A Guide to Online RN Programs

The Nursing Profession

The greatest luminary of the nursing profession, oftentimes regarded as the mother of modern day nursing, is Florence Nightingale, whose selfless work and diligence helped establish undeniably high standards for the profession. Her attachment to the profession was so profound that she had already made a decision to pursue nursing at the age of sixteen. In spite of her affluent family background, she gave herself out to care for sick people in her village. Later, Nightingale cared for sick soldiers during the war then eventually got engaged in modelling nursing education and training. Anyone who wants to become a nurse should strive to identify with the selflessness, determination, direction and purpose exhibited by Nightingale.


What does it take to become a Registered Nurse?

Besides the good school grades and the desire to gain entry into healthcare practice, a nurse is regarded as quite a special individual both by the parent and fellow healthcare workers. In colleges of health sciences, nursing has been termed as one of the toughest programs for, besides learning about nursing practice, a nurse has to measure up to a doctor’s knowledge and/or experience because they work together in almost all important levels of patient care. To become a nurse, one needs to understand the sacrifice they will be making and commit to lifelong learning through continuous medical education, as well as management and leadership training whenever the need arises.

To become a registered nurse (RN), one needs to first earn the requisite nursing diploma or degree, then undertake the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. This is the national examination that is mandatory for all who have studied nursing before they can receive a license and start practice. Once an individual has obtained the professional license, they are now able to explore the vast world of career and training opportunities available in the field of nursing.

Roles of Nurses

A nurse does not simply take patient weight and blood pressure measurements all day. Their duties are actually much more advanced, especially in the modern healthcare industry which prioritizes holistic care that spans mental, cultural and spiritual needs.

Nurses often have to make decisions regarding patient evaluation, management and assessing the outcomes of the various interventions. To accomplish this, nurses need to master communicating with patients from all walks of life and with all types of needs, as well as ensuring patient rights are protected at all times. Lastly, the nurse must know how to teach or train the patient since in most cases the patient will need to go back home or spend some time in the absence of caregivers. It is, therefore, important for patients to know how to observe medication dosages and other aspects of care necessary for their healing and recovery.

A nurse can practice in the hospital or community setting. Acute nursing care is usually practiced in specialized hospitals, but general practice can be done in community level healthcare facilities where a nurse can hold both patient care as well as a management role. Acute nursing care requires specialist nurses to provide neonatal, outpatient, theater, neurology, oncology or neurology nursing care. In the community there are also schools, institutions, company, and organization clinics where many nursing roles exist.


Areas of Practice in Nursing

As noted above, once someone has been placed in a particular nursing role, their day to day work will involve several aspects of care beyond direct patient care and education. Notable areas where roles will lie are health facility administration, patient case management, design, implementation and evaluation of patient care procedures, participation in clinical research, data collection, analysis and leadership. The other area that a nurse can find employment is at teaching programs in nursing schools and health science colleges.


General Nursing Fields

Since each healthcare department demands more training beyond the certificate, diploma or degree qualifications, a nurse who wants to specialize should identify one field to pursue. These are the wider fields into which every sub-specialization will fall for almost all healthcare workers. A nurse can choose to pursue adult nursing, learning disability nursing, pediatric nursing or mental health nursing.

Nurse Salaries

The high demand in nursing professionals is fueled by better lifestyles that are causing people to live longer. Old age is good and desirable but along with it enters a wide array of health needs and complications. This necessitate bigger numbers of nursing and other health care works to serve as fully registered nurses, nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses. Specialist nurses today compete with physicians for some roles though they get a lesser pay. The median pay for registered nurse per year is $66,640 and the variation is accorded by job location and specialization, as well as the employer. Annual salaries for specialization include:


  • Specialist nursing – $96,000
  • Nursing assistant – $95,820
  • Nurse practitioner – $95,350
  • Licensed practical nurse – $42,490
  • Accident and emergency or paramedic nurse – $31,700

Requirements for joining an Online RN Program

Since we have already pointed out what espouse becoming and practicing as a nurse, it is important to isolate the three main requirement for joining an online RN program. First an individual must complete the required training in nursing at the certificate, diploma or degree level. After graduating from the program, a nurse must undertake an internship for a specified period and accomplish clinical experience under supervision. The successful end of the internship program opens the door for the nurse to register, prepare and sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Passing this exam allows the issuance of a valid RN practice license which allows nurses to seek out both work and study positions depending on their interest.

An associate nursing degree can also enable one to become a licensed practical nurse thereby undertaking requisite coursework and attaining RN qualification after the RN exam. An associate degree program can be completed online then registering for the NCLEX-RN exam to get the practice license.


RN Certification and Licensure

Licensing and certification requirements may differ depending on a particular state which may have some components of nursing training that are not covered in another state. The NCLEX-RN exam is, however, the common feature required for nursing certification and licensure. Each state has a board of nursing that periodically posts calls for application to the licensing exam. Once an individual applies for the license the board evaluates and determines the person’s eligibility to sit for the exam. The candidate who has been invited to sit for the exam can then register via email or phone after receiving the Authorization to Take the Test (ATT) approval. This will allow the prospective RN to schedule and undertake the examination. The fee for the exam is $200.



The RN exam covers the general areas of basic nursing skills, health promotion and education, control of infection, psychosocial and physiological integrity. Basic nursing skills encompass management of care, safety and infection control. Health promotion entails disease prevention and early detection as well as aspects of human growth and development through the lifespan while psychosocial integrity includes areas of coping and adapting. Physiological integrity tests the areas of patient basic care and comfort, reduction of risk potential in care, pharmacological and parenteral therapies as well as physiological adaptation.

At a fee, an individual preparing for an NCLEX-RN exam can get material and trial tests from organizations such as Kaplan and the National Council on Learning Extension. There are many varieties of preparation materials with past papers and answers from organizations and websites. Some charge a fee while others offer free samples.

Some of the helpful sources include:


Different Registered Nursing Levels and Qualifications

The Nursing Diploma takes two to three years to complete and is trained in the hospital setting. It began in the 1970’s and is being phased out in some countries.

The Associate Degree in Nursing (AND) is covered within two years of study in a community college or trade school. There’s always a long list of prospective students and people always need to wait their turn.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is undertaken in four years. If an individual has a qualification, they can cover the degree in 1-2 years while studying online or on campus.

The Master of Science Degree in Nursing requires one and a half to two years of campus or online study for people with nursing degrees. The student chooses a specialization that will allow them to practice in such roles as Nurse Practitioner, Certified Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Educator, School Nurse or Clinical Nurse Leader.

The highest level of nursing training is the Doctorate level that is covered in between three to six years depending on the specialty. It can be pursued online or in university campuses and, depending on the specialization, one can purse a qualification in Doctor of Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Philosophy, Doctor of Nursing Science or Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Popular Accredited RN Bachelor Degree Online Programs

Degree Name Institution Duration Delivery Method Credit Hours Required
BSc. Nursing (Pre-licensure) Western Governors University 4 years 100% online 4 per term
BSc. in Nursing / Advanced Pathway RN to MSN Option

Southern New Hampshire



4 years 100% online 90 per semester
BSc. in Nursing – RN to BSN Our Lady of the Lake College 4 years 100% online 120 per semester
BSc. Nursing (Second Degree) Thomas Edison State University 4 years 100% online 1 per year
BSc. Nursing (RN to BSN) Ohio University 4 years 100% online 120 semester credit

Popular Accredited RN Master’s Degree Online Programs

This is a role in senior administration in nursing practice. These seasoned nurses have most likely attained several postgraduate qualifications all the way to PhD level. They do not engage in routine nursing care services but lead in maintaining accountability across several healthcare practice patient care levels. They help influence policy with regard to not just nursing practice but also several aspects of patient care, healthcare administration, leadership, training, and research. To get a nurse executive role, a registered nurse needs to have a blend of postgraduate healthcare qualifications, management and leadership training, as well a significant research profile.

Degree Name Institution Duration Delivery Method Credit Hours Required
Master of Business Administration & Master of Science in Nursing / Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems Grand Canyon University 4 years 100% online 66 per semester credits
Master of Science in Nursing / Public Health Grand Canyon University 4 years 100% online 40 per semester credits
Master of Science in Nursing / Nursing Informatics (BSN to MSN) Western Governors University 4 years 100% online 4 per term credits
MSN – Nursing Informatics (CCNE-accredited) Capella University 4 years 100% online 54 per quarter credits
Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) / Nursing Administration Liberty University 4 years 100% online 42 per semester credits

Featured Role: Nurse Executive

Applying for an Online RN Program

All it takes for a prospective learner is to visit the individual institution’s website to get more information regarding application cycles, any peculiar registration requirements, and program fees. Many programs require induction sessions on site in the specific campus so one should check their ability to fulfill that. Some also require practical units to be taken in specific health facilities or institutions and the applicant should ascertain their access to the same.

Online learning offers a lot of flexibility because one studies as they work with minimal interference of family and social life. Choose an online RN course today.