While finishing a traditional nursing school gives you plenty of opportunities for the future, some nurses want to further their studies and get a Master of Science in Nursing online. Completing one of these programs online gives you the freedom to remain at your current job and finish a graduate degree at the same time that you work as a nurse. Though you can get one of these degrees online, you must know how to apply and how to choose the best program.

How to Apply

Applying to an undergraduate nursing program is much easier than applying to a graduate program. You first need to complete an online application that asks where you went to college, how long you had your license and your overall grade point average. The application may also ask where you currently work and why you want to get a graduate nursing degree. Many schools charge an application fee that ranges from $20 to more than $100. You will also need to submit a transcript from the college where you obtained your nursing degree, a copy of your resume and letters of recommendation from supervisors at work or former professors.

Classes and Requirements

Once you start the online program, you must agree to meet all requirements before you graduate. These programs generally require that you take 30 credit hours of higher level courses. When you get a Master of Science in Nursing online, you may have the option of declaring a concentration or major such as nursing management, health care operations or health care management. Some schools also require that you do an internship or fieldwork project. You can either make arrangements for your own internship or apply for one available through the college.

How Long Will it Take?

Students typically finish a Master of Science in Nursing in two years or less. When you opt for an online program, you can finish the entire program in 18 months to two years as a full time student. Full time students take a minimum of two classes every semester and can take up to three courses each semester. Part time students take just one class each semester. Many colleges have rules in place that require students agree to finish their studies within five to seven years. Those who do not complete the program may need to start over again.

Choosing the Best School or Program

Before you get a Master of Science in Nursing online, you need to know how to choose the right online school and how to avoid diploma mills and other scams. Jessica Bosari of Forbes created a list of warning signs associated with diploma mills, which includes accreditation issues, a lack of communication between the school and students, negative reviews posted by students and a low rating or lack of rating from leading publications. The best online programs have accreditation from top nursing organizations and will effectively communicate with you before you become a student.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master’s Degrees in Nursing Online 2015

Nurses often work shifts that run for 12 hours or more, which can make it hard for you to go to graduate school. Online programs give you more flexibility regarding the number of classes you take each semester and when you study. Though you can get a Master of Science in Nursing online, make sure that you know how to avoid common scams like diploma mills.