Best Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Programs 2020

Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

With the aging population of baby boomers, the healthcare industry continues to grow. This is especially true for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of APRNs could increase by 45% from 2019-29, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.

APRNs can specialize in roles as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners (NPs). This last category occupies a professional space between registered nurses and physicians, with NPs taking on the responsibilities of diagnosing and treating patients. Nearly 96% of NPs prescribe medication, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Additionally, AANP shows that about 41.7% of NPs hold hospital privileges and 11.7% hold long-term care privileges.

Aspiring NPs first need a master of science in nursing (MSN) to qualify for licensure. Many prefer enrolling in online MSN programs, which allow distance learners to pursue their studies at their own pace and convenience. Enrolling in a master’s in nursing online also allows students to save time and money they would otherwise spend commuting to campus.

If pursuing a master’s degree in nursing online appeals to you, you can find a list of the best online MSN programs below.

Read about our ranking methodology here.
Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Top MSN Online Programs 2020

Rank School Location
1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
2 Simmons College Boston, MA
3 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
4 Baker University Baldwin City, KS
5 University of St Francis Joliet, IL
6 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
7 Regis University Denver, CO
8 George Washington University Washington, DC
9 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
10 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
  1. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Johns Hopkins offers a variety of MSN online programs, including specializations in health systems management, public health nursing, advanced nursing practice, and entry into nursing. Students take classes on health assessment, healthcare leadership and management, health systems management, pathophysiology, and integrated clinical management before moving on to more specialized coursework.

    While all MSN coursework is available online, students may choose to attend some in-person classes.

    Campus: Baltimore, Maryland

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $40,512 per year

    Admission Requirements: •   BSN degree
    •   Minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: No

    Programs: •   MSN, Health Systems Management
    •   MSN, Public Health Nursing
    •   MSN, Advanced Nursing Practice
    •   MSN, Entry into Nursing

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  2. Simmons College
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Located in Boston, this private, women-focused college offers a 48-credit online MSN program for students who wish to become family nurse practitioners. The curriculum includes core classes on health assessment, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Students also use qualitative and quantitative research methods to develop a final quality improvement plan proposal.

    Full-time students take six 14-week terms, and complete the MSN online program in 24 months. Graduates boast a firm understanding of human health and function, patient assessment, research interpretation, and other critical advanced nursing practice skills.

    Campus: Boston, Massachusetts

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $1,410 per credit hour

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Unencumbered RN license
    •   Personal statement
    •   3 letters of recommendation
    •   Successful completion of statistics and health assessment

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: No

    Program: MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  3. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    One of the nation's top MSN online programs, USC's MSN curriculum teaches students to diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses, prescribe medication, interpret lab results, and deliver sound patient education. Students take courses on community-based research, pathophysiology, pharmacology, policy and management, and healthcare technology. Throughout the 21- to 36-month experience, candidates regularly collaborate with faculty and their fellow distance learners.

    The MSN program supplements online courses with two in-person intensive units held at USC's Los Angeles campus. These sessions take place at the end of the first and third terms.

    Campus: Los Angeles, California

    Type: Private

    Accreditations: •   Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    •   California Board of Registered Nursing

    Tuition: $38,560 per year

    Admission Requirements: •   BSN or MSN degree
    •   Minimum 3.0 GPA
    •   Completion of statistics course
    •   Current RN license in United States
    •   One year of clinical experience

    Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Program: MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  4. Baker University
    Location

    Baldwin City, KS

    Located in Baldwin City, Kansas, Baker is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Baker's online MSN programs feature tracks in nursing education and nursing administration. The education track prepares students to serve in academic or staff development roles, while the administration track imparts the skills necessary to become a leader in healthcare settings.

    Core classes include healthcare policy, epidemiology, advanced nursing leadership, healthcare informatics, and applied theories for advancing care. Students also take part in a transitional care practicum and complete a graduate scholarly synthesis project before graduation.

    The school provides online learners with peer tutoring, technology assistance, writing support, and accessibility services.

    Campus: Baldwin City, Kansas

    Type: Private

    Accreditations: •   Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    •   Kansas State Board of Nursing

    Tuition: $450 per credit hour

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Current unencumbered RN license
    •   Minimum 3.0 GPA
    •   Undergraduate coursework in health assessment, pathophysiology, and research
    •   One year of full-time clinical experience

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: No

    Programs: •   MSN, Nursing Education
    •   MSN, Nursing Administration

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  5. University of St Francis
    Location

    Joliet, IL

    The St. Francis Leach School of Nursing offers four MSN online programs: nursing administration, nursing education, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner tracks. The core curriculum focuses on health promotion, maintenance, and restoration. Nurses gain the skills and knowledge they need to effectively advise patients and take on leadership roles within healthcare organizations.

    While students may take all FNP and nursing education courses online, the nursing administration and psychiatric-mental health NP tracks feature some in-person classes.

    Campus: Joliet, Illinois

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $775 per credit

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA
    •   Two years of clinical nursing practice
    •   Valid nursing license

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Programs: •   MSN, Nursing Administration
    •   MSN, Nursing Education
    •   MSN, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  6. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Located in Philadelphia, Drexel offers an online MSN program with four tracks: clinical nurse leader; health systems management leadership; nursing education; and quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare. Core classes include health research evaluation, contemporary issues in healthcare, and advanced ethical decision making while delivering care.

    The private liberal arts institution features a three-year tuition lock, ensuring candidates do not experience increased costs as they study. Although all coursework takes place online, the program's format encourages interaction and participation among students and faculty.

    Campus: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $1,303 per credit hour

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Minimum 3.0 GPA
    •   Current unencumbered RN license in the United States

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: No

    Programs: •   MSN, Clinical Nurse Leader
    •   MSN, Health Systems Management Leadership
    •   MSN, Nursing Education
    •   MSN, Quality, Safety & Risk Management in Healthcare

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  7. Regis University
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Located in Denver, Regis University offers an online MSN in nursing leadership that focuses on systems leadership, quality improvement, health policy, advanced nursing practice, and clinical prevention and population health. Graduates are prepared to take on a variety of management roles within healthcare organizations.

    Students may choose between all-online and hybrid degree options, along with certificates in healthcare informatics, business management, informatics, and quality and patient safety. Full-time students typically fulfill the MSN online program's requirements -- including a minimum of 210 clinical hours -- within a year and a half.

    Campus: Denver, Colorado

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $700 per credit hour

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA
    •   Unencumbered RN license
    •   Two years of RN clinical experience

    Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months

    On-Campus Requirements: No

    Program: Master of Science in Nursing Leadership

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  8. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    GWU is a private research institution located in Washington, D.C. The university offers several MSN programs online and in a hybrid format, including adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nursing leadership and management, nurse midwifery, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner tracks. The hybrid programs combine online classes with at least two on-campus sessions each semester.

    The school places students with preceptors to complete their 700 hours of required clinical experience. The MSN online program accepts applications on a rolling basis and students can start their studies in the fall or spring.

    Campus: Washington, DC

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $1,395 per credit

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Current unencumbered RN license
    •   Minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Programs: •   MSN, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Nursing Leadership and Management
    •   MSN, Nurse Midwifery
    •   MSN, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  9. Gonzaga University
    Location

    Spokane, WA

    Gonzaga's MSN online programs allow students to pursue careers as family nurse practitioners, psychiatric-mental health family nurse practitioners, and nursing leaders and administrators.

    Regardless of their specialization, all students take classes on healthcare improvement, information technology in healthcare, issues in the contemporary healthcare environment, and clinical prevention for diverse populations. The 47-credit program features online courses combined with five to six on-campus immersion sessions. Students also must complete at least 660 clinical hours before graduation.

    Campus: Spokane, Washington

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $16,697 per year

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Minimum 3.0 GPA
    •   Unencumbered RN license

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Programs: •   MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Nursing Leadership in Healthcare

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  10. Lewis University
    Location

    Romeoville, IL

    Lewis University's MSN programs online focus on skills and topics like population health, healthcare informatics, advanced nursing practice, and systems and policy within healthcare systems.

    The online MSN program offers specializations in nursing education, healthcare systems leadership, adult gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, and school nursing. The school also offers accelerated options for practicing registered nurses.

    Prior to graduation, all nurse practitioner students must complete 630 clinical hours. The nursing education and school nursing tracks do not include clinical requirements.

    Campus: Romeoville, Illinois

    Type: Private

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

    Tuition: $810 per credit

    Admission Requirements: •   Bachelor's degree in nursing
    •   Minimum 3.0 GPA
    •   Current RN license
    •   Completion of statistics and nursing research courses

    Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Programs: •   MSN, Nursing Education
    •   MSN, Healthcare Systems Leadership
    •   MSN, Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    •   MSN, School Nursing

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Applying to an Online Master’s in Nursing Program

The admission requirements for online nursing master’s programs vary depending on the school, the student’s educational background, and type of degree.

Traditionally, MSN programs considered applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Although many still do, some online MSN programs offer bridge degrees, allowing registered nurses with an associate degree to enroll directly into a master’s program. Either way, prospective students need an active RN license. Several MSN programs require applicants to apply with some past work experience, as well.

Schools usually set a minimum GPA requirement ranging from 2.5-3.0. However, students should keep in mind that meeting a minimum GPA does not guarantee admission; the higher the GPA, the better chances of admission. Schools may also require GRE or MAT scores, although more graduate programs are dismissing this requirement.

Finally, prospective students should expect to submit their undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essays.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to complete an online MSN program?

    Online MSN programs typically take 1-2 years to complete. Some online nursing master’s programs offer accelerated options, which allow students to finish more quickly. Learners who enroll part time usually take longer to complete their programs. In addition, RN-to-MSN bridge programs generally require more credits.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Just like students, schools and academic programs receive evaluations. Schools go through an accreditation process to ensure that they offer learners a quality education. Accredited schools prepare students for their careers, while unaccredited schools should register as a red flag. In fact, state licensure standards require candidates to hold accredited degrees, and employers look for job applicants with accredited degrees.

  • Is an MSN a good degree?

    An MSN can be a great degree for anyone hoping to become an APRN. In fact, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses need an MSN in order to earn licensure. Keep an eye out for accredited programs; unaccredited programs offer a considerably less valuable education.

  • What can I do with an MSN?

    Many individuals who enroll in MSN programs go on to become nurse practitioners or other advanced practice nurses. Those who aspire to nursing leadership roles pursue advanced degrees. Finally, others consider a master’s as a step on the way to earning a doctor of nursing practice or Ph.D. in nursing.

mini icon

Popular Resources

Resources and articles written by professionals and other Nurses like you.


The Best Online DNP Programs 2020

The Best Online DNP Programs 2020

October 15, 2020   |   Staff Writers

Nurses pursuing their doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees attain the highest level of education in the profession. DNP degree-holders become nurse practitioners (NPs), healthcare administrators, nurse educators, and researchers.

The Top RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs 2020

The Top RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs 2020

October 15, 2020   |   Staff Writers

Want to become a nurse practitioner but don't have a bachelor's degree? No problem. Check out these top RN-to-MSN bridge programs.