The Best Online Master's in Nursing Programs of 2022

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Updated November 22, 2022

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Looking to advance your career with an MSN degree? In this guide, explore the best online MSN programs and how to apply.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: GaudiLab / shuttershock

The growth of online master of science in nursing (MSN) programs means prospective students have more access to a wider variety of choices. However, the amount of available options makes deciding on a program more difficult.

This guide can help you identify the best online master's in nursing for your goals, interests, location, budget, and background. Learn more about finding and applying to the school that best matches your needs.

"The experience I had with obtaining my MSN online was extremely positive. The program allowed me to perform the work at my own pace and further my education while continuing to work full-time and still be a mother to my son. Without an online option, this may not have been achievable for me."

– Whitney S. Birney, MSN, RN, CNL, AMB-BC

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best ADN-to-MSN (RN to NP) bridge programs, 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 key factors to consider when choosing a program or go straight to our ranking of the best online master's in nursing programs.

Why Is Online Master's in Nusing Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is such a vital part of program quality and value that this guide only lists accredited programs. During accreditation, an independent group reviews the program to determine if graduates who pass the board certification are ready to practice safely. To be eligible to earn board certification for almost all nursing certifications, you must graduate from an accredited program.

  • The goal of most MSN programs is to earn board certification; you cannot earn certification as a graduate of an unaccredited program.
  • Accreditation is a measure of quality.
  • Employers rarely even consider hiring a graduate of an unaccredited program.
  • While it may seem tempting to take very cheap classes from an unaccredited program and then try to transfer them, accredited programs almost never accept transfer credits from unaccredited programs.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Learn More About the Best Online Master's in Nusing Programs & Schools

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.

  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

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Online Master's in Nursing Program

The best online MSN program for you depends on many different factors. Some of these, such as school culture or the exact amount of financial aid, are subjective or hard to determine before applying.

Others, such as board examination pass rates, are objective and readily available. Here are some of the most important criteria for most students:

1. Admission Requirements

Considering admission requirements when finding the best online master's in nursing for you helps you not waste time. You want to know how likely you are to be accepted before putting in the work of applying.

Admission requirements also tell you more nuanced things, such as what your fellow students might be like and what the school values.

2. Specializations

Unlike undergraduate bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs, MSN programs all have a particular specialty to prepare you for a specific career, such as family practice nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or nurse educator.

3. Program Curriculum

While MSN programs are standardized, students still have some electives to choose from. The way that the school describes the curriculum is a strong indicator of program culture, as well.

4. Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is key to your success. Not only is it a vital learning opportunity, but it helps you build your network and references. Some of the best online MSN programs may provide clinical placement assistance to students.

5. Accreditation

Accreditation means that the program has passed detailed assessments to ensure that graduates are professionally competent. State licensure and national certification applications require that students graduate from an accredited program. All of the nursing programs listed on this site are accredited.

6. Program Length

The right program length for you depends on your background and needs. If you work full-time and your schedule is not flexible, a part-time option might be the best online master's in nursing program for you. For students with a flexible schedule or responsibilities, a faster program may work better.

7. School Graduation Rate

A high graduation rate, combined with a high board pass rate, is another excellent indicator of what might be the best online MSN for you.

If the graduation rate is high but the pass rate is low, that might be a sign that the school doesn't do enough to help students learn. Similarly, a high pass rate but low graduation rate suggests issues with the program.

8. Online Learning Format and Requirements

The best online MSN format for you depends on your learning needs, existing responsibilities, and schedule. If you learn best from live discussions, synchronous classes may be better for you, but if your schedule is unpredictable, asynchronous classes could be easier to manage.

How Online Master's in Nursing Programs Work

Depending on the program, you can take most or all of your classes online during your MSN. Some programs have a mandatory in-person onboarding or an in-person component for particular classes. If this is a requirement for a class, you will be informed ahead of time.

However, whether you attend an online or an on-campus program, you must complete your clinical hours in person. The best online MSN program for you should enable you to get placement in your community or other location that works well for you.

Applying to an Online Master's in Nursing Program

Now that you have picked the best online master's in nursing programs for you, make sure you give yourself every possible advantage when applying. Leave plenty of time and have a trusted colleague or mentor review your application to make sure it makes the most of your strengths and reflects your potential.

1. Admission Requirements

BSN from an accredited program, current and unencumbered nursing license, often at least one year of experience as a registered nurse (RN)

2. Admission Materials

Copy of your nursing license, at least two letters of recommendation, an essay or personal statement, documentation of malpractice insurance

3. GPA Requirement

Often 3.0 or higher

Paying for Online Master's in Nursing Programs

When figuring out how much you can expect to pay, in addition to tuition and fees, account for reliable and fast internet, any necessary travel to on-campus requirements or clinicals, and what kind of schedule you expect to work while studying.

While price is an important factor to consider, since paying for an MSN is not cheap, financial aid can make the best online MSN for you a possibility, no matter what your financial circumstances are.

In addition to loans, scholarships, and grants, you may be able to get a full scholarship (including expenses) or loan forgiveness if you work in an underserved area or for the U.S. government once you graduate.

Online Master's in Nursing Student Testimonials

On-Site Clinical Experience

"Throughout the program, there was only one, on-campus, two-day live simulation required, but due to COVID-19, it was held via Zoom. My program required 400 clinical hours, which were completed in person at an acute care hospital."

Whitney S. Birney, MSN, RN, CNL, AMB-BC

On Choosing an Online MSN Program

"I was looking for a fully online program with a concentration in Clinical Nurse Leadership. I was familiar with the school’s online workflow as I had received my bachelor’s from there a few years before joining the MSN program. As a full-time registered nurse, and a single mother, I needed a program that was completely online without regular on-campus requirements."

Whitney S. Birney, MSN, RN, CNL, AMB-BC

Benefits and Challenges of an Online MSN

"Some of the benefits to online learning are the convenience of completing work at home and ability to work at your own pace.

"Rather than having to drive to a location, which would involve time off from work, or extra childcare, I was able to sign in at home, listen to lectures, and utilize my time efficiently. A multitude of information is posted on the class platform and is always available to enhance your learning experience at a suitable time for your schedule.

"In the last year of my program, I was with a Cohort of about 14 other students, and we participated in weekly zoom lectures, which allowed us to develop a rapport with one another, enhancing my personal learning experience.

"Some of the challenges to earning an MSN online are time management and self-discipline. In order to stay on top of the workload, dedication and willpower are required. There is a multitude of discussion boards, papers, projects, and lectures.

"It can be challenging to fit all of these into an already full agenda and to find the motivation to incorporate assignments into your schedule. Advanced preparation and planning are an absolute must in order to complete a successful online MSN program."

Whitney S. Birney, MSN, RN, CNL, AMB-BC

Is an Online MSN Program Worth It?

"Absolutely! Advancements in technology have allowed programs to become robust in providing the suitable and necessary resources for a successful online learning experience. Online programs are developed with the understanding that many of their students lead full lives outside of the academic world. They are created to provide an education that is realistic and attainable for an evolving nursing workforce."

Whitney S. Birney, MSN, RN, CNL, AMB-BC

What Can You Do With a Degree from an MSN?

Most MSN graduates become nurse practitioners, but there are many other things you can do with an MSN. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) include clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, or nurse anesthetists (which now requires a doctorate). You can also earn an MSN in nurse administration or nurse education.


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?

It takes most students two to three years to complete an MSN, depending on the program length and pace. Part-time students and students in ADN-to-MSN programs may take three to four years, again depending on the program pace.

Is now a good time to pursue an MSN?

In the U.S. the fastest-growing occupation is a nurse practitioner. Salaries are considerably above the national average and demand is high. The BLS projects that between 2021 and 2031, the number of nurse practitioner jobs will grow 46%.


Page Last Reviewed: October 10, 2022

Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.


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