If you’re an RN in the Tarheel State, an online North Carolina RN to BSN program may be the right choice for you. North Carolina is one of the top states for nursing, thanks to wealth of world-class teaching hospitals, medical centers, and clinics concentrated in three growing metropolitan regions: the Triangle, the Triad, and Charlotte. According to the American Nurses Association, North Carolina is one of the 10 states with the highest job growth in nursing, and this is the time for working RNs to consider taking the next step in their careers.
There are a lot of reasons to make the change now. The American Nurses Credentialing Center has been pushing for at least 80% of hospital staff nationwide to have a BSN or higher by 2020, and the Magnet Recognition Program has made it a priority for many hospitals. Within a few years, then, RNs may not be able to get hospital jobs without a BSN. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses in North Carolina make around $61,000 a year on average – $29 per hour – but the highest pay rates are going to be closed to nurses with only an associate’s.
RN to BSN in North Carolina: The Online Option
For working nurses, an online RN to BSN degree completion program is often the most convenient choice. Nurses in an online program can fit their coursework to their schedule, without adding more commuting time or missing classes because of shift changes. TopRNtoBSN has put together a ranking of the 15 Best Online North Carolina RN to BSN Programs for those working RNs who want to go farther. Our ranking is based on 3 factors:
- Reputation (the institution’s U.S. News & World Report’ overall score)
- Cost (per online credit)
- Success Outcomes (from College Scorecard)
All of the programs listed here are regionally accredited by SACS, and most are CCNE-accredited as well. Although some require clinical practice, those credits can usually be earned close to home, and all coursework is online.
1. Appalachian State University – Boone, NC
Appalachian State University is the foremost public university in the Appalachian Mountains, recognized as a crucial component to professional and technical education for the region, and a key to preserving Appalachian culture. Though it began as a teacher training school in 1899, after joining the University of North Carolina system in 1971 App State has grown into a leader in many other fields, especially health science and nursing. Appalachian is ranked in the top 10 regional universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report, and regularly named a best value by Kiplinger’s and the Princeton Review.
With much of its student body living in remote, rural areas of the Appalachians, ASU is also a leader in online education. The Appalachian online RN to BSN degree program is a prime example of App State’s excellence in online education. This fully online, CCNE-accredited program is designed specifically for working nurses, allowing students to complete their 30 credits toward the BSN in just one year. It’s a convenient, affordable degree from one of the first names in North Carolina nursing.
2. UNC Wilmington – Wilmington, NC
UNC Wilmington was founded as a private junior college in 1947, part of the nationwide effort to meet the educational needs of returning WWII veterans. As demand overtook the school’s ability to keep up, the junior college became a public community college, growing into a state college before being taken up by the UNC system in 1969. Today, UNC Wilmington is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 20 regional universities in the South, as well as a perennial Kiplinger’s best value. Wilmington is particularly well known for its nursing programs, with a School of Nursing dating back to the 1960s.
UNCW’s online RN to BSN degree program is a 31-credit program designed for working North Carolina nurses to complete their BSN. All coursework is fully online, using an accelerated, 7-week course format that allows students to begin at six different points throughout the year. This flexibility makes it possible for well-prepared, full-time students to complete their BSN requirements in just 1 year. UNCW has a long-established history as a best value, and a low cost per credit helps students earn the credentials they need for advancement without going into debt.
3. Western Carolina University – Cullowhee, NC
Founded in 1888 as the Cullowhee Academy, Western Carolina University came about as a grassroots effort of the people of the Appalachian Mountains to improve their education options on their own power. The small high school grew into a normal school, a teachers college, and eventually a state college, all the while developing a reputation as a central element of higher education in the Appalachians. Today, Western Carolina is ranked one of the top 40 regional universities in the South, and is especially known for its community engagement and outreach.
Part of Western Carolina’s outreach is its many online degree programs, which make it possible for WCU to provide education to the rural and remote areas of the mountains. WCU’s online RN to BSN degree program is an important part of the university’s education, providing well-trained and qualified nurses for the region’s hospitals and health centers. The 32-credit program is designed to be completed in just 2 years. All coursework, including Orientation, is completely online, and WCU’s tuition rate is among the lowest in the region, making a Western Carolina online RN to BSN a smart choice for Carolina nurses.
4. Winston-Salem State University – Winston-Salem, NC
A public, historically black university in Winston-Salem, NC, Winston-Salem State University is part of the UNC system and one of the state’s best regional colleges. WSSU was founded in 1892 by education reformer Dr. Simon Green Atkins as a teacher training school for African-American teachers. Today, Winston-Salem State is recognized by the Wall Street Journal as the top public HBCU in North Carolina, and is particularly significant for its health science programs. Diverse Issues in Higher Education has ranked WSSU as the top college in North Carolina for graduating black nurses and health professionals.
The WSSU online RN to BSN degree program is intended for working nurses with an active RN license for North Carolina, as well as an associate’s degree or nursing diploma. Students must also have at least 51 transferrable credits. WSSU’s BSN offers three different starting periods – winter, spring, and fall – and all coursework can be completed entirely online. Students can also opt for a Competency-Based Education Program (CBE), which allows them to work through the same material as the conventional BSN in an alternative format. Students in the CBE program can complete the curriculum at their own pace by passing competencies. WSSU has a strong reputation in the Triad region of North Carolina, giving graduates access to a large healthcare job market.
5. North Carolina Central University – Durham, NC
One of U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked national HBCUs, North Carolina Central University is a public university founded in 1910. Central’s original mission was preparing teachers and providing adult education for the African-American communities of central North Carolina. Its location in Durham, NC, in the historic, once self-sustaining Hayti neighborhood, made it one of the region’s most influential black colleges. Today, Central is ranked as a top-tier regional university for the South, and is a crucial educator for black professionals in North Carolina.
NC Central has been educating nurses since 1948, and Central’s online RN to BSN degree program is bringing that history into the 21st century. The Central program is open to current RN license holders in North Carolina who have an associate’s degree or diploma. For those who have all prerequisites, only 22 credits, all fully online, are needed. The most prepared, full-time students can complete their degree in just one year. With Central’s location in Durham – part of the Research Triangle, and a hub of cutting-edge medicine – nursing graduates have their pick of jobs.
6. East Carolina University – Greenville, NC
The third-largest university in North Carolina, East Carolina University dates back to a teacher training school established in 1907. The demand for higher education opportunities in eastern North Carolina – a rural region with few other options – was high enough that the school grew into a college, then a university, by 1967. The bulk of that growth and development was in the health sciences; ECU offers the area’s only medical and dental schools. The College of Nursing, meanwhile, is a comprehensive nursing program recognized as a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing, graduating more nurses than any other school in the region.
ECU’s online RN to BSN degree program brings all of that historic excellence to a distance format. The online BSN completion program is specifically designed for working nurses, with a convenient structure and flexible scheduling. Many courses are offers in accelerated block format, allowing students to complete two 7-week courses per semester. While some courses require practical experiences, these can be completed by the student in their own area. With the South’s most trusted name in nursing, ECU BSN graduates can be assured that their investment will take them places.
7. UNC Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
UNC Charlotte is the fastest-growing member of the UNC system, for obvious reasons: Charlotte, NC, is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, fueled by a booming economy tied to the banking, finance, and tech industries. UNCC began as an extension campus of UNC in 1948, providing education for the many WWII veterans using their GI Bill for college. Today, UNC Charlotte is a comprehensive, public research university, ranked as a top college for social mobility and steadily earning national recognition. UNCC is especially known for professional programs related to urban life, including business, computing, and health and human services.
The School of Nursing offers UNC Charlotte’s online RN to BSN degree program, a CCNE-accredited, degree-completion program. Working, licensed RNs with an associate’s degree or diploma are eligible to apply, and those with full prerequisites can finish their degree in just 1 year. All coursework is completely online. UNCC’s reasonable tuition rate and short time frame mean students can potentially earn their BSN for less than $5000. Graduates enter one of the nation’s most thriving job markets, making UNC Charlotte’s online RN to BSN one of the best options Carolina nurses could hope for.
8. Barton College – Wilson, NC
Barton College is a small liberal arts college of just over 1100 students in the small city of Wilson, NC. Founded in 1902 by the Disciples of Christ church, Barton College began as a small bible college, but really began to make its reputation with adult education and outreach in the 1990s. Today, Barton is still small, but its impact has become much larger, as well as its reputation. Barton College is ranked one of the top 10 regional colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report, as well as a top 10 best value, and its profile is only growing.
Barton College’s online RN to BSN degree program is its first fully online degree, and a good sign of things to come. This CCNE-accredited degree is intended specifically for working nurses in North Carolina who have an active RN license and an associate’s degree, preferably from an accredited North Carolina community college. For students with all of these qualifications, the RN to BSN is entirely online. Students take 35 credits over three semesters (fall, spring, and summer) to complete their BSN in only one year.
9. North Carolina A&T State University – Greensboro, NC
One of the most esteemed HBCUs in the nation, North Carolina A&T State University is a public research institution in Greensboro, NC, part of the state’s growing Triad region. Founded in 1891, A&T was North Carolina’s land-grant university for African-Americans, during the time when black students were not accepted into the state’s public universities. A&T made the most of its opportunity, turning its foundation in agriculture and mechanical engineering into one of the state’s premier STEM universities. Today, NC A&T is ranked a top 10 HBCU nationally, the #1 HBCU in North Carolina, and is the largest HBCU in the nation.
The NC A&T online RN to BSN degree program is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date BSN programs in the state. Designed for working nurses with an RN license and an associate’s degree, the A&T BSN completion program is intended not only for the bare minimum qualifications. The A&T curriculum also includes significant, cutting-edge informatics and global health courses, and instruction in nursing ethics and collaboration. It’s no surprise that North Carolina’s top HBCU – and one of its most socially-conscious, engaged universities – would craft an online BSN that makes both better nurses, and better citizens.
10. UNC Pembroke – Pembroke, NC
Officially designated as North Carolina’s Historically American Indian University, UNC Pembroke is one of the most unique institutions in the South. Founded in 1887 as the Croatan Normal School, UNC Pembroke was a grassroots effort by the Lumbee people of eastern North Carolina to prepare teachers who could help preserve their culture and identity. As it grew into a college, UNC Pembroke played a major role in fighting illiteracy and lack of adequate education in the rural region. Today, UNC Pembroke is central to professional education in eastern North Carolina, ranked one of the top 50 public regional universities in the South.
UNC Pembroke’s online RN to BSN degree program is a CCNE-accredited degree completion program. Designed for working nurses with an associate’s degree and active RN license, the Pembroke BSN is almost entirely online (two courses must be taken at a distance education center). Students can choose an accelerated format, with 8-week courses that can be completed in 1 year, or a self-paced option. UNC Pembroke is a trusted name in North Carolina’s healthcare system, and the online RN to BSN program is a convenient, manageable way to earn a valuable credential.
11. University of Mount Olive – Mount Olive, NC
Founded in 1951 by the Original Free Will Baptist church, the University of Mount Olive had its roots in an earlier institution, Eureka College, which burned down in 1931. While its original role was providing a junior college education for an area without college options, Mount Olive grew through the 20th century into a respected small liberal arts college. Today, the University of Mount Olive is a faith-based university grounded in the liberal arts, but focused on producing Christian leaders in professions ranging from business and criminal justice to nursing.
Mount Olive has emphasized adult education for decades, and the university has turned to using online education to extend its reach. Since 2012, the University of Mount Olive’s online RN to BSN degree program has been preparing nurses for higher responsibilities. The Mount Olive BSN is available fully online for working RNs with an associate’s degree, and it’s one of the most flexible, convenient programs available. Most courses take an accelerated, 5-week format, and all are asynchronous – no defined start times. Students can enter the program at 6 different times each year, and with up to 96 transfer credits, the 36-credit BSN can be completed in just a year.
12. Gardner-Webb University – Boiling Springs, NC
Gardner-Webb University began as a private high school in Boiling Springs, NC, founded in 1905 by the Baptist church. At the time, many western North Carolina communities lacked adequate public schools, and the Baptist high school grew into a junior college in the next 20 years. In 1993 Gardner-Webb became the newest of North Carolina’s many Baptist universities. Long ranked one of the top regional universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report, in recent years Gardner-Webb has moved up into the national rankings. Gardner-Webb has also earned strong rankings for their online degrees, including the national top 100 for nursing.
Gardner-Webb’s online RN to BSN degree program comes from the Hunt School of Nursing, a school steadily rising in reputation and rank. The Davis Nursing RN-BSN, as the program is called, is focused on holistic health, with an emphasis on Christian values, ethical and legal standards, and social responsibility. Gardner-Webb’s primary purpose is to place Christian leaders in professional careers, and nursing, with its opportunities for therapeutic care and emotional support, is a key to that mission. With its reputation on the way up, Gardner-Webb University is a sound choice for the aspiring nurse leader.
13. Fayetteville State University – Fayetteville, NC
Part of the UNC system, Fayetteville State University began as the first normal school for African-Americans in North Carolina in 1877. The State Colored Normal School was rooted in the earlier Howard School, which became a model for the education of black teachers. As the city of Fayetteville grew around Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, FSU grew as well; in particular, Fayetteville State’s adult and distance learning programs had their start in extension programs for military personnel. Today, Fayetteville State is U.S. News & World Report top 25 national HBCU, and has been acclaimed as one of the most affordable, best value online educators in the nation.
The Fayetteville State online RN to BSN degree program is one of the best values in nursing anywhere. Designed for working nurses to complete their nursing bachelor’s, the RN to BSN program is built for convenience and flexibility. All courses are presented in an accelerated, 8-week format, with full-time students taking 2 courses every term. All coursework is fully online, while two clinical experiences can be completed in the student’s home area. This 32-credit program also counts for continuing education units (CEUs) for continuing the RN license, and FSU’s tuition is one of the most affordable rates in North Carolina.
14. Pfeiffer University – Misenheimer, NC
Pfeiffer University dates back to 1885, to a home school in rural Caldwell County, in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina. Settling in the small village of Misenheimer, Pfeiffer gained its name from Henry and Annie Pfeiffer, New York philanthropists who helped the growing junior college build its campus in 1934. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Pfeiffer stands today as a respected small liberal arts college, ranked one of the top 100 regional universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
The Pfeiffer University online RN to BSN degree program is a CCNE-accredited, fully online option for working nurses with an associate’s degree. Led by the Division of Applied Health Sciences, the online RN to BSN provides both fully online courses, and residency experience, which can be arranged for a convenient location. Licensed RNs with at least six months of work experience are eligible to apply, and working nurses may qualify for prior learning credits based on their experience. Pfeiffer’s online BSN is a top-quality program from a school with a growing reputation.
15. Mars Hill University – Mars Hill, NC
The oldest college in western North Carolina, Mars Hill was founded in 1856 as a Baptist institute. Today, Mars Hill University is a highly respected, small liberal arts university in Mars Hill, a suburb of Asheville. While Mars Hill retains its historic identification with Christian values and ethics, the university has been independent of the Baptist church since 2003. The college became a university in 2013, and in addition to its liberal arts programs includes professional schools in education and nursing. U.S. News & World Report ranks Mars Hill as one of the top 25 regional colleges in the South, as well as a top 20 best value.
Mars Hill University’s online RN to BSN degree program comes from the Judge-McRae School of Nursing, one of the most trusted nursing schools in the Appalachians. The Mars Hill BSN is not entirely online; in fact, it is the only hybrid RN to BSN program in western North Carolina, providing convenient online classes with a once-weekly session at the Adult and Graduate Studies center in Asheville. The RN to BSN curriculum follows Mars Hills’ values, focusing on ethical responsibility, community engagement, and cultural sensitivity. It’s a program all its own, from a university known for quality and value.