members (dues are $150 for professionals, $80 for graduate students) access to their annual education summit, educational webinars, and discounts toward the Certified Nurse Educator exam.
- Academy of Neonatal Nursing: ANN is dedicated to the continuing education and development of neonatal nurses, and offers members access to peer-reviewed publications, online resources, and annual conferences. Annual dues cost $105 ($50 for students), and include discounts to conferences and access to an archive of online learning materials.
- American Assembly for Men in Nursing: The AAMN supports men in the nursing profession by encouraging their education, practice, and leadership. Membership ($100 for professionals, $30 for students) is open to both males and females, and includes voting privileges at committee meetings, access to quarterly newsletters and reports, and discounts to the annual AAMN conference.
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN represents academic nurses and promotes advancements in nursing education and research. The AACN releases an annual guide to Graduate Nursing Programs, and offers member schools ($2,492 for first-year dues) access to national leadership networks, free continuing education credits, and connections to mentors in the field.
Open Courseware is a convenient and worthwhile resource for both beginners just entering the field and seasoned professionals alike. Classes are available online, for free, and provide high-level, institution-designed information for all to view.
If you’re switching careers or coming into nursing as a newbie, nursing-related Open Courseware can help you get your feet wet, learn some of the terms and jargon, and get you prepared for official coursework once your college classes start.
If you’re a nursing veteran, Open Courseware can help you brush up on your skills. In an ever-changing health field, continuing education for nurses is critical. It’s important to constantly refresh your knowledge of the basics and essentials of patient care and to learn new medical standards and research. Those in the medical profession also have to contend with frequent updates to technology and industry protocols. Time constraints and limited financial resources can prohibit nurses from keeping up to date on these changes, and can limit their ability to take additional classes. Open Courseware is a flexible alternative to stay up to date on industry standards and on top of your game. Below are a few options for available courses:
Nursing for Beginners
- Nursing Concepts: Liberty University
- Nursing Fundamentals: Kaplan University
- General Human Anatomy: University of California Berkeley
- Chemistry for Nursing Professionals: Liberty University
- Nursing Studies – Communication and Transcultural Factors: Army Medical Department
- Population-Based Nursing Care: East Tennessee State University
- Managing Long-Term Care Services for Aging Populations: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Acute Adult Nursing: Birmingham City University
The Business of Nursing
- Leading Healthcare Quality & Safety: The George Washington University
- Professional Issues in Nursing: University of Massachusetts
- Caring in Hospitals: The Open University
- Managed Care and Health Insurance: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
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