The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Written by NurseJournal.org Staff

This page introduces some of the country's best online nurse practitioner programs. Prospective nurse practitioners (NPs) can review information about the discipline, including what to look for when searching for a degree program, the best online nursing practitioner programs for 2020, and accreditation for nurse practitioner programs. We also look at job and salary data, financing options like field-specific scholarship opportunities, and professional organizations for nurse practitioners in the United States.

Best Online Nursing Practitioner Programs for 2020


#1 Georgetown University

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georgetown logoGeorgetown 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

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#2 Simmons School of Nursing and Health

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

Nursing@Simmons 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)

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#3 Maryville University

200x100_maryvilleuniversityHighly Recommended & 100% Fully Online! Study for your degree online with Maryville University. They offer Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs that can be completed 100% online. Online learning gives you flexibility to fit your studies into your busy life. You’ll be able to access classes anytime and from anywhere with internet access. Class sizes are small to enhance learning and ensure personal attention is given to the students. Designed for active nurses, the program teaches advanced skills and provides opportunities for clinical research focused on helping to improve your practice’s quality of care and patient outcomes.

  • Campus: St. Louis, Missouri or 100% Online
  • Type: Private, Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: CCNE/NLNAC
  • Tuition: Inquire
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months (30 credits)
  • Degree Requirements: MSN, Advanced Practice Nurse certification, GPA of 3.5, letters of recommendation, essay and interview
  • Programs: DNP – Family Nurse Practitioner, DNP – Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner and DNP
  • Rankings: Online Graduate Nursing Programs were named to the roster of U.S. News & World Report Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs.’Forbes and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazines consistently rank Maryville as a top private school. Kiplinger’s has named Maryville to its list of 100 best values in private colleges and universities for the past two years. Forbes has named Maryville to its Best Colleges list for the past three years.

#5 Clarkson College

Clarkson College offers a variety of online learning experiences for nurses, including two nurse practitioner programs at the graduate level. These programs allow for a majority of online learning which is convenient and flexible for students who are working while attending school.

  • Campus: Omaha, NE
  • Type: Online
  • Accreditation: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $497 per credit hour
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2-3 years
  • Degree Requirements: 38-73 semester hours
  • Programs: Family Nurse Practitioner, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid

#6 Albany State University

Albany State provides education to a multitude of industries, including online nursing courses for nurse practitioners. The academics provided through this institution includes a majority of online learning, although some practical applications may be required.

  • Campus: Albany, GA
  • Type: Online
  • Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $4,512 for in state students and $16,416 for out of state students
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2-3 years
  • Degree Requirements: 80 credits with a B grade average or higher
  • Programs: Master of Science in Nursing
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid

#7 Angelo State University

Angelo State University provides a Master of Science nursing track through online learning resources. This program allows for minimal attendance requirements, with some additional clinical training completed through the city of residence for each student within the state of Texas.

  • Campus: San Angelo, TX
  • Type: Online
  • Accreditation: The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $5,464.60 per year
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2-3 years
  • Degree Requirements: 39 credit hours and a 3.0 GPA
  • Programs: Master of Science in Nursing
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid

#8 Ball State University

Ball State University has been offering online graduate study programs in nursing since 1999 and is recognized as a front runner in online education. The majority of the coursework throughout the MSN program is online, with a small practical portion to complete as well.

  • Campus: Muncie, IN
  • Type: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Tuition: $17,220 for in state students and $29,136 for out of state students.
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3-6 years with 1-2 courses per semester, making a full-time program 9 semester hours.
  • Degree Requirements: 50 credits plus additional clinical hours
  • Programs: Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on Gerontology and FPN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid

Online Nurse Practitioner Programs: An Overview

While each program maintains slightly different admission guidelines, most use a similar application process. In addition, some schools offer different specializations, including women's health, pediatrics, psychiatry, gerontology, and anesthesiology. Consider the following criteria as you search for the right program.

Admission Requirements for an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Most online nurse practitioner programs expect applicants to hold either an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing and a state RN license in good standing. While some NP programs accept nonspecialist applicants, these students may need to complete prerequisite courses, such as statistics and biology. Standard application requirements include transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a professional resume demonstrating clinical experience, and a personal statement. Some schools also request GRE or GMAT scores.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Nurse Practitioner Program?

The length of an online nurse practitioner program depends on multiple factors. Most candidates with a bachelor's degree in nursing and an RN license typically complete their NP degree in one to two years, depending on the program's format. Individuals with an associate degree and RN experience usually spend three years on a program, and nonspecialist programs typically require four or five years total.

A program's duration depends largely on its format and pacing, along with the student's enrollment status. Ideal for candidates with work or family obligations, asynchronous or self-paced programs feature flexible schedules that allow learners to access and submit assignments and coursework outside of set class times. In contrast, cohort programs offer classes with set deadlines and degree benchmarks, which can help keep students on track.


Concentrations Offered for an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family NPs provide care for families and communities. While independent practicing restrictions depend largely on state legislation, 24 states in the U.S. allow nurse practitioners to work independently, assessing patients, writing prescriptions, and monitoring patient progress. Practitioners must sit for the family NP board certification administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Careers this concentration prepares for: Independent practice in your local community, pediatric clinic nurse, general practice medicine

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

These professionals provide psychiatric and physiological analysis and care for those suffering from mental disorders. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to healthcare, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners keep up to date with the latest statistical analyses, cutting-edge investigations, and current pharmacotherapeutics to improve patient quality of life.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Nurse in hospital psychiatric wards, psychiatric clinics, or physiological/psychiatric research labs

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

Women often require complex medical assistance at various phases of their lives. These NPs help young patients transition through puberty, assist women with family planning, help with maternity and postpartum issues, and aid women going through menopause.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Women's clinic nurse, hospital maternity ward nurse, ambulatory care nurse.


Example Courses for Online Nurse Practitioner Students

Information Technology and Data Management
In this class, candidates examine the intricate technological systems that organize modern medicine. Students explore technological data gathering systems, such as MRI, PET, and CT scanners as they learn to compile electronic health records. These systems help professionals maintain the documentation necessary to provide quality healthcare.
Health Politics and Policy
This course explores the ethical and legal issues associated with healthcare. Students discuss disparities in healthcare and ethical administration, the scope of independent versus community care, and the challenges of financing modern treatment programs. Course participants may brainstorm government, private, and corporate policy improvements.
Advanced Pharmacology
Coursework prepares candidates to obtain prescriptive authority by studying pharmacological therapies. Lectures present medications across various therapeutic categories and drug classes, honing students' skills in patient monitoring and assessment. Typically, this course covers primary care medications and long-term therapeutic strategies.
Advanced Psychology
Founded in the principles of psychological distress and mental imbalance, this course delves into behavioral, biological, cognitive, and social influences on mental imbalance. Coursework surveys psychiatric medications and long-term therapeutic dosage and maintenance, along with appropriate interpersonal patient interactions and risk assessment.
Adult and Geriatric Primary Care
This course explores the complex issues related to adult and aging patients with primary care needs. Learners study chronic illness and psychosocial limitations as they train in health assessment, diagnostic reasoning, and prescriptions and non-medicinal therapies. Candidates also build skills in patient education, referrals, and follow-up care.

Internship Component

Most NP programs require students to complete an internship or series of internships before graduation. While some online nurse practitioner programs provide clinical liaisons to connect students with healthcare facilities, most distance learners must arrange their own internship opportunities. You may be able to fulfill this requirement in your current work environment or find hospitals or clinics in your local community.

Internships translate online coursework into practical experience. For example, students may work with the elderly in retirement communities, assist expectant mothers in maternity wards, or help adolescents struggling with mental health challenges.

Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For

American Nursing Credentialing Certification

The American Nurses Association (ANA) sanctions all nurses in the U.S., including professionals specializing in adult gerontology and acute care, family nursing, and psychiatric mental health. Practitioners must recertify every five years to remain in good professional standing.

State Licensure

All states maintain slightly different licensing standards and requirements. However, each state requires licensure candidates to complete a minimum number of clinical hours logged as an RN. Typically, applicants must complete between 200-300 hours. Certain NP specialty positions, such as anesthesiology NP or geriatric specialist, require logged hours with a trained professional.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification

Like the ANA, the AANP offers certification for nursing practitioners of gerontology, geriatric care, and family care. Regular recertification is required, and the AANP provides a variety of continuing education opportunities to keep NPs up to date on relevant issues.

Accreditation for Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

A quality school should hold full accreditation. The U.S. Education Department awards accreditation through six regional governing bodies, including the Higher Learning Commission and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Specialized nursing fields typically require additional accreditation. For example, nurse practitioners focusing on anesthesiology must attend a school accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs (COA). Graduates whose degrees do not hold proper accreditation will not qualify the holder to sit for the ANA and AANP certification exams. To learn more about a school's accreditation status, check its website for voluntary disclosures or search for the school directly in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.


Job and Salary Outlook

Job Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners

According to BLS data, job growth rates for NPs, including nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives, are projected to grow over the next decade by 26% -- nearly four times higher than the national average. This figure demonstrates a strong demand for advanced nursing degrees and high overall earning potential across the profession. The following table describes some career options for graduates with an online NP degree.

  • Nurse Practitioner

    Median Annual Salary: $164,030

    NPs physically examine patients, document medical histories, and determine appropriate medications and therapies to address acute, chronic, and episodic medical issues.

  • Nurse Anesthetist

    Median Annual Salary: $174,790

    Working with physicians, surgeons, dentists, and orthodontists, nurse anesthetists formulate anesthetic programs and administer treatment during and after surgical or medical procedures.

  • Nurse Midwife

    Median Annual Salary: $106,910

    Nurse midwives support expectant mothers through childbirth and provide neonatal care. They maintain medical treatments, assist during childbirth, and help new mothers adjust to postpartum hormonal fluctuations.

  • Medical And Health Services Manager

    Median Annual Salary: $99,730

    These managers organize and maintain productivity within hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They manage medical teams, monitor financial and facility use, and communicate with medical professionals, patients, and families.

  • Post-Secondary Nurse Instructor

    Median Annual Salary: $81,350

    Postsecondary instructors take on the responsibility of translating patient care to future generations of NPs. They prepare graduate students for ANCC or AANP certifications.

Source: BLS

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make?

The following table displays the states with the highest paying salary opportunities for NPs. Prospective NPs may want to consider this salary information when deciding where they want to begin their careers.

Top Paying States for Nurse Practitioners
State State Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
California 13,420 $64.32 $133,780
Alaska 440 $59.08 $122,880
Massachusetts 6,200 $59.01 $122,740
New Jersey 5,900 $58.70 $122,100
New York 13,710 $58.16 $120,970

Source: BLS

Financing Your Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Deciding to go back to school requires a great deal of thought, especially given the cost of higher education. Once you commit to continuing your education, you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn about available financial assistance. The following list describes some additional funding sources, including scholarships. Local, regional, and national funding opportunities can also help defray educational costs.


10 Scholarships for Nurse Practitioner Students

AANP Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Intended for AANP members, these scholarships support RNs pursuing higher education across the country.

Amount: Up to $5,000

NURSE Corps Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The NURSE Corps helps new professionals while simultaneously serving underrepresented areas. Applicants must claim U.S. citizenship, enroll in an accredited NP program, and possess a clean criminal record without outstanding fees. Once accepted to the program, candidates must work in underserved communities for a minimum of two years after graduation.

Amount: Varies; covers tuition, external fees, and provides a student stipend

Army Health Professions Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The U.S. Army> helps young professionals achieve higher educational aspirations while gaining practical and military leadership experience. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and maintain full-time enrollment throughout their schooling.

Amount: Full tuition, $20,000 sign-on bonus, and $2,300+ monthly stipend

Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The NPHF provides multiple scholarships for RNs, including one in gastroenterology and another in community service. These awards support NPs in their final internship year. Applications must include personal statements and references attesting to the applicant's devotion to the field.

Amount: $1,000-$4,000

National Black Nurses Association Annual Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The NBNA strives to increase minority representation in the medical field. Applicants must maintain NBNA membership, be enrolled in an accredited nursing program, and have one year of school remaining before graduation. Strong applicants participate in student nursing organizations and volunteer work and involve themselves in the African American community.

Amount: $1,000-$6,000

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: NAPNAP assists future pediatric NPs on the path to certification. Applicants must belong to NAPNAP and must provide clear information about one's academic and professional background, along with reasons for pursuing a degree in pediatrics.

Amount: Varies

March of Dimes Graduate Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Intended for future NPs interested in working with mothers and newborn children, this scholarship provides funding for maternal-child nursing. Eligible applicants must hold RN certification, be enrolled in a graduate program focused on maternity and/or neonatal care, and maintain membership in the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, or the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.

Amount: $5,000

Tylenol Future Care Scholarship

The Tylenol Future Care Scholarship offers various awards to students pursuing degrees in health education and nursing. Each year, the organization awards 10 scholarships at the $10,000 level and 30 each year at the $5,000 level.

Amount: $5,000-$10,000

Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

The Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship provides assistance for current and future nursing students who demonstrate financial need.

Amount: $2,500

AfterCollege-AACN Scholarship Fund

This scholarship supports students pursuing an undergraduate, master's, and doctoral nursing degree at AACN-member institutions.

Amount: $2,500


Professional Organizations

Professional organizations facilitate professional connections and sponsor networking opportunities. Many offer continuing education programs that allow NPs to pursue certifications and maintain licensure. NPs can present research or professional reflections at annual regional and national conferences, fight for healthcare priorities by serving in advocacy groups, and improve their careers through job search assistance and specialized certifications.