In today’s fast-paced world, people looking to switch or advance their careers have plenty of options. Many institutions offer online programs, while others have hybrid programs comprising in-person training and online coursework. These programs provide unparalleled flexibility for professionals looking to advance their education.
If you want to get into a nursing career, earning your degree through online programs can be an excellent choice if you want to study while still working or fulfilling other obligations. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, enrolling in second degree BSN online programs can allow you to become a nurse in the shortest time possible.
However, with so many online nursing programs available, choosing the right program for your specific needs and career goals can be difficult. Here are a few crucial things to consider when choosing the best online nursing program:
1.Type of Program
The first consideration in selecting the ideal online nursing program is determining the type of nursing program that will help you achieve your career goals. You can choose to enroll in a bachelor’s, an associate’s degree, or a master’s degree program, depending on your professional experience, educational background, and career goals. For instance, if you’re already a registered nurse and want to specialize in a particular nursing field, a master’s program can be the right choice for you. You may also consider an RN-to-MSN bridge program if you want to earn your degree in less time.
Next, you need to ensure the online nursing program you choose is fully accredited. Choosing an accredited nursing program ensures that it meets the educational standards of the governing body. Selecting a non-accredited nursing program can hinder your admission into another program, eligibility for financial support, ability to transfer credits, eligibility for licensing, and even your qualification for jobs. It’s vital that you ensure your chosen nursing program and institution are accredited.
Check that the nursing program is accredited by accreditation bodies like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). For an institution and a nursing program to get accredited, it must undergo a rigorous review process to ensure it offers the required standard of education possible.
3. Length of Program and Time Requirements
Once you’ve checked the accreditation of the online nursing program, you need to determine how long the program will take you to complete. Knowing the length of the program and the coursework’s tie requirements will help you determine the amount of time you should set aside for studies. This is especially important if you’re a professional looking to switch careers.
Some schools offer self-paced programs, while others offer a structured schedule. Ask the school whether there are set class times, or they’ll allow you to complete the coursework at your convenience. Some online nursing programs, like BSN, will take you about four years to complete, while others require less than two years of coursework.
4. Prerequisites and Requirements
Another factor to consider before enrolling in an online nursing program is the admission requirements. Some online programs, especially those with direct-entry or accelerated options, often require you to have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Others, like BSN programs, may require prerequisite courses. This helps show academic aptitude and the potential for success in online nursing programs.
Online nursing programs require you to fulfill prerequisites to demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles crucial in the nursing field. Check whether your chosen program has a minimum GPA requirement or requires ACT or SAT scores for admission. You also need to know whether you can transfer your previous course credits to the current program and if you’ll get credit for work experience. Understanding the specific prerequisites and requirements for each online nursing program can help you narrow down your options.
5. Clinical Requirements
Clinical work gives you valuable real-world experience and prepares you for state licensing exams. Clinical requirements usually vary by program. Some online programs, like bachelor’s and associate’s, require you to complete about 700 clinical hours, while most master’s programs require about 1,000 hours of clinical work to graduate. Bridge programs often don’t require you to complete as many clinical hours to graduate, saving you lots of time and money.
To avoid the hassle of looking for clinical placement, choose an online nursing program with placement coordinators who’ll find a clinical setting near you and organize supervised experiences. This will allow you to focus on your nursing studies. Ensure you consider the time you’ll take in clinical and whether you’ll need to search for clinical experiences on your own or the school will set up for you.
6. Student Support
Most importantly, choose an online nursing program that offers students educational and career support. To determine the support an institution offers its students, check its graduation rate, retention rate, loan default rate, and job attainment rate. Inquire about the student-to-faculty ratio to know how easily you can access faculty members. Ask if the school offers career placement assistance to its students. You may also need to ask previous graduates or current students about their experiences to help you make an informed decision.
Online nursing programs are an excellent choice, whether you’re switching or advancing your career. Now that you know what to look for when choosing an online nursing program, you can be confident that the program you choose will meet your unique needs and help you achieve your career goals.