If you're considering joining the 2.7 million plus nurses in America, you'll need to complete a degree prior to becoming an RN. Although all registered nurses need a degree from a state board of nursing approved program, you can choose from a diploma, associate or bachelor's. Nursing students who need a flexible schedule may want to consider taking a correspondence, or distance learning, program.

Associate Online

An associate degree program in nursing provides future RNs with the basics that they need for entry-level practice, in less time than a four-year bachelor's. If you need courses that run on a flexible schedule, allowing you to continuing working or keep up with family obligations, correspondence classes provide an option with freedom. For example, Kaplan University offers a blended campus-online program through its Iowa and Nebraska schools. Students in these states can take a combination of in-class and Web-based correspondence courses to complete an Associate of Science in nursing in two years.

Bachelor's for RNs

RNs who are looking to advance their careers or want to get a bachelor's degree can complete an RN to BSN program through correspondence courses. These programs provide RNs who have a diploma or associate degree the chance to get a bachelor's degree online. For example, Liberty University offers a 120-credit-hour RN to BSN program for nurses who already hold a valid license to practice. Likewise, Walden University offers a BSN online for students who already have a nursing degree and RN license. These programs include additional courses that provide enough credits to go from a two-year degree to a four-year bachelor's.

Campus to Correspondence

Not all correspondence or online nursing courses come from career or Web-only schools. Some major colleges and universities have online options that supplement or take the place of on-campus programs. For example, Penn State University offers a BSN for existing RNs through its online World Campus. Students must take 120 credits, with 42 core nursing course credits and 45 general education credits. Additionally, students need 33 core credits that they can substitute RN portfolio verification for. The nursing curriculum includes the same courses that on-campus BSN students take, such as chemistry, nursing research, nutrition, health assessment and microbiology.

Web-Based Master's

RNs who already have a bachelor's degree in nursing, and want to move into an advanced speciality, can complete an online master's. The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, for example, offers three master's degree options online. Students can choose from clinical nurse specialist, clinical nurse specialist/health systems management or health systems management. Capella University also offers an MSN degree online, with several options such as nurse educator or diabetes nursing. These classes include specialized courses such as advanced nursing leadership and management and policy, regulations and ethics in advanced nursing practice.

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