Pros and Cons of Online Nursing Degrees

Nurses are the first people a patient has contact with when entering a hospital. They work along side doctors and lab technicians to care for patients and administer tests. Their role in the healthcare system is vital to its operation. Many nurses also hold important non-medical positions, such as teachers and administrators.

In the US, most nurses belong to one of two categories: licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs). The main difference between a LPN a RN is that a RN holds a formal degree in nursing from an accredited college or university. RNs usually hold and Associate's or Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN), though some may also hold Master's degrees (MSN). As such, RNs have more medical responsibilities than LPNs, and earn higher salaries.

Online universities allow LPNs to complete the coursework necessary to become a RN. RNs who hold Associate's degrees can obtain an online degree in nursing to become BSNs. Online nursing degrees allow medical professionals to stay active on the job so they can provide for their families while pursuing higher education. There are several pros and cons of attending a distance learning college to earn an nursing degree. After weighing the benefits and drawbacks, you can make the right decision for your career.

Online Nursing Classes: Standard Curriculum

Accredited online universities ground students in the fundamentals of science, human health, and basic nursing practice. LPNs working toward an Associate's in nursing take courses in

Online nursing program courses are similar to classes that one might take at a traditional community college. Online colleges use the same textbooks as traditional colleges, so students can be assured they are receiveing a first-rate education. LPNs and RNs who want to earn a Bachelor's degree will take further courses in
Though nurses take their academic classes over the Internet, most online RN to BSN programs have additional hands-on practice requirements. Nurses can fulfill these at a local hospital or health center.

        Online Nursing Degrees: Pros
  • Online colleges charge lower tuition due to their lower operational costs.

  • Nurses can attend class from home or at work, thereby reducing their commute.

  • Nurses can continue to work while attending classes in the evenings and on the weekends.

  • Online universities allow students to graduate on their own time. Students can complete the program as quickly or as slowly as their schedule allows.

  • Many required textbooks are available as e-books.

  • Online colleges may offer even more options than local brick-and-mortar school, such as forensic nursing programs or a Master's degree in nursing education.
        Online Nursing Degrees: Cons
  • Students cannot interact with their instructors or other students face to face.

  • Nurses must research distance learning programs thoroughly to make sure they are accredited. Some online nursing programs do not meet state requirements.

  • Some employers will favor applicants who hold degrees from traditional universities. This means students must work harder to achieve good grades in all of their online classes.

  • Hands-on activities have to be scheduled separately from regular classes since labs cannot be completed online.


Career Outlook

In the US, most medical caregivers are registered nurses. Although hospitals are the largest employer of nurses, there are many other places where nurses serve in the healthcare system. Nurses may work at psychiatric centers and addiction treatment facilities. They provide basic care in nursing homes, or work as at-home caregivers. Many nurses are employed by small practices, such as plastic surgery clinics, gastroenterology (GI) centers, or fertility clinics.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predcts that between 2008 and 2018, the number of nursing positions will increase by 22%. That rate is much higher than for other industries. Traditional colleges and universities, as well as online BSN programs are helping to prepare the next wave of new nurses.

As for wages, the median annual salary for a LPN is about $48,000, while the median annual salary for a RN is around $65,000. RNs who hold a BSN or MSN degree earn more than $70,000 per year on average. As a registered nurse, one can also advance into management. Nurse administrators earn more than $80,000 annually, on average.

© Had2Know 2010

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