The Best Pennsylvania Online Nurse Practitioner Programs and Requirements

By NurseJournal.org staff


Table of Contents


Pennsylvania offers a promising employment outlook for registered nurses (RNs) who want to move into advanced practice nursing roles as nurse practitioners (NPs). The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 30% growth in NP positions in the state between 2016 and 2026.

NPs provide patient-centered primary and specialty healthcare, conduct examinations, prescribe medications, perform diagnostic tests, and develop patient care plans. In recent years, NP roles and responsibilities have broadened, resulting in greater autonomy and a proliferation of specialized certifications in fields like family practice, pediatrics, gerontology, and psychiatric care.

In recent years, NP roles and responsibilities have broadened, resulting in greater autonomy and a proliferation of specialized certifications in fields like family practice, pediatrics, gerontology, and psychiatric care.

NPs must possess advanced education and training beyond the requirements for RNs. While RNs may receive their licenses after earning an associate or bachelor's degree, NPs must hold at least a master's in nursing. Increasingly, NPs enter doctoral programs to prepare for advanced clinical practice and leadership roles.

NPs enjoy more independence than RNs. Many states allow NPs to operate autonomously without a doctor's supervision to diagnose and treat patients. In Pennsylvania, NPs must establish a formal collaborative agreement with a physician to offer primary care to patients and complete additional training to prescribe medications.

This guide highlights the five best nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania and provides useful information about licensing requirements and career and salary prospects.

Read about our ranking methodology here.

Best Pennsylvania Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

1. Villanova University - Villanova, PA
2. Gwynedd Mercy University - Gwynedd Valley, PA
3. Drexel University - Philadelphia, PA
4. Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) - Philadelphia, PA
5. Duquesne University - Pittsburgh, PA
6. Cedar Crest College - Allentown, PA
7. Misericordia University - Dallas, PA
8. Wilkes University - Wilkes-Barre, PA
9. Clarion University of Pennsylvania - Clarion, PA
10. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania - Edinboro, PA

Villanova University

Villanova University earns high marks from its nursing alumni for its extensive clinical practice opportunities and rigorous core nursing curriculum. The nurse practitioner master's program requires 39-55 credits, depending on the specialization. Full-time students can graduate in as little as 18 months with clinical specialties in adult-gerontology, family nurse practitioner, and pediatric nurse practitioner categories.

The hybrid program offers weekly online classes in the core curriculum of ethics, leadership, and research. Students must complete a physical assessment course the semester before beginning clinical placements on the Villanova, Pennsylvania, campus. As one of the best nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania, this private, Catholic university holds recognition as a center of excellence in nursing education by the National League for Nursing.

Campus Villanova, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $960/credit
Admission Requirements •   Undergraduate degree in nursing
•   3.0 GPA; one year of clinical practice
•   RN license
•   Three letters of recommendation
Minimum Time Commitment 18 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Programs •   MSN
•   MSN - Family nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Pediatric nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Nursing education
•   DNP
•   DNP - Nurse anesthesia
•   Ph.D.
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Gwynedd Mercy University

Nursing students at this private university outside Philadelphia enjoy opportunities to complete clinical practice at more than 200 regional healthcare facilities. As one of the top nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania, graduates prepare for national certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or Pediatric National Certification Board, with specializations in adult, pediatric, and family medicine.

The hybrid program combines online and on-campus courses with 600-720 clinical practice hours. Students need 2-3 years to complete their degree. This Catholic university serves as one of only 16 Sisters of Mercy colleges in the U.S., incorporating the ministry's mission and heritage in its programs.

Campus Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $850/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN with a 3.0 GPA and courses in statistics and physical assessment
•   Valid RN license
•   Clinical practice
•   Two letters of recommendation
•   Interview
•   Personal statement
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Programs •   MSN - Family nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Clinical nurse specialist
•   DNP
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Drexel University

Drexel University pioneered nursing education, tracing its roots to the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864, along with the Hahnemann Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1890. It also pioneered online nursing education, launching its program in 2002.

The Philadelphia-based private university boasts a 100% board passing rate for its family nurse practitioner graduates, with high marks of success for graduates of its other medical specializations, as well: adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, psychiatric mental health, and women's health/gender-related care.

The master's program offers part-time enrollment with weekly synchronous online lectures. Students must visit the campus for intensive clinical simulations, held over 2-3 days in the second and third years of the program. The 56-credit program requires three years to complete.

Campus Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $997/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   3.0 GPA
•   Valid RN license
•   Two letters of recommendation
•   Resume
•   Personal statement
•   1-2 years clinical experience preferred
Minimum Time Commitment 36 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Programs •   MSN - Adult-gerontology acute care
•   MSN - Adult-gerontology primary care
•   MSN - Family nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Pediatric primary care nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Pediatric primary/pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Women's health/gender-related nurse practitioner
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)

Nurse practitioner (NP) graduates from Jefferson in Philadelphia enjoy some of the highest national certification exam pass rates and job placement among NP programs in Pennsylvania. This hybrid program includes specializations in adult-gerontology, neonatal, women's health, pediatric, and family medicine.

Students can complete an online core curriculum online. Other courses require a minimum of three visits to the campus each semester. Students and faculty work together to secure an appropriate clinical site, with rotations requiring a minimum of 16 hours each week. The private university welcomes full-time and part-time learners and accepts up to six transfer credits. Graduation requires 2-4 years of coursework, depending on your level of enrollment.

Campus Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $1,194/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   3.0 GPA
•   Current RN license
•   Two letters of recommendation
•   Criminal background check
•   Coursework in statistics and physical assessment
•   Some programs require at least one year of clinical experience
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Programs •   MSN - Adult-gerontology acute care
•   MSN - Adult-gerontology primary care
•   MSN - Neonatal nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Women's health gender-related nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Family nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Pediatric primary care
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Duquesne University

Duquesne University's school of nursing allows nurses to advance their careers and medical practice. Now one of the top nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania, Duquesne set out among the first universities to launch online nursing education. The family nurse practitioner program features a fully online program aligned with the educational standards of national certifying agencies.

Students only visit the Pittsburgh campus twice during the 42-credit degree. Nurses can enhance their degree with concentrations in forensic nursing, nursing education, or transcultural nursing. The private university offers a 30% tuition discount for registered nurses working at one of the school's partnering healthcare systems in Pennsylvania, specific facilities, or the U.S. military.

Campus Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $1,509/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   3.0 GPA
•   One year of full-time work experience
•   Current RN license
•   An undergraduate statistics course
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Programs •   MSN - Family nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Forensic nursing
•   MSN - Nursing education
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Cedar Crest College

Allentown's Cedar Crest College offers fully online master of science in nursing degrees for nurse practitioners, with specializations in family and adult-gerontology. The curriculum develops direct patient management skills with a holistic approach to care. Graduates may seek national certification as part of their advanced practitioner licensing. The seven-week accelerated lecture courses and 14-week clinical courses allow students to study full time or part time.

Courses feature asynchronous delivery. Cedar Crest College offers two-year, three-year, and four-year tracks. The school launched its online programs in 2016, with a 100% alumni satisfaction rate. Admission requires an unencumbered Pennsylvania RN license but not clinical experience.

Campus Allentown, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
Tuition $901/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   3.0 GPA
•   Current RN license
•   Undergraduate courses in statistics, research, and health assessment
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements No
Programs •   MSN - Family/individual across the lifespan nurse practitioner;
•   MSN - Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Nurse educator
•   MSN - Nurse administrator
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Misericordia University

Misericordia University, a private Catholic university in Dallas, Pennsylvania, prepares nurses for advanced clinical practice and gives graduates a head start on their continued academic path. Its master of science in nursing curriculum includes six credits toward a doctor of nursing practice degree, with a seamless transition for students who continue their studies.

As one of the leading nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania, Misericordia offers concentrations in adult and gerontology primary care and family practice. It also offers post-master's certificates. Degrees require about 50 credits, with a combination of asynchronous online courses and convenient clinical placements.

The school provides tuition discounts for its alumni and healthcare partners, and it takes part in the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans and their dependents.

Campus Dallas, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $34,530/semester for full-time enrollment, $775/credit for part-time enrollment
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   3.0 GPA
•   Unencumbered RN license
•   Two letters of reference
Minimum Time Commitment 30 months
On-Campus Requirements No
Programs •   MSN - Family nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Wilkes University

Wilkes University offers nurses the opportunity to advance their careers with a nurse practitioner degree. The school's specializations include adult-gerontology primary care, family nursing practitioner, and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner options. Wilkes offers a 43-credit master's program or a 53-credit program for RNs with an associate degree.

The RN-to-MSN program does not include an embedded bachelor's degree. Students must take part in brief on-campus sessions as part of the advanced health assessment course, and other clinical courses may also require visits to the Wilkes-Barre campus. Programs begin each January. Applicants must demonstrate one year of clinical experience for admission.

Campus Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Type Private
Accreditation Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Tuition $728/credit
Admission Requirements •   3.0 GPA
•   Associate or bachelor's degree in nursing
•   Unencumbered RN license
•   Current resume
•   One year of clinical experience
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Programs •   MSN - Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
•   MSN - Family nursing practitioner
•   MSN - Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Clarion University of Pennsylvania, a public university in Clarion, offers a family nurse practitioner specialization through its online MSN program. As one of the top nurse practitioner schools in Pennsylvania, Clarion has garnered accolades for its graduation rates, academic support, career development, and admission selectivity.

The 45-credit program includes fully online courses delivered through an asynchronous learning platform. Students must attend a 34-hour skills lab at Edinboro University's campus. The two schools offer the master of science in nursing through a regional consortium. The school limits clinical placements to Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio.

While full-time enrollees may graduate in two years, part-time enrollment extends the program to three years. The curriculum includes a scholarly project or thesis.

Campus Clarion, Pennsylvania
Type Public
Accreditation Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
Tuition $516/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   2.75 GPA
•   Two letters of recommendation
•   Minimum 2,000 hours of clinical practice
•   Personal statement
•   Interview
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Program MSN - Family nurse practitioner
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Edinboro University and Clarion University co-sponsor the master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner program. The schools designed the curriculum to prepare students for primary care positions in medically underserved regions. The program features 600 clinical practice hours.

The curriculum prepares students for certification exams through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Online courses offer asynchronous delivery, but students must attend a skills lab at the Edinboro campus before beginning clinical courses.

Students apply for the program through Clarion University, which requires a valid nursing license and work experience. Both schools provide nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania's higher education system.

Campus Edinboro, Pennsylvania
Type Public
Accreditation Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
Tuition $516/credit
Admission Requirements •   BSN
•   2.75 GPA
•   Two letters of recommendation
•   Minimum 2,000 hours of clinical practice
•   Personal statement
•   Interview
Minimum Time Commitment 24 months
On-Campus Requirements Yes
Program MSN - Family nurse practitioner
School site Tuition | Financial Aid

Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Pennsylvania

You must complete the following steps to become an NP in Pennsylvania:

  • Most NP master's programs require each applicant to hold a bachelor of nursing degree and an unrestricted RN license. The RN license requires a passing score on the NCLEX-RN exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
  • You must apply to an NP master's program in Pennsylvania accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Accreditation ensures that the degree meets the requirements for certification established by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.
  • Once admitted to a master's program, you must take courses in evidence-based practice, anatomy, and physiology. Certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNPs) need to complete at least 45 hours in advanced pharmacology to practice with prescriptive authority. NP master's programs require a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours, depending on the specialization.
  • In addition to basic requirements, nurse practitioner programs in Pennsylvania offer students several specializations leading to certification. While the primary care nurse practitioner specialization remains the most popular, other high-demand specializations include family, adult-gerontology, acute care, psychiatric mental health, and several areas of internal medicine. Each specialization establishes eligibility and training requirements for certification, as seen in the table below.
  • An increasing number of nursing students choose to earn a doctorate in nursing practice. The DNP augments the coursework offered in a master's program by providing training in population-level health, systems leadership, and the use of information technology in advanced nursing practice.
  • After graduating from an accredited NP program, you must take the certification exam for your specialization. The Pennsylvania State Board requires NPs to seek certification in a specific population focus from one of the nationally recognized certification agencies:

    •   American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

    •   Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

    •   National Certification Corporation (NCC)

    •   American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP)

    •   American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

    •   Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB)

  • Finally, you must submit an application to the state board for review and approval. You may find downloadable application forms and current information about requirements and fees at the Pennsylvania Department of State professional licensing website.
  • Professionals must renew their NP licenses, RN licenses, and prescriptive authority approvals every two years. Renewing a license requires 30 hours of continuing education in the two years preceding the renewal date. A notice of your application renewal will be forwarded to your address before the biannual period ends. NPs with prescriptive authority must complete at least two hours of continuing education in opioid and pain management.

In-Demand Nursing Specialty Eligibility Requirements in Pennsylvania

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC)

Years of Experience: Variable; active RN license plus master's or doctoral degree

Clinical Hours Required: 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner role and population

Continuing Education: Minimum 75 contact hours of approved courses for renewal, 25 of which must be in pharmacotherapeutics

Other: Passing score on certification examination; graduate degree must include three courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology

Gerontological Nursing Certification (RN-BC)

Years of Experience: Active RN license; two years full time as an RN

Clinical Hours Required: 2,000 hours of clinical practice in gerontological nursing within the last three years

Continuing Education: 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing within the last three years

Other: Passing score on certification exam

Cardiac-Vascular Nursing Certification (RN-BC)

Years of Experience: Active RN license, two years full time as an RN

Clinical Hours Required: 2,000 hours of clinical practice in cardiac-vascular nursing within the last three years

Continuing Education: 30 hours of continuing education in cardiac-vascular nursing within the last three years

Other: Passing score on certification exam

Salary and Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NP employment prospects appear particularly strong through the next decade. While earning potential for NPs depends on location and years of experience, job seekers in this field can expect many opportunities and six-figure salaries throughout the state. Currently, over 7,000 NPs work in Pennsylvania, earning an annual mean salary of $98,250.

The highest-paid NPs in the state, in the 75th percentile and above, earn over $114,000 a year. While the metropolitan area closest to the neighboring states of New York and New Jersey pay the highest, some cities in Pennsylvania offer employment opportunities for NPs, with annual salaries well above $100,000.

NPs who have invested significant time and effort in acquiring in-demand certifications receive the highest salaries. Among the top-paying NP specializations, certified registered nurse anesthetists, psychiatric NPs, and neonatal NPs can earn annual salaries of $100,000 and higher.

RN vs. NP Salary and Projected Job Growth in Pennsylvania
  Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
Pennsylvania Mean Salary $70,390 $98,250
U.S. Mean Salary $75,510 $110,030
Pennsylvania Job Growth 13.4% 30.5%
U.S. Job Growth 14.8% 36.1%

Source: BLS, Projections Central


Pennsylvania Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Mean NP Wages
  Salary Employment
New York - Newark - Jersey City, New York - New Jersey - Pennsylvania $126,570 13,470
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania $108,020 80
Philadelphia - Camden - Wilmington, Pennsylvania - New Jersey - Delaware - Maryland $106,690 4,350
Reading, Pennsylvania $103,210 210
Allentown - Bethlehem - Easton, Pennsylvania - New Jersey $101,370 400

Source: BLS