A career as a nurse is fulfilling. You have the opportunity to comfort sick and wounded patients and ease their pain. With so many different specialties in healthcare, nurses can choose to work with newborn babies, to tend to patients who need critical care, or to help patients with heart conditions or disabilities that require rehabilitation. Whether you’re embarking on the beginning of your profession or looking to advance your current nursing career, you need an education. Online nursing degrees aren’t just possible – they’re popular, easy to find and often highly rated.

Nursing Education Options

Whether they choose to earn their education on campus or online, aspiring nurses have plenty of degree options to consider. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) need a certificate or a diploma to begin their careers, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Registered nurses (RNs) can start out with an associate’s degree, a diploma or a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. To become a nurse practitioner (an advanced practice registered nurse, or APRN), you need a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. or Doctor of Nursing Practice, the BLS reported.

Once you determine which path you want to pursue, you can begin looking at online education options. Distance learning nursing programs exist at the certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and graduate degree levels. There are also specific programs called RN-to-BSN, in which students who are already registered nurses with an associate’s degree can earn their bachelor’s degrees.

What to Expect from an Online Nursing Degree Program

In the virtual classroom, online nursing students learn subjects such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, microbiology, nursing, nutrition, pharmacology, physiology, psychology and social and behavioral sciences. Exactly how thoroughly students study a given subject depends upon the level of education they are pursuing. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree will spend more time studying general education requirements and liberal arts courses than those seeking an associate’s degree. Aspiring advanced practice registered nurses will cover more advanced coursework, particularly in the field of study in which they choose to specialize. At every level, students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience through clinical experience requirements.

Choosing an Online Nursing Degree Program

It can be difficult to decide which online nursing program to pursue. Students should always ensure prior to enrolling that their intended program has specialized approval or accreditation and that the overall school has earned institutional accreditation from a recognized regional organization. Nurses pursuing a graduate degree can check U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs to find a respected school. At all education levels, students can make their education more affordable by applying for one of the 75 specialized scholarships for nursing students. Earning a nursing degree online allows students the flexibility to balance school with work and family obligations and the convenience of studying from anywhere in the world, without ever having to miss out on gaining valuable work experience.