If your ultimate career goal is to become a certified nurse, then the first step you will want to take is to find the right institution of higher education in which to obtain the necessary degree. There are a variety of nursing degrees out there, whether you are looking for an Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD.
These days, however, prospective nurses have a choice to make between obtaining their degree from a traditional college and pursuing their degree in a largely online setting.
In order to decide the best option for you, it is a good idea to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
On-Campus Nursing Degrees
These are traditional degrees such as Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhDs that are earned from an accredited institution such as a college or university. Obtaining a degree in this case involves physically attending scheduled classes on campus with a number of other student and faculty members.
Pros of On-Campus Nursing Degrees
Perhaps the most obvious advantage to this particular type of degree program is the ability to collaborate with other students within the program and to have easy access to faculty such as advisors, instructors, and professors. Various educational studies over the years have shown the importance of collaboration in understanding concepts and mastering information. This is particularly valuable when it comes to a nursing program, which involves complete understanding, mastery, and memorization of various medical concepts and procedures. On a physical campus, this collaboration may come in the form of study groups outside of class or even something as simple as a stimulating class discussion that leaves students feeling personally invested in the subject material.
In addition, attending classes on a physical campus gives students access to their professors during scheduled office hours. And with nursing being a notoriously difficult program to get through, being able to meet with a professor is extremely valuable to one’s education and overall success in the program, career, and beyond. For example, nursing students having difficulty with specific concepts discussed in class have the ability to visit the professor during his or her office hours for further clarification and better understanding of the concept at hand. This not only leads to better test scores, but can help a nurse later on down the road when he or she is practicing in the field.
In addition the the benefit of collaboration in an on-campus environment, it is also beneficial in the sense that an on-campus nursing class typically offers more real-world and hands on experience than an online class might. For example, many nursing classes on campus allow students to carry out some of the very nursing procedures that they would typically need to perform on a regular basis when practicing as a nurse. This can include anything from taking one’s blood pressure or listening to a heartbeat for irregularities to administering CPR or drawing blood. Often times, students themselves get the opportunity to act as both the patient and take on the role of the nurse, allowing them to experience the procedures from both perspectives. This can be extremely valuable in the workplace upon graduation from the program.
Of course, this is not to say that online programs do not offer hands on experience. However, attending a scheduled class on a physical campus, especially classes with labs, tend to offer more of this valuable experience to students.
Cons of On-Campus Nursing Degrees
Of course, this nursing degree programs have their disadvantages, as well. Often times, taking classes on-campus can make for a difficult time when it comes to scheduling classes that work within one’s schedule, often making it hard for students to graduate from the program on time. This is true of essentially all on-campus degree programs, but is perhaps specifically true for nursing students, as many of these classes have not only a lecture portion, but a separate lab portion that may be held at an inconvenient time of day. This makes it difficult for students with other obligations, such as a job or family to take care of, to take the classes that they need to complete the program in a timely manner.
Online Nursing Degree Programs
These nursing programs take place in a partial online setting as opposed to on a physical campus at a set date and time each week.
Pros of Online Nursing Degrees
Perhaps the biggest advantage of an online nursing degree program is that it tends to be very flexible in terms of course scheduling. Since the lecture portions of these classes do not necessarily meet on set dates and times of the week, students are better able to take the classes they want without having to worry about scheduling conflicts. Therefore, online degree programs are often popular among people attempting to obtain their nursing degree while also working full time to support themselves or raise a family.
Another benefit of an online nursing program is that students are not as restricted in terms of the specific school they end up enrolling in based on their location alone. For example, a student living in California could potentially enroll in a nursing degree program for a school located across the country in New York. In this sense, a student can do their research and enroll in a school with a reputable online nursing degree without having to physically move to the area near that school. Of course, in order to gain the necessary and valuable hands-on experience and training with such a school, it may be necessary to take a lab or other courses at a physical campus locally. Still, these online programs offer much greater flexibility than a strictly on-campus one.
Cons of Online Nursing Degrees
One of the biggest disadvantages of online nursing degrees is the simple issue of accreditation and reputability. Nursing students need to be especially careful in choosing an online degree program, as there are many online schools out there that have not yet been accredited. Therefore, if one enrolls in a school that is not a nationally accredited institution, the degree itself will likely not be able to help one land a job in the field. For this reason, students considering an online nursing degree program must do careful research to ensure that the school they are looking into is not only accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing, but are reputable as well.
In addition, online nursing programs typically do not offer as much hands on experience as an on-campus degree does. This can be a drawback when it comes to trying to find a job in the field, as many prospective employers will expect all nurses that they hire to have real-world experience. For this reason, students considering an online nursing degree program should also attempt to find internships and other means of obtaining real-world experience as a nurse. Some online schools will even help their students find internships or opportunities for this.
Overall, on-campus and online nursing degrees both have their share of pros and cons. Which option is best for any given student is a very personal decision and requires one to take their own unique situation into careful consideration. At the end of the day, all of the hard work can easily be worth it when an accredited degree in nursing is obtained and one can begin practicing their passion in a hospital setting or doctor’s office.