Pros and Cons of Earning an Online Degree in Nursing
There are plenty of online nursing programs out there. But can you really earn a nursing degree online—and should you? Many of these programs are legitimate, but there are a few things to consider before signing up for an online nursing degree program. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons.
Advantages of Earning a Degree in Nursing Online
You can study whenever you want. Nursing online degree programs can give students more flexibility in terms of managing their schedules and fitting classes around full-time work or family obligations—since you generally don’t have to conform to a specific class
schedule. Online courses are frequently
in high demand among nontraditional
students for this reason.
It gives you flexibility in terms of location. If there’s no accredited nursing program within commuting distance of where you live, an online nursing program can be extremely helpful. For those who live in remote areas, getting into an online nursing degree program can mean being able to study for a nursing degree without having to move to have access to classes.
However, every online nursing program should require a significant practical component that you’ll have to complete in person. Be sure the program you choose can set you up with a local hospital or medical facility to complete that portion of the degree if you are not within driving distance of the campus and its associated hospitals.
Disadvantages to Online Nursing Degrees
They can’t—and shouldn’t—be completely online. Most programs claiming to be “online” nursing degrees are in fact hybrid programs with a large in-person practical component—and that’s as it should be. It’s impossible to learn the skills required for the job without significant field experience. If your program does not offer an in-person component, chances are it’s not appropriately accredited and you may face skepticism from employers.
“Online” doesn’t mean “easy.” A good online nursing program will be just as difficult as traditional nursing school. For some, it can prove to be more difficult—because you’ll need to be able to keep yourself motivated and structure your time so that you can complete your studies. With traditional nursing programs, this is easier—in-person classes and daily interaction with peers and instructors can keep you on track. Online nursing programs won’t give you a break, and the format doesn’t work for everybody. This is especially true for students trying to work full-time while studying.
Not all are approved by State Education Departments. Different states have different requirements for students permitted to sit for the NCLEX exam—the test you need to pass to work as a nurse. However, most states require applicants to have graduated from an Associate’s or Bachelor’s level nursing program approved by the State Department of Education. Not all of them approve online programs, and some approve certain programs but not others. Check with your State Department of Education before enrolling in an online nursing program.
You’ll need to verify credit transfer possibilities beforehand. Even if your online school is approved by your State Department of Education, there’s a possibility you could face credit transfer issues if you plan on transferring to a traditional nursing school to earn a more advanced degree. Before signing up for an online nursing degree program, you’ll need to check with the school you plan to transfer to and make sure they’ll accept your previous work.
Earning your nursing degree won’t be easy—whether you’re studying online or with a traditional program. And it’s not possible to earn a nursing degree completely online—you will still need to attend in person to get the practical experience you need to do the job. But you can earn much of the classroom component of your degree online—making it easier to fit nursing studies around a full-time job or family obligations.
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses
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