Health care is a diverse, important and growing industry in the state of Oklahoma, evidenced in particular by the example of Oklahoma City. Nearly 57,000 individuals were employed in the health care industry in 2015, and the city has more than 5,000 beds for patients across its various hospital systems. At the forefront of patient care in Oklahoma are nurses, trained professionals tasked with assisting and caring for individuals, families and children throughout the state.
Nursing itself is a varied field with multiple career paths, including nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioners and more. Each of those paths has separate educational requirements as entry points to employment.
Online Nursing Degree Programs in Oklahoma
Depending on their professional goals, prospective nursing students may select from a variety of online training and degree options, ranging from diplomas to associate degrees, bachelor's degrees to graduate programs. It's important to note nursing degree programs each require students to complete a clinical rotation under the supervision of a preceptor or instructor. Traditionally, the university and student collaborate on clinical placements, which are then negotiated and handled by a representative at the nursing schools -- typically a track coordinator.
Online Nursing Diploma: Diploma programs, commonly referred to as Practical Nursing Programs, are designed to prepare individuals to earn licensure as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Instruction covers an array of foundational curriculum in basic patient care and may be completed in as little as 12 to 18 months of study.
Online Associate in Nursing: The Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) is a basic educational entry path into the field of nursing. Typically designed to be completed in two to three years of full-time study, associate degree programs prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and qualify for licensure as a registered nurse.
Online Bachelor's in Nursing: Bachelor's degree programs in nursing (BSN) aim to equip students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required for a professional career in nursing practice. Although curriculum varies by institution, bachelor's degrees in nursing are based on developing the clinical judgment and skills of future nurses, introducing them to emerging patient care technologies, and providing an opportunity to build leadership, critical thinking and decision-making skills. Graduates are typically required to complete a hands-on clinical rotation prior to graduation.
Online Master's in Nursing: The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate-level degree, one that can prepare graduates for leadership positions in nursing administration or for advanced clinical positions such as nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist. Students may focus on specializations in master's programs, in areas such as gerontology, pediatrics, obstetrics or psychiatry.
In addition to traditional degree programs, some universities and colleges offer bridge programs, which are designed for nursing professionals seeking career transitions. Example bridge programs include LPN-to-RN and RN-to-BSN, which are for registered nurses wanting to finish their bachelor's degrees and LPNs desiring to earn registered nurse designation, respectively.
Oklahoma nursing schools enrolled 3,047 students in baccalaureate and graduate programs in the fall of 2015 and graduated 1,233 students, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Even more enrolled in associate degree programs at community colleges and technician schools. Here's a look at the number and types of degrees conferred in 2013, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)*:
- Associate: 2,590 degrees
- Bachelor's: 2,413 degrees
- Master's: 251 degrees
- Ph.D.: 20 degrees
For specializations, the most common field of study included registered nursing, nursing administration, adult health and nursing science. Below is a list of the universities that awarded the most nursing degrees in Oklahoma for the 2014-2015 school year:
|Institution||Degree Type||Nursing Degrees Conferred 2014-15|
|University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center|
|Doctor's degree - research/scholarship||10|
|Oklahoma City University|
|Doctor's degree - research/scholarship||7|
|Oklahoma City Community College|
|Tulsa Community College|
|University of Central Oklahoma|
*NCES does not report separate data for online degrees; they are included in the aggregate total of degrees conferred.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2013
Career opportunities for nursing school graduates in Oklahoma
Graduates of nursing programs in Oklahoma may pursue a variety of professional avenues, ranging from licensed practical nurse (LPN) to nurse anesthetist. Of the nursing employment opportunities in the state, the three largest fields include registered nursing, licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants. For the big three, occupational opportunities should be solid for prospective graduates as all three nursing specializations are projected to see job gains between 7 and 14 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Oklahoma Department of Labor:
- Registered nurses: 13.8 percent
- Nursing assistants: 11.4 percent
- Licensed practical nurses: 7.4 percent
On the earnings front, nursing is one of the best-paying health care occupations, not only in Oklahoma, but in the United States. For example, registered nurses earned $59,040 in average salaries in the state in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For prospective students still considering which nursing program to select, the salaries below should be a good starting point to gauge a return on educational investment:
|Nursing Occupation||2015 Average Salary in Oklahoma|
|Licensed Practical Nurse||$38,590|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oklahoma, Occupational and Wage Estimates, 2015
- May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates -- Oklahoma, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ok.htm
- State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/
- National Center for Education Statistics, January 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/
- Oklahoma State Profile, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs/resources/Oklahoma1.pdf