Can You Get a Nursing Degree Online? (And Should You?)
Since remote learning began, there have been questions about how it can apply to healthcare. Students and hiring managers have asked, “Can you get a nursing degree online that qualifies you to work as a nurse?”
More and more students are embracing online degrees, also known as distance education and remote learning. Through online learning platforms, they can be at home rather than on campus to take classroom instruction. There are more than 600 schools in the U.S. that offer online BSN programs. Of those, more than 250 also offer RN to BSN programs, and nearly 150 offer graduate nursing programs.
There are many opportunities to find an online nursing program, but how does online learning in the nursing field stack up against traditional classroom instruction? There are eight pros and cons when looking at online nursing programs.
1. The Convenience of Online Classes
Not having to drive to campus and spend hours in classrooms is very convenient. This makes it possible for many prospective nurses to balance school with their already busy work and family schedules.
As many people found during mandatory work-at-home situations during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, working at home is not a good option for everyone. Noisy children, spouses, pets, distractions, and physical conditions that didn’t provide needed equipment or enough workspace at home can cause stress. Additionally, you may feel isolated to the point that it interferes with your productivity.
2. The Time It Takes to Earn a Degree Online
This depends on how you look at it. It generally takes longer to get your degree online because you can take your time studying online, rather than sticking to a traditional semester or quarter schedule.
If you’re in a hurry to get your degree, you must ensure the school offers online classes that work with your timeline.
3. The Cost of Online Nursing Programs
An online nursing program will cost less in most instances because you won’t have to pay site-based campus fees for transportation, student union fees, or student activity fees. You’ll also save on transportation getting back and forth to campus. Online education programs are open to financial aid, just like in-person learning. You can utilize the same FAFSA application as other students to determine what assistance you can receive.
None. Online wins this one.
4. The Quality of Online Education
Can you get a nursing degree online that is as good as traditional learning? Online programs can be just as robust as on-campus learning. Thoroughly research any program you are considering to make sure the school has accreditation from one of these governing bodies:
- The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) offers accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- The National League of Nursing (NLN) offers accreditation by the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).
Also, look at online nursing programs offered by schools with top-ranked campus programs.
Unfortunately, there are online nursing schools that are not accredited or appear to have full-fledged programs but give you a useless certificate rather than a diploma. Research and contact one of the accreditation organizations to be sure you are enrolling in a bona fide nursing school.
5. Hands-On Experience
This is a sticking point for many who are wary of online nursing degrees. First, you cannot graduate from a program without doing your state’s required number of clinical hours in a healthcare setting. Most online schools will help you find somewhere near home for clinical work.
Your clinical requirements for a BSN can vary, but may be as many as 800 hours, so you’ll have to be near a hospital or clinic. If you’re opting for online classes to save time, keep in mind that you would still need to devote time to complete in-person clinical hours.
6. Peer Interaction
If you learn better in a group setting, ask about class formats before you commit to an online program. Many teachers utilize interactive video calls to present classwork. Some set up chat boards for discussion and work to develop online communities for their students to collaborate.
Some online programs have little to no human interaction. The “on-demand” programs let you view pre-recorded lectures, read textbook materials at your own pace, and take electronic tests. This gives you no chance to ask questions or interact with your professor or other students in real time.
7. Technology and Space
Many online schools provide students with laptops and other materials. Do some research to find clever ways to set up a home office or study area in small spaces.
Can you get a nursing degree online if the school does not provide technology? Keep in mind that you’ll need a laptop and internet connection to participate in online classes.
8. How Employers View Online Degrees
As online learning has expanded, employers are more open than they were a decade ago. Most employers have favorable views of degrees earned online and will rely more on your clinical work when making a hiring decision.
An employer not completely sold on online degrees may ask additional questions to verify your qualifications. This may include proof of the school’s accreditation, and they may delve deeper into your clinical experience to make sure you are qualified.
Make Time for School by Setting Your Own Work Schedule
With your current work schedule, can you get a nursing degree online? You can when you are in control of when and where you work. IntelyCare lets you have the best of both worlds. To find out more, start your application today.