Best Online BSN Degrees 2021

Best Online BSN Degrees 2021

Are you ready to find your fit?

Individuals seeking a rewarding healthcare career with a competitive salary might consider pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). As a four-year degree, a BSN provides comprehensive preparation for many nursing careers.

An increasing number of organizations prefer to hire nurses with a BSN degree.

BSN programs attract thousands of students thanks to growing demand for bachelor's-educated nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% job growth for registered nurses (RNs) between 2019-2029. An increasing number of organizations prefer to hire nurses with a BSN degree.

Numerous institutions nationwide offer bachelor’s in nursing programs. Our list of the best online BSN programs can help aspiring nurses narrow down their options. We also provide details about admissions, expectations, and cost.

Concentration | Tuition | FAQs | Top Nursing Programs

What Is Nursing?

The earliest known reference to professional nursing dates back to 300 AD, when the Roman Empire needed to staff the numerous hospitals spread across its territory. However, modern nursing did not emerge until the mid-19th century when Florence Nightingale challenged social norms for women and became a nurse during the Crimean War. Today, public opinion polls have consistently ranked nursing as the most honest and ethical medical profession.

As of 2019, almost 4.1 million people worked as registered nurses in the United States. Nonetheless, researchers project that the national nursing shortage will continue to increase. To accommodate this growing need, pursuing a nursing career — particularly a BSN — becomes even more relevant.

The nursing field offers job opportunities in hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing care centers, schools, prisons, and even remote settings. RNs work in direct patient care and as researchers, directors, and teachers.

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Why Get a BSN Degree?

Prospective nurses can choose among several educational paths. Learners planning to start work right away may opt for a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) program, which usually takes about a year to complete. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) typically requires two years of study and prepares degree-seekers to practice as RNs after passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

These options allow students to join the nursing workforce quickly, but earning a BSN may offer more benefits in the long run. The comprehensive BSN education covers clinical care, leadership skills, and communication, preparing nurses to better care for their patients.

Earn Higher Pay
In May 2021, Payscale reported that BSN-trained nurses earn an average annual salary of $86,520, compared to $70,700 for those with an ADN. Even for the same position, BSN degree-holders typically earn more.
Choose Between More Opportunities
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, in 2019, 43.2% of employers required nursing applicants to hold a BSN while 82.1% strongly preferred bachelor’s-educated candidates. A BSN also allows nurses to advance to a master’s degree program.
Become a Better Nurse
According to studies conducted in 2019 and 2020, a higher percentage of BSN nurses on staff contributes to reduced hospital mortality and improved patient care.

What to Expect From Nursing Schools Online

An online bachelor’s in nursing closely compares to its in-person counterpart. No matter the classroom setting, these programs center ethics, caring, and integrity, providing a well-rounded education to aspiring nurses. Since the nursing field covers diverse specializations, students can expect varied coursework and many opportunities to explore career interests.

Most BSN programs last about 4 years and require 120 credits. However, many online nursing programs offer an RN-to-BSN curriculum for students who already hold RN licensure. These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete.

Admission Requirements

Most nursing schools expect BSN applicants to complete a pre-nursing program before beginning their course of study. Pre-nursing applicants typically need at least one year each of high school biology and chemistry, two years of math, and a competitive GPA. Other required admission materials may include SAT scores, recommendation letters, transcripts, application fees, and essays.

Pre-nursing students may need to maintain a minimum GPA, usually ranging from 2.5-3.0, in order to begin nursing coursework. Some schools may count AP classes towards general education credits. After completing pre-nursing courses, students may need to apply to the nursing college at their school or another institution. Additionally, some nursing schools require the Assessment Technologies Institute Test of Essential Academic Skills.

Learn more about the application process

Concentration Options

As you explore various schools, consider what courses and specializations each one offers. A nursing concentration can provide the in-depth knowledge to work in a particular area and may lead to increased earning potential. Deciding on a specialization fairly early in your BSN program helps ensure that you choose the right school and classes. Below, we describe a few popular nursing concentrations and how they may affect your course of study.

Pediatric Care

With a concentration in pediatric care, nurses can work in doctor’s offices, schools, or pediatric wards. To prepare for this work, consider taking classes in child development, psychology, and communication.


Students with a knack for business, management, and research might prefer an entrepreneurial specialization. Enrollees may pursue a minor in technology or business to foster nursing innovation.

Case Management

Working closely with patients, families, and insurance companies, case management nurses coordinate patient care. Applicable courses may include leadership, management, and healthcare policy.

Popular Nursing Courses

BSN programs prepare students for the NCLEX-RN and teach the skills needed to become successful nurses. Courses usually include pre-nursing credits, core BSN classes, electives, and senior projects. However, specific expectations vary by school. Most institutions also require internships or clinicals, providing enrollees with necessary hands-on training.

For a glimpse of a BSN curriculum, explore the three courses below:

General Biology and Lab
Most BSN programs require about 40-60 credits of pre-nursing classes such as general biology before entering the core program. This course provides students with a solid understanding of the human body. General biology courses cover subjects such as biological systems and gene theory.
Integrity in Practice
In this core course, nursing students learn about ethical and legal considerations in nursing. Since nurses may face life-or-death decisions, students must understand the Code of Ethics for Nurses, Nurse Practice Acts, and standards of care.
Senior Practicum
Before graduating with a BSN degree, most programs require a practicum combining seminars and clinical practice. This course provides students with the chance to apply everything they have learned and prepare for a nursing position.

How Much Will an Online BSN Program Cost?

Like the curriculum, the cost of an online BSN program varies by school. Some institutions offer classes online and in-person for the same price, while others lower the tuition for online students.

Prestigious schools may charge higher tuition rates, with some programs costing around $25,000 per year. More affordable institutions with online programs may cost $10,000-$15,000 annually. Program type may also affect cost. Traditional BSN programs may cost more than RN-to-BSN bridge programs since students must complete more requirements. In addition to tuition, learners may incur additional fees for books and exams.

To help fund your BSN degree, consider applying for financial aid, starting with the FAFSA. Additional options include loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. For more information on how to choose and apply for financial aid, follow the links below.

Read about finances

Most Affordable Online BSN Degrees

Most Affordable Online BSN Degrees

Choosing the Right Bachelor's Nursing Program

While a rankings list can provide a great starting point in your BSN program search, consider other determining factors such as the following:

  • Accreditation: Third-party accrediting bodies ensure a school meets high academic standards. Plus, future employers may consider only applicants who graduated from accredited programs. The two main accrediting organizations for nursing schools are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Aspiring nurses should also look for programs housed within a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Future Education Opportunities: Some higher-paying positions, such as nurse practitioners, require at least a master’s degree. Students who plan to pursue these jobs should investigate whether their chosen institution offers master’s degrees or combined programs that grant both a BSN and an MSN.

Why You Should Get Your BSN Online

Online learning began in the 1980s with schools like the Electronic University Network and the University of Phoenix. Since then, distance learning has increased in popularity, with the National Center for Education Statistics reporting that 35.3% of postsecondary students took some or all of their classes online in 2018.

Earning a nursing degree online allows learners to study at their own pace and convenience. Current LPNs and RNs may especially benefit from an online BSN program, since they can continue working while pursuing further education in their field.

Online education requires focus, motivation, and time-management skills. However, for students with a quiet place to study and a schedule that can accommodate additional deadlines, an online BSN may provide the ideal educational path.

Review online pathways

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a BSN degree?

BSN stands for bachelor of science in nursing. This four-year program prepares enrollees to practice as registered nurses after taking licensure exams. Nurses planning to earn a master's degree and become advanced practice registered nurses typically need a BSN degree.

Are nursing schools online legit?

Accredited online nursing schools deliver quality education that can lead to ample opportunities after graduation. Check for nursing-specific accreditation from bodies like CCNE and ACEN.

How long does it take to get an online BSN degree?

Most bachelor’s degrees, including online programs, take about four years to complete. Some schools offer shorter BSN programs for students who already hold RN, LPN, or LVN certification.

What is the difference between an RN and a BSN?

A BSN is a bachelor’s degree in nursing, while an RN refers to a registered nurse. Students can pursue RN licensure with either an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Is nursing a good career for the future?

Nurses enjoy an extremely positive job outlook. Between 2019-2029, the BLS projects 7% job growth for registered nurses and 45% job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives.

Best Online BSN Degrees 2021

  1. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL



    Based in Orlando, Florida, UCF operates as a public research university. UCF offers a fully online RN to a BSN program that allows students to earn a respected nursing degree without interrupting their work schedule.

    The bachelor's in nursing program requires students to complete 120 credits. Some of the courses include professional nursing, medical and surgical care, psychosocial nursing, nursing management, public health, leadership, and family nursing. In this program, students gain the clinical experience necessary to work in various healthcare settings with different patient groups.

    UCF requires a GPA of 2.8 from all applicants. Prospective students should also complete seven out of the eight RN to BSN prerequisites before the application period deadline. Only those students residing in Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) states have access to this BSN program. UCF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASCOC).

  2. Western Carolina University

    Cullowhee, NC



    The Western Carolina University operates as a public university based in Cullowhee, North Carolina. WCU offers a fully online RN to BSN program that helps students enhance their nursing knowledge to adapt to the ever-changing healthcare landscape.

    The entire program lasts four semesters. Students complete 24 credits on a part-time basis. Learners also complete six credits of upper-division WCU electives to complete the program.

    To determine their number of transfer credits, transfer students should complete the university distance learning application. This application requires that students submit official transcripts and test scores to the undergraduate admissions office.

    To get accepted into the program, students must hold an unrestricted RN license. The university also requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 and 60 non-nursing credits. WCU's School of Nursing is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  3. Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    A public university based in University Park, Florida, FIU offers a fully online program meant for licensed registered nurses. The bachelor's of science in nursing degree helps registered nurses expand their skills to increase their value to employers.

    In the program, students complete 30 credits of upper-division online coursework and 30 credits of clinical practice. The curriculum covers health and wellness across cultures, community health, and nursing leadership in global healthcare. The program allows for significant flexibility and adaptability to accommodate the demanding schedules of registered nurses. Students can choose from part-time and full-time options. However, they complete the program within nine semesters or three years.

    Applicants must have previously completed 60 lower-division credits. Other admission requirements include an unencumbered Florida RN license and a 2.75 cumulative GPA from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). FIU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASCOC).

  4. New Mexico State University-Main Campus

    Las Cruces, NM



    Based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, NMSU-Main Campus is a public university. The university offers a 4-year bachelor of science nursing degree. The online program provides students with the flexibility needed to access the program from any location.

    Students must meet all requirements to complete the program, including general education requirements, Viewing Wider World requirements, and elective credits. This brings the total to 122 credits, including 48 credits in upper-level courses. All courses require a minimum C- grade.

    Applicants must have a minimum 2.75 GPA in prerequisite nursing courses. Students should also satisfy the basic academic competency requirements in math and English. The New Mexico State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  5. University of Florida-Online

    Gainesville, FL



    The University of Florida-Online offers a fully online degree pathway with hands-on learning experiences, including research and internships. The university offers an RN to BSN degree for RNs with an associate degree in nursing. The part-time program prepares graduates to take on professional positions in various healthcare settings.

    Students gain analytical and information management skills relevant to their nursing careers. Upper-level coursework covers topics like clinical reasoning, nursing ethics, and evidence-based practice. In addition, students must complete a professional nursing seminar.

    Applicants must have an associate degree in nursing with a minimum 2.8 GPA from an NLNAC or ACEN accredited program. Students must complete nursing prerequisites with a minimum C grade before the program. UF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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