Online Nursing SchoolsOnline Nursing Schools

The popularity of online learning has increased rapidly over the last five years, with students flocking to programs that can be taken in part or in full online.

While some degrees can easily be completed entirely online – such as Master of Business Administration, or MBA, degrees – others are harder to fully complete in an online setting. Among the programs which are not always available completely online are nursing degree programs.

Whether online learning is a viable option depends on the type of nursing degree a student is pursuing.

An Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, cannot fully be completed online due to the nature of some of the coursework required.

Diane Ratti, an M.S.N., R.N. and professor of nursing at Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania, said while prerequisites may be taken completely online as part of an associate degree program, the clinical portions of the program must be done in person. “A majority of the courses in associate degrees involve clinicals, and those are not something you can do online. They must be completed in person due to the nature of the work.”

Ratti said she is aware that some graduate and doctorate degree programs provide the majority of their coursework online to make it easier for working professionals to earn an advanced degree, but said that many graduate-level programs include some clinical requirements, and those must be completed in person.

Some graduate and doctorate level programs, as offered by institutions such as Kaplan University, promise a fully-online experience. Kaplan’s Master of Science in Nursing degree, or MSN, can be completed online in roughly two years. Students enrolled in the program will be required to take specialized courses in organizational theory, health care finance, human resources and information/healthcare technologies.

Kaplan also offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree fully online. Students enrolled in this course can expect to take classes in management, research, emerging healthcare therapy trends and professional ethics, among others. The program is designed to be completed in 18 months or less, depending on the number of credit courses students take each semester. A total of 90 to 130 credits must be taken to earn the degree through this online program.

Those who wish to earn an ADN through Kaplan must do so through a blend of online courses and onsite participation, due to the clinical requirements for completing the degree.

Online programs can receive accreditation just like their brick-and-mortar counterparts. To find quality online nursing program, students should ask whether the program has received accreditation through a reputable agency. Reputable agencies include state boards of nursing, the American Association of Colleges for Nursing, or AACN, and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, or NLNAC.

U.S. News and World Report also has ranked the top online graduate nursing degree programs. The top five on their list are:

  • Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. – This institution earned top honors for its online graduate degree programs in nursing. Despite it being a fully-online program, the university earned 80.9 out of 100 in the student engagement category.
  • Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas - Faculty credentials and training earned this online program the second position on U.S. News and World Report’s list of top online nursing degree programs. The university also scored high in the student engagement category. It also is the only program in the top five which scored well in the student services and technology category, with a 79.3.
  • University of Michigan in Flint – This university’s online nursing program received a score of 100 in the faculty credentials and training category, but did not fare as well in the student services and technology area, scoring only a 34.
  • Clarkson College in Omaha, Neb. – This online program scored the highest in the student engagement category, but like the University of Michigan, had dismal numbers in the student services and technology category. Still, its overall score earned it fourth place on the publication’s list for online nursing programs.
  • Graceland University in Independence, Mo.  – The fifth-ranking program on the list earned its highest score in the student engagement division. However, like several of its competitors, it did not earn high marks for student services and technology.


Articles & content by Shari Berg,


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