The nurse practitioner field boasts a variety of specialized opportunities for graduates. Aside from general nurse practitioners who help patients with various backgrounds and situations, graduates can pursue careers as adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, orthopedic nurse practitioners, or women’s health nurse practitioners. Not only do these vast options enable professionals to specialize in their particular interest area, they also offer appealing salaries.
General nurse practitioners enjoy an average annual salary of $110,930. In addition to the high salary, the field is projected to experience an extremely high growth rate of 31%.
Top 10 Affordable Online NP Programs 2020
The Most Affordable Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
Georgetown’s affordable 44-credit online nurse practitioner program prepares future FNPs to deliver holistic primary care. Its graduates pass the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam at high rates.
The full-time program covers five terms and takes 19 months to complete, while the part-time option covers seven terms and takes 27 months to complete. Both require 650 clinical hours and two in-person intensive classes at the school’s Washington, D.C. campus. During these classes, students work directly with Georgetown faculty and standardized patients, who are healthy people trained to act as though they exhibit a variety of symptoms and health problems.
Eligible students must hold a BSN or MSN from an ACEN-accredited institution, with a minimum 3.3 cumulative GPA. They also must hold an unencumbered state RN license, have at least one year of clinical experience, and have achieved a B or better in a statistics course in the past three years.
Located in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State offers an online MSN degree with a family nurse practitioner concentration. While the 47-credit program’s classes are all online, students must arrange at least 690 hours of in-person clinical experiences. Upon graduation, students can apply for the FNP certification exam.
Students work with a graduate advisor who helps them plan their degrees and ensures they remain on track. The program is flexible; students can take courses in a sequence that meets their needs. The asynchronous format allows students to review lectures, complete assignments, and take part in discussions on their own time.
Eligible applicants must hold a BSN from an accredited postsecondary institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and hold an active RN license. The National League for Nursing Center of Excellence has recognized Ball State’s affordable online nurse practitioner program for the quality it delivers to students preparing for nursing careers.
As one of the most affordable online nurse practitioner programs in the nation, ODU provides a comprehensive blend of academic courses and clinical experiences to prepare future FNPs. The 49-credit program features a mix of live classes, with scheduled online meetings, and asynchronous courses that allow students to access course materials and complete assignments on their own time. Select courses require students to attend class at ODU’s campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
In the health promotion and maintenance course, students develop health promotion strategies, working with their peers seeking degrees outside nursing and incorporating technology and best practices. Distance learners benefit from technical support, a digital library, online tutoring, and the ODU Writing Center.
To apply, prospective students submit an essay of 500-700 words, three letters of recommendation, and GRE or GMAT scores. They must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA, along with an unencumbered RN license.
Indiana State’s MSN family nurse practitioner degree emphasizes innovation and evidence-based techniques as it prepares students to deliver safe and effective patient care. The 50-credit online program takes 2.5-3 years to graduate, with terms starting in January, May, and August. All online learning takes place via Blackboard, where students access course lectures, materials, assignments, and discussions. FNP students must complete 675 clinical hours. While the program offers some assistance, students must secure these experiences at a qualifying clinic or hospital near them.
The program’s admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited postsecondary institution, with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants must submit a current resume, three professional or academic references, and a personal goals statement. They must also hold an unencumbered state RN license. Indiana State’s affordable online nurse practitioner program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
With WVU’s BSN-to-DNP program, students receive their family nurse practitioner degree in three years when attending full time. Students can graduate from the part-time program in five years. This affordable online nurse practitioner program’s format enables students to first receive an MSN before proceeding to the DNP. They may exit the program upon receiving their MSN if they so choose. Graduates qualify for the FNP national certification exam.
Students take classes like healthcare informatics, which examines various tools and technologies that help improve patient care and outcomes. They also take evidence-based practice methods courses, which explore research methods and epidemiological techniques and how they lead to effective healthcare interventions.
Faculty from the WVU Health Sciences Center teach all distance courses, which come in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. All online learners must take part in up to five on-campus sessions and two in-person practicums. WVU’s online students can access a digital library, accessibility services, and financial aid assistance.
St. Joseph’s, located in Standish, Maine, offers an online MS in nursing degree that allows students to complete their degrees in two years of full-time study. It features fully online coursework and no in-person residencies, and students will earn credit for their professional experience. Students in 42 states and the District of Columbia can enroll in the distance MSN program. It features 12-week terms that start in February, May, August, and November.
Eligible applicants must hold a BSN degree from an ACEN- or CCEN-accredited program with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also hold an unencumbered RN license and submit a personal statement, resume, and references. The program does not require GRE or GMAT scores. The program offers a competitive per-credit tuition rate, placing it among the nation’s most affordable online nurse practitioner programs. It is also accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Clarkson College, located in Omaha, Nebraska, features an online MS in nursing program with a family nurse practitioner specialization. The 47-credit program includes courses in nursing law and ethics, research design, and theories in advancing nursing practice. Students learn how to provide the best possible care to patients facing a variety of health conditions.
Students may attend this affordable online nurse practitioner program full or part time. The full-time option can be finished in eight semesters, while the part-time program may take 12 or more semesters to graduate. Students must also complete at least 810 hours of approved clinical work.
FNP students may begin the program at three different points of the year: July, November, or April. Eligible applicants must hold a BSN degree from an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited nursing program with at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Additional requirements include an unencumbered state RN license and a minimum two years of professional experience.
Walden University’s MSN degree features a family nurse practitioner specialization focusing primarily on health promotion and maintenance, restorative care, and chronic disease prevention. The entire faculty holds doctorate degrees and students can collaborate with innovative nursing professionals from across the U.S. Walden’s straightforward, per-credit tuition schedule makes it one of the most affordable online nurse practitioner programs nationwide. It includes 56 quarter credits and many graduate within three years. Students must also complete 640 clinical hours.
Admission requirements include a BSN degree from an accredited nursing program, along with at least two years of RN experience. Applicants must also submit a recent resume. Walden offers an RN-to-MSN track for RNs who do not hold a bachelor’s degree as well. This program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Distance learners can access a variety of resources, including peer mentors, research and library databases, and an academic advising team.
Each online nurse practitioner program offers different features. Students can expect concentrations, courses, admissions requirements, tuition costs, program formats and length, and practicum requirements to vary across programs. These variations allow students to choose the program that best suits their individual needs.
Admission Requirements for an Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Each college or university requires students to meet a specific set of guidelines during the admission process. Some require students to complete a bachelor of science in nursing while others allow students with other bachelor’s degrees to apply if they meet the necessary prerequisites. Before applying, students must also earn their registered nurse license. Not all programs require former work experience, but some prefer to enroll students with at least 1-2 years of fieldwork. Standardized test scores such as the GRE do not typically apply to online nurse practitioner students.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Nurse Practitioner Program?
Program length depends on many factors, including enrollment. Students enrolled full time typically take around two years to finish their online nurse practitioner program. Students who can invest much of their time in coursework online often benefit the most from full-time enrollment. Students who don’t have as much time to commit to their studies may want to enroll part time, taking closer to three years to graduate. Some programs feature accelerated options, allowing students to take even more credits per semester than they would if they were enrolled full time; accelerated learners can graduate in about a year.
Learning pace factors into program length for many students. Some online programs feature individual learning, allowing students to work asynchronously to complete coursework at their own pace. Cohort learning keeps the same group of classmates together throughout the program to keep everyone working at the same pace and on the same timeline. On average, online nurse practitioner programs require students to complete 45-65 credit hours of coursework.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree
|Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
|Focusing on providing healthcare to children, infants, and adolescents, the pediatric nurse practitioner concentration prepares students to evaluate and provide healthcare recommendations and treatments to their patients.
Careers this concentration prepares for: Pediatric nurse practitioner
|Family Nurse Practitioner
|The family nurse practitioner concentration focuses on providing quality healthcare to individuals of all ages, including children, adults, and the elderly. Students learn how to diagnose illnesses and diseases and how to propose effective treatment for patients, often serving as the patient’s main point of contact.
Careers this concentration prepares for: Family nurse practitioner
|Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
|Teaching students how to evaluate and diagnose different mental disorders, the psychiatric nurse practitioner concentration reviews some of the common disorders students may see in their career as a mental health or psychiatric nurse practitioner, including drug abuse, schizophrenia, ADHD, mood disorders, and anxiety. They learn how to create treatment plans for their patients and how to help them remain healthy.
Careers this concentration prepares for: Psychiatric, mental health nurse practitioner
Example Courses for Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
Courses vary depending on the college or university. Each program offers unique features, though each one provides students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed as professional nurse practitioners. Topics cover a broad spectrum, including leadership and quality, pediatric and family healthcare, and adult gerontology healthcare.
- Healthcare Policy: In this course, students explore the complexities of healthcare delivery systems and how they operate, healthcare financing systems, and the development and implications of the various healthcare policies that guide those systems. Students also examine the sociocultural and philosophical underpinnings of healthcare policy.
- Leadership and Quality: This class prepares students to assume leadership roles on interprofessional teams that work to effectively implement quality improvement and patient safety initiatives. Students use science and systems theory approaches to analyze organizations and the provision of healthcare within them, as well as plan change strategies to improve the healthcare environment.
- Pediatric/Family Healthcare: Focusing on teaching students about the care of pregnant women, pediatric clients, and their families who experience complex and varied health problems, this course prepares students to become experts in their area. Graduates can assume responsibility for the health promotion, management, and maintenance of children and women in their reproductive years. The course emphasizes children within the framework of the family, exploring development stages from cognitive, emotional, sociocultural, and physiological perspectives.
- Adult-Gerontology Healthcare: This class teaches students how to care for adults experiencing selected common acute and chronic health problems including those experiencing complex and multiple health problems. The course emphasizes differential diagnosis, detailed history taking, management of healthcare problems, and documentation of findings. Students also review different strategies to manage health problems of adults in urban and rural primary care settings with evidence-based research.
- Pathophysiology: Providing students with a basis for understanding the pathophysiology of diseases and the changes that result in manifestations indicative of illness, this course focuses on correlating pathophysiological processes with manifestations of illness to formulate healthcare goals and diagnoses.
Students do not typically encounter internship requirements in online nurse practitioner programs, although many programs require practicums. Practicum experiences allow students to apply the tools and knowledge from their coursework to real-world situations. Because online programs often provide students with fully online coursework, practicum requirements typically exist at a location convenient for the student to maintain the program’s flexibility while still satisfying requirements. Students can work with their advisers to discuss any in-person requirements they must fulfill before graduation.
Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification: The AGACNP certification remains valid for five years once individuals complete and pass their certification exam. The certification coincides with the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation: licensure, accreditation, certification, and education. Certified professionals can maintain their certification by meeting the renewal requirements and completing all eligibility requirements.
- Family Nurse Practitioner Certification: Individuals pursuing their FNP certification must pass a competency based exam demonstrating a reliable assessment of the entry-level skills and practical knowledge that nurse practitioners need. Once individuals meet all eligibility requirements, they can take the exam to gain certification. Certification lasts five years, and individuals can pursue renewal by meeting specific requirements at the time of their request.
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification: PMHNP certification certifies individuals to professionally practice as psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners for patients of all ages. To gain certification, individuals must meet the set eligibility requirements before they can take their exam. The exam demonstrates practical skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the nurse practitioner profession. Individuals may renew their certification every five years if they meet eligibility requirements.
Accreditation for Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
Nationally accredited programs, though often more affordable than their regionally accredited counterparts, often remain excluded from tuition reimbursement plans. Many nationally accredited schools operate as for-profit institutions. Other learning institutions and employers frequently decline credits from these schools. Because of the characteristics of nationally accredited schools, many employers and higher learning institutions prefer students to attend a regionally accredited college or university. Regionally accredited schools maintain eligibility for tuition reimbursement programs and feature easy-to-transfer credits.
The Department of Education (ED) oversees the postsecondary accreditation system by regularly reviewing all federally recognized accrediting agencies. The ED holds accrediting agencies accountable by enforcing all accreditation standards. An organization of degree-granting colleges and universities, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation boasts around 3,000 higher learning institution members and recognizes 60 different accrediting agencies. Two of the primary accrediting agencies that offer accreditation for nurse practitioner programs include the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Job and Salary Outlook
Job Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners
Students who pursue affordable online nurse practitioner programs can enjoy a variety of career opportunities upon graduation. Depending on their expertise and specific interests, nurse practitioners can work in areas such as adult care, women’s health, pediatrics, and mental health. They often work in hospitals, but can find work in many medical facilities.
Median Annual Salary: $87,268
These professionals administer medical procedures without a doctor’s supervision. They allow clinics to administer healthcare to more patients than clinics with only doctors on staff.
Median Annual Salary: $86,491
These individuals work with patients in a pediatrics ward of a hospital or other medical facility. Pediatric nurse practitioners often serve as the primary point of contact or primary care provider for their patients.
Median Annual Salary: $110,930
In charge of recording patient’s medical histories and symptoms, general nurse practitioners create care plans and operate medical equipment. They also consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals as needed.
Median Annual Salary: $90,894
These professionals perform many of the same functions as physicians while treating patients of all ages. They treat and diagnose diseases and conditions, prescribe medicines, and serve as primary care providers to various insurance companies.
Median Annual Salary: $100,161
Helping patients heal from and manage various psychological disorders, these individuals exhibit patience, a caring nature, and a focused ability. Common treatment areas include ADHD, substance abuse, anxiety, mood disorders, and schizophrenia.
Source: PayScale, Nov. 2018
How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make?
Level of education and professional experience impact annual salaries of employees in the nurse practitioner field. The table below details salary expectations at certain career levels for various types of nurse practitioners, including family care, adult care, and acute care.
||Overall Median Salary
||Median Salary for Entry-Level
||Median Salary for Mid-Career
||Median Salary for Late-Career
|Family Nurse Practitioner
|Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
|Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
|Adult Nurse Practitioner
|Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner
Most affordable online nurse practitioner programs prepare students for the different options available if they want to join a professional organization. These organizations provide members with many benefits, including events and conferences to connect with others in their field. These opportunities create lasting professional contacts and allow members to learn, grow, and develop professionally.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners: Equipped with all of the information, tools, and resources professionals in the nurse practitioner field need, the AANP strives to advance quality healthcare through practice, advocacy, education, leadership, and research.
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners:
The NAPNAP dedicates itself to improving the quality of healthcare for infants, children, and adolescents. With more than 9,000 members, the organization boasts national child healthcare experts, distinguished faculty, respected authors, and practicing professionals of pediatric healthcare.
National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health:
The nation’s leading voice for courageous conversations about women’s health, the NPWH supports women’s health nurse practitioners in their mission to provide holistic care to patients across their lifetime.
Financing Your Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Several affordable online nurse practitioner programs offer students a variety of ways to pay for their tuition. Every student should complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid application to explore available funding opportunities. Many scholarship options exist that are specific to nurse practitioners. Students can also explore loans, grants, and work-study opportunities to assist with tuition costs.
Scholarships for Nurse Practitioner Students
American Association of Nursing Practitioners ScholarshipWho Can Apply:
Available to students pursuing a master’s degree in nursing following a nurse practitioner track or a doctorate of nursing practice, philosophy, or a related field. Applicants must hold their registered nurse licensure and not be AANP staff members or relatives of AANP staff members.
Amount: Up to $2,500
Together We Care Nurse Practitioner Scholarship ProgramWho Can Apply:
CVS Minute Clinic offers the Together We Care Nurse Practitioner scholarship to 40 nurse practitioners each year, including 20 master of science in nursing students and 20 doctor of nursing practice students. Applicants must demonstrate strong involvement in leadership activities and community, as well as hold a minimum 3.2 GPA.
Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation ScholarshipWho Can Apply:
The Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation offers scholarship awards to nurse practitioner students at both the master’s and doctoral levels. The foundation partners with a variety of companies including Procter & Gamble, Purdue Pharma LP, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.
Caroline E. Holt Nursing ScholarshipWho Can Apply:
Offered through the Daughters of the American Revolution, this scholarship provides $2,500 to nursing school students who demonstrate financial need. Each year, three students earn the scholarship.
AfterCollege-AACN Scholarship FundWho Can Apply:
Students pursuing an undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral degree in nursing at any AACN member institution can earn one $2,500 scholarship each quarter.