Best Online MSN in Acute Care Programs icon

Best Online MSN in Acute Care Programs

| NurseJournal Staff

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With the advanced skills to fill a variety of healthcare positions, acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) provide care to patients by assessing and treating illnesses. ACNPs work alongside other healthcare professionals to determine the best treatment for patients with chronic or acute conditions. Acute care nurses can work in a wide array of healthcare settings, including doctor's offices, emergency rooms, operating rooms, and walk-in clinics.

According to PayScale, ACNPs make a lucrative average salary of $104,000 per year. The country's healthcare needs continue to grow, leading to an increased demand for nursing professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for nurse practitioners (NPs) will grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029, much higher than the national average.

Online acute care nurse practitioner programs provide necessary nursing skills, including clinical judgement, proper pharmaceutical prescription, and human physiology expertise. It takes an average of 1-3 years to complete an acute care NP program online to earn an MSN.

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Applying to an Online MSN in Acute Care Program

Pursuing an MSN in acute care is a key step in becoming an acute care NP. Though requirements vary, online ACNP programs typically require applicants to hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA) and a registered nurse license.

Applicants should confirm that their selected programs accept their state registered nurse license. Some programs feature accelerated programs that allow applicants with an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in an unrelated discipline to obtain both their BSN and MSN.

MSN programs typically require applicants to confirm a certain amount of relevant clinical hours, varying between 500-1,000 hours. Programs may also ask for other materials, such as a resume, letters of recommendation, minimum scores on tests like the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), or a personal goals statement.

Featured Online Programs

Explore the Best Online MSN in Acute Care Programs and School Info

George Washington University View School Profile Washington, DC 82% 36% 24% Middle States Commission on Higher Education

A private university in Washington, D.C, chartered by Congress in 1821, GW welcomes approximately 28,000 students on campus and online each year.

GW offers a mostly online master of science in nursing: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. A handful of courses each require 1-3 days of campus-based experiences. Students may find their own clinical placement sites in their local community. All students take the same courses, including biostatistics for health care researchers, advanced health assessment and diagnostic reasoning, and genetics for health care providers. The program requires 650 clinical hours.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Boone, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $163 per credit for North Carolina residents; $664 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program; current RN license; minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
DeSales University View School Profile Center Valley, PA 70% 64% 32% Middle States Commission on Higher Education

DSU, a private Catholic university established in 1964, welcomes more than 3,500 campus-based and online students per year.

DSU offers a fully online or hybrid master of science in nursing: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Students may attend part-time or full-time. Some online courses are available in a synchronous real-time format, while others allow students to view lectures and course materials at any time before the due date. Students complete their clinical placements through DSU's extensive network of partner facilities.

  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Campus: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $910 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or GRE or MAT scores, active Pennsylvania nursing license, one year of full-time nursing experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: None
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not specified
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Saint Joseph's College of Maine View School Profile Standish, ME 63% 61% 50% New England Commission on Higher Education

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in Portland, Maine, in 1812, SJC moved to its current location in Standish in 1956. Today, the university serves approximately 4,500 students, roughly divided between on-campus and online enrollment.

SJC offers an online master of science in nursing: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. All students take the same courses, including population health and interprofessional collaboration, the advanced practice nurse as provider, and adult-gerontology acute care theories for advanced practice I, II, and III. Students must also complete three practicum placements, one on-campus skills session, and a capstone project.

  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Campus: Standish, Maine
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $663 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a GPA of at least 3.0, unrestricted nursing license, resume, career statement, three references
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Not specified
  • On-Campus Requirements: One skills session
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not specified
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
The University of Texas at El Paso View School Profile $ El Paso, TX 39% 41% 39% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Originally the State School of Mines and Metallurgy, UTEP became a member of the University of Texas system in 1967. Today, the university welcomes more than 25,000 online and campus-based students each year.

UTEP offers a mostly online master of science in nursing with two acute-care options: adult-gerontology acute care or pediatric acute care. Both programs require students to make three campus visits in each of the last three semesters. Adult-gerontology students must complete 675 clinical hours, while pediatric acute care students need 765 clinical hours.

  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP or PNP-AC)
  • Campus: El Paso, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $496 per credit (in-state) / $1,009 per credit (out-of-state)
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, unencumbered RN license, 2-3 years of critical care experience (adult-gerontology) or 1-2 years of pediatric critical care experience (pediatric), statement of purpose, personal interview
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Seven semesters (adult-gerontology) or eight semesters (pediatric)
  • On-Campus Requirements: Minimal
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.64%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Duquesne University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA 80% 68% 18% Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Founded in 1878 as the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost, Duquesne enrolls more than 9,000 students on campus and online per year.

Duquesne's online master of science in nursing: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program requires students to visit campus just three times. The 42-credit program prepares students for the national certification exam. Students learn to manage both acute and chronic illnesses, including their impact on all aspects of daily life. All students must complete 750 clinical hours.

  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,568 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0, unencumbered RN license, resume reflecting one year of full-time nursing experience, two references, goal statement, possible interview
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Minimal
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not specified
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Clarkson College View School Profile Omaha, NE 53% 49% 95% Higher Learning Commission

Established in Omaha in 1888 as Nebraska's first school of nursing, Clarkson now welcomes more than 1,100 campus-based and online students each year.

Clarkson offers an online RN-to-MSN program with a specialization in adult-gerontology acute care. Students first complete the requirements for an RN-to-BSN pathway and then transition into their MSN specialization courses. The program requires only a few campus visits for service experiences.

  • Program: RN-to-MSN: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Campus: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $7,076 per semester (full-time) / $3,606 per semester (part-time)
  • Admission Requirements: Official transcripts, RN license, essay, two references, resume
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Not specified
  • On-Campus Requirements: Minimal
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not specified
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Nova Southeastern University View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, FL 50% 51% 47% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

A private university headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, NSU serves more than 20,000 students online or through its 18 campuses.

NSU offers an online master of science in nursing: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing may enter the program by taking a six-credit bridge course: transition to advanced nursing practice. All students must complete four 150-clinical hour practicum placements in their local community.

  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Campus: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $750 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA with 12 months of clinical practice or minimum 2.75 GPA with 24 months of clinical experience, active Florida RN license, curriculum vitae, residence within 150 miles of campus, certificate in advanced cardiovascular life support
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Eight semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: None
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not specified
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston View School Profile Galveston, TX 49% 22% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Now a member of the University of Texas system, UTMB, the oldest medical school in Texas, welcomes over 3,100 students online and on-campus each year.

The university offers an online master of science in nursing: adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program that requires students to visit campus for orientation and then for 2-3 days each semester. The program prepares students for national certification. Students outside the Houston/Galveston area may complete their clinical placements in their local community with approval.

  • Program: Master of Science in Nursing: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Campus: Galveston, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $283 per credit (in-state) / $706 per credit (out-of-state)
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a GPA of at least 3.0, active RN license, one reference, personal statement, resume showing at least one year of RN experience in acute care, ED, or ICU, current certification in basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Seven semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: 2-3 days per semester
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.75%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the ACNPC-Adult Gerontology (AG) exam?

Administered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the ACNPC-AG assesses an applicant's abilities to fulfill the duties of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. The exam includes 175 multiple choice questions that gauge the applicant's knowledge in the standard practices of acute care nurse practitioners.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

Accreditation establishes that an educational institution passes the standard review processes, ensuring the quality of their educational offerings. Students should select an accredited program, as employers and certification standards often require degrees from accredited institutions.

How long does it take to become an acute care nurse practitioner?

Becoming an acute care nurse practitioner takes around 2-3 years. Each program sets their own requirements, but to receive an acute care nurse practitioner certificate online, students typically need approximately 35-50 credits that focus on clinical requirements, nursing core courses, and advanced nurse practices.

What is the difference between an ACNP and a family nurse NP?

Family nurse practitioners typically provide primary care in doctor's offices, clinics, and other settings, often attending to a patient's health across their lifespan. An ACNP maintains the health of patients who require more immediate care or are in life-threatening conditions. ACNPs often occupy urgent settings, including emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Photo Credit: Tempura / Getty Images

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