Online Nursing Degrees

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It’s true, nursing can be studied online. How is this possible? Not that long ago, the U.S. Department of Education invested $45 million into Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships (LAAP). These partnerships between the Department of Education and a few post-secondary education institutions helped get the ball rolling for online courses. The main goal for some of the funding was to prevent a scarcity of nurses by increasing the availability of nursing education programs. The foreseen shortage of nurses was deemed critical and still is. A secondary goal was to standardize, as much as possible, nursing education and licensure between states by creating a “one size fits all” online nursing program. As a result of the LAAP, many colleges and universities offer online degree programs and more schools join the bandwagon each year.

Because nursing tends to be very hands on, online nursing degrees require some type of experience and background in the field prior to enrollment. This brings piece of mind to the patient that their nurse has had practice with the various medical treatments he/she administers. Although online technology is advancing exponentially, it is not where it needs to be yet. It is difficult to simulate caring for a live person online, which is the basis of nursing, so it will be some time before technology is able to replace nursing clinicals.

A very popular route for those that integrate online learning into their nursing education, is to spend 2 years obtaining an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) followed by completing a Bachelor’s Degree program online. Several schools offer RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs online, such as Colorado Technical University, University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, and Liberty University, among many others. The RN to BSN program is convenient because you can find a job as an RN (even with random, long working shifts) while benefiting from the flexibility of the online BSN program.

Some employer’s may even offer tuition reimbursement because they want to invest in more knowledgeable employees. If tuition reimbursement is not an option for you, working as an RN while getting a BSN is still a good option. It allows you to have a good job where you are earning a good paycheck and gaining experience to enhance your resume, so you are more marketable once you do have your bachelor’s. Online nursing degrees also offer you the flexibility of working in the field at the same time as you are pursuing your completion degree, whereas a campus schedule could be hard to synchronize with your work schedule.

Don’t have an ADN? Some schools offer an option to obtain a graduate degree in nursing even if your Bachelor’s is in something else. Another option to consider is schools that offer general and prerequisite classes online while requiring a few offline courses or clinicals to complete the degree.

There is a trend in nursing- the more education you have in the field, the more emphasis is placed on soft skills and leadership roles. This is why graduate degrees are readily available online,but diplomas and associate, where hands-on experience is gained and required, are not. Higher degrees will prepare you for consulting, teaching, administrative, research, and leadership positions, while entry level degrees will get you into hands-on, entry level nursing jobs.

Online degrees have gained ground in becoming more credible. A recent survey done by Zogby International found that about 83% of executives nationwide feel that online degrees can be just as credible as traditional campus degrees. That said, it is a good idea to check with your hopeful future employer to make sure your online degree is accepted.

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