Whether working directly with patients, training other nurses or developing and managing health programs, nurses make a difference in their community. To work as a nurse practitioner, you need to have the appropriate credentials: about 94% of nurses hold a graduate degree in nursing, and most of the remaining 6% have been working for over 25 years. Increasingly, professionals in the field looking to jumpstart their career are turning toward online nursing programs for certification and an advanced education. In response to this demand, many schools now offer their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program entirely online. These programs prepare students for leadership roles and for advanced doctoral studies.
Online nursing programs allow students to receive the same training they would get in a traditional classroom. Online students watch lectures, collaborate with each other in virtual classrooms and complete coursework that is enhanced by multimedia material, including video and interactive sites. And online nursing students who already hold a nursing position often find they can complete their clinical practicum experiences in their current position, meaning there is no need to commute to a campus for in-person work.
To help you find a great online program, we’ve ranked the top 25 online nursing masters programs in the country. Each school offers a robust curriculum matching their traditional program, with easy-to-access online classes and a simple course management platform. If you’re looking to take the next step in your nursing career, consider pursuing an online master’s in nursing degree from one of these top schools.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Georgetown University||Washington||$$$$$||37th and O St NW|
Washington, DC 20057-0001
Georgetown University, located in Washington D.C., offers an online master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree program with several track options, including adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (23-month program), family nurse practitioner (19-month full-time program or 27-month part-time program), nurse-midwifery women's health nurse practitioner (27-month program), and women's health nurse practitioner (27-month program). Each track requires students to come to campus two or three times to complete on-campus intensives. These are three-to-five day visits during which students complete skills assessments with faculty. Students also participate in clinical training through workshops, high-fidelity simulators, and standardized patients.
Online MSN courses are delivered by video conferencing technology in a live format that facilitates collaborative learning. Small class sizes with a student-to-faculty-ratio of 12:1 help students form strong relationships with classmates and faculty. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible to sit for the national certification exam in their area of specialty.
|2||University of Maryland Baltimore||Baltimore||$$$$$||620 West Lexington St|
Baltimore, MD 21201-1627
The University of Maryland Baltimore offers online MSN program specialties in nursing informatics and in health services leadership and management. The master’s of science in nursing informatics program teaches nurses to improve the care and outcomes of patients by developing, implementing, and evaluating information technology; this prepares them to be leaders who can conceptualize, design, and use computer-based information systems. Alternatively, the master’s of science in nursing health services leadership and management program prepares graduates to manage the delivery of health care in acute care, long-term, ambulatory, and home health care settings. The school also offers an accelerated RN-to-MSN online degree program, which can be undertaken part-time or full-time. The coursework for all three of these MSN programs can be completed online, and the required practicum hours can be fulfilled at a site near a student’s home.
|3||Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center||Lubbock||$$$$$||3601 4th Street|
Lubbock, TX 79430
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center's school of nursing, located in Lubbock, Texas, offers online MSN programs with specialty tracks in nursing education and nursing administration. The master’s of science in nursing education track prepares graduates for positions in practice and academic settings. This program is completed through online coursework and practicums. Students learn how to strengthen the learning process by incorporating evidence-based teaching strategies and technologies. Alternatively, the master’s of science in nursing administration track prepares students for management positions across a variety of public and private settings. Students acquire high-level skills in leadership and management with a focus on evidence-based practice to ensure safety and improve the efficacy of health care delivery.
|4||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore||$$$$$||525 North Wolfe Street|
Baltimore, MD 21205
Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, was the country's first research university and remains a leader in the fields of nursing education, practice, and research. Johns Hopkins offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with a specialty track in health systems management. Students can complete this program on a full-time or part-time basis. The online MSN program strongly emphasizes evidence-based practice, and students can tailor the program's curriculum to focus on information technology, management and administration, case/population management, or health policy. In addition to core requirements, students are required to complete a four-credit management elective and a two-credit financial management theory course. Johns Hopkins is ranked first in the nation among nursing schools in the amount of funding it is awarded by the National Institutes of Health and through federal research grants.
|5||Stony Brook University||Stony Brook||$$$$$||310 Administration Building|
Stony Brook, NY 11794
Stony Brook University in New York offers online master’s of science in nursing degree programs with specialty tracks in nursing education, nursing leadership, nurse practitioner, and nurse midwifery. Although the online MSN degree is provided through the university's distance education program, the curricula for each of these specialty tracks include some on-site requirements. The master’s of science in nursing education program trains students to educate nurses of all experience levels in clinical settings and nursing schools. The master’s of science in nursing leadership program prepares nurses to assume leadership roles within the nursing and health care industries. Students in the advanced practice nurse practitioner program can choose from several focuses, including adult-gerontological health, family health, and psychiatric/mental health. Finally, the nurse midwifery program prepares students to provide care for women and newborns with a focus on normal birth. All specialty programs are delivered through an executive cohort model with online coursework and on-site immersions.
|6||University of Mary||Bismarck||$$$$$||7500 University Dr|
Bismarck, ND 58504
Located in Bismarck, North Dakota, the University of Mary is a private, Christian, Catholic, Benedictine university that welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. Mary was an early adopter of distance-education programs, which focused on helping nontraditional students. The university currently offers several online master’s of science in nursing programs that are open to nurses with a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Offerings include an ADN-to-MSN degree program in nursing leadership and management, a BSN-to-MSN degree program with specialty tracks in nursing leadership and management and nurse educator, an MSN in nursing and health care informatics, and a dual-degree MSN-MBA in health care administration. All of University of Mary's online MSN degrees are designed to accommodate the schedules of working professionals and can be completed entirely online with no residency requirements. Accelerated coursework options are also available.
|7||The University of Texas Medical Branch||Galveston||$$$$$||301 University Blvd|
Galveston, TX 77555-0129
The University of Texas Medical Branch, located in Galveston, Texas, offers an online master’s of science in nursing program that prepares graduates to improve and influence health care policy through research and clinical practice. UTMB's MSN degree has seven specialty tracks, including adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, executive nurse leader, and family nurse practitioner. All tracks (except for the executive track) share a common seven-course core curriculum; specialties build on this core to prepare nurses for advanced practice. Coursework is offered online through the Blackboard learning management system, and students can complete the required clinical practice hours in their own geographic area. However, several visits to the Galveston campus are required to obtain specific clinical experiences and assessments. The above programs require between 39 and 49 semester credit hours to complete. Graduate students may transfer up to 12 credit hours into their nursing program.
|8||George Washington University||Washington||$$$$$||2121 I Street, NW|
Washington, DC 20052
George Washington University is located in Washington, D.C. The school’s nursing program focuses on improving health care-related policy decisions to provide better health care for underserved communities around the globe. To accomplish this goal, GW offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with specialty tracks in adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery (offered in collaboration with Shenandoah University), and nursing leadership and management. All coursework for these MSN online programs can be completed remotely; however, some specialty tracks require students to complete multiple on-campus components for skills intensives, which are accomplished at simulation training centers through assessments. All online MSN degree tracks are offered with both full-time and part-time enrollment options. GW also offers an RN-MSN bridge option that allows students with an associate degree in nursing (or a non-nursing bachelor's degree) to enter a master's program.
|9||Ohio State University||Columbus||$$$$$||190 N. Oval Mall|
Columbus, OH 43210
Located in Columbus, Ohio State University is one of the country's premier research institutions. It offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with specialty tracks that prepare students to work as family nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. The coursework for these MSN online programs can be completed remotely without any residency requirements. Graduates complete coursework, research, and clinical experiences in various settings, including at clinics, hospitals, private practices, government agencies, and managed care organizations. Graduates are eligible to take certification exams in various specialty areas and are prepared to work in a variety of clinical settings ranging from private practices and to managed care organizations and governmental agencies. Distance learners are supported by a variety of services, including academic advising, library access, and options to study abroad. Online students are also eligible to join the Council of Graduate Students.
|10||University of North Carolina at Greensboro||Greensboro||$$$$$||1400 Spring Garden St|
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers an online master’s of science in nursing with concentration options in nursing administration and nursing education. Designed for working registered nurses, coursework is delivered in both asynchronous and synchronous online formats. Class sizes are small and both concentrations boast job placement rates of more than 90%. The nursing administration concentration includes 425 clinical practicum hours, while the nursing education concentration requires 225 clinical practicum hours. The locations of clinical practica are determined by a student's area of interest and their geographic location. Students may also be interested in the dual MSN/MBA degree in health management, which is offered jointly by the school of nursing and the school of business and economics. The dual degree includes a mix of online and on-campus coursework.
|11||Sacred Heart University||Fairfield||$$$$$||5151 Park Ave|
Fairfield, CT 06825-1000
Sacred Heart University, located in Fairfield, Connecticut, offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with four specialization tracks: clinical nurse leader (CNL), nursing management and executive leadership (NMEL), nursing education, and family nurse practitioner (FNP). These programs are designed for professional nurses and can be completed at a student's own pace as long as they are finished within a period of six years. Additionally, students do not need to declare a specialization until halfway through the program, giving them time to explore their options.
The CNL track includes 348 hours of role immersion, while the NMEL and nursing education tracks have 120 clinical practicum hours. The FNP track requires students to attend an on-site orientation and two on-site competency assessments. Coursework for the other specializations can be completed entirely online, and practicums can be completed in the student's geographic area. Sacred Heart also offers an online RN-BSN-MSN program that combines BSN and MSN studies.
|12||Maryville University of Saint Louis||Saint Louis||$$$$$||650 Maryville University Drive|
Saint Louis, MO 63141-7299
Maryville University, in St. Louis, Missouri, offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with five specialty track options: family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP), adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), pediatric (primary care) nurse practitioner (PNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Because these tracks are designed for working professional, all coursework can be completed online with no residency requirements. Practicums can also be completed at a facility that is local to a student. All tracks require students to take many of the same core courses, but the clinical hour requirements and electives vary. The FNP, AGPCNP, and AGACNP programs admit students six times a year, while the PNP and PMHNP programs have three entry points per year. Additionally, Maryville University's online MSN program does not require students to submit GRE or GMAT scores for admission.
|13||Chatham University||Pittsburgh||$$$$$||Woodland Rd|
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Chatham University is a private school that offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with specialty tracks in leadership, education, and informatics. Each speciality requires students to take a series of five specialized three-credit classes, in addition to the core MSN coursework. The program is delivered completely online through 14-week courses. The final two semesters of this online MSN program include practicums with a preceptor who works in the student's desired area of specialty. Students are required to complete at least 120 hours with their preceptor.
Students may choose to enroll in the program on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students can complete the program in four sequential semesters, while part-time students can earn their degree in six semesters.
|14||University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus||Denver||$$$$$||1380 Lawrence Street, Lawrence Street Center, Suite 1400|
Denver, CO 80217-3364
The University of Colorado - Denver's college of nursing offers one of the best MSN online programs in the country with specialty tracks in leadership and health care informatics. Both tracks can be completed online with no residency requirements, and students can work with faculty to set up clinical practicums in their geographic area. The leadership track, which is referred to as the innovation in leadership and administration in nursing and health care systems program, prepares students to become leaders who promote social justice by increasing the access, quality, and socio-cultural acceptability of health care through relationship-centered caring, advocacy, and empowerment. Alternatively, the health care informatics concentration teaches students to plan, select, design, and implement emerging technologies to advance consumer engagement, support clinical decision making, promote safety, and drive quality care. Distance learners interact with their teachers through webinars, video conferencing, and social networking tools. Students who live in a state that is a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education may be eligible for in-state tuition rates.
|15||Mount Carmel College of Nursing||Columbus||$$$$$||127 So. Davis Ave|
Columbus, OH 43222-1504
Mount Carmel College of Nursing, located in Columbus, Ohio, offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with a track in nursing education. This online MSN program was designed for students who hold a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited program and want to either teach nursing in an academic setting or take on staff development duties in a health care setting. Students learn to apply relevant nursing education research and examine the ethical and legal issues surrounding the role of a nursing educator. Students conclude their education with a 150-hour practicum. The program can be completed by part-time students in three years over the course of seven semesters. It is recommend that applicants have at least one year of recent clinical experience.
|16||University of Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||$$$$$||4200 Fifth Avenue|
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
The University of Pittsburgh, located in the city’s Oakland neighborhood, offers two of the best MSN online programs through its school of nursing: the master’s of science for clinical nurse leaders (CNL) and the master’s of science in nursing informatics. The CNL degree program's didactic portion can be completed entirely online, and the 420 required clinical hours can usually be obtained at a facility within the student's own community. Pitt's nursing informatics track emphasizes leadership development in nursing by teaching students how to manage and process data in order to create information databases and build knowledge. Graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the nursing informatics certification exam. Both MSN concentrations can be completed in part-time or full-time formats. Some courses require that exams be proctored, but distance learners can work with Pitt Online to find an approved testing center that is located near their home.
|17||University of North Carolina at Charlotte||Charlotte||$$$$$||9201 University City Blvd|
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers one the best MSN online programs with specialties in community/public health, nursing administration, and nursing education. These programs can be completed on a part-time basis in 27 months, 27 months, and 30 months, respectively, and all specialty tracks can be completed entirely online. The community/public health focus teaches students how to assess communities and populations, identify high risk groups, and develop culturally-sensitive and realistic community-based nursing procedures. The administration specialty prepares nurses for administrative roles, such as nurse executives or quality improvement managers, at community agencies, health care facilities, and schools of nursing. Finally, graduates of the education track can enter academic positions teaching nursing at the entry and RN-to-BSN levels. Students traditionally begin their program in the summer term but can enroll before any semester. UNC at Charlotte also offers an accelerated RN-to-MSN degree program.
|18||Michigan State University||East Lansing||$$$$$|| |
East Lansing, MI 48824-1046
Michigan State University, located in East Lansing, offers an adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist program with a nurse education concentration. This prepares nurses to carry out the responsibilities of clinical nurse specialists and develops their skills as educators. MSN program coursework is delivered entirely online through the D2L course management system. However, students are also required to attend a one-day on-campus orientation at the start of the program. Students can complete their required clinical experiences at a location near their home. 2016 graduates of this program had a 100% pass rate for the AG-CNS and ACCNS-AG certification exams. This program has a fall start date and applications are accepted until March 1. Only residents from Michigan state can apply for admission into this MSN degree program.
|19||University of Central Florida||Orlando||$$$$$||4000 Central Florida Blvd|
Orlando, FL 32816
The University of Central Florida is located in Orlando and offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with specialized nursing leadership and management and nurse educator tracks. Both of these concentrations can be completed online, but students are required to visit the Orlando campus for program orientation and to present their master's evidence-based project. UCF also offers an MSN specialty track in nursing and health care simulation. This program requires students to attend intensives on campus, but most coursework is delivered online. The nursing and health care simulation track can be completed on a full-time basis in four semesters or on a part-time basis in five semesters. Graduates of these programs are prepared to assume a variety of roles, including nursing managers, health care administrators, and chief nursing officers.
|20||Samford University||Birmingham||$$$$$||800 Lakeshore Drive|
Birmingham, AL 35229-2240
Samford University is a Christian school located in Birmingham, Alabama. It offers an online master’s of science in nursing with a nurse educator specialization. The curriculum for this program can be completed by full-time students in five semesters. Distance learners must also visit the Birmingham campus to attend three required sessions over the course of the program and a mandatory three-day on-campus orientation at the beginning of their coursework. Practicum experiences are part of the program's core curriculum and can be arranged to be completed at a facility close to a student's home.
Students admitted into this program may be able to obtain funding through the federal Nurse Faculty Loan Program. These funds are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Upon graduating, students who teach for four years at a school of nursing can have up to 85% of their loans forgiven.
|21||Saint Xavier University||Chicago||$$$$$||3700 W 103rd St|
Chicago, IL 60655
Saint Xavier University, located in Chicago, Illinois, was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846. Education at SXU is inspired by its Catholic identity and Mercy heritage. The university offers an online master’s of science in nursing with specialization track options in clinical leadership and executive leadership. SXU’s school of nursing has been designated by the National League for Nursing as one of the Centers of Excellence, which is a prestigious distinction in nursing education. The clinical leadership track is designed for nurses who want to stay close to patient care and combines advanced clinical nursing skills with evidence-based practice and leadership tools. Alternatively, the executive leadership track teaches students to become leaders in nursing administration and covers the organizational and administrative aspects of the nursing practice.
|22||Indiana University-Purdue University - Indianapolis||Indianapolis||$$$$$||425 University Blvd|
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5143
Indiana University - Purdue University, located in Indianapolis, offers an online master’s of science in nursing with a specialty track in nursing education. This program prepares students to teach at nursing and technical schools, community colleges, hospitals, and in private industry settings. Offered through the Indiana University school of nursing, the nursing education program includes coursework in nursing education theory, principles, and practices. The program culminates with a capstone cluster. 225 supervised practicum hours are also required, which can be completed in the student's local geographic area. The university utilizes the online learning management system Canvas, which provides many options for collaborative learning through problem-based coursework and web-conferencing. This degree can be completed by full-time students in two years and by part-time students in three years. Graduates of the program are eligible take the National League for Nursing's certified nurse educator examination.
|23||University of Kansas||Lawrence||$$$$$||Strong Hall, 1450 Jayhawk Blvd, Room 230|
Lawrence, KS 66045
The University of Kansas, located in Lawrence, offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree program with tracks in nursing informatics, organizational leadership, and public health nursing. All required coursework is delivered fully online, but new graduate students are required to attend a one-day on-campus orientation program that is held the week before classes begin. As part of the curriculum, all MSN students are also required to complete a two-credit-hour research project under the supervision of a graduate faculty member. Each specialty area includes practicum experiences, which provide students an opportunity to apply their acquired skills and knowledge in one or more health care settings. Depending on the student's chosen track, the MSN degree program requires between 37 and 39 credit hours. Full-time students can complete the online MSN program in two years, while part-time students can earn their degree in three to four years.
|24||University of St. Francis||Joliet||$$$$$||500 N Wilcox St|
Joliet, IL 60435-6188
The University of St. Francis is a Catholic university located in Joliet, Illinois. The school offers an online master’s of science in nursing degree. This program gives students the option to choose from four online concentrations: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education. All of these MSN specialty tracks build competencies in promoting patient-centered care, synthesizing theoretical concepts, engaging in scientific inquiry, and carrying out evidence-based practice. Graduates will be prepared to assume leadership roles in the field of nursing and incorporate their educational experiences and research into practices that are reflective of the dynamic needs of diverse populations. The University of St. Francis also offers an accelerated online RN-BSN-MSN program for registered nurses with a non-nursing baccalaureate degree.
|25||The University of Texas in Arlington||Arlington||$$$$$||701 S. Nedderman Dr.|
Arlington, TX 76013
The University of Texas at Arlington offers an online master’s of science in nursing with specialty track options in nursing administration and nursing education. The nursing administration track can be completed in as little as 18 months, while the nursing education track can be completed in 19-21 months. UTA also offers accelerated online MSN degree programs in several nurse practitioner tracks, including family nurse practitioner, pediatric primary care, pediatric acute care, adult gerontology acute care, and adult gerontology primary care. A majority of the courses in these programs are offered in sequential five-week sessions through an online, asynchronous learning environment. For students interested in a more traditionally-paced online learning format, the neonatal nurse practitioner program is an option. Furthermore, the UTA offers a flexible, accelerated online RN-to-MSN program, which can be completed by full-time students in 36 months.
Professional RNs who choose to earn their master’s in nursing online will find plenty of positions and opportunities for advancement. According to several recent studies, hospitals and clinics need more nurses, and the demand will only increase as the baby boomer generation ages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nursing will be one of the fastest growing jobs well into the next decade.
Earning an MSN allows nurses to specialize in a particular area of interest, such as mental health care, pediatrics or oncology. Most nurses with an MSN can also become nurse educators at a local health care facility or college. Some of the best-paying MSN jobs include nurse consultant, research nurse, nurse educator, nurse administrator and advanced nurse practitioner. Average salaries vary widely by position and location, but nurses with an MSN often earn $30,000 more annually than those with only a BSN.
Keys to Success in an Online Master’s in Nursing Program
Studying online requires diligence and commitment. While online programs provide students with the flexibility to complete their program requirements around other obligations, students have to manage their time efficiently. Even part-time classes will require several hours of studying per week and you should start budgeting your time before your first class.
Most institutions offer online-readiness surveys to help students determine how they’ll perform in an online program. Students should research and prepare for the technical requirements and online learning platforms at their target schools. They should also make sure that their state authorizes their target schools to provide an online program with clinical experience in a location near the student’s home.
Entering the Field
MSN students generally enter a program with defined professional objectives. Some may choose to re-enter the field immediately after graduation, while others may pursue a doctoral degree. Regardless of your ultimate goal, students should have a career plan in mind prior to graduating with their MSN.
One of the primary benefits of an online master’s in nursing program is the opportunity to meet and network with reputable educators and nurses in the field. Many schools offer local networking events and an alumni career services network, affording students several avenues to form professional relationships. Students may also get involved in student organizations or serve abroad as part of their program: both of these options provide students with additional opportunities to make professional contacts before entering the field.
MSN students can also take advantage of their school’s career services center. Many career service offices will help students craft formal resumes, make professional contacts and apply for positions in the field. Students should regularly check dedicated nursing job boards for open positions that match their qualifications and career aspirations.