Whether you’re a working nurse looking for advancement, someone coming from another field, or a new student, going for an online nursing program could be a great option. Nursing is a red-hot field right now, and with shortages across the board, getting an online degree would allow you to position yourself for high-demand positions that pay very well.
You have to be careful before you decide to go for one of these programs, however, as they do have some drawbacks and they might not be the best for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of online nursing programs and a few tips on how to find the perfect one for you.
Pro: Flexible Scheduling
If you’re a working nurse, then online nursing degrees might be the only realistic option for you. Only with online programs can you tailor your studying schedule around your work schedule. If you work on calls or have an irregular schedule, some programs will allow you to follow classes on your own time. You could decide to take classes at any hour of the day as long as you watch them within a certain time frame.
Or maybe you’re working during the day? In this case, going for evening programs could be a great choice. You won’t have to commute as much, so that will give you extra time to get comfortable. Commuting from school to work, or to any other obligations you may have can become exhausting and one of the reasons many nursing students quit. Not having to physically go to school will save you a lot of time and headaches.
With that being said, we would suggest that you think twice about going for asynchronous classes. Going for a regular online nursing program will at least allow you to speak with other students in real-time as well as teachers. That makes the experience feel more interactive and inclusive, to the point that you may forget that you’re not in a traditional class. As a matter of fact, many people say that they feel more proximity through this format.
With asynchronous classes, you will be completely on your own. This will feel more like you watching a video in a room than attending a class. While this is something that can work for some people, others will crave the interaction, and this could end up affecting your motivation.
Pro: Cost Savings
Another great thing about online nursing programs is that they give you a chance to save in many ways. While you can expect to pay roughly the same for tuition, you’ll be able to save on the back end.
No commute means less money spent on gas. You’ll be at home more, so you’ll be less inclined to eat out. No physical manuals to buy, and no technology, student activity or athletic fees either. These are all things that will add up at the end of the day.
Con: Require More Discipline
Online classes are not easier than traditional classes. It can actually be the opposite depending on the type of student you are. The freedom these programs offer can be a gift and a curse. If you’re a busy parent and are working at the same time, you might be tempted to postpone lectures, and this is something that can easily be done when you have no one to answer to.
This is why you need to look at your life right now and how you deal with responsibilities. If you tend to procrastinate, then online degrees might not be the best option for you. At least not the asynchronous kind. If you still decide to go through with it, make sure that you have people around you that will hold you accountable if you miss your assignments.
Pro: More Options
One of the greatest benefits of online nursing programs is that you can attend schools on the other side of the country or the planet if you wish. Many people think that nursing shortages are caused by a lack of applicants, but that’s not true. It’s the lack of faculty that is the problem.
Online classes have been proposed as a solution since they allow teachers to teach more students without space limitations. This means that going for an online program could increase your chances of getting accepted. Also, it could help you get into the school you wanted even if it’s too far. Others simply don’t have too many options where they are, or the schools close to them aren’t up to par. Online programs would also be a great option for them.
Con: Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction
While some people can cope with dealing with other students and teachers virtually, some will never get used to it. And there are limitations to the type of work you can do remotely. If you wanted the camaraderie that comes with nursing school, then you might miss some of it through online classes.
However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t develop it outside of classes. Some decide to form study groups with people attending the same program as them. This could be an option for you if you live in a large city. Also know that you’ll have to spend time in clinical settings, which will give you plenty of opportunities to rub shoulders with other students.
Pro: Perfect Way to Advance Your Career
If you are a nurse and you felt stuck in your position but couldn’t imagine a way for you to get higher credentials, this is your chance. Being able to set your hours with an asynchronous course or going for a part-time or evening program are ways that you could get an advanced degree while still keeping your position.
This is a great option if you want to specialize as well. You could move into a high-paying field or one that would allow you to work at a softer pace, like family nursing for instance. Family nursing is a great field for any nurse with experience who wants to work closer to patients and have a true relationship with them. Not to mention that many FNPs get to run their clinic and set their hours.
You could look at one of these online FNP programs from universities like TWU offer. Some will also have bridge programs that will allow you to get your master’s faster if you’re coming from a different field or have an associate’s degree.
Con: Not all Programs are Recognized
Online programs have gone a long way since diploma mills and most online nursing programs you’ll find today are legitimate. However, there are still some that are not. This is why you need to do your research before you pick any school.
The most important is making sure that the school and the course are accredited. You should also look for a mix of regional and national accreditation. Look for CCNE and ACEN accreditation at the national level. These are the two most respected bodies and you can rest assured that your credentials will be respected if you join a program that was accredited by them. They also ensure that the quality of education that you receive is up to par and compares to traditional programs.
Pro: Great Technology Tools
Before picking a program, we would also suggest that you check what type of tools that they use. Some make classes feel much more immersive than others and make it easier for you to listen to lectures and interact with other students. Things like live chat rooms and message boards are great if you want to feel a sense of community. Great schools will also have 24-hour IT support in case you have any issues.
Con: Technology Requirements
All this technology comes at a price, however. You will have to invest in a good machine if you want to be able to enjoy classes.
First of all, you have to make sure that the computer has a powerful enough processor. This is what will dictate how powerful it is. Check if the computer has an Intel Core i3/i5/i7 or AMD A processor. These can be expensive, but a worthy investment. Next, make sure that it has a great graphics processor, at least 2GB of RAM, and lots of disk space as well. Last, make sure that it has a great screen and consider anti-glare options if you intend to take classes outside or in a sunny room.
Also, you might want to look at the quality of your internet connection. This is often something people don’t look at, especially if you don’t use the internet that much. Slow or inconsistent internet could make the lectures tough or impossible to read. Collaboration with other people will also be much tougher.
These are some of the benefits and disadvantages of online nursing programs. These could be the perfect choice for you depending on your situation, but you have to assess if you have the right attitude and are ready for the challenges that come with them.