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A career in nursing is an excellent choice that offers many job opportunities and potential for growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of registered nurses is expected to increase in the U.S. 19.4 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average total for all occupations.

There are a number of reasons why there is such an increased demand for nurses. The aging population, which typically has more medical problems than younger individuals, is dramatically increasing. There are also a greater number of patients being admitted to long-term care facilities, home health care settings and outpatient care centers where the services of nurses are needed. Finally, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and a much larger number of Americans obtaining health insurance, a greater number of nurses are needed to care for patients.

Online Nursing Degrees Programs

There are a number of online nursing schools in the U.S. that lead to various types of degrees in the field of nursing. Though most nurses have a bachelor's degree, you could start with an associate's degree or a certificate from a nursing program, and work your way up from there.

Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Studying for an associate's degree in nursing generally takes two to three years to complete, and will prepare you for the nurse licensing exam. Students will take courses in liberal arts, biology, chemistry, pharmacology and patient care and also practice in a clinical setting it also includes on-site work in a health care setting. An associate degree or post-secondary certificate can prepare you for some of the following careers:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): CNA certificate programs take between several months and one year to complete, though in some states, there is training required past the basic certificate.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): Online LPN programs typically take one to two years to complete.
  • Registered Nurse (RN): Some RNs choose to start out with an associate degree in nursing, and will usually opt to earn their bachelor's degree as they move up in their career.

Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN)

An online bachelor's degree can typically be completed in two to four years, depending on the number of prior credits and experience that you have. Students will usually study clinical theories of nursing, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition and more. Most nurses who opt for the bachelor's degree become registered nurses (RNs), by becoming licensed in their state after graduation. RNs can have a number of different jobs in a health care setting, including some of the following:

  • Staff nurse
  • Assistant unit manager
  • Cardiovascular nurse
  • Rehabilitation nurse

Most advanced positions in health care require a master's degree and/or additional certifications. It is not uncommon for RNs to continue their education after they earn their bachelor's degree.

Master's Degree

If earning a master's degree in nursing is your goal, you will most likely study advanced clinical or administrative skills. Studying for this degree usually takes two years of additional study after a bachelor's degree. The master's could lead to a number of advanced careers in health care, such as:

  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Advanced practice registered nurse
  • Physician assistant

Some health care professionals choose to take their education even one step further. Studying for your doctoral degree could open up the door to a career in academia or advanced clinical work; this online degree typically takes three to five years to complete, depending on your experience, and you'll take courses like public health, research design and health care research.

Career Outlook for Nursing Professionals

The outlook for a career in nursing is extremely positive, as the BLS and Projections Central provide the following nationwide figures for nursing jobs. Keep in mind that the BLS predicts only 11% growth for all jobs nationwide, meaning that all the nursing jobs below are growing at a higher-than-average rate. The table below lists out nursing occupations with median annual salary as of May 2014 and projected job outlook for the decade of 2012-22 as per the BLS.

Occupation Average Salary Total Employment % Job Growth
Registered Nurse $69,790 105,260 19.4%
Nurse Anesthetist $158,900 1,560 24.9%
Nurse Midwife $97,700 290 28.6%
Nurse Practitioner $97,990 5,850 33.7%
Nursing assistant $26,250 59,360 21.1%

Choosing the Right Online Nursing School

If you're thinking about enrolling in an online nursing program, make certain that any program that you choose is accredited and recognized by your state's licensing board. Accreditation is earned through the National League for Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

You also want to make sure that you consider the following factors:

  • Besides tuition, are there any other additional fees that you're required to pay?
  • Are the teachers certified and licensed to teach?
  • Does the school offer career planning support?
  • Does the school offer financial support?
  • If you hold a job, will the clinical part of the nursing program fit into your work schedule?
  • How frequently are the professors available to answer any questions that you may have?


  1. Employment Projections 2012-2022, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf
  2. Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statisctis, March 25, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
  3. Long Term Projections 2012-2022, Projections Central, www.projectioncentral.com

Online Nursing Schools