Best Accredited Online MSN Degrees

Best Online MSN Degree Programs

What is an MSN?

Most master of science in nursing (MSN) programs help nurses develop skills in leadership, policy, and research, and many offer both clinical and non-clinical concentrations. There is a huge demand for professionals with an MSN. The Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ (BLS) list of fastest-growing jobs includes nurse practitioner and nursing instructors, both of which require MSN degrees. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), which include nurse practitioners (NPs), nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists, are also required to hold an MSN degree. The BLS projects that APRN employment will grow 31% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the national average.

Earning an MSN degree opens new opportunities in the nursing field, including higher salaries, supervisory roles, and potential career changes. There are many career options for nurses who earn their MSN degree, including clinical roles such as nurse practitioner and nurse midwife. MSN graduates can also consider non-clinical careers as nurse educators, healthcare administrators, and researchers.

MSN programs offer specializations for each potential nursing career, including family NP, adult gerontology NP, emergency NP, pediatric NP, nurse-midwifery, and psychiatric mental health NP. Some programs even allow MSN students to focus on even more specific areas, such as cardiology, oncology, or orthopedics. There are also specializations in informatics and nurse leadership. While some MSN programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, there are RN-to-BSN-to-MSN programs and RN to MSN bridge programs that allow RNs (registered nurses) without a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to earn their master’s degree.


Sponsored School

Sacred Heart University Online Nursing Programs

Sacred Heart University offers CCNE-accredited online MSN programs in four concentrations:

What Can You Do with an Online MSN?

Career Paths

  • Nurse Practitioner: NPs are similar to physicians in that they diagnose and treat conditions and prescribe medications. In some situations, they may also serve as primary care providers. Aspiring NPs should start by obtaining a master’s degree in nursing, such as an online MSN, and consider selecting a specialization.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner: FNPs work with a wide age range, from infant to geriatric patients. They often act as the patient’s first point of contact and order medical tests or provide referrals to specialists. FNPs make up more than 60% of all NPs and usually work in private group practice. An MSN is required for the profession, and some FNPs also have doctoral degrees.
  • Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner: These specialized NPs usually work in urgent care facilities, treating patients who need urgent attention but not an emergency room visit. Urgent care work might call for irregular hours, and these NPs treat a variety of patients and ailments. NP requirements vary by state, but most include at least a master’s in nursing.
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: More than 33% of ACNPs work in hospital inpatient clinics, and others work in nursing homes and doctor’s offices. Job duties include assessing patient’s conditions and prescribing treatment. The role requires a master’s degree, and the most common clinical focus is surgical.
  • Nurse Midwife: Nurse midwives work in gynecologist and obstetrician offices, hospitals, public health departments, and schools. Nurse midwives administer female healthcare, including prenatal care, baby delivery, and gynecological exams. The American College of Nurse-Midwives mandates that all nurse midwives complete an MSN.

Common Employers for Professionals with an MSN

Hospitals: Hospitals commonly employ MSN graduates, including those who received a master’s in nursing online. MSN graduates may work as nurses in an emergency room or surgical ward, or as nurse administrators in a hospital. Hospitals employ 28% of nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists.

Long-Term Care Clinics: Long-term care clinics may include assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospices, or nursing facilities. Long-term care clinics usually focus on geriatric patients, but some center on other populations, such as children. Graduates of online MSN programs interested in providing long-term care can also work in patients’ homes.

Private Practice: MSN degree holders may consider working in private practice, owned by one or more physicians, or an APRN. NPs may also have their own private practice in states where they have full practice status and aren’t required to have physician supervision. Private practice positions may allow for better work hours than those in a hospital or clinic.

Salaries for Professionals with an MSN

Salary Potential for an MSN

  Entry-Level (0-5 Years) Mid-Career (5-10 Years) Experienced (10-20 Years) Late-Career (20+ Years)
Nurse Practitioner $90,000 $97,000 $101,000 $105,000
Family Nurse Practitioner $90,000 $96,000 $99,000 $100,000
Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner $99,000 $104,000 $115,000 $109,000
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner $94,000 $103,000 $108,000 $108,000
Nurse Midwife $87,000 $95,000 $92,000 $108,000

Source: PayScale

Is an Online MSN Program the Right Choice for Me?

Career Mindset

To be successful in MSN programs, students should have good time-management, communication, and research abilities. Commitment and drive are also essential, since many MSN students work while pursuing their degree. For this reason, even full-time students often require two to three years to earn their degree. Students should also have an idea of their future career path so that they can choose a program with their desired specialization.

Several specialties are available to graduates of online MSN programs, including those of nurse anesthetist and nurse midwife. Potential NP specializations also include family, psychiatric, gerontology, and pediatric. MSN graduates can also find non-clinical specializations such as leadership and education to enter careers such as nurse administrator, nurse educator, or public health nursing.

Getting Your Degree Online

  • Accessibility: One benefit of online MSN programs is their accessibility. With any online program, lectures and course materials are available wherever there is an internet connection. Many online programs cater to working professionals and offer asynchronous courses, meaning coursework is available at any time during the week.
  • Flexibility: Online MSN programs offer flexibility; students can complete coursework on their own time and choose whether to attend part time or full time. Some nursing master’s programs are cohort based, in which students go through courses at the same speed. Other programs allow students to complete courses at their own pace. Some also offer credit for experience and professional certifications.
  • School Options: Location is not an issue with online nursing master’s programs, which allows MSN students to choose the best program for them in terms of available specializations, schedules, and price. Students should note on-campus course requirements, which could impact work schedule and incur additional travel costs. Some programs have restrictions on accepting students from certain states.
  • Diversity: Earning an MSN online allows students to interact with nursing professionals from all over the country, and even the world. The program’s flexibility also attracts nurses with different work schedules, meaning students come from diverse professional backgrounds. This diversity can lead to extensive networking opportunities for online program graduates.
  • Technology: Online MSN programs are delivered through various course management systems, which provide virtual environments with features found in on-campus classes. Most systems allow students to have in-depth discussions with classmates and teachers, take online tests from home, and access university resources, such as the library. Different programs have different course delivery formats. Asynchronous courses allow students to log in at any time, while synchronous courses require students to virtually attend live lectures.

Admissions Requirements for an Online MSN

MSN programs’ admission requirements vary by institution, but they all have some commonalities. Most require applicants to have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Some programs might allow applicants with a lower GPA to apply, but require them to submit additional materials. Many MSN programs require students to have a BSN, or an associate degree in nursing. Prospective students with undergraduate degrees in other fields might have to complete prerequisites or meet certain course requirements.

Often, programs require applicants to hold nursing licensure in their home state or have a certain amount of clinical experience. Letters of recommendation and personal statements are often required for admittance. Standardized test scores, such as those for the GRE, are not necessary for every MSN program. For those that do require certain tests, scores should be from within the past five years. Students may be able to bypass this requirement by meeting an undergraduate GPA minimum.

Accredited Online MSN Programs

Prospective students should make sure their master’s degree in nursing online is accredited. Accreditation confirms that programs meet certain quality standards. Accreditation should be regional or national, and either type qualifies students for federal financial aid.

Two primary agencies accredit nursing programs. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is a national, autonomous accrediting agency that ensures the quality of bachelor’s, master’s, and residency nursing programs. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) works to improve nursing education by accrediting degree, certificate, and diploma programs that meet or exceed set standards. Prospective students can search for CCNE-accredited bachelor’s and master’s programs and ACEN-accredited nursing programs.

Many nursing programs require that applicants earn their previous degree at an accredited program. Prospective MSN students considering a doctor of nursing practice should make sure their MSN is from an accredited program. Both online and on-campus programs can be accredited, and students should also confirm that their program is approved by the state board of nursing.

What to Expect from an Online Master of Science in Nursing Program

About the Program

MSN programs can have different credit requirements, but they usually range from 36 to 55 credits. The number of program credits significantly impacts the length of the program, but many programs can be completed in two to three years with full-time study. Some students may choose to attend part-time, in which case they usually have a limited amount of time to complete the degree.

The overall goal of an MSN program is to prepare graduates to lead, think critically, and tackle advanced healthcare positions. MSN students usually hope to move into supervisory positions, pursue specialized careers, or work in nurse education or administration.

Typical Curriculum for an Online MSN

Online nursing master’s programs often share curricular requirements, even among different institutions and specializations. Many program specializations require students to complete the same core coursework before moving into their area of focus. Common core courses include nursing leadership and management, healthcare policy, informatics, and research methods. Employers often expect MSN graduates to have advanced communication, research, critical thinking, professionalism, and leadership skills.

Most programs require students to complete a practicum, capstone, or internship component. Practicums may be completed at hospitals, clinics, or public health agencies. Employed students may be able to complete the requirement at their current place of work, except in the case of a practicum, which they should complete outside of their normal day-to-day responsibilities. The number of required clinical hours differs based on program, specialization, and state. Clinical location stipulations also vary, and some online programs allow students to earn their clinical hours locally. While finding a clinical site is usually the responsibility of the student, online programs may be able to suggest possible locations to students based on where past students have earned their hours.

Find the Best Accredited Online MSN Programs


Earning your master’s degree in nursing, or MSN, is easier than ever, with these fine MSN programs online that do not require the GRE. Take a look at our recommended options.


Sponsored School

 

#1 Georgetown University Online

200x100_georgetown-university-school-of-nursing-health-studies

Georgetown University’s online MS in Nursing program will prepare you to lead change in your community as a nurse practitioner. Complete your degree in as few as 19 months to pursue certification in an advanced practice specialty area. RN and BSN required.

 

Advance your career with one of the following programs:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

#2 University of San Francisco Online

200x100_usfHighly Recommended & Featured Partner! The University of San Francisco was established in 1855 based on the Jesuit values of ethical responsibility, diversity, leadership in service, and creating a more humane world. Our program teaches you to evaluate, design, and implement patient care while staying at the bedside. Designed for both Associate’s Degree and Bachelor’s Degree nurses, you’ll learn to deliver evidence-based care to improve patient outcomes, staff safety, and overall health care plans.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Per Credit Hour: Inquire
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Rankings: A top 50 nursing graduate school – U.S. News and World Report
  • Programs: BSN to MSN, ADN to MSN

#3 Simmons School of Nursing and Health

SimmonsSHHS-2u (1) Designed for licensed registered nurses (RNs), [email protected] delivers the renowned nursing degree programs of the Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences (SNHS) in an innovative, online format.

[email protected]’s online program include:

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) — Family Nurse Practitioner (for bachelor’s degree holders)
  • RN to MSN — Family Nurse Practitioner (for non-bachelor’s degree holders)
  • Post-BS/BA to DNP (for bachelor’s degree holders)
  • Post-MSN to DNP (for MSN degree holders)

#4 American Sentinel University

200x100_americansentineluniversityHighly Recommended & Featured Partner! This fully accredited, online university offers an RN to MSN program that will earn you your MSN in about two years. This online degree is ideal for nursing professionals who have worked in the field for 10 years or more. If you have an RN, you can apply your associate’s degree in nursing towards your MSN, and you do NOT have to first earn your bachelor’s.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: For Profit
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Per Credit Hour: Inquire
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Rankings: Ranks 41st for Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs
  • Programs: Master of Science in Nursing

#5 Capella University

200x100_capella-universityHighly Recommended & Featured Partner! With your Master in General Nursing from Capella, you’ll have the ability to assimilate health care research, concepts of management and leadership as well as advanced knowledge, technology, and theories in evidence-based nursing practice. You will also be equipped to integrate healthcare policies and regulations and apply professional ethics and legal standards in professional nursing practice.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Private, For-Profit
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Per Credit Hour: Inquire
  • GRE Required: No
  • BSN Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Programs: MSN – Diabetes Nursing, MSN – Nurse Educator, MSN – Nursing Informatics, MSN – Nursing Leadership and Administration, MSN – Nursing, General, MSN – RN-to-MSN Diabetes Nursing, MSN – RN-to-MSN Nurse Educator , MSN – RN-to-MSN Nursing Informatics, MSN – RN-to-MSN Nursing Leadership and Admin, MSN – RN-to-MSN Nursing, General

#6 Jacksonville University

An MSN degree from this world class program will prepare you for a dynamic nursing career. You can choose a master of science in either leadership in healthcare systems, or clinical nurse educator. Both of these accredited, online programs are taught by professors who have doctorates in the field.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Per Credit Hour: $447
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
  • School Site: TuitionFinancial Aid

#8 Sacred Heart University

The Master of Science degree online in nursing can give you the career opportunities to move into high-paying nursing administration positions. If you have an RN or have an associate’s degree in nursing, this online RN-BSN-MSN program can help you to earn your master’s degree in less time and at less cost.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Non Profit
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Per Credit Hour: $620
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
  • School Site: Tuition |Financial Aid

#9 Saint Xavier University

The online Master’s in Nursing program here was named the #6 best online MSN program in the US by Best Colleges. This is a highly flexible program that offers two exciting tracks: Executive Leadership and Clinical Leadership.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Non Profit
  • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Per Credit Hour: $620
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
  • School Site: TuitionFinancial Aid

#10 Ball State University

Are you ready to make your next step in your nursing career? The Master of Science in Nursing online at Ball State with no GRE will help you to be ready for an advanced professional role. No matter if you want a leadership administration position, or one as an educator, this online program will help you to become the best nurse that you can.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Non Profit
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Per Credit Hour: in state per year $7918; out of state $19,600
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
  • School Site: TuitionFinancial Aid

#11 St. Joseph’s University

With your online graduate nursing degree, you will be ready for a wide variety of leadership positions in nursing administration or education. At this university, note that you can combine your MSN with either a Master in Health Administration, or a Master in Business Administration, as well.

  • Campus: Online
  • Type: Non Profit
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Per Credit Hour: $450
  • GRE Required: No
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On Campus Requirements: No
  • School Site: Tuition |Financial Aid

Types of MSN Degrees/Specializations

There is no one-size-fits-all MSN degree. There are several specializations to choose from, each of which is designed to prepare you for a certain career track. When choosing a specialization, you should consider your ultimate career goal. What is your dream job? The specialization you choose should be the one that you believe will be most likely to improve your chances of landing that dream job.

The US Department of Health and Human Services published a National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners back in 2012 which is still very relevant. There were an estimated 154,000 licensed nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States in 2012.  Of these, more than 132,000 worked in a position requiring a nurse practitioner credential (the NP workforce). Within the NP workforce, about 127,000 NPs were providing patient care, and nearly half of NPs in patient care (60,407) were working in primary care practices or facilities.  Approximately 22,000 licensed NPs were not working in an NP position at the time of the survey; of these, approximately 11,000 were working as RNs. See more about these national sample survey here.

npinfographic

Here are a few of the specializations you can choose from:

  • Administration: If your ultimate goal is to become Chief Nursing Officer or a fill a similar supervisory role, a specialization in administration is probably the best choice for you.
  • Case Management: This specialization teaches you how to provide better care for patients by understanding patient needs and personalizing services for each individual patient.
  • Clinical Nurse Leader: A clinical nurse leader coordinates the health care plans for an organization’s patients. Responsibilities include tracking patient outcomes and making changes in patient care plans as needed.
  • Education: Nurses who want to be involved in nursing education, whether training nursing staff at a hospital or as part of a college or university nursing program, should consider a specialization in nursing education.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner: This specialization will prepare you for a career as a family nurse practitioner. In this position, you’ll be treating both adults and children with common illnesses and medical conditions.
  • Infection Control Program: You will learn about infection control programs and epidemiology, and you’ll be able to develop policies to help prevent and control the spread of disease.
  • Nursing Informatics: Informatics is about analyzing healthcare data and using it to find opportunities for improvement in technologies and patient outcomes.
  • Nursing Leadership and Management: The leadership and management specialization focuses on management and human resource principles to prepare nurses for managerial positions.
  • Patient Care Services Administration: If you are concerned about the quality of care being provided to patients and want to deal with regulatory compliance and controlling costs, patient care services administration might be the right specialization for you.
  • See 100+ awesome Nursing specializations you should know.

Regardless of the specialization you choose, getting your MSN will make you eligible to become an advanced practice registered nurse and significantly increase your income.