The Best Online MSN in Nursing Leadership Programs 2022

February 21, 2022 , Modified on March 9, 2022 · 5 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.

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

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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