The Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs of 2022

February 18, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Looking to advance your career with an MSN degree? This guide to online MSN programs will introduce you to the best programs and outline how to apply.

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

The Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs of 2022
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MSN Programs

Do you want to increase your earning potential, land an administrative or high-level position, or become a nurse practitioner? There are many reasons to pursue an MSN, and there is a program out there for every candidate. This guide to online MSN programs can help you find a school that fits your background and needs.

Online nursing master's programs offer the same degree as their on-campus counterparts. Distance learning lets you attend your school of choice without relocating, or even commuting to classes. Many prestigious nursing schools offer online MSN programs.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online master's in nursing, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: Academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about the best online master's in nursing programs, or go straight to our list of the best online master's in nursing programs.

What Can You Do With an MSN?

You need an MSN to become an advanced practice nurse (APRN), such as a nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), nurse anesthetist (CRNA), or nurse midwife. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate for APRNs should reach 45% from 2020-30.

A master's degree can also help you earn a promotion, find a new job, or make more money. According to October 2021 data from PayScale, nurses with an MSN earn a median salary of $97,000. Approximately 15% of nurses hold an MSN, giving master's degree-holders an edge in the job market.

Some careers available to nurses with an MSN include:

msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Nurse Practitioner

NPs specialize in practice areas like family medicine, pediatrics, or mental health. In full practice authority states, they can work independently, without a physician's supervision. The median salary for nurse practitioners is $111,680, and the BLS projects a 52% job growth rate from 2020-30.
Salary $111,680*
Job Outlook 52% growth from 2020-30
Learn More About Nurse Practitioners
msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse midwives care for pregnant women before and during childbirth. These nurses are authorized to supervise births, and most work in hospitals or birthing centers. They enjoy a median salary of $111,130 and an above-average projected job growth rate of 11% in the coming decade.
Salary $111,130*
Job Outlook 11% increase from 2020-30
Learn More About Certified Nurse Midwives
msn or dnp Required

Clinical Nurse Specialist

A CNS provides advanced nursing care within a particular specialty area, like pediatrics, neonatal, or adult/gerontology. Beyond that specialty, they must focus on a particular kind of care, such as wound treatment or mental health. October 2021 data from PayScale indicates that the median annual salary for a CNS is $92,400, and the BLS projects a 45% job growth rate from 2020-30.
Salary $92,400*
Job Outlook 45% growth from 2020-2030
Learn More About Clinical Nurse Specialists
*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

Featured Online MSN Programs

What to Look for in an Online Master's in Nursing Program

Finding the best online nursing master's program for you depends on your career goals, learning style, and what kind of MSN you want to pursue. Program format is also important. If you plan to work while earning your master's in nursing online, a part-time online MSN program may be ideal, while full-time learners usually graduate faster.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements tell you about your likelihood of being accepted to a program in addition to the school's academic expectations.

Program Curriculum

Courses in an online MSN curriculum should cover topics that interest you and will prepare you for your preferred specialty. Review your potential instructors and consider how their expertise can benefit you.

Clinical Experience

Consider your prospective program's clinical experience guidelines. Will you be able to find local placements? Does the timing fit with your other responsibilities?

Accreditation

Attending an accredited program is crucial. Most employers prefer to hire individuals who have graduated from accredited programs and institutions. Accreditation confirms that a program meets educational quality guidelines.

School Graduation Rate

A school's graduation rate indicates how academically challenging its programs are and reflects student satisfaction. A low graduation rate can be a warning sign.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Be sure that the MSN's online format and requirements match your needs. For example, if you are working while studying, can you attend any required synchronous (real time) sessions?


Applying to an Online Master's in Nursing Program

Most online nursing master's programs expect applicants to provide their transcripts, the names and contact information of former supervisors or professors who have agreed to serve as references, and an essay or personal statement about why you are pursuing an MSN.

Admission Requirements: Most programs require an unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license, an undergraduate degree from an accredited program, at least one year of clinical nursing experience, references, and the ability to pass a background/criminal record check. Program Length: If you hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), you can usually complete an MSN in two years. If you have an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in another discipline, expect to spend 3-4 years earning your MSN. Clinical Requirements: Online MSN programs expect students to complete different numbers of clinical hours, with most requiring more than 600 hours. Other programs usually require approximately 400 clinical hours. GPA Requirement: The minimum required GPA for MSN programs is generally 3.0, though some require a 3.25 GPA.

Why is Online Master's in Nursing Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is one of the most important considerations when choosing an online nursing master's program. Accreditation ensures that a school provides a quality education. Many employers exclusively hire individuals who have graduated from accredited programs. While unaccredited programs may offer low prices and open admission, they can waste your time and money.

  • Accreditation confirms that a school's programs and instructors have been reviewed for quality.
  • Many employers only hire graduates of accredited programs.
  • Credits from unaccredited programs may not transfer to accredited programs.
  • Most federal student loans only apply to accredited programs.
  • Accredited DNP programs may not accept graduates of unaccredited MSN programs for admission.
  • Unlike unaccredited programs, accredited MSN programs tend to boast strong alumni networks and career services.

Paying for Online Master's in Nursing Programs

The right online nursing master's program for you fits your budget as well as your goals. Do you expect to receive loans or scholarships, either from the school or from other sources? Will you be able to work full time or part time?

Most students pay for nursing school by combining their own savings or earnings and financial aid. Unlike grants and scholarships, which do not need to be repaid, loans must be paid back. However, some government loans offer full or partial loan forgiveness in exchange for committing to work in an underserved area for a period after graduation.

Although institutions often sponsor their own financial aid opportunities, many membership associations, nonprofit foundations, companies, and other organizations offer scholarships.

Learn More About the Top Online Master's in Nursing Programs & Schools

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $10085

    Description:

    UNC-Chapel Hill enrolls nearly 12,000 graduate and professional students. The school offers 104 master's programs, including a master's in nursing online. Like many online nursing master's programs, this program includes asynchronous and synchronous components. The program focuses on healthcare leadership and administration. Online learners attend in-person immersions and clinicals.

    Details:

    • Program: MSN
    • Campus: Chapel Hill, NC
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $859-$1,774 per credit for in-state learners; $2,113-$3,251 for out-of-state learners
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 2.75 GPA; RN license; healthcare leadership experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94% for 2019-20
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $86,036 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  2. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $11617

    Description:

    UCF offers more than 100 online programs, including an MSN online. The program features tracks in nurse education, healthcare simulation, and leadership and management. Like many online MSN programs, UCF's program includes asynchronous courses with in-person capstones, internships, and practicums.

    Details:

    • Program(s): MSN - nurse educator; MSN - nurse leadership and management; MSN - nursing and healthcare simulation
    • Campus: Orlando, FL
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $288 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN or RN license with an associate degree or diploma in nursing; non-nursing bachelor's degree; and prerequisite courses
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.6% for 2019-20
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $91,363 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  3. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Description:

    Johns Hopkins offers two online MSN programs. One focuses on nursing leadership and the other combines an MSN with an MBA. Both concentrate on healthcare organizational leadership. Enrollees in both tracks complete clinical practicums. The dual-degree MSN track requires onsite immersions.

    Details:

    • Program(s): MSN - healthcare organizational leadership; MSN - healthcare organizational leadership/MBA dual degree
    • Campus: Baltimore, MD
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $1,790 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 16-36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.5% for 2019-20
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,359 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  4. Georgetown University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Description:

    Georgetown's online MSN programs offer several specializations. These include adult-gerontology acute care, family practice, midwifery, and women's health. Students complete live and self-paced online classes. Programs include clinical placements and professional development opportunities. Georgetown boasts 85-100% certification rates.

    Details:

    • Program(s): MSN - adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP); family nurse practitioner; nurse midwifery/women's health nurse practitioner; women's health nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Washington, DC
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $2,278 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; RN license; 3.0 GPA; statistics coursework; AG-ACNP track requires a year of intensive care unit experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 23-27 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $100,876 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  5. Vanderbilt University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Description:

    Vanderbilt's master's in nursing online programs feature several specializations. Students can choose from tracks such as family nurse practitioner and emergency nurse practitioner. Enrollees complete most coursework online. Some online nursing master's programs require one-week intensives on campus.

    Details:

    • Program: MSN
    • Campus: Nashville, TN
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $1,793 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN, RN license, or non-nursing bachelor's degree with prerequisites; 3.0 GPA
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 30 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95% for 2021
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $93,249 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  6. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Description:

    Students pursuing an MSN online at USC can enroll full time or part time. The 49-credit curriculum includes live online classes and clinical rotations in students' communities. Enrollees also complete two on-campus intensives. Courses emphasize health promotion and education. Learners also study disease prevention and illness management.

    Details:

    • Program: MSN - family nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Los Angeles, CA
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $1,995 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; statistics coursework; RN license; one year of clinical experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% for 2019
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $163,225 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  7. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $7515

    Description:

    UWF offers several online programs, including a master's in nursing online. Like other online MSN programs, UWF's program prepares learners for nurse practitioner credentialing exams. The 45-credit curriculum includes asynchronous core and specialization courses. Students complete onsite clinical practicums locally. UWF encourages learners to participate in a virtual summer immersion prior to their practicums.

    Details:

    • Program: MSN - family nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Pensacola, FL
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $385 per credit for in-state learners; $1,044 per credit for out-of-state learners
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license; statistics coursework
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 27 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.5% for 2019-20
  8. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $19237

    Description:

    Texas A&M's online nursing master's programs allow students to choose a nursing education, family nurse practitioner, or forensic nursing track. Students complete most coursework online. However, online learners must complete 45 hours of on-campus clinical experiences.

    Details:

    • Program(s): MSN - family nurse practitioner; MSN - forensic nursing; MSN - nursing education
    • Campus: College Station, TX
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $805 per credit for in-state learners; $1,335 per credit for out-of-state learners
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; RN license; statistics coursework with a grade of "C"
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24-27 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.3% for 2019-20
  9. Ohio State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Tuition

    $18706

    Description:

    OU's online MSN programs train enrollees to transform patients' health and improve lives. Students can prepare for careers as clinical nurse leaders or family nurse practitioners. These MSN programs feature synchronous coursework. Students must attend online classes at specific days and times. Online learners complete clinical experiences locally.

    Details:

    • Program(s): MSN - clinical nurse leader; MSN - family nurse practitioner; MSN - neonatal nurse practitioner; MSN - psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Columbus, OH
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $837 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 27 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $89,089 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
  10. Stony Brook University
    Location

    Stony Brook, NY

    Tuition

    $15605

    Description:

    Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook offers several online MSN programs. Enrollees complete asynchronous coursework. Stony Brook arranges onsite clinical placements. Students can choose from tracks in nursing education, nursing leadership, nurse midwifery, and nurse practitioner (NP) preparation in seven specializations.

    Details:

    • Program: MSN
    • Campus: Stony Brook, NY
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $471 per credit for in-state learners; $963 per credit for out-of-state learners
    • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license; prerequisite coursework; student malpractice insurance
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97% for 2020
    • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $105,661 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master's in Nursing Programs


Can you get an MSN without a BSN?

Candidates with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field may prefer a bridge program instead of a regular online nursing master's program. Most bridge programs are 3-4 years long.

Can you get an MSN without being an RN?

Some schools offer direct-entry programs for students with non-nursing bachelor's degrees. Many online MSN programs do not offer a direct-entry option, and those that do may require or strongly prefer candidates with a degree in a healthcare field, such as public health, or relevant work experience.

How long does it take to complete an online MSN?

How long it takes to finish an online MSN program depends on whether you hold a BSN and your enrollment status. Most full-time online nursing master's programs take two years to complete. Schools that offer part-time online MSN programs typically allow four years to graduate.

Is now a good time to pursue an MSN?

Due to the ongoing healthcare staffing crisis, increased demand for nurses, and an aging U.S. population, now is an excellent time to enroll in an online nursing master's program. The BLS projects a 52% job growth rate for NP positions through 2030, making NPs one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States.

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