Registered nurses provide patient care and education in multiple health care settings including hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, prisons, rehabilitation centers and schools. A distance learning nursing degree opens additional career possibilities for graduates. People interested in a nursing career can pursue one of three educational routes to obtain their initial licensure: an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree or a diploma in nursing. Licensure as a registered nurse requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) after completion of a nursing educational program.
While all three nursing educational paths allow licensed graduates to practice in hospital settings, higher degrees offer career options outside a hospital. Jobs as school or community health nurses, for example, require bachelor’s degrees. In addition, management jobs and psychiatric nursing jobs often require, or at least prefer, a BSN. To be an active duty nurse in any branch of the U.S. armed forces also requires a BSN degree. Since the BSN is a prerequisite for graduate study, nursing careers that require an MSN require a BSN. Examples include teaching in a nursing school, becoming a nurse practitioner, becoming a clinical nurse specialist, becoming a midwife and becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).
The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission provides national accreditation for nursing programs. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education also accredits many nursing programs.
Types of Distance Learning Nursing (RN Required) Degrees
Four types of distance learning nursing degrees for people who already have nursing licenses exist. RN to BSN programs award baccalaureate degrees to licensed RNs with associate degrees or hospital diplomas. MSN degree programs award master’s degrees to nurses with BSN degrees. RN to MSN degree programs award MSN degrees to nurses with associate degrees or hospital diplomas. Some RN to MSN programs offer a BSN and an MSN, while others offer only an MSN. The fourth type of distance nursing program is the online doctoral program in nursing.
RN Degree Courses
Students in online RN programs usually complete their non-clinical courses online and complete their clinical requirements at a medical facility in their community. BSN programs require general education courses like English, math, sociology and psychology as well as science courses like Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology and Chemistry. Many programs also require child development, pharmacology and statistics.
Online masters and doctoral programs in nursing require leadership, research, management and informatics courses. Depending upon the specific program, they may also require clinical courses. Nurse practitioner masters programs, for example, involve clinical courses in the nursing specialty area for which they train nurse practitioners.
Benefits of Online RN Degrees
The main benefit of an online RN degree program is that it allows practicing nurses to schedule their studies around their job and family responsibilities. Distance learning RN degrees also allow students to further their education without having to relocate to attend courses on a traditional college campus.
Tuition and Scholarships
RN students who work while completing their studies may be eligible for tuition remission through their employers. Students should also check local, state, and federal government scholarship sources. Many online programs also offer scholarships, and students should check with organizations like the National Student Nurses’ Association.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly salary for a registered nurse in 2010 was $31.10, and the median annual salary for nurses was $64,690. The need for nurses is expected to increase by 26 per cent by 2020, too, making this career one with excellent prospects for continued long-term employment.