Master’s Degrees in Nursing

Online or On-Campus?

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Download our guide to Online vs. On-Campus  Degrees and Schools. Which one is right for you?

Guide to Achieving School / Work / Life Balance

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Download our free guide with tips to help you juggle School, Work and Life.

Do Online MSN Degree Programs or On-Campus Classes Work Best for Me?

Take a look at how online MSN degree programs compare to on-campus nursing classes.

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Who are online MSN degree programs tailored for?

Online degrees have grown in both popularity and quality over the last five to 10 years. As people’s lives get busier and competition for jobs becomes fiercer, online nursing degree programs have become the go-to for many students looking to further their education and boost their credentials.

Online programs are designed with many types of students in mind, but the most common one is a busy person looking for a quality education that’s affordable. Because online programs allow for flexibility and autonomy not entirely possible with on-campus learning, web-based nursing degree programs are especially popular with the following types of students:

  • Students with children: Whether you’re a single parent or just super busy, online programs allow you to focus on your kids and still use your free time to get a high-quality education. Since online programs are flexible, they allow parents the wiggle-room needed for accommodating their child’s schedule first.
  • Students in remote areas: Living somewhere that requires a hefty commute to make it to the nearest college can make returning to school feel impossible. Online programs give you access to a premium education from the comfort of your own home. On top of this, many online programs don’t charge out-of-state tuition, which can be a big money saver.
  • Students who also need to work: If you’re already an RN, it’s easy to feel like returning to school isn’t worth the time you would have to take off from work. However, MSN programs can be completed online, which will allow you to continue working while setting your own schedule for online coursework.

Even if none of these situations describe you, there are plenty of other reasons for taking online classes instead of on-campus. Some prospective MSN students might want to learn at their own pace, for example. Students who are good self-motivators and independent workers will especially flourish in online courses.

I fit into one of the categories above. Are online programs available for this degree?

For students who are pursuing an MSN without any previous nursing experience, web-based programs will be comprised of a blend of practical, hands-on nursing courses and online technical learning. If you’re not already an RN, you’ll need to take an assortment of on-site “real life” experience classes. Generally, this portion of your program will take about a year, while the advanced MSN technical learning takes about two years.

MSN candidates who are already working in nursing and have a bachelor’s degree can earn their MSN online. Since, as a RN, you’ve had experience in the nursing field, you will not need to complete the same labs and clinical practice required for first-time nursing students. There may be some occasions where your program requires you to conduct interactive work, like interviewing an expert in your field, but generally, your coursework can be completed online.

How do online programs differ from campus programs? Will the quality of education be the same?

Online learning is still a fairly new concept so it’s natural to have questions about the differences between web-based and on-campus learning. Some of the biggest factors to consider include:

  • Quality: Widely-respected in the nursing community, online programs have proven to be a solid education path for many. An online MSN program delivers all the same information and teaches the same skills you would learn in a traditional campus setting.
  • Time to completion: The average MSN program takes about one-and-a-half to two years to complete either on-campus or online. There is an added incentive to enroll in an online program, though. If you invest additional time and effort, you may be able to finish an online MSN program sooner.
  • Overall experience: There are pros and cons to both online and on-campus experiences. For instance, online classes may not provide the same level of peer interaction, but online courses allow you the flexibility of choosing your own schedule. Deciding between online and on-campus classes comes down to determining what you value in a program.

One tip: Make sure your online program is accredited. This will allow you to apply for federal financial aid.

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