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Top Massachusetts Nursing Schools and Programs

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Nurses in Massachusetts enjoy high wages, expanding employment opportunities, and excellent education programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses (RNs) in the state received a mean annual wage of $92,140 in 2018, the fourth-highest rate in the nation. Massachusetts also employs more nurses per 1,000 workers than the national average.

Nurses in Massachusetts commonly pursue roles as certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and RNs. Massachusetts schools also offer various online nursing programs that meet the quality of on-campus counterparts. Nurses use online education to learn new skills, earn higher certifications or licenses, and further their careers.

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Featured Online Programs

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Massachusetts?

Online nursing programs in Massachusetts often feature lower tuition rates than on-campus programs. Considering Massachusetts has one of the highest in-state tuition rates in the nation, reduced tuition costs appeal to students. Online education also offers flexibility and leads to the same potential careers as on-campus programs.

Most importantly, anyone who plans on becoming a nurse in Massachusetts should complete a Massachusetts-based program. Approved in-state programs meet the strict licensure requirements set by the state.

How to Become a Nurse in Massachusetts

Students all over the country undergo similar processes to obtain their online nursing degrees. However, out-of-state nurses or those with varying licenses may follow slightly different paths. For example, students attending nursing schools online in Massachusetts must account for different licensing costs and procedures, depending on the type of licensing exams they need to take.

  • 1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    To become an RN, you must hold at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN), although many nurses prefer to complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree at a nursing school in Massachusetts. This more advanced degree typically leads to better job opportunities and higher pay. If you want to go further and become an advanced nurse, you should pursue a license for a nursing specialization, a master’s degree, or both.

    Additionally, if you want to stay in the classroom to train nursing students, you should consider enrolling in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. However, you needn’t continue directly into a master’s or doctoral program; many individuals opt to practice nursing for a few years before continuing their education.

  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Earning an online degree at a nursing school in Massachusetts varies somewhat from a campus-based experience, but they do share some similarities. To earn an online nursing degree, you’ll take several required biology and anatomy courses through your school’s online platform. However, you’ll still need to spend time in a hospital, clinic, or healthcare facility to earn practical clinical experience under the guidance of professional nurses.

    Some programs also require you to complete a fellowship or internship. The length of time needed to complete an online nursing program in Massachusetts depends on the degree. For example, associate and master’s degrees take approximately two years to finish, while a bachelor’s degree generally requires four years of study. You can also find accelerated nursing programs in Massachusetts.

  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    After graduating with your degree, you must also pass the NCLEX-RN to become an RN. Although your degree helps to prepare you for this exam, you may want to spend at least two months of studying on your own. Once you pass the exam and earn your license, you can assume work as an RN.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Massachusetts

While nurses in Massachusetts enjoy high wages and employment, becoming a nurse requires education and experience. The amount of education required depends on the nursing positions, though programs take anywhere from four weeks to over seven years to complete.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Massachusetts?

Every nursing program requires different courses, though approved nursing programs must meet Massachusetts’ standards for licensure. So, while required courses and course names vary by program, the following list includes courses undergraduate nurses will likely encounter in Massachusetts.


Every patient reacts differently to drugs and medicine. Nurses must learn to analyze patients and determine the proper administration of medications or drugs. This course also covers ethics, religion, age, and other demographics as they relate to medication.

Ethical Nursing

Sometimes grouped with legal practices, ethical nursing involves the practice of performing tasks while adhering to the American Nurses Association code. Ignoring ethics could jeopardize a nurse’s career.

Health Assessment

This course covers health promotion and disease prevention across a population. Nurses learn to communicate health assessments through writing and verbal communication.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

In Massachusetts, online nursing programs function in a hybrid format through a mix of online and in-person learning. Licensure requires clinical experience, so all nurses must complete a minimum amount of in-person experience. Nurses then complete most or all required coursework online. Only current nurses with professional experience can enroll in entirely online degree completion programs.

Licensure requires clinical experience, so all nurses must complete a minimum amount of in-person experience.

Online nursing programs in Massachusetts vary in length, though many programs take under two years to complete. Also, while not every school offers an online nursing degree, plenty of schools offer programs across Massachusetts.

Before applying to an online program, note that accredited, state-approved online programs must meet the same academic standards as on-campus programs. Therefore, applicants should prepare for the same entry requirements when applying to an online nursing program in Massachusetts. This includes earning a minimum GPA, providing evidence of prior education, and including professional materials, such as essays or a resume.

Nursing Licensure in Massachusetts

The process of obtaining Massachusetts nursing licensure depends on the nursing type. CNAs follow educational guidelines set by the American Red Cross. The Board of Registration in Nursing licenses all other nursing types. For LPN or RN licensure, nursing students should complete board-approved programs. The same goes for students planning on becoming NPs.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) describes Massachusetts as a restricted practice state, where NPs must complete additional educational and professional requirements to gain prescriptive authority. Specific requirements for certification or licensure depend on the nursing type, as we explore in the next section.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Education, clinical experience, and examination results make up licensure requirements for each nursing type in Massachusetts. After earning a license, nurses must then maintain licensure by renewing their licenses every other year.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    In Massachusetts, certified nurse aides complete one of the many approved training programs found across the state. In some instances, the board may waive training requirements for applicants with sufficient nursing experience, such as current RN students. Alternatively, a CNA from another state who is in good standing can apply for reciprocity.

    After completing a training program, nurse aide applicants (including those with reciprocity) take the nurse aide competency evaluation program offered through the American Red Cross website, which consists of a written and oral exam that cost $100 and $110, respectively.

    Nurse aides renew their certification through the American Red Cross. For renewal eligibility, nurse aides must perform at least one eight-hour period of nurse-related work during a two-year period. Nurse aides verify this information by having an employer sign off on experience.

    Massachusetts Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Complete a board-approved nurse aide training program

    • Additional Clinical Hours: None

    • Exams: Nurse aide competency evaluation program

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: None

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    LPNs must complete a board-approved online nursing program in Massachusetts, which can take as little as one year to complete. Afterwards, an LPN applicant becomes eligible to sit for the NCLEX-PN. Upon earning a passing grade on the NCLEX, applicants then must prove good moral character and pay a $230 application fee.

    LPN licenses expire on the nurses’ birthday during odd-numbered years. During the two years leading up to renewal, LPNs must complete 15 hours of continuing education, including a course on domestic and sexual violence. The board randomly audits nurses to verify continuing education credits, so nurses should maintain records for up to four years. The board does not require continuing education credits leading up to the first license renewal. Nurses must pay a $120 renewal fee.

    Massachusetts Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Complete a board-approved LPN program

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Cognitive impairment treatment course (if not completed in program)

    • Exams: NCLEX-PN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: 15 hours after first renewal

  • Registered Nurse

    RN applicants follow the same requirements as LPN applicants, albeit with a few differences. First, RNs must complete either an ADN or BSN. This takes 2-4 years to complete. Next, nurses can sit for the NCLEX-RN. Applicants must earn a passing grade on the NCLEX, prove good moral character, and pay a $230 application fee.

    Massachusetts also requires applicants to complete a cognitive impairment course before applying. However, many approved programs include this requirement, so new applicants often meet this requirement through education.

    RN licenses expire on the nurses’ birthday during even-numbered years. Before renewing, nurses must complete 15 hours of continuing education, including a course on domestic and sexual violence. The board does not require continuing education leading up to the first license renewal. RNs pay a $120 fee with each renewal.

    Massachusetts Licensure Requirements

    • Education: ADN or BSN

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Cognitive impairment treatment course, usually offered during RN program

    • Exams: NCLEX-RN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: 15 hours after first renewal

  • Nurse Practitioner

    NPs must complete a graduate program related to their future specialty. These online programs take 2-3 years to complete and require a bachelor of science in nursing as a prerequisite. After completing a graduate degree, nurses apply for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licenses to become NPs. Requirements include a current RN license in Massachusetts, an official transcript, proof of pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, and advanced physical assessment courses, and national certification. Finally, applicants pay a $150 fee and must prove good moral character.

    NPs obtain prescriptive authority by registering for the Massachusetts Controlled Substances Registration, establishing prescription guidelines, enrolling in Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program, completing additional education, and then applying for Drug Enforcement Administration registration.

    The board does not require continuing education for APRN license renewal, though NPs must meet RN and national certification continuing education requirements. NPs must maintain RN licenses and national certification to keep their APRN licenses. NPs pay a $180 renewal fee that covers both the RN and APRN license.

    Massachusetts Licensure Requirements

    • Education: MSN or DNP

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in program unless required for national certification

    • Exams: AANP, ANCC, NCC, PNCB, or AACN exam related to specialty

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years with RN license

    • Continuing Education: None in addition to RN renewal requirements

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Massachusetts FAQ

  • Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years?

    CNAs and RNs can become certified or licensed in two years or less. However, many RNs complete four-year BSNs.

  • What Is a Good Specialty for Nursing?

    Projections show an increased need for most nursing positions in Massachusetts, so every specialty can lead to a secure career. However, some specialties lead to higher-paying jobs, so students should research potential outcomes for each nursing type.

  • How Should I Choose What Nursing Field to Go Into?

    Because most nursing fields lead to potentially high-paying careers, nurses can enjoy careers in nearly any field. Nurses should choose a field that best aligns with their interests and professional goals.

  • Does an Online Nursing Degree Have the Same Value as an On-Campus Degree?

    Massachusetts does not differentiate online or on-campus degrees so long as nurses complete state-approved programs. Make sure any online program maintains accreditation and approval before applying.

  • Is Massachusetts a Good State For Nurses?

    Massachusetts offers some of the highest salaries in the nation for RNs and other nursing types. Projections indicate that employment for nurses in Massachusetts should continue to grow in the future, as well.

Massachusetts Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Across the board, Massachusetts nurses earn higher wages than the national average. Multiple factors influence wages, including education, experience, and location. Nurses in Massachusetts earn above-average wages, though BLS data indicates that the highest-paying positions appear in densely populated areas like Boston.

While projections indicate an increase in positions for every nursing type, national projections show Massachusetts meeting the need for RNs by 2030. However, this projection depends on students continuing to earn RN licenses in Massachusetts.

Before applying to an online nursing program in Massachusetts, note that earning a degree or completing a nursing program does not guarantee a minimum salary or a position as a nurse.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Massachusetts, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $33,630 10.1%
Licensed Practical Nurse $58,990 8.4%
Registered Nurse $92,140 12.8%
Nurse Practitioner $122,740 27.5%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
New York $37,010 $48,770 $85,610 $120,970
Vermont $30,730 $49,720 $69,160 $106,000
New Hampshire $32,200 $52,510 $72,760 $109,460
Rhode Island $31,340 $59,130 $78,420 $109,290
Connecticut $33,390 $56,970 $81,220 $118,020

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant

CNAs, referred to as certified nurse aides in Massachusetts, earn a higher mean annual wage than on the national level. However, nearby New York pays a higher mean wage for CNAs, and Connecticut pays about the same wage. Projections show solid growth for certified nurse aides in Massachusetts from 2016-2026. If a shortage of certified nurse aides occurs, wages could increase even higher.

Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs in Massachusetts earned an impressive mean annual wage in 2018, especially when compared to other states in the area. Only Rhode Island pays a higher mean annual wage than LPNs in Massachusetts. Also, LPNs in Massachusetts earn over $10,000 more than LPNs nationally. Projections show the lowest job growth for LPNs among other job types, but they still rank higher than growth projections for all jobs.

Registered Nurse

Due to high mean annual wages ($92,140) and strong job growth projections from 2016-2026 (12.8%), Massachusetts is one of the best states to work as an RN. The majority of RNs in Massachusetts are at or over the age of 46, with the 56-60 age group making up the largest portion of RNs. As this group retires, Massachusetts needs eligible RNs to replace them.

Nurse Practitioner

NPs receive, by far, the highest mean annual wages for nurses in Massachusetts ($122,740). This figure surpasses the mean wages for NPs in every other state in the region and Massachusetts boasts the fourth-highest wages for NPs in the nation. Projections also indicate a much greater increase in NP positions from 2016-2026 when compared to every other nursing type in Massachusetts. However, both wages and job growth depend on specialization.

Nursing Resources for Massachusetts

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