Online degree programs for nursing and other health care disciplines are becoming a popular option for many health care professionals. One study identified nursing as the second most popular major among online learners for both graduate and undergraduate degrees.[1]

Online degree programs are accessible and flexible, enabling students to study when and where it is convenient. Many programs allow students to progress at their own pace, giving them time to learn and absorb knowledge before moving forward. Online class discussion groups keep students connected to faculty and other students for interaction and support.

Online programs can be ideal for career changers with work and family responsibilities, current medical professionals who need continuing education credits, Online programs make high-quality learning available to students in remote areas, and tuition costs are generally lower than those associated with attending traditional on-campus classes.[2]

However, several medical fields such as nursing and allied health professions require clinical experience where students undertake hands-on, practical skills training to supplement their academic courses. Many schools and medical institutions offer blended programs that allow students to take academic classes online and participate in hands-on clinical experiences conducted on campus or at local health care facilities.[3]

Both registered nurses and professionals who lack a bachelor’s degree in nursing can participate in an online “bridge” program to earn a graduate degree. These programs build on the student’s academic credentials and work experience and are customized to fill in knowledge gaps in addition to presenting coursework needed for the advanced degree.[4]

Both academics and employers stress the importance of an online degree program being accredited. Accreditation assures the oversight of an outside, nongovernmental body that conducts site visits and assesses the quality of faculty, curricula, facilities, student services and finances. Reputable accrediting organizations are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.[5]

[1] “What Employers Think About Your Online Nursing Degree,” by Jordan Friedman, U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 23, 2016. Available at: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2016-02-23/what-employers-think-about-your-online-nursing-degree

[2] “Is an Online Nursing Degree Program Right For You?” blog post on EveryNurse.org, undated. Available at: http://everynurse.org/online-nursing-degree-program/

[3] “Tips for Prospective Online Nursing Students,” blog post on NursingSchool.org, undated. Available at: http://nursingschool.org/education/school-types/online/#context/api/listings/prefilter

[4] “Consider a ‘Bridge’ Program as an Online Nursing Student,” by Jordan Friedman, U.S. News & World Report, July 18, 2016. Available at: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2016-07-19/consider-a-bridge-program-as-an-online-nursing-student

[5] “Researching Academic Credentials,” guidelines posted on the website of the State of Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, undated. Available at: http://eab.state.wi.us/resources/credentials.asp

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