Why This Matters


    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates an increase in demand for registered nurses (RNs) of 15% by 2026, as well as an increase in advanced nurse specialists of 31% by 2026.


    In addition to needing 600,000 more nurses to replace those reaching retirement age, the BLS estimates 400,000 new nursing positions will open up between 2016-2026.


    While nurses with associate’s degrees only earn on average $56k, getting a higher degree pays off. Nurses earn $62k with a bachelor’s degree, $87k with a master’s, and $110k+ for advanced specializations.

Our Research

Nursing is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States today. Increases in demand call for not only more nurses, but also more nurses with advanced degrees and specializations.

Online nursing degree programs can help prepare you to enter or advance your career in almost every nursing field, offering bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates, and PhDs in nursing. We looked at the specs of over 80 programs, comparing program strength, costs, and online preparedness to find the best schools for studying nursing online.

The best universities scored close to 100 in our Intelligent Score ranking, and are all accredited, nonprofit institutions with multiple degree offerings. For a full breakdown of our methodology, click here.

  • 103 schools
  • 461 programs evaluated
  • 130 hours of research

The Top 30 Online Nursing Degree Programs

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Our Ranking Methodology

To find the top 30 Online Nursing Degree programs, we had three initial requirements. Each school needed to be non-profit, to better guarantee that the school is looking out for its students interests over its own bottom line. Additionally, each school needed to offer at least two fully-online degrees.

We also required every degree offered to be accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These institutions certify that each program is rigorous and will help you advance your nursing career.

Then, we examined each school based on three factors:

Program Strength

First, we looked at how well each school ranked in top college evaluators like U.S. News. These organizations take a deep dive into each school to see both how well each program stands on its own as well as how it compares to its peers. We created an algorithm that analyzed the multiple rankings into a single score so that we could easily compare universities.

A high score here indicates that a school is highly-regarded in terms of how well it prepares its graduates to become working nurses. Lower scores may not indicate a poor program, but one that isn’t as well-established.

Online Readiness

We then wanted to hone in on schools that not only have highly-regarded nursing programs, but ones that are known for teaching nursing well online. To do so, we looked at student satisfaction surveys for each college and department to evaluate whether teachers were seen as effective and approachable. We also looked at the online resources utilized by each nursing department to assess how well the school is technologically equipped to provide online education.

Comparative Cost

The specific cost of each program varies not only by what kind of degree you pursue — Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate — but also by specialization. As a result, we could not do a direct comparison of the cost of degrees. Instead, we focused on the cost per credit hour for undergraduate and graduate nursing courses.

While no degree is going to be cheap, we wanted to find the ones that were more cost-effective compared to their peers. Colleges who scored highly here offered classes at competitive rates — to get you out of paying student loans and into planning your future, faster.

This Gave Us Our Intelligent Score

Together, these three evaluations allowed us to calculate an Intelligent Score for each college. The best of the best are well-regarded programs that excel teaching nursing online, and they won’t charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege of learning with them.

If these top schools don’t feel like enough options, take a look at our shortlist of schools which gives you an extra fifteen to compare. Even though these programs didn’t score highly enough to make it into the top 30, they’re each strong programs in their own right and could be your perfect choice.

  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Jacksonville State University
  • Excelsior College
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Concordia University Wisconsin
  • Midway University
  • University of Saint Mary
  • The George Washington University
  • Spring Arbor University
  • Bradley University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Roberts Wesleyan College
  • La Roche College
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • University of San Francisco

This Degree Isn’t For Everyone

Depending on your experience, an online nursing degree might not be right for you. To make up for the lack of in-person experience, many online nursing degree programs have experience or work requirements. You’ll need to be currently employed, or have sufficient work experience in the field, to enter the program.

This particularly applies if you’re just starting out your nursing career. The first nursing degree available online are bachelor’s degrees (BSNs), and those without on-campus requirements require you to already have your registered nurse license. This means that you’ll want to start out with either an in-person associate or bachelor’s degree to kickstart your nursing career.

What’s Next?

As you consider our Top Online Nursing Degrees, you’ll want to keep an eye on school’s state authorizations. If you live in a different state than the university, you’ll need to make sure that your home state accepts your school’s ability to award online degrees. Most schools have a state authorization page, or you can check with the admissions director or your local board of nursing for more information.

You’ll also want to look out for any residency requirements. The vast majority of the programs on our list are fully online, and the remainder often require an on-campus orientation or a visit to campus or two. If you’re looking for a completely online program, you’ll need to double check that the specific degree and specialization you’ve chosen is available without campus visits.

Finally, if you’re interested in becoming a nurse midwife or a nurse anesthesiologist, you’ll want to find a program with that specialty accreditation. The Council on Accreditation (COA) accredits programs specifically for Nurse Anesthesia, while the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) accredits programs for nurse midwifery.

Of our top schools, only two offer these specializations through online coursework: Michigan State University with an accredited Nurse Anesthesia MSN, and the University of Cincinnati with an accredited Nurse Anesthesia Doctor of Nursing Practice and Master’s in Nurse Midwifery. These programs all have offline components, but can help you advance into these specializations.