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Online learning can be a wonderful way for adult students to continue their educations, expand desirable skillsets and garner more employer interest and career opportunities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollments for students aged 25 and older at degree-granting colleges and universities are expected to grow 13 percent from 2013 to 2024, surpassing enrollment for students aged 25 and under. Many of these adult learners consider online degree programs. And working RNs nationwide are taking advantage of online RN to BSN programs.

Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that earning an RN to BSN online is easy. Although this is not the case with accredited programs, this idea persists and dissuades some prospective students from pursuing this viable option and obtaining all of the benefits of online learning.

Will an Online Degree Program Challenge Me?

For many students, online programs are just as challenging as those on campus. Some even find the format more rigorous. Klaus Campos, a travel nurse from Boca Raton, Fla., experienced the latter firsthand when completing his BSN degree online. “The online program presents more challenges because you are reading and self-teaching most of the time,” he said.

While professors are there for support, students who take charge of their learning are the most successful. In addition, forming a relationship with a mentor — either on your own or with the school’s assistance — who can help guide you through the program and answer questions can be a game-changer, too.

A bit of preparation and the right mindset can turn any challenges into opportunities for dedicated online learners. “To be able to grasp online courses, you must be at that point in life where you are really wanting to learn and develop yourself professionally,” said Campos. “Nursing school is not easy [and] knowledge will not fall [in] your lap. Read, research and ask questions. You get out what you put in.”

Are There Advantages to Online Learning?

While earning a degree online is not easy, the format of the degree program can provide several unique advantages that can lessen the burden on busy adult learners.

Perhaps the most significant advantage is the flexible and convenient scheduling. Many students returning to school need to continue with full- or part-time employment. Being able to participate in coursework from anywhere at any time gives nurses the ability to keep working, thus building on their real world experience while increasing their education. This type of schedule can also be extremely beneficial for students who have families and other personal or professional commitments.

“The flexibility of an online school is great, because life happens and you’re not held down by the need to attend concrete classrooms [at] set times,” said Campos. “I could work and do overtime while still completing my degree.” He says that students who are self-motivated and disciplined in keeping up with their studies can really make the most of this flexibility.

Students who remain employed during their degree program may find there is another financial benefit to this arrangement besides continuing to earn a regular paycheck. Many employers recognize the value of online learning for continuing education and provide tuition reimbursement.

Does Accreditation Make a Difference?

Finding a school and degree program that is accredited can help to ensure that online curricula follows the same rigorous academic standards as traditional on-campus programs. From similar coursework objectives to coordinating local clinical rotations, a reputable and accredited online program can provide graduates with equally challenging and relevant coursework.

“My advice is…do your research!” said Campos. “It is important to enroll in an accredited program regardless if it is online or not [since] most employers screen for school accreditation [and] it’ll [form] the base of your professional growth.”

An Online Option

Many nurses interested in returning to school find an online degree program provides the right mix of flexibility and convenience without sacrificing educational standards. While earning a BSN degree online is not easy, nurses who take advantage of the resources at their fingertips find that they can become more well-rounded and capable nurses by completing an accredited online degree program.

Learn more about Mississippi College’s RN to BSN online program.


Campos, K. (2017, July 2). Email interview.

National Center for Education Statistics: Digest of Education Statistics: 2014

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