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15 Best Online Colleges for Nursing in 2017

As a growing field, nursing provides a very strong job outlook, with projected increased demand for registered nurses. Highly skilled and educated nurses are needed to meet the new demands of this rapidly expanding field, and post-secondary education is essential for candidates interested in being employed as nurses. The proper education and training can open up many career paths for graduates from nursing programs.

Nursing degrees are essential for anyone hoping to break into the nursing field. At a minimum, an associate degree or nursing diploma is required, even for entry-level nursing positions. However, diploma programs are rare, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though very few hospitals offer diploma programs, the ones that do design a curriculum based on the experience of working under doctors and fellow nurses. Individuals that complete this program only qualify for entry-level nursing positions, and often move on to bachelor programs in order to advance their careers.

As the BLS points out, advancement opportunities are best for RNs that have their bachelor’s degree or higher, with research and consulting positions requiring the completion of graduate school. Bachelor’s programs provide broader training in nursing practice. Students receive a strong foundation in course work such as English, math, and history, and then move on to the practicalities of being a nurse. Core course work includes medical terminology, anatomy, and other biology classes. These programs often contain clinical experience and internship requirements, which serve to expand students’ experiences. Such practice prepares students for the workplace and enhances their resumes.

Advanced nursing degrees open up other career paths that go beyond basic nursing. By learning from a detailed curriculum that focuses on research as well as practice, individuals who obtain their graduate degrees in nursing can establish careers as administrative officials, professors, and even researchers. According to the BLS, they draw a larger salary as well.

When seeking a nursing program, potential students should look for an accredited institution. Professors and teachers should have ample experience in the field. It is recommended that potential students research the faculty to gain insight into professors’ research interests and clinical experiences. Schools that offer hands-on clinical experience and that partner with hospitals for internship experience are superior to those that expect students to fulfill clinical requirements on their own time. Nursing programs should also provide the opportunity to interact with patients, as interpersonal skills are necessary for successful nurses.


When we decided to rank the best colleges online, we strove to use a method and formula that would produce the most objective and fair results possible. All of our data is quantified and taken from authoritative and reliable sources, such as the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator tool, the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, and the official websites of the schools included in these rankings.

Read more about our Methodology


Rank School Name Average Rating
1 Walden University 15.11
2 Salem International University 17.90
3 Stevens-Henager College 18.35
4 Walden University 19.19
5 Grand Canyon University 19.56
6 Harrison College  19.59
7 Florida National College 19.97
8 Grantham University 21.23
9 Keiser University 22.16
10 National American University 23.87
12 University of Phoenix-Online 24.43
13 Western Governors University 27.02
14 Herzing University 27.16