Online Nursing Degree
There are online educational options for nurses at just about any stage, from those just starting out to experienced nurses who want to pursue graduate-level study and become advanced practitioners. Take a look at the various online degrees available in nursing as well as the outcome of each.
Associate degree (ADN)
The online ADN is the quickest path to becoming a nurse, taking about two years to complete for candidates without any prior higher education. People who wish to enter the workforce as soon as possible often choose this degree, and then pursue more advanced education after they have gained some professional working experience.
Bachelor’s degree (BSN)
Online bachelor’s degrees in nursing typically take four years to complete for full-time students. Online, it can be pursued at an accelerated pace, but many RNs work toward their BSNs part-time while continuing to work. In addition to core coursework in nursing and science, the BSN mandates that students take liberal arts courses to round out their education. While not immediately relevant to everyday nursing duties, the broader education can open doors to leadership positions. Moreover, several states either require (or are in the process of requiring) that RNs hold at least a BSN.
Master’s degree (MSN)
Those who wish to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)—such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners—must earn at least a master’s degree. Full-time online MSN programs, roughly 60 graduate-level credits, take about two years to complete. MSNs are ideal for nurses who want to specialize, even in nonclinical healthcare roles.
Doctorate degree (DNP or PhD)
The doctorate is a terminal degree for nurses who want to be independent practitioners; programs typically, but not always, require a bachelor’s for entry. Because there are different specializations for APRNs, the length of time to complete a doctorate varies. Three years is a reasonable time frame for a student beginning with a BSN; those with a master’s might finish in two. Although a doctorate is not necessary for most careers, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that DNPs (Doctor of Nursing Practice) be required for APRNs. Another option for doctoral study is the PhD degree; the key difference between a DNP and PhD is that the former focuses on clinical practice while the latter is a research-oriented degree.