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The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

Nalea Ko, MFA
Updated April 12, 2024
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Discover the top online nurse practitioner programs, available in a variety of specialties and concentrations. Start your journey to an advanced nursing career.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: Anchiy / Getty Images

Completing an online nurse practitioner (NP) program puts current registered nurses (RNs) on track to a higher-paying career. NPs are advanced practice nurses who focus their careers in specific areas of nursing, such as acute care, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, family nursing, and psychiatric mental health.

Nurses can become certified as NPs after completing a graduate-level program: either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). You can complete either degree online.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Learn About the Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs and Schools

#1 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

University of Southern California

  • Location-markerLos Angeles, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$60,446
  • Out-of-state$60,446
  • Retention Rate96%
  • Acceptance Rate13%
  • Students Enrolled49,318
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment46%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

George Washington University

  • Location-markerWashington, DC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$57,894
  • Out-of-state$57,894
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate50%
  • Students Enrolled26,457
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment26%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

The University of West Florida

  • Location-markerPensacola, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,735
  • Out-of-state$16,004
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate53%
  • Students Enrolled13,288
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment88%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

Cedarville University

  • Location-markerCedarville, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$33,174
  • Out-of-state$33,174
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate62%
  • Students Enrolled4,643
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment39%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

Harding University

  • Location-markerSearcy, AR
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$21,690
  • Out-of-state$21,690
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate54%
  • Students Enrolled4,973
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment30%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

Mount Carmel College of Nursing

  • Location-markerColumbus, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$22,134
  • Out-of-state$22,134
  • Retention Rate58%
  • Acceptance Rate52%
  • Students Enrolled790
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment94%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

Sacred Heart University

  • Location-markerFairfield, CT
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$44,960
  • Out-of-state$44,960
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate66%
  • Students Enrolled9,785
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment42%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

University of the Cumberlands

  • Location-markerWilliamsburg, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,875
  • Out-of-state$9,875
  • Retention Rate67%
  • Acceptance Rate85%
  • Students Enrolled19,272
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment95%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

  • Location-markerCincinnati, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,099
  • Out-of-state$25,433
  • Retention Rate87%
  • Acceptance Rate85%
  • Students Enrolled40,329
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment66%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2024

Maryville University of Saint Louis

  • Location-markerSaint Louis, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$24,766
  • Out-of-state$24,766
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate92%
  • Students Enrolled10,596
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment84%
  • AccreditationYes

Nurse Featured Online NP Programs

NurseJournal asked Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW to review each of the online NP programs below. In their review, they considered factors that influence nursing student experiences, including reputation, faculty, program quality, and value.

The following are the featured programs selected by Elizabeth Clarke.

1. University of Southern California

“While this program is one of the more expensive options available, the school places students in their clinicals within 100 miles of their home. This is huge — most online programs do not assist with clinical placement, and many FNP students are left scrambling to find clinical sites and preceptors to graduate on time.”

Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Meet Clarke arrow-narrow-right

2. Sacred Heart University

“Sacred Heart University is a fantastic option for the RN who is looking to advance their career as an NP and continue working while in school. Sacred Heart’s program is 100% online, and courses are asynchronous. Asynchronous programs are a great option for students who want or have to work while also enrolled in their program. By allowing the student to complete their courses on their own schedule, it allows a great deal of flexibility.

“Students enrolled in their MSN-FNP program can earn their degree in 2.5 years; most other programs are typically approximately three years in total.”

Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Meet Clarke arrow-narrow-right

3. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

“The University of Cincinnati’s MSN FNP online course appears geared towards working professionals. The program has waived all enrollment fees for 2024, making the application process much more affordable.

“All courses are completed online and asynchronous, which allows students to continue working as an RN while enrolled. No onsite visits to the campus are required, which is helpful to out-of-state students. Each student is assigned an advisor to guide them through the program from application to graduation. Students also have a resource team to assist with clinical placement, which is not often the case with online programs.”

Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Meet Clarke arrow-narrow-right

Learn more about the key factors to consider when choosing a program, or, go straight to our data-driven ranking of the best online nurse practitioner programs.

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

What makes one nurse practitioner online program different from another? Often, factors like cost and schedule flexibility. Nurses take NP programs online for the convenience and format, but other key factors influence student decisions. The best online nurse practitioner programs prepare nurses for their chosen careers and offer a format and time line that suits their lifestyle.

Take a look at some of the information we highlight in our program rankings and why it’s important.

Admission Requirements

Eligibility requirements for an online nurse practitioner program are often listed in the admissions guidelines. Nurse practitioner online programs often want applicants with about 1-2 years of work experience, who hold an RN license with applicable credentials.


NP programs allow students to specialize in specific areas of nursing, such as adult-gerontology, family nursing, neonatal nursing, or healthcare leadership. Keep in mind that specialties vary by nursing school.

Program Curriculum

NP programs provide an education in evidence-based clinical nursing and theory. Students also take courses in their chosen nursing specialty. The quality of the curriculum matters because you want to be prepared for national certification in your nursing specialization.

Clinical Experience

To meet national credentialing requirements, nurse practitioner online programs require students to complete clinical hours in person, often in the same state the nurses study in.

Some schools make this mandate more convenient than others. For instance, nursing schools may provide clinical placements near a student’s hometown or at the hospital they currently work at rather than by the college campus.


Quality NP online programs hold accreditation. This stamp of approval lets students know their education is vetted by an independent accrediting agency. In order to sit for the board certification examination and apply for state licensure, applicants must submit proof that their degree came from an accredited program.

Program Length

It takes full-time students an average of 24-26 months to complete NP programs online. Nursing schools require about 40-50 credits and roughly 600-800 clinical hours in a student’s expected specialty area. Program length varies by school.

School NCLEX Pass Rate

Students enrolling in online nurse practitioner programs have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and hold an RN license. However, the NCLEX pass rate still provides insight about a nursing school’s ability to prepare all nursing students — undergraduates and graduate students — to succeed.

A school with a low pass rate cannot be expected to prepare students for national credentialing exams.

School Graduation Rate

Nursing school at any level is hard. A school’s publicized graduate rate can inform you about that school’s ability to provide resources and support to prevent students from dropping out or failing.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

How online nursing programs work differs from how in-person programs work. Nurse practitioner online programs may offer a blend of asynchronous and synchronous work, or function entirely asynchronously.

For synchronous formats, you need to meet online at set times to attend lectures. For asynchronous work, students often listen to prerecorded lectures on their own time. Consider if you can meet the learning requirements, especially if you work or have other obligations.

Why Is Online Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation ensures that your nursing program offers an effective, quality education. Accrediting agencies also work to improve all nursing education programs and fellowships.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing both provide accreditation to online nurse practitioner programs. Accreditation matters because:

  • It ensures that programs meet quality standards.
  • Employers prefer nurses from accredited online nurse practitioner programs.
  • DNP programs may not accept credits from an unaccredited NP program.
  • National credentialing agencies may not recognize unaccredited NP programs.
  • Nursing as a whole benefits from accreditation, which can improve education.
  • Curriculum continues to improve with accreditation.

How Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Work

Online NP programs design learning formats for working RNs. Courses feature asynchronous and synchronous work to allow students to work on their own time, without traveling to campus.

That said, nursing programs are not entirely online. NP students who enroll in online and on-campus programs need clinical experience. This means they must work under the supervision of a certified and licensed advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in their chosen specialty.

Learn more about getting clinical experience in an online nursing program, or explore our guide breaking down online vs. in-person nursing programs to determine whether distance education is right for you.

Applying to an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Students need to meet the educational requirements and hold a current RN license to gain admission into nurse practitioner online programs.

Admittance requirements — such as minimum GPAs, work experience, and supplemental materials — vary by nursing school.

Online NP programs often have residency requirements so students can complete in-person labs and clinical hours.

  • checkOnline NP programs often require that students hold a bachelor’s in nursing degree from an accredited program. Incoming students also need an RN license from the state where the school makes clinical assignments. They may also need 1-2 years of bedside nursing experience.
  • checkStudents may need to pass an undergraduate statistics course with at least a “C” grade to gain admission to online NP programs. Applicants also may need to submit resumes, personal statements, and three letters of reference from academic, professional, or clinical supervisors.
  • checkTo apply for online nurse practitioner programs, applicants commonly need at least a 3.0 GPA. Students with lower GPAs may be granted provisional admission.

Paying for Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nursing students may think they have the means to pay their tuition out of pocket, but several factors make college more expensive. For example, nurses who cannot work while in school may need additional money to cover their living expenses. And colleges may charge more to students who cannot establish state residency.

Many graduate-level nursing students are eligible to receive scholarships and grants for nursing school, which they do not need to repay. Many employers or medical centers also offer tuition remission or reimbursement programs.

Working as a Nurse Practitioner

You can find NPs working in physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, and in private or public educational services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nurse practitioners have backgrounds as RNs, but they also have advanced clinical training and education to diagnose and treat complex health conditions.

NPs earn a median annual wage of $126,260, according to 2023 BLS data. BLS figures also show that the top 10% of NP salaries can exceed $168,000. It takes at least an MSN degree to become an NP, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing now recommends that all APRNs earn a doctor of nursing practice.

Working as an NP provides the career flexibility to choose a specialty area either in primary or acute care. Nursing students pick NP specialties that determine their career trajectory with options to become a family nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or pediatric nurse practitioner, among others.

  • Family Nurse Practitioner: Family NPs provide care to patients of all ages. They work in varied settings, like clinics, hospitals, and emergency departments to treat chronic conditions.
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: Psychiatric nurse practitioners work with greater autonomy than other NPs to assess, treat, and prescribe medication for mental disorders. These NPs work in correctional facilities, independent practices, and psychiatric hospitals.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Pediatric NPs work either in acute or primary care, attending to patients from birth to age 21.

Online NP Student Testimonials

We asked graduates of online NP programs to weigh in on the experience, including the benefits and challenges of completing an NP program online. Overall, the experience was positive, with the greatest reported benefit of an online program being flexibility.

On the Online Experience

“My experience earning my MSN online was a fulfilling one. I needed to work full time while completing the program, and the online option allowed me to do that.”

Dorian Jackson, women’s health nurse practitioner

“The online MSN program allowed me to work a full-time job and still be able to go to school. The hours were flexible for my schedule and I was able to care for my family while still earning my degree.”

Naida Rutherford, nurse practitioner

On-Site Clinical Experience

“We had to attend several simulation labs, and we had to choose locations for our clinical practice. The on-campus requirements were minimal, and they gave you enough time in advance to be able to plan to attend on-campus activities. The clinical requirements could be completed in your home state or city.”

Naida Rutherford, nurse practitioner

“I had to go on site for specialty clinical teaching 1-2 times per school year. I also had to complete one of the core classes on the main campus as well.”

Dorian Jackson, women’s health nurse practitioner


“The biggest challenge for completing an online degree program is time management. If you’re not a good steward of your time, not a self-starter, or have trouble with procrastination, being an online student can be very difficult.”

Naida Rutherford, nurse practitioner

“Some of the challenges with earning an online degree were accountability and consistency with completing assignments.”

Dorian Jackson, women’s health nurse practitioner

Is an Online NP Program Worth It?

“I believe it is definitely worth getting a degree online if this type of curriculum suits your needs and work ethic. I would recommend it to other prospective nursing students who want to become NPs if they have the discipline, consistency, and desire to earn their degree online.”

Dorian Jackson, women’s health nurse practitioner

“I would recommend it 10 out of 10! This is one of the best life choices that I made. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy; it doesn’t mean that you get to slack off or show mediocre effort. You can still take care of yourself and your family while furthering your education and that’s incredible.”

Naida Rutherford, nurse practitioner

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

The first step to becoming an NP is to earn a bachelor’s in nursing and become an RN. Practicing nurses then complete an MSN or a DNP degree program, focusing on a specialized area of study. They get certified in a specialty, or perhaps more than one, through national organizations such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by NurseJournal. Page last reviewed September 20, 2022. The nurse featured programs were reviewed by Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW, on February 5, 2024.