Over the past decade or so, colleges and universities have committed to increasing their educational reach to not only the tradition, on-campus student; but, have tapped into the growing need for the non-traditional student to access educational opportunities. More and more online degree programs are being offered and on-line and this increase in programs is a great advantage for those working in healthcare who want to advance their education and career.
Are There Specialty Areas?
Whether you have a Registered Nurse diploma, Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN), you can probably find an online, nursing program that will allow you to specialize in a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) leading to a Nurse Practitioner degree as well. Schools frequently provide "bridge programs" which allows students to gain an advanced degree without having to go through a full three or four year program. Often, schools will allow educational credit for work experience and prior college or university credit transfer. Information on bridge programs are typically provided on the school's website.
Is Accreditation Important?
Program accreditation assures that the school/program meets educational standards as developed by independent, Department of Education approved agencies. There are two types of accreditation, institutional and programmatic. In the nursing field, it's important that the program you choose holds accreditation from agencies such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). CCNE reviews programs to verify that quality educational standards are being met. Accreditation also indicates that graduates will be prepared to sit for certification examinations.
How Do Online Degrees Compare to On-Campus Degrees?
There has been a long held myth that tuition costs for online programs are less than the on-campus degrees. This is not true. Online degree programs charge the same credit hour rate as on-campus rates. Some colleges and universities or may charge out of state students a higher rate and/or a nominal fee for distance education students.
Are The Degrees Really The Same?
It's also been believed that online degrees are somehow considered as a lesser degree. That simply isn't true. Online and on-campus degree programs utilize the same faculty, the same standards and the same academic curriculum. Diplomas also do not indicate that a degree is an "online degree".
Internships and Practicum Experiences
Advanced Practice Nurse degrees, will frequently require internships or practicum experiences. Online students will typically be able to complete these experiences in local communities under the supervision of a qualified, school approved preceptor.
Hybrid programs will require brief, on-campus attendance. Usually, on-campus visits will involve face-to-face skills practice, special lectures, simulation clinics, etc. Attendance may be in the form of weekend attendance to a week's participation. Before committing to a program, be certain you've acquainted yourself with its on-campus requirements, if any.
State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
Online APN degree programs participate in The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA assures that comparable national standards for distance education or, online, programs are met. Not all online programs may meet the standards in all states. You should verify with your state licensing board that the program you choose will qualify for your particular state. This information is available on schools' websites or you can talk with the admissions officer for the school you're considering.
If you're looking for online nursing programs, Best Medical Degrees provides rankings of several online Advanced Nursing Programs which will help you choose a nursing program that's the right fit for you. Some of the programs ranked include: 10 Best Value Online Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Programs, 10 Best Value Online Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Programs, 10 Best Value Psychiatric Mental Health (PMHNP) Nurse Practitioner Online Degrees, 10 Most Affordable Online Nurse-Midwifery Certificates , 20 Most Affordable Nurse Anesthesia Degree Programs.