Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Registered nurses can increase their responsibilities and earning potential by enrolling in one of the best nurse practitioner programs. A nurse practitioner degree strengthens graduate students' patient care, clinical diagnosis, and assessment skills.

Updated August 24, 2022

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Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

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Becoming an NP in the Healthcare Field

Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care to patients. They conduct health assessments, diagnose acute and chronic conditions, and create treatment plans. Along with other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), nurse practitioners assume leadership roles in healthcare.

Registered nurses can increase their responsibilities and earning potential by enrolling in one of the best nurse practitioner programs. A nurse practitioner degree strengthens graduate students' patient care, clinical diagnosis, and assessment skills.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners rank among the fastest-growing occupations in the United States. Nurse practitioners also earn above-average salaries; the BLS reports that APRNs earn a median salary of over $115,000 per year.

In addition to ranking the best NP programs, this article introduces career and salary information for NPs, common NP courses, and scholarships for nurse practitioner students.

FAQ About NP Programs

What is a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners provide specialty and primary care for patients. They conduct health assessments, diagnose conditions, and develop treatment plans

How long does it take to earn an NP degree?

A nurse practitioner degree typically takes 2-4 years to complete. During an NP degree program, students complete coursework and clinical requirements.

What is an APRN?

APRNs hold a graduate degree in nursing and provide advanced nursing care. Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists qualify as APRNs.

What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse?

Nurse practitioners hold a graduate degree and work as advanced practice RNs. As a result, nurse practitioners typically earn higher salaries and take on more responsibilities than RNs.

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Career and Salary Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners work in a high-demand, lucrative field. Along with nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners earn the highest salaries in the nursing profession.

According to the BLS, nurse practitioners earn a median salary of nearly $110,000 per year. The highest-paid nurse practitioners earn over $184,000 per year. The BLS projects demand for APRNs to grow 45% between 2019-2029.

The earning potential for APRNs varies depending on where they work. Those who work in hospital settings and doctors' offices earn above-average salaries for the profession. Some roles, however, may require irregular hours or shift care.

Nurse practitioners can pursue certification to demonstrate their expertise and stand out in the job market. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board grant specialty certifications for nurse practitioners.

Career Salary Outlook
Career Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners Less than $82,460 $115,800 More than $184,180

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Accreditation for Nursing Degrees

Prospective nurse practitioner students should always choose an accredited school and program. Accredited NP degrees meet the educational requirement for professional licenses and certifications. Choosing an unaccredited program can thus affect a nurse's job prospects after earning a nurse practitioner degree.

The best nurse practitioner programs hold accreditation from either the Accreditation Commission For Education In Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission On Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Learn more about why accreditation matters in our accreditation guide.

Courses in a Nurse Practitioner Program

Nurse practitioner programs strengthen students' clinical and research skills. During a nurse practitioner degree, learners study topics like advanced health assessment, clinical diagnosis, and primary care across the lifespan. Students also take specialized courses depending on their concentration. Options available for concentrations include psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, and women's health nurse practitioners. 

In addition to classroom training, degree-seekers complete hands-on, experiential requirements. The best NP programs connect nursing students with clinical practicum opportunities in various healthcare settings.

While classes may vary depending on the school and concentration, the following list outlines courses commonly found in NP programs.

In this course, learners strengthen their assessment skills in areas including mental health assessment and abnormal findings. The course also trains nurse practitioners to order diagnostic tests based on health assessments and interpret their results. Students also learn strategies for working with culturally diverse patients.

Nurse practitioners learn to provide primary care for various clients. Depending on their specialization, coursework may focus on primary care for populations like adults, children, aging patients, or patients with mental health issues. The course emphasizes the differential diagnosis process, caring for individuals across the lifespan, and primary care settings.

In clinical diagnosis courses, learners study the process of evaluating and diagnosing medical conditions. Topics may include health promotion, illness prevention, and managing conditions. Nursing students also learn care strategies, including how to create healthcare management plans.

This course trains nurse practitioners to measure patient outcomes and implement improvement plans. Learners study topics like continuous quality improvement methodologies, outcome measurement tools, and data collection in patient-focused settings. The course prepares nurse practitioners for leading roles in healthcare organizations.

This course teaches students how to evaluate nursing research and apply it in practice. Students review research in their field and explore the relationship between scholarship and clinical practice. Students also learn how to identify relevant evidence, evaluate nursing research, develop practice-based questions, and measure the impact of evidence-based policies.

Best Nurse Practitioner Programs

Our list ranks the best nurse practitioner programs. Prospective nurse practitioners can use our ranking to identify programs that fit their interests, career goals, and schedule. By choosing one of the best NP programs, nurses can move into a high-demand role and increase their earning potential.

#1 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

The University of Texas at Austin

  • Austin, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

For students seeking career advancement, The University of Texas at Austin offers a master's program in nursing. The public institution, located in Austin, Texas, serves degree-seekers with diverse needs by offering many enrollment options. In the MSN program, the curriculum covers advanced topics in nursing.

University resources and support services help master's candidates get the most out of graduate school. Academic advisors recommend course selections, while financial aid counselors connect students with scholarship and grant opportunities. The university also hosts networking and training events for master's degree-seekers.

The University of Texas at Austin at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 113

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Admission Rate: 32%

Graduation Rate: 86%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,998

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,966

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $52,200

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,824
Out-of-state
$38,326
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
51,090
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Brigham Young University

  • Provo, UT
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Brigham Young University offers a top-ranked MS program in family nurse practitioner as one of its 94 master's degrees. The master's degree in family practice nurse practitioner appeals to students seeking a graduate degree that will increase their career opportunities. Flexible enrollment options appeal to working professionals who need to schedule classes around their other responsibilities.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and practical knowledge to build a comprehensive understanding of family nurse practitioner responsibilities. Students often complete internships and other experiential learning opportunities to build career-ready skills. Learners meet with faculty advisors to choose electives and concentrations to individualize the family nurse practitioner degree.

Brigham Young University at a Glance:

Location: Provo, Utah

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 67%

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,290

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $7,290

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 71%

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,790
Out-of-state
$5,790
Retention Rate
90%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
34,318
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#3 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Villanova University

  • Villanova, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Villanova University prepares graduates for career advancement in its master's in family nurse practitioner program. The private institution offers several enrollment options on its Villanova campus and through its online programs. During the master's in family nurse practitioner program, learners build on their undergraduate knowledge to gain an advanced understanding of the nurse practitioner role.

Master's candidates participate in campus life and benefit from the university's support services. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors host workshops, offer internship programs, and provide career planning services. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking events and make use of library services.

Villanova University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 45

Total Online Master's Programs: 17

Admission Rate: 28%

Graduation Rate: 90%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $20,506

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $20,506

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $64,700

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,550
Out-of-state
$54,550
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
28%
Students Enrolled
10,848
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Vanderbilt University

  • Nashville, TN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Vanderbilt University stands out for its 104 master's programs, which include a nursing program. The master's in nursing program builds advanced knowledge and skills, helping students increase their career opportunities. Graduate programs prioritize flexibility through their enrollment options, which help enrollees balance school with work or other responsibilities.

During the program, learners gain theoretical and practical knowledge through the rigorous nursing curriculum. Students apply their training during internships and other hands-on learning opportunities, which strengthen career-ready skills. Electives and concentrations allow learners to individualize the program around their professional goals.

Vanderbilt University at a Glance:

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 9%

Graduate Tuition In State: $48,624

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $48,624

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 68%

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,800
Out-of-state
$50,800
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
13,131
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Emory University

  • Atlanta, GA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Emory University offers 75 master's programs, including a highly-ranked nursing master's degree. The MSN program helps students advance their education and increase their career opportunities. Graduate programs offer flexible enrollment options that make it easier for enrollees to fit classes into their schedule.

Learners take theoretical and practical nursing classes to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the field. Students can often complete internships and other hands-on learning opportunities, gaining varied experience while building professional connections. Learners meet with faculty advisors to choose electives and concentrations to individualize the nursing degree.

Emory University at a Glance:

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 16%

Graduate Tuition In State: $42,800

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $42,800

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 61%

Average Tuition
In-state
$53,070
Out-of-state
$53,070
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
14,415
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Stony Brook University

  • Stony Brook, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

For students seeking career advancement, Stony Brook University offers a master's program in nurse pediatric primary care nurse practitioner. From its Stony Brook campus, the public institution offers graduate programs in several enrollment formats, including online options designed for working professionals. During the master's in nurse practitioner program, learners take their nursing knowledge to the next level thanks to accessible graduate courses.

Master's candidates benefit from advising and support services, including career counseling. For example, financial aid counselors recommend scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. Master's degree-seekers also take advantage of tutoring centers, library services, and service learning opportunities.

Stony Brook University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 82

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Admission Rate: 44%

Graduation Rate: 76%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,310

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $23,100

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $44,000

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,070
Out-of-state
$24,740
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
26,814
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#7 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Case Western Reserve University

  • Cleveland, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The nursing master's program at Case Western Reserve University, one of 96 master's degrees, offers a rigorous education. Students can increase their earning potential and advance their careers in the MSN program. At the school, programs offer flexible enrollment options that appeal to busy enrollees balancing school with other responsibilities.

Learners take advanced nursing classes that build a theoretical and practical understanding of the field. Students apply their training in internships and other hands-on learning opportunities, which strengthen career-ready skills. Learners specialize their nursing education by choosing electives and concentrations.

Case Western Reserve University at a Glance:

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 27%

Graduate Tuition In State: $46,524

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $46,524

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 89%

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,450
Out-of-state
$50,450
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
27%
Students Enrolled
11,874
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Duke University

  • Durham, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Duke University prepares graduates for career advancement through its master's in nursing program. From its Durham campus, the private institution enrolls degree-seekers with a variety of options, including online delivery formats. During the MSN program, learners complete a challenging, graduate-level curriculum that builds an advanced understanding of the nursing field.

University resources and support services help master's candidates participate fully in campus life and meet graduation requirements. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors offer workshops, job fairs, and resume reviews. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking events and make use of library services.

Duke University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 92

Total Online Master's Programs: 2

Admission Rate: 8%

Graduation Rate: 95%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 6-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $55,680

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $55,680

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $93,200

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,880
Out-of-state
$55,880
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
16,686
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Texas State University

  • San Marcos, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Learners seeking a graduate degree in nurse practitioner can enroll in the program at Texas State University. The master's in nurse practitioner program builds advanced knowledge and skills, helping students increase their career opportunities. At the school, programs offer flexible enrollment options that appeal to busy learners balancing school with other responsibilities.

The program uses a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes theoretical and practical approaches to nurse practitioner careers. Students prepare for the workforce with internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. A concentration also helps learners specialize their training and pursue focused careers after completing the master's degree.

Texas State University at a Glance:

Location: San Marcos, Texas

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 81%

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,751

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $15,191

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 76%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,570

Average Price After Aid: $13,178

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,052
Out-of-state
$19,868
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
38,187
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

University of Rochester

  • Rochester, NY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Students interested in advancing their career can earn their master's in nurse practitioner at the University of Rochester. From its Rochester campus, the private institution offers graduate programs in several enrollment formats, including online options designed for working professionals. During the MS in nurse practitioner program, learners take their nursing knowledge to the next level thanks to accessible graduate courses.

Master's candidates access a generous selection of institutional resources and support services during their degree. Academic advisors recommend course selections, while financial aid counselors connect students with scholarship and grant opportunities. Master's degree-seekers also take advantage of tutoring, mental health counseling, and library services.

University of Rochester at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 109

Admission Rate: 30%

Graduation Rate: 87%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $51,705

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $51,705

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $49,300

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,040
Out-of-state
$55,040
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
30%
Students Enrolled
12,233
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#11 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Fairfield University

  • Fairfield, CT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking career advancement benefit from the master's in family nurse practitioner program at Fairfield University. From its Fairfield campus, the private university meets the needs of diverse degree-seekers by offering flexible enrollment options. During the MSN program, learners take advanced courses in nurse practitioner skills that build on their prior training.

University resources and support services provide guidance to master's candidates throughout their degree. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors offer workshops, job fairs, and resume reviews. Master's degree-seekers also take advantage of career advising, tutoring centers, and internship programs.

Fairfield University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 38

Total Online Master's Programs: 1

Admission Rate: 57%

Graduation Rate: 83%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $18,795

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,795

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $56,500

Average Tuition
In-state
$49,080
Out-of-state
$49,080
Retention Rate
90%
Admission Rate
57%
Students Enrolled
5,349
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#12 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

University of Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students interested in career advancement can earn their nurse practitioner master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania. The private institution, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, serves degree-seekers with diverse needs by offering many enrollment options. During the MSN in nurse practitioner program, learners take graduate-level courses in nursing to enhance their understanding of the field.

University resources and support services provide guidance to master's candidates throughout their degree. Financial aid advisors connect students with resources to pay for graduate school, while academic advisors recommend course selections. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking and training events hosted by the university.

University of Pennsylvania at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 141

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Admission Rate: 8%

Graduation Rate: 96%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 6-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $36,254

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $36,254

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $91,200

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,156
Out-of-state
$51,156
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
26,675
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#13 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Florida International University

  • Miami, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking increased professional responsibilities can earn their master's in nursing from Florida International University. From its Miami campus, the public institution offers graduate programs in several enrollment formats, including online options designed for working professionals. During the MSN in nurse practitioner program, learners take advanced courses in nursing that build on their prior training.

While pursuing a master's degree, enrollees benefit from institutional resources and support services. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors offer workshops, job fairs, and resume reviews. The university also offers library services, networking events, and more for graduate degree-seekers.

Florida International University at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 96

Total Online Master's Programs: 31

Admission Rate: 58%

Graduation Rate: 63%

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 27-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,912

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $21,393

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $41,500

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,721
Out-of-state
$16,529
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
58,711
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#14 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

Georgia Southern University

  • Statesboro, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Learners seeking a graduate degree in family nurse practitioner can enroll in the MSN program at Georgia Southern University. The master's in family nurse practitioner program builds advanced knowledge and skills, helping students increase their career opportunities. Flexible enrollment options, including online classes, help busy enrollees balance coursework with their other responsibilities.

Learners take theoretical and practical family nurse practitioner classes to gain comprehensive knowledge of the field. Students build valuable professional connections during internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. Concentrations and electives let learners specialize their family nurse practitioner education around particular fields.

Georgia Southern University at a Glance:

Location: Statesboro, Georgia

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 54%

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,977

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $19,890

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 91%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $6,724

Average Price After Aid: $15,374

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,371
Out-of-state
$15,425
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
26,054
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#15 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

University of Miami

  • Coral Gables, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Miami offers 104 master's programs, including a highly-ranked family nurse practitioner master's degree. The MSN in family nurse practitioner serves students seeking advanced education and increased career opportunities. Flexible enrollment options, including on-campus and online classes, help enrollees fit school into their busy schedules.

The master's curriculum uses theoretical and practical approaches to encourage a comprehensive understanding of family nurse practitioner responsibilities. Students apply their classroom knowledge through internships and hands-on learning opportunities, which also build professional connections. Concentrations and electives allow learners to customize the degree based on their career goals.

University of Miami at a Glance:

Location: Coral Gables, Florida

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 27%

Graduate Tuition In State: $37,800

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $37,800

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 74%

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,400
Out-of-state
$50,400
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
27%
Students Enrolled
17,811
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

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