The U.S. health care system is expected to face a shortage of nurses as the demands for care from the country’s increasing and aging population grow over the next decade.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care industry could see more than 175,000 openings for nursing positions each year through 2029, through newly added positions to provide care and positions to replace nurses who retire or leave the work force.

Registered nurses who have a bachelor’s degree can help meet the demand, and these nurses may be able to leverage the credential to help advance their careers, such as into a supervisory role, or to build a solid foundation to become a clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse-midwife, or nurse practitioner.

The online RN to BSN program offered through Penn State World Campus gives registered nurses the flexibility to work while getting their degree. The program, which is currently accepting applications for admission in the summer 2021 semester, is taught by faculty from the Penn State College of Nursing.

Here are some tips and answers to frequently asked questions about the program as you prepare to apply.

What are the nursing school requirements and prerequisites for applicants?

There are several requirements that applicants must meet to apply:

  • Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Applicants must have graduated from a State Board of Nursing–approved RN program and have an active registered nurse license.

During the application process, applicants will submit transcripts from high school/GED, official college or university transcripts if they attended another institution, and military transcripts, if applicable.

There is another requirement for students, once they are admitted: Prior to enrolling in certain courses, they must have an active RN license in the state in which the course work with clinical hours will be completed.

What does the RN to BSN program consist of?

The program consists of 120 credits. Applicants may transfer credits into this program from another accredited institution. However, to earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, students must earn 36 of the last 60 credits from Penn State.

Students must also complete a clinical experience of 45 hours in the final capstone course, NURS 475, to complement their course work. 

Can I receive credits toward the BSN from my RN?

Students may receive up to 33 credits toward their BSN through our credit-by-portfolio process. Students will need to demonstrate they received college-level learning outside of the classroom. They can work with their adviser to explore this further.

What are the benefits of continuing your education in an RN to BSN program?

The American Association of Colleges in Nursing asserts that bachelor's-level nurses are better prepared to meet challenges posed by the continuously evolving demands of today's health care environment. Nurses must possess high-level skills in making critical decisions, providing direct care, supervision/coordination of other health care workers, guiding patients through the health care system, and providing education.

In addition to providing potential career advancement, a BSN can also be a pathway to graduate school.

How do online courses work?

The courses for the online RN to BSN program are based on the same nursing curriculum offered at the other Penn State campuses.

The online courses are delivered asynchronously, which means that students can complete their readings, assignments, and other work at their own pace each week. Penn State uses the Canvas learning management system.

The only part of this program that is not offered online is the 45 hours of a clinical experience.

How long does it take to complete an online BSN program? 

The program can be completed in as little as a year if students have all other non-nursing courses completed.

What factors should be considered when evaluating different RN to BSN programs?

Students will have their own priorities and preferences for the program that is their best fit. Penn State World Campus has a number of factors that applicants can take into account when they make their decision.

  • Accreditation: The online RN to BSN program is part of the baccalaureate nursing program through the Penn State College of Nursing, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
  • Academic quality: Faculty from the Penn State College Nursing teach in the online RN to BSN program. The faculty are respected researchers and scholars in the field.
  • Flexibility and convenience: The courses are offered in an online format, which typically allows students to complete their assignments on a week-by-week basis. This flexibility gives students the chance to work and complete their course assignments when it is convenient for them.
  • Student resources and services: Penn State World Campus students can take advantage of a variety of resources and support services available for online learners, such as academic advising, tutoring services in writing and math-related fields, career counseling, and technical support.
  • Continuing your nursing education: The online nursing program portfolio at Penn State also has a master’s degree in nursing and a doctor of nursing practice program, giving students additional pathways to realize their educational goals.
  • Penn State community: Students will be part of a powerful community with networking opportunities among faculty, fellow students, mentors, and alumni. The Penn State Alumni Association is also the largest dues-paying alumni association in the country.

What clinical requirements are part of the RN to BSN program?

We have significantly reduced our clinical hour requirement from 180 hours to 45 hours. 

The clinical experience takes place during the capstone course, NURS 475, and is meant to be an experience for BSN students to grow professionally as they look to take the next step in their careers.

Students will design their clinical experience, which will give them the opportunity to analyze and evaluate aspects of health that are aligned with their goals. 

Are these clinical requirements the same as those in a pre-licensure program?

The clinical experiences are designed to differ from those in a pre-licensure program. This will be a “health-related activity” that includes a project or time spent in another health care setting. Even for experienced nurses, this can provide valuable opportunities to train in new departments or areas of responsibility.

When is the deadline to apply?

The program is accepting applications through Monday, March 15, for admission in the summer semester. The summer semester starts May 17.

Interested in learning more?

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about the online RN to BSN program.