Best Online Prelicensure Nursing Programs

The nursing profession is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the world and help people live happier, healthier lives. If you’ve dreamed of working in healthcare, have a talent for science, love working with people, and have been eyeing a degree in nursing, there’s never been a better time to pursue it! Nursing is higher in demand than it’s ever been, and today, there are dozens of institutions, including the best nursing schools, offering this program online so you can fit education conveniently into your busy life.

With an online bachelor of nursing, you can choose whatever school you prefer — whether based on affordability criteria, quality, or something else — without having to leave your house. Enjoy the flexibility of taking classes whenever and wherever is best for you. Perhaps the best part is that once you obtain your degree and get licensed as a registered nurse, you won’t ever have to worry about job security again.

Whether you want to become an RN or later pursue your master’s in nursing, explore our top choices for the best accredited online prelicensure nursing programs below and find the one that will best help you kickstart your healthcare career.

What Is an Online Prelicensure Nursing Degree?

A prelicensure nursing degree is a bachelor’s degree that involves hands-on and clinical experience. Throughout the course of the program, nursing students will work with real clients and their families and learn how to handle a wide range of care situations they will likely encounter throughout their careers, how to be leaders, and how to leverage modern healthcare technology to improve care quality. Students in prelicensure nursing programs online will develop all the skills they will eventually need to pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam to become a nurse. This test necessitates a deep understanding of nursing practices and an ability to think critically.

Featured Online Programs for an Online Bachelor in Nursing

As a hopeful nursing student, you deserve unbiased information about the best nursing schools to guide you in your search for a nursing program. Refer to our rankings below and compare the best institutions offering nursing degrees based on affordability, class availability, academic quality, and other criteria. Refer to our ranking methodology to learn more about how we select the best online nursing degrees.


Ohio State University

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Location: Online (based in Columbus, OH)

Acceptance rate: 57%

Graduation rate: 83%

Cost of attendance: $12,485 (resident), $36,722 (non-resident)

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Admission requirements

  • High GPA
  • SAT/ACT scores plus writing
  • $60 application fee

University of Pittsburgh

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Location: Online (Based in Pittsburgh, PA)

Acceptance rate: 67%

Graduation rate: 83%

Cost of attendance: $823.00 per term (resident), $1,500.00 (non-resident)

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Admission requirements

  • Admission application
  • $55 application fee
  • 3.2 GPA (cumulative minimum)

University of South Carolina

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Location: Online (Based in Columbia, SC)

Acceptance rate: 62%

Graduation rate: 78%

Cost of attendance: $12,288.00 (resident), $33,528.00 (non-resident)

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Admission requirements

  • $65 application fee
  • School report form
  • High school transcripts
  • Completed application, including activities and essay sections

University of Phoenix

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Location: Online (based in Phoenix, AZ)

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 64%

Cost of attendance: $3,575 per 6-month term

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Admission requirements

  • High school diploma/GED
  • 16+ years of age
  • US citizen
  • English proficiency
  • Good academic standing
  • Complete admission forms
  • Submit transcripts

Western Governors University

Prelicensure Nursing BSN

Location: Online (based in Salt Lake City, UT)

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 64%

Cost of attendance: $3,575 per 6-month term

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Admission requirements

  • Complete the application
  • Pay the $65 application fee
  • Send official transcripts by mail or email
  • Complete FAFSA application
  • Complete intake interview
  • Arrange for tuition payment

Capella University

Online Nursing Degrees & Certificates

Location: Online

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 19%

Cost of attendance: $357 - $415 per credit hour

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Admission requirements

  • Pay $50 application fee
  • Submit transcripts
  • Agree to Capella policies/program requirements
  • Provide valid government-issued ID
  • Meet minimum GPA requirements for the nursing program
  • Prove English proficiency

Midway University

Nursing (Prelicensure BSN)

Location: Online (based in Midway, KY)

Acceptance rate: 73.1%

Graduation rate: 38.8%

Cost of attendance: $395 per credit

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Admission requirements

  • Complete online application
  • Submit transcripts
  • Submit official ACT/ACT scores, if needed

Liberty University Online

RN to BSN Online Degree

Location: Online (based in Lynchburg, VA)

Acceptance rate: 50%

Graduation rate: 29%

Cost of attendance: $390 per full-time credit hour, $455 per part-time credit hour

Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP)

Admission requirements

  • Submit an application online or via phone
  • Submit admission documents
  • High school transcripts

Purdue University Global

Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN-to-BSN

Location: Online (based in West Lafayette, IN)

Acceptance rate: 100%

Graduation rate: 33%

Cost of attendance: $371 per credit

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Admission requirements

  • Complete an information request form
  • Speak with an advisor
  • Complete an interview
  • Sign enrollment agreement

University of Maryland Global Campus

Online RN-BSN

Location: Online (based in Adelphi, MD)

Acceptance rate: 92%

Graduation rate: 27%

Cost of attendance: $312 per credit (resident), $499 per credit (non-resident)

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Admission requirements

  • Graduate high school or pass the GED
  • Submit transcripts
  • Pay $50 application fee
  • Complete application

Earn an Affordable Degree in Nursing

Don’t let the cost of a nursing degree online scare you away from a great education. The following schools offer very competitive tuition costs and make it affordable to become a nurse on your own terms:

  • Fort Hays University: At only $298.55 per credit hour, this institution prides itself on its low tuition cost and offers an expedited path toward a low-cost degree.
  • University of Alabama: This school provides nearly 65% of freshmen at least some form of financial assistance, with low-income families receiving around $10,000 in aid during their first year. In-state students also receive a discounted tuition rate of $434 per credit hour.
  • University of Texas-Tyler: The University of Texas-Tyler aims to provide private-school-quality education at the cost of public education. Its tuition costs are set by the state legislature, and expenses are fixed by the Board of Regents.
  • Briar Cliff University: At Briar Cliff University, 100% of first-time, full-time students are awarded scholarships and receive $10,000 of student aid per student on average. The institution is committed to keeping its education accessible and affordable for all.
  • University of Arizona: Nine out of 10 students attending this institution receive some form of financial aid, and those who live in Arizona receive an additional 65% discount on tuition and fees.

Online Bachelor in Nursing FAQ

Is an online bachelor of nursing worth it?

If you’re looking for stability, good pay, and the ability to improve people’s lives, an online nursing program may be worth the cost. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that registered nurses have a growth outlook of nearly 10% from now until 2030, and the bureau expects there to be almost 200,000 job openings over the course of the decade. Thus, nurses are in high demand, and the job outlook is strong, which isn’t going to change anytime soon.

How quickly can I complete a nursing program?

Those seeking the shortest-possible nursing program can become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or certified nursing assistants (CNAs). CNA programs take anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks to finish, and after the program is complete, CNAs can help registered nurses (RNs) with daily patient care. On the other hand, LPN programs can take up to a year to finish, and when the program is complete, LPNs will be licensed nurses, unlike CNAs.

What skills do I need to succeed as a nurse?

Registered nurses need a range of hard and soft skills to succeed in their profession. The nature of skills needed will differ based on the healthcare setting you’d like to work in. For example, the skills needed to work in a primary care setting will differ from those required to work in an emergency room.

No matter where you end up working, however, the following soft skills will always be required as a nurse:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Empathy for patients
  • Physical stamina
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork

We’ve listed communication first because it is considered to be among the most important skills a nurse could have. Nurses are responsible for improving health outcomes, collaborating with doctors, explaining directions to patients, fostering relationships with patients and coworkers, and making patients feel calm and cared for.

Most nurses will also need the following hard skills:

  • Medication management
  • IV lines and infusions
  • Patient safety
  • Infection control
  • Electronic medical records
  • Technological skills
  • Patient assessment
  • CPR and BLS

What kinds of classes do you take in an online bachelor of nursing?

The classes you take in your nursing program will depend on how far you plan to take your education. In general, prelicensure nursing programs online involve a number of math, chemistry, biology, psychology, and physiology classes, and students may choose electives in their areas of interest — such as geriatrics, pediatrics, and oncology. Biology classes are among some of the most important in a nursing program, covering anatomy, epidemiology, and more.

Here are some common classes you can expect to take in a bachelor of science in nursing program:

  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical theory
  • Intro to psychology
  • Physiology
  • Fundamentals of nursing
  • Population health
  • Ethics
  • Pathophysiology
  • Math
  • Sociology

What is the cost of a nursing degree online?

The BLS estimates that, despite the varying cost of nursing degrees, students tend to spend between $38,000 and $73,000 on a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This does not account for the NCLEX-RN, state licensing, books, scrubs, supplies, a laptop, or travel for in-person practicum. Some online programs also charge distance learning fees. If you don’t want to spend that much, you can pursue an associate’s in nursing, which only takes two years to complete. Just keep in mind if you go this route that most states require RNs to have a four-year degree.

What is the earning potential of a registered nurse?

Registered nurses have a median annual wage of $77,600 as of May 2021. This figure may look very different depending on where you live and work, your area of expertise, your level of education, and the number of years of experience you have. Those with a BSN can qualify for higher-paying leadership positions and make more than nurses with only a two-year degree, for example. A nurse with a master’s degree can make even more; RNs with a master’s degree have a median salary of more than $117,000.

States like New York, California, and Hawaii pay nurses more due to the higher cost of living in these areas. The more affordable states to live in, like South Dakota, Alabama, and Mississippi, tend to pay less.

What are some degrees related to nursing?

If you’ve found that the nursing program is not your niche but would still like to work in healthcare, here are some similar careers you can pursue:

  • Dental hygiene
  • Social work
  • Physician’s assistant
  • Midwife
  • Medical sonography
  • Cardiovascular technician
  • EMT/paramedic

How do you go about getting licensed as a nurse?

The road to becoming a nurse involves many steps and requires patience. Here’s what you’ll need to do to become a licensed nurse:

1. Define your educational and career goals

Do you have the time and money to dedicate to a four-year degree? If so, think about what area of healthcare is most interesting to you and what kind of specialty you’d like to pursue. Do some research on the requirements for the nursing career you’d like to enter into so you have a more defined path to follow in your education.

2. Compare prelicensure nursing programs online

Take the time to look into a handful of prelicensure nursing programs online that appeal to you. Each will have its own pricing structure, course requirements, flexibility, student resources, etc. You’ll know which is right for you based on which meets your unique needs.

3. Enroll in the program and complete your degree

Whether you pursue an ADN or BSN, you’ll develop important skills and knowledge surrounding patient care and general health. You can also expect a clinical component of the program in which you apply your textbook knowledge to real-life scenarios with living people.

4. Study for and pass the NCLEX

Students wanting to become licensed RNs will have to pass the exam in addition to completing their degree. The test will take 2-3 hours to complete and will require a $200 fee. It will evaluate your knowledge application and ability to think on your feet to make smart judgments in the nursing field. Those who do not pass the test can retake it after 45 days. NCLEX questions will include material from four categories:

  • Physiological integrity
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Safe and effective care environment
  • Health promotion and maintenance

5. Apply for state licensure

Every state has individual requirements for licensure. However, most states share the following requirements in common:

  • A background check
  • A nursing diploma from an accredited institution
  • A passing score on the NCLEX
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Program transcripts
  • Application and licensing fees

6. License renewal

Licenses remain in effect for a certain number of years, depending on where you live. Once your license is about to expire, you’ll need to renew it through continuing education courses, certification, or other specific classes to keep your knowledge up to date with current best practices and technology.

What to Look for in an Online Degree Program

Prelicensure nursing programs online are diverse, and you’ll need to pay special attention to the unique features of each school to make the right choice. It can be overwhelming to select an institution to attend online when you can’t visit all the schools you’re interested in. You might feel lost and helpless with all the options out there, but we’ve outlined some reliable advice for evaluating a nursing prelicensure program below.

First and foremost, look into the quality of the school’s virtual learning environment. The best online nursing programs cater their classes to online learning instead of just repurposing lectures. Quality online programs also employ the best faculty who have deep experience in online teaching in your area. Some even assign student advisors to provide guidance all the way to graduation.

Some programs may require hybrid attendance online and in person, and if you live out of state, this won’t be feasible unless you plan to relocate. Given the clinical requirements of nursing programs, you’ll want to make sure the school has placement coordinators who can point you to nearby clinical settings and can arrange for supervised experiences.

Many institutions have nursing admission prerequisites. For example, you may have to have a passing grade in high school/college microbiology, chemistry, or statistics in order to get into the program. If you can’t meet the prerequisites, you may have to take additional classes before starting the program, and you’ll have to decide if the additional time and money are worth getting into that particular nursing prelicensure program.