The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in 2021

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.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) rank among the top paid nurses, earning a median annual salary of $117,670. Prospective NPs must hold a registered nurse (RN) license, professional experience, and a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). The best online NP programs offer quality, affordability, and flexibility. Read on to learn more about nurse practitioner programs, including how to apply and financial aid opportunities for prospective NPs.

Nurse Practitioner Programs Overview

We use our data-driven methodology to rank the best online nurse practitioner 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, program offerings, online flexibility.

Read About Our Ranking Methodology

Featured Online Programs

What Can You Do as a Nurse Practitioner?

NPs provide counseling, education, and treatment, and their advanced training and education gives them more clinical autonomy than RNs. NPs make key decisions in patient care and serve as primary caregivers, much like physicians. They hold hospital admitting privileges and may prescribe medication under a collaborative agreement with a physician in every state. A few states may allow NPs to prescribe independently.

While some 47% of these advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) work in physicians’ offices, others find jobs in hospitals, outpatient care centers, educational services, and health practitioner offices. Around 90% are certified to work in specialized primary care areas. The top certifications include family, adult, adult-gerontology primary care, and acute care.

An NP’s earning potential depends on their specialty area and where they work. Emergency departments are the top-paying setting for these APRNs, where NPs earn $135,000 a year. Read about other lucrative career options on this page.

Find Out More About NP Licensure and Certifications

What to Look For in an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Be wary when NP programs offer a fast track to a six-figure salary in months. While NPs enjoy high salaries, they earn their wages through rigorous classwork and clinical rotations that prepare them to administer high-quality care, shape healthcare policies, and maintain professional standards. Candidates searching for a quality NP program should prioritize the following qualities.

Admission Requirements
Applicants should ensure that they are qualified to attend their chosen NP program. Quality programs vet applicants through a competitive admissions process.
Program Curriculum
Students complete core requirements in nursing research, pharmacology, healthcare policies and ethics, and advanced practice nursing. The best online NP programs offer a student-centered curriculum that allows degree-seekers to pursue specializations such as acute care, family, neonatal, or oncology nursing.
Clinical Experience
Every NP program includes a clinical component, and some programs make it easier for working students to complete clinical rotations. Online NP programs often allow degree-seekers to complete clinical rotations at their workplace, or let online learners work evening or weekend shifts at local facilities.
Accreditation
Earning your degree from an accredited institution ensures that you receive a quality education and make a worthwhile investment. Nursing program accreditation agencies include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Often, employers expect job candidates to have completed accredited programs.
Graduation Rate
A school’s graduation rate says a lot about its quality. Colleges with high graduation rates tend to prepare students for their future careers in a timely manner. A low graduation rate may reflect a lack of student support or rigorous coursework. That said, high rates may also reflect a less demanding NP program. Remember, students who take longer to complete a degree usually pay more in tuition.
Online Learning Format and Requirements
Some online NP programs are designed to accommodate working RNs. These programs let students complete coursework at their own pace, or feature asynchronous formats without set class times. In contrast, synchronous classes best suit online learners who enjoy a more structured class setting.

Applying to an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Admissions qualifications and materials depend on the NP program and the applicant’s educational background. While the following list does not represent every NP program’s admission process, we have outlined a few common requirements below.

Admission Requirements
Online NP programs commonly require applicants to hold a current RN license, clinical nursing experience, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college. Many schools also request GRE or GMAT scores, references, transcripts, and a personal essay.
Program Length
Most programs take about 2-3 years to complete.
Clinical Requirements
On average, NP programs require about 500 clinical hours.
GPA Requirement
Candidates typically need a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies.

Why Is Program Accreditation Important?

Regionally and nationally accredited schools offer a quality education. Accrediting agencies review student outcomes, faculty, and curricula to ensure that they meet the highest standards.

Accreditation also influences the student journey in many other ways:

  • Credits earned at an unaccredited school may not transfer to accredited institutions.
  • Accredited graduate schools may not accept students who attended unaccredited undergraduate schools.
  • Unaccredited schools cannot award students with federal financial aid.
  • Employers often do not recognize degrees from unaccredited schools.

Who Accredits Nurse Practitioner Programs?

How Do I Know an Online Nurse Practitioner Program Is Accredited?

Online and on-campus programs both undergo the same scrutiny to earn accreditation. The nursing program’s homepage typically lists its accreditation status. You can also verify a program’s accreditation status by reviewing the directories listed above. Keep in mind that all schools listed on this page, and on NurseJournal.org, hold accreditation.

Paying for Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Many students struggle to pay their tuition out of pocket, even when an online NP program lets them work while attending school. College costs add up, especially for online NP programs that require more clinical hours.

Students who cannot pay for their tuition up front can access financial aid at the program level. Many institutions distribute scholarships based on merit, and some offer need-based grants specifically for future nurse practitioners. Some nursing students also take out student loans.

Learn More About the Top Online Nurse Practitioner Programs and Schools

  1. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Texas A&M University's online MSN with a nurse practitioner track prepares candidates for primary care roles. Full-time students can complete the 48-credit online nurse practitioner program in six semesters, while part-time learners graduate in eight semesters. This program includes some in-person components, such as clinical hours, diagnostics, and procedures.

    Applicants must hold a 2.0 GPA at minimum, provide essays and three letters of recommendation, and undergo an interview with the selection committee. Competitive candidates hold one or more years of professional experience. Individuals must live in Texas and hold an unencumbered RN license to apply.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing-family nurse practitioner
    • Campus: College Station, Texas
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $24,791 per year in-state; $31,721 per year out-of-state
    • Admission Requirements: RN license; 2.0 GPA
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.28%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  2. Samford University
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Samford's BSN-to-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner option gives RNs the knowledge and skills required to care for patients across the lifespan. Graduates qualify to take the FNP national certification exam. Samford also allows its MSN graduates to move seamlessly into the DNP program without reapplying.

    The program features start dates in the fall and spring semesters. Candidates beginning their studies in the spring can graduate in six semesters, while those who start in the fall can earn their degree in five semesters. Most coursework is offered online, although students must attend three campus visits.

    • Program: MSN family nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Birmingham, Alabama
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $888 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: 3.0 GPA; BSN from CCNE, CNEA, or ACEN and regionally accredited institution; video submission; RN license.
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90.08%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 32 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  3. Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1897 in Illinois, Bradley serves nearly 6,000 students from over 43 countries. The university is home to eight colleges and schools, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which offers multiple advanced nursing programs. Students with an ADN and unencumbered RN license can take advantage of Bradley's RN-to-MSN online nurse practitioner program, which comprises 59 credits and 750 clinical hours.

    Bradley's BSN-to-MSN online NP program is intended for candidates with a BSN and a valid RN license. Requiring 50 credits and 700 clinical hours, the program was designed to suit working professionals. Neither program requires in-person attendance, and students can select their own preceptors for clinical components.

    • Program: ADN-to-MSN-FNP; BSN-to-MSN-FNP
    • Campus: Peoria, Illinois
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $930 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: ADN or BSN from CCNE-accredited school; RN license; 3.0 GPA
    • NCLEX Pass Rate: 96%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 32 months
    • On Campus Requirements: No
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  4. DeSales University
    Location

    Center Valley, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Enrollees at DeSales can consider three different online nurse practitioner programs, preparing them for national certification in their desired area of practice. NP students can choose between an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program, a family nurse practitioner program, or a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner option.

    Each NP program features the same admissions requirements and tuition rates, but learners focus on different course content depending on their focus area. Across programs, some course topics include advanced family health, role development with special populations in psychiatry, and advanced physical assessment.

    • Program(s): MSN adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; MSN family nurse practitioner; MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
      • Campus: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
      • Type: Private
      • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
      • Tuition: $885 per credit hour
      • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing from a CCNE-accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; one year of professional nursing experience; active RN license
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.85%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  5. Maryville University of Saint Louis
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Saint Louis, Missouri, Maryville offers a flexible online NP degree that features five opportunities for specialization. Focus areas include family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

    Prospective NPs complete coursework entirely online, fulfilling all clinical requirements in a location near their home. Regardless of specialization, each curriculum blends theory, research, and evidence-based practice, exposing learners to the field's best practices and training candidates to provide holistic care across patient populations.

    • Program(s): MSN family nurse practitioner; MSN adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner; adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; pediatric nurse practitioner; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
      • Campus: Saint Louis, Missouri
      • Type: Private
      • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
      • Tuition: $813/credit
      • Admission Requirements: BSN from a CCNE-accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; curriculum vitae or resume; 500-word essay; one year of professional nursing experience
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92.97%
  6. Winona State University
    Location

    Winona, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    RNs considering doctoral-level online NP programs enjoy multiple options at WSU. Located in Winona, Minnesota, the university offers adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specializations.

    All students enrolled in the nurse practitioner doctoral program must complete clinical hours along with the required coursework. Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner students complete 74 semester hours and 1,260 clinical hours, and family nurse practitioner learners complete 73 semester hours and 1,080 clinical hours. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner enrollees must satisfy 43-54 semester hours and 1,260 clinical hours.

    • Program(s): DNP adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; DNP family nurse practitioner; DNP psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
      • Campus: Winona, Minnesota
      • Type: Public
      • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
      • Tuition: $428 per credit
      • Admission Requirements: MSN from a nationally accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; one year of clinical nursing experience; active RN license; NP national certification; three letters of recommendation; background check
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.01%
  7. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    USC offers one of the nursing field's most innovative online nurse practitioner programs. The unique curriculum allows students to build a foundation in both social work and advanced nursing practice, exploring topics in healthcare technology and innovation, pharmacology, and community-based research.

    Degree-seekers must complete 49 credits of coursework, 784 clinical hours, and two on-campus intensives. Learners can pursue part- or full-time enrollment. All applicants should hold a BSN or an MSN with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Along with a completed application, prospective students should possess an active RN license and demonstrate proof of one year of clinical experience and completion of a three-credit statistics course.

    • Program(s): MSN family nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Los Angeles, California
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,995 per unit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN or MSN; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; one year of clinical experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  8. Georgia College & State University
    Location

    Milledgeville, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Milledgeville-based Georgia College's online nurse practitioner program allows BSN-holders to pursue concentrations in nurse midwifery, nurse education, women's health nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.

    Learners must complete their clinical rotations in Georgia with a School of Nursing-approved preceptor. Enrollees must satisfy all degree requirements within seven years. MSN graduates can also earn a post-master's nursing certificate in one of five specialty areas.

    • Program(s): MSN family nurse practitioner; MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner; MSN women's health nurse practitioner; MSN nurse education; MSN nurse midwifery
    • Campus: Milledgeville, Georgia
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $7,286 per year
    • Admission Requirements: BSN from an accredited nursing program; active RN license; 2.75 minimum GPA; three letters of recommendation; current resume or curriculum vitae; statement of professional goals
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  9. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    GW's online master of science in nursing features concentrations in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nursing leadership and management, nurse-midwifery, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

    GW nursing students experience a unique, hybrid program format that combines in-person training in simulation centers with online coursework. MSN graduates who want to continue their nursing education can also consider the university's DNP program and graduate certificate opportunities.

    • Program(s): MSN adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; MSN adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner; MSN family nurse practitioner; MSN nursing leadership and management; MSN nurse-midwifery; MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Washington, D.C.
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,395 per credit hour
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; two letters of recommendation; current resume; personal statement; active RN license
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  10. Morehead State University
    Location

    Morehead, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Morehead, Kentucky, MSU offers online nurse practitioner programs for RNs interested in expanding their career opportunities. The online FNP program prepares learners to take the national FNP certification exam and go into practice as advanced practice nurses.

    MSN candidates must complete 49 credit hours. The post-MSN option, intended for nurses who already hold a master's degree, includes 48 credit hours. MSU offers career planning services, internship placement, interview and resume preparation, and job search assistance for graduates.

    • Program(s): MSN family nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Morehead, Kentucky
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $374 per credit hour
    • Admission Requirements: BSN or MSN from an accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA; cover letter; goal statement; current resume or curriculum vitae; active RN license; completed criminal background check
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94%
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Online Nurse Practitioner Program FAQs


Can you become an NP online?

Yes. Online nurse practitioner programs make it easier for working RNs to attend school. That said, nursing students must complete clinical requirements and labs in person. This may require commuting to campus and/or a local healthcare setting.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse practitioner?

RN-to-MSN and RN-to-DNP degrees offer the quickest pathway to becoming an NP. These accelerated programs often award proficiency credits for current RN licensure and allow students to complete clinical hours at their workplace. Students can typically graduate in 18-36 months.

Does it matter where you go to NP school?

Yes. A school’s reputation and accreditation can influence your career prospects and performance on the job. Postgraduate certificate programs also prefer candidates who have graduated from accredited NP programs.

Are nurse practitioners in high demand?

Yes, and more so than all other APRNs. The BLS projects that the job growth rate for NPs will reach 52% from 2019-29 as employers are projected to add 110,700 NP jobs during this time. This increase is driven by a nationwide emphasis on preventative healthcare and an aging baby-boom population.

More About NurseJournal.org

NurseJournal.org is a comprehensive online resource for current and future nursing students, as well as recent graduates seeking licensure and full-time employment. Our free, data-driven guides and program rankings spotlight the top undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in the country. Learn more about our mission at our about us page.

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