The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

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Updated November 29, 2022

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: Anchiy / Getty Images

Completing an online nurse practitioner program puts current registered nurses (RNs) on track to a higher-paying career. Nurse practitioners (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 nurse practitioners after completing a graduate-level program: either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Both can be completed online.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best schools for online nurse practitioner programs, including both MSN and DNP programs. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

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

Featured Online NP Programs

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

What makes one nurse practitioner online program different from another? Nurses take NP programs online for the convenient and flexible format, but other key factors also 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.

Admission Requirements

You won't know if you meet eligibility requirements for an online nurse practitioner program unless you read the admissions guidelines. Nurse practitioner online programs typically want applicants who hold an RN license and about 1-2 years of work experience, with applicable credentials.


Specializations

Nurse practitioner 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 clinical hours to be completed in person, usually in the same state. 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.


Accreditation

Quality nurse practitioner online programs commonly get accredited by independent accrediting agencies. This stamp of approval lets students know their education has been 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.

Learn more about accreditation for nursing programs.


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. The published graduate rate informs the public about a nursing 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 in person. Nurse practitioner online programs typically offer a blend of asynchronous and synchronous work or they might function entirely asynchronously.

For synchronous formats, you need to meet online at set times to attend lectures. For asynchronous work, lectures are usually recorded for students to listen to 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. The reasons that accreditation matters include:

  • Accreditation 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.

Learn More About the Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs and Schools

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

#1 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Georgetown University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Georgetown University launched its nursing programs in 1903. Today, the school offers four online nurse practitioner programs grounded in the Jesuit ideal of serving the whole person.

Georgetown University's nurse practitioner programs comprise 44 credits and 650 clinical hours, along with two objective clinical intensives. On-campus intensives and clinical placement supplement live online classes.

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,440
Out-of-state
$55,440
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
19,593
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

USC offers part-time and full-time online NP program options, preparing nurse practitioners to provide care across the lifespan. The curriculum comprises 49 credits of live, online classes supplemented by 748 clinical hours, which USC helps secure.

Courses include pathophysiology, pharmacology, and community-based research. The program requires students to participate in two on-campus intensives.

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,256
Out-of-state
$57,256
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
48,321
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Texas A & M University-College Station

  • College Station, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Texas A&M's master's in nursing for Texas residents preparing to become family nurse practitioners. These part-time and full-time online FNP programs require 48 credits and take 6-8 semesters to complete.

Students should plan to attend class on campus 1-2 times each semester and complete 45 of their clinical hours in two on-campus visits.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,941
Out-of-state
$34,190
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
68,726
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UWF's online master's degree in nursing prepares current nurses to serve as healthcare providers among vulnerable and underserved populations. The program requires 45 credits, and each class lasts either eight or 16 weeks.

UWF accepts up to nine transfer credits. New students may begin in the summer or spring semester.

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
12,557
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

George Washington University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

GWU provides four of the best online nurse practitioner programs to prepare leaders in advanced healthcare practice. Each program requires 48-50 credits and 600-700 clinical hours. Non-local students should locate their own preceptors.

Courses include direct instruction and education through online simulation centers. Depending on their program, students complete 1-7 on-campus requirements.

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

#6 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Cox College

  • Springfield, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private, healthcare-focused institution, Cox College offers two online nurse practitioner programs: the family nurse practitioner and the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program. Each of these programs requires 42 credits for completion.

Cox College also offers 21-credit post-master's certificates to further equip nurse practitioners. Students can learn from anywhere they can access an approved clinical location.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,080
Out-of-state
$10,080
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
956
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Cedarville University

  • Cedarville, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cedarville's master of science in nursing equips primary care practitioners to use nursing as a ministry for Jesus Christ. This flexible degree requires four on-campus experiences and 600 hours of direct clinical care. Cedarville helps students secure clinical placement.

Among the best online nurse practitioner programs, Cedarville's part-time and full-time degrees start in August, January, and May.

Average Tuition
In-state
$31,122
Out-of-state
$31,122
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
4,302
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Georgia College & State University

  • Milledgeville, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Georgia College offers a master of science in nursing with four concentrations for aspiring nurse practitioners. The family nurse practitioner concentration calls for 40 credits and 630 clinical hours.

Although students take coursework online, the program requires one week of lab immersion on campus. Georgia College provides its FNP online programs in full- and part-time formats.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,508
Out-of-state
$26,688
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
7,031
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Maryville University of Saint Louis

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

Maryville offers five of the best online nurse practitioner programs. These degrees do not require the GRE or a statistics course for admission.

Once enrolled, students take courses, such as advanced pathophysiology and healthcare policy in a flexible learning format accessible 24 hours a day. Learners complete the required 745-830 clinical hours at a location near them.

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

#10 The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online

Students at Purdue Global can pursue one of six pathways to a master of science in nursing. In these online NP programs, degree-seekers may take courses in organizational theory, health policy, and healthcare systems. Students also complete an evidence-based project proposal.

Each course lasts 10 weeks and requires about 15 hours of study per week.

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

How Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Work

Online nurse practitioner 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 to work under the supervision of a certified and licensed advanced practice registered nurse in the specialty the student is in to get clinical experience. To get certified and licensed as an NP, you need to complete mandated clinical hours in your nurse practitioner focus. Clinical requirements also ensure that nurses have the education and expertise to provide quality patient care.

Learn more about getting clinical experience in an online nursing program, or explore our guide breaking down the differences between online and 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 get admitted into nurse practitioner online programs. Admittance requirements — such as minimum GPAs, work experience, and supplemental materials — vary by nursing school.

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

  • Online nurse practitioner programs typically 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.
  • Students may need to complete an undergraduate statistics course with at least a "C" grade to get admitted into online nurse practitioner programs. Applicants also may need to submit resumes, personal statements, and three letters of reference from academic, professional, or clinical supervisors.
  • To 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 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 are one of four advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), making a median annual wage of $120,680, according to the BLS. NP salaries can reach more than $160,000 on average for the top 10%. 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 flexibility in your career 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 nurse practitioners 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 nurse practitioners work either in acute or primary care, attending to patients from birth to age 21.

Online NP Student Testimonials

We asked graduates of online nurse practitioner 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

Challenges

"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


How do I get started as a nurse practitioner?

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.

Learn more about the steps to becoming a nurse practitioner.

How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner online?

It takes about 6-8 years to become an NP if you factor in the time it takes to complete your undergraduate and graduate education. NPs hold a bachelor of science in nursing degree, which takes four years for full-time students. Online nurse practitioner programs can take 2-3 years, depending on the program and required clinical hours.

Is MSN the same as NP?

You can become an NP by earning a general MSN degree. However, an MSN degree offers other options other than nurse practitioner, like nursing informatics or nurse educator. Online nurse practitioner programs provide a more specialized education in a nursing focus area.

Which NP makes the most money?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners rank as the highest-paid NP jobs. According to Payscale, psychiatric nurse practitioners make an average salary of $113,810, as of September 2022, with clinicians who have 5-9 years of experience making an average salary of $119,000.


Page last reviewed September 20, 2022. The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.

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Nurse practitioners are in high demand and enjoy high salaries and professional autonomy. Learn about the best online nurse practitioner programs for your career goals.