The Best Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Programs 2022

Updated March 9, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Nurses who earn an online MSN in nursing leadership gain valuable skills that can lead to advanced roles and higher earning potential.

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The Best Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Programs 2022
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For registered nurses (RNs) who are looking to advance their careers, an online master of science in nursing (MSN) in nursing leadership can provide you with interdisciplinary skills in administration, management, and evidence-based care. As demand for nurses continues to rise, nurse leaders will play important roles in managing and collaborating with other members of healthcare teams to improve patient outcomes.

This guide explores some of the best online MSN programs in nursing leadership. We also cover the application process, what to look for in an online program, and other information to help nurses choose the right institution.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online MSN in nursing leadership 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 nursing leadership, or go straight to our list of the best online MSN in nursing leadership programs.

Featured Online MSN Programs

What Can You Do With an MSN in Nursing Leadership?

An MSN in nursing leadership opens up career possibilities in educational settings and administration. Graduates can pursue advanced managerial opportunities, postsecondary teaching positions, and roles in healthcare policy development.

MSN-holders also enjoy higher earning potential and qualify for positions like:

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

CNLs work in acute inpatient care, behavioral health clinics, and community health agencies. They manage healthcare teams, coordinate care plans, and cultivate relationships with academic institutions and professional organizations. As of January 2022, the average annual salary for CNLs was $83,180.

  • Salary: $83,180

Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators play a managerial role in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, and health offices. While they occasionally interact with patients, their main responsibility is to manage a team of nurses. They are in charge of hiring and supervising nurses, ensuring accurate record-keeping, and providing team members with educational opportunities. Payscale reports an average annual salary of $88,620 in December 2021.

  • Salary: $88,620

Learn more about Nurse Administrators


Nurse Educator

Nurse educators prepare students to work as nurses. They design and present curricula, evaluate students' progress, and review educational material to ensure it features the most current research. The average annual salary for nurse educators in January 2022 was $78,990, according to Payscale.

  • Salary: $78,990

Learn more about Nurse Educators


What to Look for in an Online MSN in Nursing Leadership

Candidates seeking an MSN in nursing leadership should research their options to choose a program that fits their budget, goals, and lifestyle. It is important to consider factors like admission requirements, curriculum, and graduate success rates before selecting a program.

Admission Requirements

While many programs maintain similar admission requirements, some may request certain materials or expect students to complete prerequisites. Be sure you are qualified to attend a program before you apply.

Program Curriculum

While every master's in nursing leadership curriculum features a series of core classes, some programs may offer more electives or opportunities for specialization.

Clinical Experience

Candidates must complete a clinical experience to earn an MSN in nursing leadership. While many schools let distance learners fulfill their clinical requirement at a facility near the candidate's home, other institutions expect online students to travel to a certain location.

Accreditation

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) evaluate nursing programs to ensure that they meet state and national standards. Students who attend unaccredited programs may face limited employment opportunities and financial aid options. Most doctoral programs will not accept applicants with degrees from unaccredited programs.

Program Length

On average, it takes about two years of full-time study to complete an online MSN program in nursing leadership. However, graduation timelines may vary according to the student's enrollment status and the program's structure.

School NCLEX Pass Rate

A school's NCLEX pass rate indicates how well a program prepares candidates for the workforce. The ACEN and CCNE use pass rates to determine if a program can maintain accreditation. Therefore, the NCLEX pass rate can help prospective students identify a program's strength.

School Graduation Rate

A school's graduation rate indicates its students' success and satisfaction. Low graduation rates may indicate a lack of academic support or poorly organized programs.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Online programs are often much more flexible than their in-person counterparts. Some offer synchronous classes, which take place in real-time. Others feature an asynchronous format, letting students access course materials on their own time.

Applying to an Online MSN in Nursing Leadership

Before applying to a program, prospective students should ensure that they meet all admission requirements and have completed the necessary prerequisites. Next, candidates should compile their application materials and contact any references. Requirements for an online MSN program in nursing leadership generally include:

Admission Materials

A bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited institution; transcripts from previous academic programs; a writing sample; letters of recommendation/references

GPA Requirement

Online MSN programs typically require a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Relevant experience may offset a slightly lower GPA.

Other Requirements

Applicants must hold a valid, unencumbered registered nurse license.

Why is Program Accreditation Important for Online MSNs in Nursing Leadership?

It is important to select an accredited program like the degrees listed on this page. There are many advantages to attending an accredited program:

  • Accreditation proves that a school or program meets quality standards. Programs with ACEN and/or CCNE accreditation adequately prepare students to become nurses.
  • Credits earned through unaccredited programs do not transfer to accredited programs.
  • Most doctoral programs expect applicants to hold a degree from an accredited institution.
  • Students attending unaccredited programs cannot receive federal financial aid.
  • Many employers prefer to hire graduates of accredited programs.

Paying for Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Programs

Cost plays a large role in choosing an online MSN program. Distance learners often avoid some of the costs associated with on-campus programs, like transportation fees. However, tuition rates vary based upon the type of school (public vs. private), program length, and whether the student plans to attend classes on a full- or part-time basis.

There are many financial aid opportunities available for students who need help paying for their nursing program. Candidates can apply for scholarships, loans, and grants, which help reduce costs. Scholarships and grants provide funds based on merit, need, or academic performance, while loans consist of borrowed money that must be paid back.

Learn More About the Best Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Programs & Schools

#1

Stony Brook University

School Information
Location Stony Brook, New York
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 76%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Stony Brook features a master's in nursing leadership degree, one of the top CCNE-accredited programs, students can complete mostly online in two years. 

Nursing students complete 36 credits to learn business skills for nurse leaders, healthcare policy and advocacy, and nursing research for an evidence-based practice. 

Stony Brook admits nursing students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree, granted they submit a clinical practice portfolio.

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#2

George Washington University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

George Washington University offers a flexible master's in nursing leadership degree that lets students study part time or full time. 

At GW, nursing students complete 36 credits over two years. Courses operate mostly online with one on-campus experience. 

Lessons focus on business acumen with courses in health economics and finance, healthcare enterprise, nursing leadership, and health policy and political processes. In the final two semesters, students complete clinical work experience. 

New students begin every fall.

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#3

Texas A & M International University

School Information
Location Laredo, Texas
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 47%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Texas A&M International University's fast and flexible online master's in nursing leadership only takes 10 months to complete. 

The 31-credit degree, which includes a 180-hour practicum, covers healthcare policy and social justice, research methods and statistical analysis, organizational behavior, leadership, and healthcare informatics.

TAMIU's MSN leadership degree offers six start dates, including summer options.

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#4

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

School Information
Location Edinburg, Texas
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers a master's in nursing leadership degree that merges health and social sciences disciplines. 

Online learners complete 36 credits in 16-week semesters. In the fall semester, online learners complete two 45-hour clinical experiences. The degree includes courses on evidence-based practice, advanced nursing informatics, and healthcare finance.

MSN leadership graduates use their leadership and ethical-decision making skills to work in human resources, education, and in management. Nursing students begin every fall.

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#5

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

School Information
Location Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 63%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences features a master's in nursing leadership that incorporates interdisciplinary studies and optional minors. 

Nursing students complete three courses at PA College's School of Nursing and three courses at any other school. Students can choose from five minors, including organizational dynamics in healthcare, global health, quality improvement and safety processes in healthcare, nursing and healthcare administration, and nursing education. They can also choose a certificate in healthcare innovation.

The MSN leadership degree operates mostly online with two in-person sessions.

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#6

Allen College

School Information
Location Waterloo, Iowa
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 82% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Allen College's online master's in nursing leadership degree incorporates an optional business administration certificate from the University of Northern Iowa. 

Nursing students begin the 38-credit master's in nursing leadership program every spring and fall. Learners study core courses, such as population health, evidence-based practice, and healthcare informatics, as well as leadership in healthcare delivery administration.

Clinical practicums take place at acute care, long-term care, and community healthcare settings. 

Allen College offers MSN students a 25% tuition discount.

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#7

Western Governors University

School Information
Location Salt Lake City, Utah
Graduation Rate 21%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Western Governors University features a master's in nursing leadership degree with concentrations in leadership and management. 

Terms last for six months. At the end of each term, students complete a research paper, project, or presentation to assess their understanding. Core courses teach students about value-based nursing practices, evidence-based practices, pathopharmacological, informatics, and advanced health assessments. 

The 36-credit degree curriculum prepares nursing students to earn a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality credential.

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#8

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Liberty University features a master's in nursing leadership degree that equips students to graduate in less than two years.

Full-time nursing students can complete the 36-credit MSN leadership degree in about 18 months. Each class takes eight weeks. The curriculum focuses on health policy and ethics, nursing theory and advanced practice, financial and resource management, and informatics and technology.

Liberty offers a generous transfer policy that lets students use up to 50% of their prior college credits.

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#9

Bethel University

School Information
Location Saint Paul, Minnesota
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 73%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Bethel University offers a master's in nursing leadership with specialization tracks that prepare graduates to become educators and administrators in nursing. 

The education track teaches students about curriculum development, health assessments, and pathophysiology — topics that prepare students to take the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam. 

The nurse administrator track covers health policy, leadership, accounting, and human resource management. Both tracks include practicums in a student's chosen field. Students complete 33-34 credits.

According to data released by Bethel, 100% of MSN graduates secure jobs in education or administration within 12 months.

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#10

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

School Information
Location West Lafayette, Indiana
Graduation Rate 27%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis features a master's in nursing leadership degree with executive leader and nurse educator concentrations. 

Online learners can complete the 60-90 required credits by studying 15 hours a week. They graduate in about two years, or 10 terms. 

Curriculum in healthcare policy, epidemiology and health promotion, and advanced evidence-based practice prepares graduates to take Certified Nurse Educators, Nurse Executive, or Executive Nursing Practice credential exams. 

Purdue Global features two learning methods: the ExcelTrack with deadline-driven work for independent learners or the standard online format with a preset degree plan.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Programs


How long does it take to get an MSN in nursing leadership?

It typically takes a full-time student about 24 months to earn an MSN in nursing leadership, or longer if the student attends school part time. Usually, candidates must complete around 36 credit hours to graduate.

What are the best careers for nurses with an MSN in nursing leadership?

Some lucrative positions include nursing manager, director of nursing, and chief nursing officer (CNO). Nursing managers supervise nursing staff in hospitals or clinics. A nursing director oversees nursing operations in various healthcare settings. A CNO directs nursing activities at larger hospitals.

What courses can you expect to take while earning an MSN in nursing leadership?

Students in a nursing leadership program may take courses in nursing theory and leadership, healthcare policy, law and ethics, organizational development, and healthcare financial management. Learners may also select elective courses in their chosen specialty.

How can I know if an MSN in nursing leadership is right for me?

An MSN in nursing leadership is geared toward people who are interested in administrative or educational roles. Graduates demonstrate strong leadership, management, and administrative skills, which help them influence and transform healthcare in a variety of settings.

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