10 Best RN to BSN Programs in Illinois (Online & Campus) – 2023 Rankings

If you are a registered nurse in Illinois who is interested in furthering your education, you have many options available to you. An RN to BSN program is a great choice if want to transfer the credits you earned during your ADN program and earn a BSN degree in about two years. With a BSN degree, you could earn a higher salary, be more competitive in the workforce, and even work in a more specialized field if you so choose. Dozens of colleges and universities offer this bridge program on campus or online, and some offer hybrid programs that combine both. Here, we have ranked 29 accredited RN to BSN programs in Illinois based on factors like NCLEX-RN pass rates, student-to-faculty ratios, faculty ratings, prices, graduation rates, and more to bring you the following list of the top 10.

Online RN to BSN Programs in Illinois: What You Need to Know?

If you want to further your education, but you are already working full-time as an RN, online courses can provide you with the flexibility you need. Online RN to BSN programs in IL allows you to learn on your own time, but still get all the education you need to earn your bachelor’s degree. Bear in mind that even with online programs, you will still be required to visit campuses for testing and labs, and you will still need to complete your clinical rotation in an approved medical facility.

ACEN/CCNE Accredited & Approved by Illinois Board of Nursing: Part of choosing an online RN to BSN degree involves ensuring that it has been approved by the nursing board in Illinois and that it has been accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Employers throughout Illinois look for candidates who have earned a high-quality education that meets or exceeds these groups’ standards in order to improve patient outcomes.

Coursework: An RN to BSN program in the “Prairie State” will include various courses designed to improve upon the knowledge you obtained in your ADN program. This means that you should expect the coursework to be far more specific and, in some cases, more difficult. Additional topics you will learn about throughout the program include advanced nursing practices, healthcare ethics and laws, and even nursing leadership and management roles. Some of these courses are accompanied by simulations and labs held on campus, as well.
Sample Courses
Concepts of Professional Nursing, Research for Professional Nursing Practice, Health Assessment Across the Lifespan, Pathophysiology & Pharmacotherapeutics in Nursing, Public Health Nursing, Cultural & Spiritual Dimensions in Healthcare, Concepts of Professional Nursing II, and Leadership Dimensions in Professional Nursing

Clinical Training: Whether you will need further clinical training to earn your BSN degree depends primarily on the school you attend. Most schools offering online programs will not require you to participate in an unpaid clinical rotation if you are working a sufficient number of hours in a facility located in Illinois, but to be certain, it is important for you to speak to the advisor or head of the nursing department at the school you choose.

Program Length: Online RN to BSN courses vary in length due to their inherent flexibility, and many of them will allow you to study and learn at your own pace to a degree, but most students complete them in roughly two years. If you have less time, it may take you as long as 30 months to finish the program, and if you have more time, you may finish it in roughly 16 months, instead.

Common Admission Requirements: Admission requirements vary from one school to the next across Illinois, but many are the same across the board. For example, at Aurora University, which is one of the top programs in the state, you will need to:

• Have a current RN license in either Illinois or Wisconsin;
• Provide proof of practicing as an RN within the last five years (or proof that you have completed a refresher course);
• Submit transcripts from all previously attended colleges or universities; and
• Have a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

What are the 10 Best Accredited RN to BSN Programs in Illinois for 2023?

1) Illinois State University, Normal

Type: Online

Program Overview: Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing provides one of the most flexible online RN to BSN degrees in the state. Students are admitted here on a rolling basis, and unlike many of the other schools, ISU does not require chemistry or statistics as prerequisite courses. You can start your program in either spring or fall – whichever best suits your needs. The program consists of a total of 31 credit hours, and the school will also give you the opportunity to get any general education credits you may need in order to earn your degree, as well.

Key Highlights

• You may attend the online program full-time or part-time, which is excellent for busy working nurses. The full-time program takes only one year to complete, whereas the part-time program takes two.
• The Mennonite College of Nursing’s RN to BSN degree is internationally certified by Quality Matters, a nonprofit organization that sets high standards for quality online education.

2) Lewis University, Romeoville

Type: Campus

Program Overview: Despite the fact that the RN to BSN course offered by Lewis University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions is a traditional campus-based program, it was truly designed for working RNs who lead very busy lives. The university designed its program to have small class sizes in order to encourage participation and give you the individual attention you need to succeed. You will need a total of 128 credit hours to earn your BSN, and 26 of these are major credit hours.

Key Highlights

• Lewis University prides itself for taking a holistic approach to patient care, and these values are passed on to each student who successfully completes the RN to BSN course here.
• The university works to reward students who work hard by giving them 12 semester hours of credits (held in escrow) once they demonstrate basic nursing competencies through passing the NCLEX-RN examination and completing the Promoting Healthy Communities course.

3) Chamberlain University - Addison, Addison

Type: Online

Program Overview: Chamberlain University’s RN to BSN program offers coursework that is 100% online, and it also offers flexibility when it comes to enrollment by allowing you to take your courses on your schedule. The full curriculum consists of 122 credit hours, but Chamberlain University will reward RNs with a current, active Illinois RN license 77 proficiency credits, leaving only 45 credit hours remaining to complete the BSN. It is also one of the few programs in the state of Illinois that has double accreditation by both the CCNE and the Higher Learning Commission, which is a regional agency recognized by the US Department of Education.

Key Highlights

• If you choose to attend this RN to BSN program year-round with full-time enrollment, you can complete it in as little as three semesters, or about 18 months. Of course, other options do exist which allow you to plan your education according to your unique needs.
• Though Chamberlain University does require professional clinical experience throughout the program in order to complete it, most of these can be completed at your existing workplace rather than through an unpaid clinical program.

4) University of St. Francis - Illinois, Joliet

Type: Online

Program Overview: The University of St. Francis’ Leach College of Nursing is a faith-based learning institution that focuses on its students’ minds and spirit. It offers two different options for its RN to BSN program, including online degree completion and the Fast Track Bridge program in conjunction with Joliet Community College. The online program places special emphasis on critical thinking and decision making, and the school offers a unique Cultural Competency course that provides you with a CEU certificate upon completion but is 100% tuition-free.

Key Highlights

• The Leach College of Nursing at the University of St. Francis holds numerous current awards including the 2018-2019 Nursing Colleges of Distinction award and recognition as one of the Top Ranked Nursing Schools of 2018 by RegisteredNursing.org.
• Students who need financial assistance can apply for any of four scholarships offered by the university, including the Leach Endowed Scholarship which is available to students who meet requirements for financial need and academic proficiency.

5) Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, Edwardsville

Type: Online

Program Overview: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) offers an accelerated RN to BSN in nursing option that takes place online and on your time. Each course lasts eight weeks, and students get to choose an accelerated path, a traditional path, or perhaps even a slower path to earning their degrees. If you choose to attend this program, you will need to complete 120 credit hours with a minimum GPA of at least 2.0 as well as the Capstone Program.

Key Highlights

• SIUE offers incredible flexibility with its unique courses and programs. You can complete the program in as little as 18 months (three semesters) if you opt for the full-time, year-round program route.
• Prior to your nursing courses, SIUE will require you to complete “Immersion”, which is a four-module mini-program that provides you with basic information on how to be the best online student you can be, teaches you about the resources available to you, and much more.

6) Northern Illinois University, DeKalb

Type: Online

Program Overview: When it comes to flexibility, perhaps no other school in the state is as flexible as Northern Illinois University at DeKalb. In order to receive your BSN, you must complete 120 hours of coursework. You may be able to transfer up to 66 hours of coursework along with four hours of physical education credit from a community college that can be applied to your general education and pre-nursing requirements, as well. What’s more, if you earned your ADN more than five years ago and have not practiced within the last two years, you can take an RN Proficiency Exam to challenge the requirement to take certain nursing courses.

Key Highlights

• Northern Illinois University offers incredible flexibility, which allows you to tailor your program to your unique needs. If you choose the accelerated path, you can finish your degree in as little as 15 months, but you can also take as much time as you need without penalty.
• NIU at Dekalb does not require any hands-on clinical experience as part of its RN to BSN degree; rather, the Practicum in Leadership and Population-Focused Nursing puts an emphasis on leadership and management.

7) Western Illinois University, Macomb

Type: Online

Program Overview: Western Illinois University at Macomb offers an online RN-BSN Completion Program that was designed for working nurses who need flexibility in their education. Though they recommend completion of all general education beforehand, it is one of only a few schools in the state that will allow you to complete these requirements concurrently with your nursing courses. You will need to obtain a total of 125 semester hours in order to graduate this program, and you will need to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better to remain in the program.

Key Highlights

• WIU at Macomb won the 2017 Best RN to BSN Online Program award from College Choice in 2017.
• This is one of only nursing programs in the state of Illinois with a 100% job placement rate after program completion.
• Western Illinois University works especially hard to accommodate ROTC members and athletes with flexible schedules.

8) Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais

Type: Online

Program Overview: At Olivet Nazarene University (ONU), the RN to BSN program’s flexible model is known as PLP, or Personal Learning Plan. All of the courses last six weeks, and the program is open to current RNs who have ADN degrees or Diplomas in Nursing. It is 100% online, and it will take you a total of 15 months to complete the 30 required credit hours. ONU designed its program to be completed quickly, and it has a focus on professional advancement and preparation for graduate degrees. This means that if you plan to go on to earn a master’s degree, ONU is the choice for you.

Key Highlights

• Though Olivet Nazarene University will not require you to complete an unpaid clinical rotation, several courses, including Community Health Nursing, Leadership and Management in Nursing, Issues in Healthcare, Law, and Ethics, and Global Health Care do require 15-hour practicums each.
• ONU’s unique Student Accounts Team is especially well-versed in helping you find financial assistance through grants and scholarships.

9) Saint Anthony College of Nursing, Rockford

Type: Hybrid

Program Overview: The Saint Anthony College of Nursing in Rockford is a faith-based learning institution that provides a Hybrid RN to BSN course specifically for RNs who are currently licensed to practice in Illinois. The program is flexible, which means you can complete it at your own pace to a degree. You can take your general education courses at the college of your choice, but you must complete 30 nursing credits at Saint Anthony College to earn your degree.

Key Highlights

• Saint Anthony College of Nursing has one of the few truly hybrid RN to BSN courses in this state, which means it is a combination of online and classroom learning.
• You can earn your BSN in as little as 18 months, though thanks to the program’s flexibility, you can also take longer.
• A handful of courses, including Catholic Principles for Ethics and Healthcare, combine practical knowledge with faith-based skills application.

10) Elmhurst College, Elmhurst

Type: Hybrid

Program Overview: The RN to BSN program offered by Elmhurst College builds up on your past nursing education and enhances leadership and expertise in nursing practice. To earn your BSN you are required to complete a minimum of 34 credits at Elmhurst. The curriculum is a fine blend of liberal arts, and courses in nursing science that teach you concepts of nursing, leadership and management, nursing laws and ethics and evidence based practice informatics.

Key Highlights

• The curriculum includes two clinical courses that can be completed at a site decided by you, in consultation with the faculty.
• The college additionally offers this RN to BSN curriculum in a cohort format at partner hospital sites across Chicago. This can prove to be a fruitful academic experience that allows you to pursue a degree at a hospital and thereafter, possibly even find placement there.

Programs Currently on Hold or Discontinued

Aurora University, Aurora

Type: Online

Program Overview: This is one of the top online RN to BSN programs in the state of Illinois due in part to the thorough list of courses. In this program, you will take courses like Leadership and Management, Nursing: A Community Outlook, Lifespan Development, and Dimensions of Professional Practice. Each course takes roughly eight weeks, and you will need a total of 120 credit hours to earn your BSN.

Key Highlights

• Aurora University is especially focused on helping you achieve the skills you need to work as an RN in various specialty fields, including public health, occupational health, surgery, informatics, pediatrics, and even critical care.
• This is one of few RN to BSN programs in "the Prairie State” that is scheduled over the course of three years rather than two.

View Ranking Methodology


Latest on Illinois’s Push for 80 Percent BSN

The Institute of Medicine’s national initiative to create an RN workforce consisting of 80% RNs with BSN degrees is alive and well in Illinois. State Senator Andy Manar introduced Senate Bill 888 in an effort to help meet these guidelines; this bill would allow community colleges across the state to award bachelors’ degrees in nursing. Per Manar and other lawmakers, such a transition would make it much simpler for working professionals who live in smaller cities to obtain the education required to obtain a BSN.

Though the bill has not yet been passed, several universities across the state of Illinois have created unique RN to BSN programs to help nurses climb the ladder and satisfy the challenge set forth by the Institute of Medicine. Though many programs take place on campuses statewide, others are hybrid or 100% online programs that students can complete in their own time. This additional flexibility makes it far simpler for working nurses to further their education and seek additional professional opportunities.

Options to Fund Your RN to BSN in Illinois

The cost associated with RN to BSN degree in IL will vary significantly depending on your school of choice, but there are many different options and avenues to pursue if you need financial assistance.

Grants: If you can demonstrate financial need and academic excellence, you may qualify for state and federal grants. To find out, you will need to fill out and submit the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as early as possible. Once processed, this application will provide you with information about the grants you may qualify for, your expected financial contribution to your education, and more. There are also grants specific to certain nursing schools across Illinois, including Northern, Western, and Southern Illinois University.

Loans: Federal student loans are provided via Sallie Mae, which gives students in Illinois access to numerous options. You may also qualify for the William D. Ford Direct Loan and numerous other options available through private financers, including your own bank.

Scholarships: Scholarships for nursing students in Illinois are abundant. The best place to start is by calling nursing schools you are interested in attending to find out whether they offer scholarships of their own. Other scholarships specific to Illinois nursing students include the Nursing Education Scholarship Program through the Illinois Department of Public Health, among others.

Employer Assistance Programs: Numerous hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities across the state offer Employer Assistance Programs, often called Tuition Reimbursement or Tuition Assistance programs. If your employer offers such a program, you will be reimbursed for a portion of your tuition in exchange for agreeing to remain employed with that organization for a set period of time.

6 Potential Advantages of Pursuing an RN to BSN in Illinois

Pursuing an RN to BSN degree in the state of Illinois is a great way to improve your overall employability and value in the healthcare industry. Aside from this, moving forward with this degree has certain other benefits, as well.

1. Expand Your Knowledge, Skills & Abilities: The RN to BSN courses you will find at the top colleges and universities throughout Illinois were designed to build upon the education you received during your ADN or Nursing Diploma program. Additional focuses on things like law and ethics, management and leadership in nursing, community nursing, and more can help prepare you for a lifelong career as a modern RN.

2. Salary Bump: As the Illinois healthcare industry continues to work hard to meet the goal of having 80% of its RN workforce educated at the BSN level by 2020, and as the demand for positive patient outcomes climbs, employers must hire better-educated and well-trained nurses. Due to the lingering gap in demand and supply, employers in Illinois pay nurses who have BSN degrees more than those with ADN degrees - $6,180 more a year, on average. If you live in places like Chicago or Kankakee, you will enjoy the largest salary bump after completing your RN to BSN course in Illinois.

Before RN To BSN After RN to BSN How Much More Will I Earn
$70,090 $76,270 +$6,180
(Source: Compiled using data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

3. More Job Opportunities: Annually, there are 4,330 job openings for BSN graduates compared to only 2,720 for ADN graduates. By obtaining your BSN, you will become a more attractive prospect to potential employers due to your additional education and experience. Because the state of Illinois is working hard to ensure that 80% of its RN population has BSN degrees by 2020, there are more opportunities available once you obtain your BSN.

Illinois Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
Annual Openings for BSN Graduates 4,330
Annual Openings for ADN Graduates 2,720
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)

4. The Outlook is Brighter for a BSN Graduate: Job security is an important consideration for everyone, and with the increased focus on excellent patient outcomes, it comes as no surprise that your outlook as an RN with a BSN will be improved, as well. Between the years of 2017 and 2027, some 7,780 new RN with BSN jobs are expected to be added in Illinois, representing significant growth of 12.74%. This, when compared to only 6.74% growth for RNs who have ADN degrees, makes it clear that the benefits associated with pursuing an RN to BSN program are worth the time and investment.

10 Year (2017-2027) Job Outlook
Employment New Job Growth
2017 2027 Number %
BSN 61,060 68,840 7,780 12.74%
ADN 40,620 43,360 2,740 6.74%
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)

5. Career Advancement: An RN with any degree can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and more. However, with a BSN, you can do much more across the state of Illinois. You will be qualified to teach programs at community colleges designed to train new LPNs and CNAs, for example. You could also pursue a career in nursing leadership or management and even community nursing.

Advancement Opportunities
Charge Nurse Director of Nursing
Chief Nursing Officer Nurse Educator
Clinical Nurse Specialist Nurse Manager
Clinical Research Nurse Nurse Supervisor

6. Post-RN to BSN Study Options: Finally, it is also important to consider that a BSN degree is not the end of the educational road for any registered nurse in Illinois. In fact, this degree aptly prepares you for a variety of other paths. You could choose to continue your education to receive a master’s degree, or MSN, which would allow you to work as a clinical leader, administrator, or even a specialist. With this degree, you could earn as much as $129,080 annually. From there, you could even move on to a PhD or DNP degree, allowing you to work as a university dean, a researcher, and more. With this degree, you could earn up to $148,400 annually – or more, depending on your reputation and experience.

Type of Degree Length Roles and Responsibilities Salary
Master’s Degree (MSN/MS) Up to 2 years Administrator, Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Leader, Clinical Nurse Specialist & Nurse Practitioner $72,960 - $129,080
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree 4 to 6 years Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, College Faculty, Nursing School Dean, Health System Executive, Researcher, & Senior Policy Analyst $80,256 - $148,400

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