The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

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Updated November 21, 2022

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: Hiraman | E+ | Getty Images

If you are considering a nurse practitioner (NP) career, but need to continue working during graduate school, you may consider an online acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) program. Online NP programs offer convenience and flexibility, allowing students to continue working while getting a master's degree in nursing or a doctoral degree in nursing practice.

Learn what to look for in online acute care nurse practitioner programs, why accreditation is important, and how to apply for and pay for an NP program. Finally, see our list of the top online acute care NP programs.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online acute care NP 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.


At a Glance: The Top 9 Online Acute Care NP Programs

  • 1. George Washington University
  • 2. Maryville University of Saint Louis
  • 3. Purdue University Global-Indianapolis
  • 4. Duquesne University
  • 5. DeSales University
  • 6. The University of Texas at El Paso
  • 7. Saint Joseph's College of Maine
  • 8. Clarkson College
  • 9. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston


Keep reading to learn more about the key factors to consider when choosing a program or go straight to our ranking of the best online acute care NP programs.

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Online Acute Care NP Program

There are several important factors to consider when narrowing down your best options. These include the admission requirements, specializations, clinical experience requirements, and online learning formats.

Examining essential data points, such as graduation rates, can tell you what you need to know about a program's quality before applying. These data points also contribute to the selection of our top picks.

1. Admission Requirements

Admission to an online acute care NP program can be highly competitive. Reviewing admission requirements can give you a glimpse at what a school prioritizes when selecting students. This can help you build a stronger application.

2. Specializations

ACNPs can pursue professional specializations in areas including adult-gerontology acute care and pediatric acute care.

When checking out new program options, you must ensure the ACNP track you plan to pursue is offered.

3. Program Curriculum

Many of the courses in a nurse practitioner program's core curriculum are similar across programs, but the electives may vary. The electives offered could be a factor when selecting the right program for you.

4. Clinical Experience

One factor to pay close attention to is the number of clinical hours required and where those clinical placements will occur. Many online programs allow students to complete clinicals in their local area.

Schools may or may not offer assistance in securing placement.

5. Accreditation

It's essential to check whether each prospective program you apply for is accredited because only accredited programs qualify for ACNP certification. You won't be allowed to sit for the licensing exam unless you graduate from an accredited master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctoral nursing program.

6. Program Length

Finding out how long a program takes to complete is key to selecting a program that is right for you. On average, an MSN takes two years to complete. If you have work, personal, or family obligations, you may prefer a part-time option that allows more free time.

7. School Graduation Rate

A school's graduation rate is an indicator of the quality level of a college or university; it can help predict your chances of completing the program. Nursing students can also review a school's certification pass rates to determine how well a program prepares graduates for licensure.

8. Online Learning Format and Requirements

When considering an online NP program, it's essential to determine whether nursing classes are 100% online or if there are in-person requirements, such as lectures or other learning modalities. Find out if the coursework is synchronous (live classes on a set schedule) or asynchronous (recorded lessons and assignments that can be completed on your schedule).

This data point may be important for working students or those with personal or family obligations.

Featured Online NP Programs

Why Is Online Acute Care NP Program Accreditation Important?

The accreditation process for nursing programs involves third-party experts who review a program's instructors, course content, clinical requirements, and other aspects of the program to ensure it meets quality benchmarks. There are many reasons that accreditation is essential, including:

  • Accreditation ensures quality in a college, university, or specific program.
  • Only accredited courses are considered for board certification and state licensure.
  • Most employers only hire graduates of accredited programs to ensure all employees provide safe, effective practice.
  • Accredited schools will not accept transfer credits from an unaccredited program.
  • Federal loans and many other types of financial aid are typically only awarded to students attending accredited schools.

Learn More About the Best Online Acute Care NP Programs

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.

#1 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

George Washington University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

George Washington University offers an acute care nurse practitioner program with accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The program prepares learners to work in emergency settings.

Seven clinical labs and seminars require campus visits. Degree-seekers learn about health assessments, airway management, and central line insertion. Additional topics include adult gerontology, critical thinking in crises, and suturing. Students complete 48 credits and 650 clinical hours.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: District of Columbia
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,395 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, current RN license, minimum 3.0 GPA, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, resume, statement of purpose, one year of critical care nursing experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $101,254 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$54,453
Out-of-state
$54,453
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
41%
Students Enrolled
27,814
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Maryville University of Saint Louis

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Maryville University delivers a convenient online acute care nurse practitioner program with no campus requirements. Distance learners complete clinical placements locally.

Nursing students choose from five concentrations, including adult gerontological acute care. The concentration focuses on diagnosis and management processes. Students develop a foundation in an evidence-based nursing practice, health promotion, and disease prevention.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,395 per credit for North Carolina residents, $664 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited nursing program, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, transcripts, resume, 500-word essay
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $93,724 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$26,070
Out-of-state
$26,070
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
10,013
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online

Purdue University Global offers an acute care nurse practitioner program that prepares students for advanced nursing roles. Most students complete the MSN program in two years. Learners with transferable credits may graduate more quickly.

Students complete 30 core nursing credits and 51 concentration credits. Purdue Global delivers classes in 10-week terms. The program's six concentration options include adult gerontological acute care. Coursework covers physiology and pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and critical care management. Online learners complete clinicals in their specialization area.

The curriculum prepares graduates to earn credentials to become practicing adult gerontological acute care nurse practitioners and acute care nurse practitioners.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $420 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 2.5 GPA, RN license, one year of critical care nursing experience, criminal background check, official transcripts
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,920
Out-of-state
$13,356
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
38,138
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Duquesne University

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Duquesne University's accredited acute care nurse practitioner program focuses on adult gerontology. The 42-credit program offers three annual start dates. Coursework builds on prior nursing experience and covers advanced topics related to critical illnesses and complex healthcare needs. 

Online learners complete 12 courses and 750 clinical hours. Classes explore evidence-based nursing practice, healthcare ethics in practice and policy, pharmacology, physical assessments, and pathophysiology.

Learners progress through the curriculum in cohorts of 12-15 students. Duquesne provides access to virtual libraries, writing centers, and an online orientation.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,635 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited school, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, at least one year of nursing experience, undergraduate statistics course, transcripts, resume, statement of goals, two reference letters
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
Average Tuition
In-state
$39,992
Out-of-state
$39,992
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
9,197
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

DeSales University

  • Center Valley, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A Christian institution, DeSales University offers an adult gerontology acute care program. Unlike other acute care nurse practitioner programs, the university's offering features 60 hours of advanced pharmacology lessons, which qualify graduates to prescribe medications in Pennsylvania.

Students complete 50 credits in subjects including applied research, healthy policy health informatics, and principles of epidemiology and biostatistics.

The program requires 75 clinical lab hours in the clinical skills suite. The facility features high-fidelity and low-fidelity mannequins, 12 beds, and eight exam rooms. Degree-seekers complete 675 clinical hours in practices throughout the Lehigh Valley.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $910 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited nursing program, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, one year of nursing experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.9% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $99,251 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$37,200
Out-of-state
$37,200
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
3,460
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#6 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

The University of Texas at El Paso

  • El Paso, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Texas at El Paso delivers an acute care nurse practitioner program emphasizing adult gerontology. The program's convenient learning format benefits working nurses.

Each course lasts seven weeks. Classes incorporate advanced assessments, pathophysiology, research appraisal, healthcare policy and advocacy, and simulation lab experiences. Nursing students complete 46-49 credits and 675-775 clinical hours.

Graduates can earn credentials from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. UTEP admits new students in the fall and spring terms. 

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: El Paso, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $552 per credit for Texas residents, $782 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, direct patient care experience, 2-3 years of ICU or CCU experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.6% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $126,504 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,193
Out-of-state
$22,556
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
100%
Students Enrolled
25,177
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Saint Joseph's College of Maine

  • Standish, ME
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Saint Joseph's College of Maine offers an acute care nurse practitioner program. Students can customize the learning format to fit their lifestyle.

The curriculum includes 24 core credits. Topics include nursing informatics, policy and safety, organizational and systems leadership, and research methods. Nursing students complete 24 specialization credits comprising adult gerontology acute care coursework and practicum experiences.

Full-time students can graduate in two years. Part-time students have up to five years to complete the program. SJC does not charge an application fee or require GRE scores.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Standish, Maine
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $683 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited school, minimum 3.0 GPA, official transcripts, RN license, undergraduate statistics and health assessment courses, resume, career statement, three references
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.8% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $96,829 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$36,720
Out-of-state
$36,720
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
1,987
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#8 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Clarkson College

  • Omaha, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Clarkson College's acute care nurse practitioner program offers an accelerated pathway to a graduate degree for nurses with an associate degree or a nursing diploma.

The RN-to-MSN program requires 130 credits, including undergraduate credits. After completing graduate courses, online learners can take 30 credits in adult-gerontological acute care.

Coursework explores advanced physical assessments, nutrition, psychiatric and mental health, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Students complete online theory courses and local clinical experiences. Learners graduate in 10-14 semesters.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $683 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: ADN or nursing diploma, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.1% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $112,437 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$13,392
Out-of-state
$13,392
Retention Rate
59%
Admission Rate
46%
Students Enrolled
1,108
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 The Best Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

  • Galveston, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The acute care nurse practitioner program from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston trains learners to work with young adults and seniors.

The program features an adult gerontology specialization. Degree-seekers complete 14 courses. Most students take 2-3 courses per semester and graduate in seven semesters. The curriculum covers geriatic syndromes, nurse practitioner diagnostics reasoning, public policy, and informatics and quality improvement. 

Graduates can pursue credentials from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Association of Critical Care Nurses.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Galveston, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $552 per credit for Texas residents, $782 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited school, minimum 3.0 GPA, RN license, resume, personal statement, three letters of recommendation, one year of nursing experience in acute care
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
Average Tuition
In-state
$6,522
Out-of-state
$20,096
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,354
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

How Online Acute Care Programs Work

Choosing between an online or in-person nursing program requires much consideration. While attending an online program is convenient, distance learning involves some challenges.

Many online nurse practitioner programs offer asynchronous courses, but students may be required to log in to take live courses during a specific time. Students who participate in hybrid programs must complete on-campus requirements.

Even when acute care NP programs offer a 100% online curriculum, the clinical component for online nursing students must be completed in person. There may also be other face-to-face requirements, such as lab simulations, lectures, or orientation requirements. Campus-based expectations are usually scheduled in advance for students who need to make travel arrangements.

Applying to an Online Acute Care NP Program

Applying to an acute care NP program requires time and effort. Several important steps are involved. Prospective students must consider the school's admission requirements, materials, and prerequisites, such as a bachelor's degree, minimum GPA, and mandatory entrance exam scores.

1. Admission Requirements

Most acute care NP programs require prospective students to have a bachelor's in nursing or an entry-level MSN (such as clinical nurse leader), a current, unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license, and advanced cardiac life support certification.

There may be specific course completion requirements with a minimum GPA in classes such as statistics or sciences. You must also have a minimum of two years' work experience, usually in the intensive care unit, the emergency department, or the telemetry unit of an acute or progressive care center.

2. Admission Materials

Applicants are usually required to submit an application, a resume, personal statement or essay, a current copy of a U.S. unencumbered RN license, and official school transcripts.

Many programs require criminal background checks and a pre-admission interview. The interview could be in person or online (for remote students).

3. GPA Requirement

Most programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for students to be accepted; if your GPA is lower than 3.0, you can talk to an advisor to find out if there are any exceptions to this prerequisite.

Paying for Online Acute Care NP Programs

Many variables can influence your ability to pay for an NP program, such as:

  • Whether the program is offered at a public or private institution (private schools are usually more expensive)
  • Whether distance students pay in-state or out-of-state tuition
  • The overall length of the program
  • The ability to earn income while completing an NP program (e.g., the flexibility of the program schedule)
  • Whether a student has financial support for nurses (e.g., loans, nursing scholarships or grants, or help with tuition from friends or family members)

Several types of financial aid are available for graduate students, including federal aid, private loans, and grants. You can find information on the school's website on any special financial assistance offered specifically for NP programs and graduate students.

What Can You Do as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

Acute care NPs work with people of all ages, usually in a hospital setting. ACNPs provide advanced care to people who have experienced injury or trauma and are undergoing serious cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal, women's health, or psychiatric issues.

These nurses work with critically ill patients in fast-paced healthcare settings, such as emergency rooms, intensive care units, operating rooms, or urgent care facilities.

NPs plan patient care, order lab work, perform advanced patient care (like intubating patients), prescribe medications, and order lab work. A nurse practitioner is often responsible for leading interprofessional teams, evaluating and formulating nursing diagnoses, diagnosing medical conditions, and planning patient care. An NP's scope of practice varies by state.

According to a November 2022 Payscale report, the average annual salary for an ACNP is $106,150.


Frequently Asked Questions About Acute Care NPs


Is an acute care nurse practitioner degree worth it?

There are many factors to consider when deciding on a nurse practitioner degree. These include your current personal and work obligations, career and financial goals, and nursing aspirations. If those factors align with becoming an NP, it is certainly worth it.

Nurse practitioners enjoy a much higher level of autonomy than other nurses and a wider range of job prospects; they can even own and operate private practices in many states.

Are online acute care NP programs respected?

Yes, if the program is accredited. Online programs must follow the same standards regarding instructors, curriculum, and clinical practicum hours as accredited in-person programs. The courses are usually taught by the same professors that teach onsite. This means you will be receiving the same level of education as on-campus NP graduates.

What does an acute care NP do?

An acute care NP works with critically ill patients of all ages, usually in the intensive care unit, hospital emergency room, or operating room. They may also work in urgent care or other healthcare settings.

Nurse practitioners can diagnose conditions, treat patients, assist during procedures, and prescribe medications. They are responsible for managing patient care, including after surgery.

Are acute care nurse practitioners in high demand?

Yes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 40% from 2021 to 2031. Acute care nurse practitioners are among the NPs most in demand.


Page Last Reviewed: November 14, 2022

Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.


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