As baby boomers quickly reach retirement age, the number of nursing jobs and nursing programs in the United States is growing dramatically.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) will grow by 25% by the year 2022 and demand for Registered Nurses (RNs) will increase by 19%.
About Online Nursing Programs and Degrees
With multiple levels of nursing degrees and jobs available, there is a lot of opportunity for advancement within this field.
Nursing works on somewhat of a ladder system, with each level of degree building on the last and matching up to a specific job. From one year LPN programs to doctoral degrees, there are online programs for all levels.
Due to the human aspect of the profession, it is impossible to get a nursing degree without some type of face to face interaction. Even if all classes are offered online, clinical work will need to be done with a local health care facility. This can be especially beneficial for students wishing to further their education because it makes working while obtaining your degree not only easier but also necessary.
Online Nursing Degrees Offered
Students interested in nursing can pursue various levels of degrees offered online.
Medical Assistant (MA)
Although not technically a nursing degree, medical assistants are often thought of as nurses–they perform some similar tasks. A MA diploma can be earned in a one year program.
MAs perform both clinical and administrative duties like patient intake, recording information, drawing blood for lab work, preparing instruments, assisting in minor surgeries and exams, giving shots, and obtaining EKGs.
Nursing Diploma/Certificate – Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Since nursing degrees build on each other, a nursing diploma or certificate is the first step to becoming a nurse. The nursing diploma or certificate is typically earned after the first year of an Associate’s Degree in nursing and is obtained after passing a certification test.
Associate of Science in Nursing (A.S.N.) – Registered Nurse (RN)
An ASN is the next step in nursing which leads to becoming a registered nurse (RN). This is a two-year Associate’s Degree, which can be earned through a community college and is often earned in an ASN to BSN format, which builds heavily off of the ASN degree. An ASN is earned through a mix of classroom and practical, clinical teaching. Students will gain experience in a vast number of areas of health care including medical, surgical, geriatric, maternal-child, pediatric, and mental health.
RNs work in hospitals and health care facilities to provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients, their families and the public about various health conditions, assist patients both emotionally and physically, and help to advise patients.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N)
A Bachelor’s Degree in nursing is a four year degree and is the most in demand degree in the field. As with any Bachelor’s Degree, general education requirements must be met as well as degree requirements. Obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree will give you more technical and leadership training which will allow you more opportunities within the field.
Many programs offer a RN to BSN program which is tailored for working RNs to further their education.
Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N)
As with obtaining a BSN after an ASN, many programs are designed to build on previous experience. Earning a Master’s Degree in nursing generally involves specializing into a particular area such as administration, education, or becoming a nurse practitioner.
By specializing in a particular area of nursing, MSNs increase their opportunities for advancement within their field.
Doctorate of Nursing (PhD)
This is an academic degree that is mostly related to research. Generally, it’s the highest degree in the nursing field. Nurses who hold their PhDs are often involved in research and education.
What to Look For in an Online Nursing Degree Program
When looking into any online program it is important to do in depth research. This is especially important when considering online nursing programs due to the clinical experience required.
Nursing is a field that is heavily regulated by state so take a careful look at the accrediting body. If the program is not well respected in your state, it may be better to look into another program.
The wonderful thing about online nursing programs, is that you need to be in a clinical environment while you are taking classes, which makes working while you earn your degree much easier.
As with any degree, you should still take a close look at your finances and any costs you may incur during your program of study. Nursing requires certain clothing and equipment so be sure to look into any extras that may come up along the way.
Nursing courses vary depending on the level of degree that you will be receiving but they all have both classroom and clinical aspects. You can expect to study science-heavy subjects like chemistry, human physiology and anatomy, biology, psychology, microbiology, and nursing science.
If you are pursuing a degree through a online program, the clinical portion may take place at a local health care facility, or you may be required to travel to another area for a couple of weeks or months to complete your clinicals.
Skills / Experience
A nursing degree differs from many other degrees in that it requires face-to-face interaction. When looking for an online nursing program be sure that the one you choose offers a balance of both online and clinical experience that will give you the skills and experience you need to get a job after graduation.