Online BSN Programs: The Complete Guide [2023]

An overview of online bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN, programs, including enrollment, cost, benefits, next steps, and more.
Online BSN Programs

Nursing is a demanding career, but it's also an incredibly rewarding one. If you dream of one day working as a registered nurse (RN), you probably already know that you have a lot of work ahead of you. As medical professionals who are charged with providing care to ailing patients, nurses must undergo extensive amounts of training and education. In fact, you may think that you don't have enough time to make it happen. However, by availing yourself of online Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, programs, you may be able to get there more easily. Learn everything that you need to know about online BSN programs below.

What are the Basics About Online BSN Programs?

As the name implies, an online BSN program is one that is conducted almost entirely online. Like other forms of distance learning, most of the instruction and work is completed away from campus. Thanks to modern technology, distance learning is more effective and approachable than ever, as students can easily attend lectures, complete labs, and take care of other work on a virtual basis.

Online education is no longer new or different. It has come into its own in many ways, and online BSN programs are making the most of it. Incredibly, enrollment in online schools in general is outpacing enrollment in traditional schools. As busy as most people are, it makes sense that online nursing programs have become so popular. Through online school, busy working adults can take care of their responsibilities while furthering their education.

Why are Online BSN Programs Offered?

In a perfect world, all aspiring nurses would have the freedom to devote themselves to four-year BSN programs on college campuses around the country. However, the truth is that many people just don't have the ability to be on campus on a regular basis. Now that the internet has streamlined our ability to communicate, online education is more effective than ever. Online BSN programs don't just help budding nurses get their start, they allow current nurses to advance their careers and educations while maintaining their busy lives.

What are the Benefits?

Without question, the top benefit of online BSN programs is their flexibility. Rather than having to be in a specific place at a specific time to attend a lecture or to sit down for an exam, online students can complete these tasks on their own schedule. Most programs have weekly goals that must be met; it is up to students to decide when and how the work will be done. If you don't have the time or ability to be on campus regularly, you're sure to appreciate the flexibility of online nursing programs.

Another major advantage of online BSN programs is that they allow busy nurses to advance their credentialing and boost their careers without having to drop everything. Oftentimes, this leads to increased compensation too, which is a huge perk. Thanks to online nursing programs, current and aspiring RNs don't have to miss out on exciting opportunities. The playing field is much more level now, and that's good news not just for nurses, but for their patients as well.

Should You Enroll in an Online BSN Program?

Is completing an online BSN program right for you? It is if you need to earn your BSN, but don't have enough spare time to attend a traditional campus-based program. It also makes sense if you live in a far-flung place where there are no colleges or universities nearby. If you already have an ADN, but want to move up to a BSN, completing an online ADN-to-BSN bridge program may be the easiest and quickest way to go. With all of that being said, you need to be an independent worker, and you must be good at organizing and prioritizing to ensure ongoing progress.

How Can I Find the Right Online BSN Program?

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about online BSN programs is that they are not created equal. Unfortunately, there are many unaccredited, non-legitimate programs out there that will gladly take your money. When you attempt to sit for the NCLEX-RN, however, you may be told that you are not eligible since you did not attend an approved program.

With all of that in mind, it is important to do your homework when looking for online BSN schools. Some tips to help include:


Without question, the most important thing to check about any given BSN program is whether or not it is accredited by a legitimate accreditation body. In the world of nursing programs, only two organizations matter: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE, which primarily deals with baccalaureate-level programs, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN, which deals with programs across all levels. Online BSN programs are held to the same standards as campus-based programs, so you can rest assured that any accredited online program will be up to par. Please note that to be accredited, an online program must have in-person clinical components. Also, programs are occasionally up for review or re-accreditation, so make sure that you have the latest information.

Clinical Requirements

To be accredited, an online BSN program must have an in-person clinical experience and training requirement. Although virtual training is available on a limited basis, it is not yet accepted by the major accreditation bodies. Before enrolling in an online program, find out about its clinical training requirements. Make sure that you will be able to meet them.


Finally, depending on where you live, you may have to choose an online BSN program that permits residents of your state. In other words, some programs only accept students from some states. The last thing that you need is to find a promising program and to register, only to learn that you live in the wrong state. Please note that this does not apply to all programs, as many are open to students from all 50 states.

How Much Do Online BSN Programs Cost?

Online BSN programs tend to cost a bit less than traditional programs because there is less overhead. However, most online programs are tied in with campus-based programs, and they follow their schedules. As a result, tuition for online training tends to be fairly in line with tuition for on-campus education. Online programs vary in price just as much as campus-based programs do, and the cost of such programs is influenced by all kinds of factors. Happily, scholarships and other forms of financial aid are typically available and can help considerably.

How Long Do Online BSN Programs Take?

A traditional bachelor of science in nursing program takes about four years to complete. Therefore, most online BSN programs take around the same length of time. Just as there are accelerated BSN programs on college campuses, there are accelerated BSN programs online as well. These programs can often be completed in just three years. There are also bridge programs that take your previous education and experience into consideration. For example, you may be able to complete an ADN-to-BSN bridge program in just two or three years.

What are Common Prerequisites of Online BSN Programs?

The prerequisites that you may face for an online BSN program will vary from one school to the next. However, you will most likely need to complete some general education requirements first. Some programs may require you to have your CPR certification or other credentials. Inquire with any program that you are considering to ensure that you have all of the necessary prerequisites out of the way.

Are Any Supplies Required?

Attending an online BSN program tends to be a lot more "streamlined" than attending a campus-based program. Unlike the latter, where you have to carry around heavy textbooks and notebooks and other supplies, you can take care of just about everything from the comfort of home with online training. However, you do need a laptop or other device to get online. You will almost certainly need some sort of word processing software, and you will definitely need a reliable internet connection. Other than that, you'll just need the usual school supplies like pencils and notebooks.

What Should I Do Next?

The main objectives of any BSN program are to prepare students to be effective nurses and to prepare them to pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. The same applies to online BSN schools. Once you have completed the requirements of an accredited online BSN program, you will be eligible to sit for the exam. This is the last hurdle before obtaining your RN license, and this is also why it's so crucial to complete a reputable online program.

What are Top 10 Best Online BSN Programs in 2023?

You are sure to find at least one college or university that offers an online BSN program in your state. Following is a list of top-rated schools offering accredited online BSN programs. Even if you don't see a school from your state below, you have the option of relocation if possible, or simply keep in mind that this is just a list of only a few schools – which means if any school of your state hasn't made the list, it doesn't mean there aren't any excellent schools offering state-approved BSN programs in your state. It is important to mention here that online BSN programs are not conducted entirely online. This is because you also have to attend clinical training, which can only be completed in a healthcare setting.

  1. AdventHealth University

    Online School (407) 303-9798
  2. Arkansas State University

    Online School (866) 621-8096
  3. Chamberlain University

    Online School (877) 751-5783
  4. Florida International University

    Online School (855) 449-2589
  5. Jacksonville University

    Online School (904) 256-8000
  6. Pennsylvania State University

    Online School (814) 865-5403
  7. University of Central Florida

    Online School (407) 823-2744
  8. University of Florida

    Online School (352) 273-6400
  9. University of Wisconsin

    Online School (608) 263-5202
  10. West Virginia University

    Online School (304) 293-6841

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