A master of science in nursing degree gives nursing professionals and individuals that want to enter the field of nursing opportunities to build nursing competencies through foundational coursework and clinical experiences.
Many master’s in nursing programs offer registered nurses without bachelor’s degrees in the field an advance track to graduate-level credentials; other master’s in nursing degrees provide nurses with bachelor’s degrees advanced coursework needed for career advancement. Nurses that want to become nurse practitioners, look to specialize in an area of nursing, or plan to advance to leadership and management roles in nursing and healthcare benefit from the specialized coursework in a master’s in nursing degree. Programs with minors and elective classes in nursing subspecialties like rural health, oncology, and cardiology further provide nurses with access to focused programs that meet individualized interests and overall professional goals. Learners also gain the expertise needed to continue onto doctoral study.
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Top 10 Best Master’s in Nursing Degrees
||Johns Hopkins University
||University of Pennsylvania
||University of Washington
||University of Virginia
||University of Texas at Austin
||University of Alabama at Birmingham
||University of Maryland
||College Park, MD
||University of Michigan
||Ann Arbor, MI
||New York University
||New York, NY
What Are the Best Master’s Programs in Nursing?
And that’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of the top 25 master’s degrees in nursing with your needs in mind.
The first thing we want to know, like you, is the bottom line: how much is this going to set me back? So we’ve included the annual tuition for each school right up front for you. We’ve also included our College Choice Score, which is computed based on each school’s reputation in the field and its return on investment.
The end result is a list of schools that balance cost, reputation, and, ultimately, what they can do for you and your unique goals. You can’t go wrong with any of them, of course, but these schools are leading the way.
The rankings you’re about to read are based on a few important sources. The first source is actual college freshman polled during a nationwide survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.
These students rated academic reputation, financial aid offerings, overall cost of school, and the survey also took into account graduate success rates on the post-college job market. These factors were weighed equally alongside data from other publicly available sources, including U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.
Turns out the doctor isn’t in . . . and that’s good news for you!
See our rankings methodology page.
The 25 Best MSN Programs
Johns Hopkins University offers several master’s in nursing degrees for current and future nurses alike. The entry-into-nursing MSN provides students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing the opportunity to enter the field while joint MSN/MPH and MSN/MBA programs combine public health and business curriculum with advanced-level nursing coursework. Johns Hopkins MSN in health systems management gives nurses information and tools to use and develop innovative technology-based practices. Johns Hopkins’s graduate nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist curricula are now offered through their doctor of nurse practice degree, an advanced-track, emersion program. Johns Hopkin’s nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of Pennsylvania
The master of science in nursing program at the University of Pennsylvania offers students several specializations designed to engage individual interests and advance professional goals. Practicing nurses can focus on pediatric, adult, and family acute or primary care or they can incorporate coursework in one of the numerous minors the Penn offers to supplement the MSN program. Learners interested in healthcare and nursing management also have the opportunity to pursue degrees in healthcare leadership and healthcare administration to advance in non-clinical settings. Applicants to Penn’s MSN programs need to have a BSN in the field. Penn’s nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Designed for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in any field, the University of Washington’s master of science in clinical informatics and patient-centered technologies (MS-CIPCT) includes 46-49 credit hours of coursework about the role of technology in patient care. Students study the role of technology in clinical settings and throughout the healthcare industry while learning the theories and application of technology use. Learners with healthcare experience benefit from hands-on training in innovative tools and practices to advance their careers and all students complete a scholarly project or thesis to demonstrate competency development. Part-time students can complete the MS-CIPCT degree in two years while full-time students can fulfill degree requirements in as few as 15 months.
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia offers a master’s of science in nursing program with 10 specializations to established nurses and students looking to enter the field. UVA’s MSN in clinical nursing leadership has tracks for direct-entry into nursing and for advancement to managerial and leadership positions for practicing nurses. Additional concentrations in adult, pediatric, neonatal, and psychiatric acute and primary care give learners options to pursue personal interests and enhance professional knowledge. The UVA accepts only 90 applicants annually for their programs. Full-time students can complete a MSN in two years; part-time students usually meet degree requirements in three years. All of UVA’s nursing degrees are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin’s master of science in nursing program provides students with knowledge and skills to build nursing competencies as entry-level learners and practicing nurses alike. Specializations in family, pediatric, and psychiatric nursing; leadership in nursing; and adult-gerontology clinical nursing provide students with two-year nursing degrees that incorporate advanced coursework on aspects of nursing. The three-year alternate entry MSN program introduces students without a nursing background to nursing fundamentals before exploring leadership, adult-health, and psychiatric concentrations. UT’s MSN degrees are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) offers a master of science in nursing program with 11 specialties and six subspecialties to students that have a BSN. Learners can pursue degree concentrations in adult-gerontology, pediatric, and family nurse practitioner fields or nursing leadership and informatics. Subspecialties in oncology, palliative care, and nurse education give students additional opportunities to tailor their degree to meet their personal and professional goals. All of UAB’s MSN degrees give students knowledge based in core nursing competencies and provide them with critical-thinking and analytical skills applicable to the field. Applicants must pass a background check for admission. The UAB’s nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
Tailored to prepare registered nurses for advanced positions within the field of nursing, the RN to MSN program at the University of Maryland includes coursework on nursing fundamentals for students that need to complete a BSN before advancing to MSN classes. By substituting the BSN curriculum for core MSN coursework, registered nurse complete 31 credit hours of coursework before choosing one of three specializations: community and public health, nursing informatics, and health services leadership and management. MSN curricula include between 38-40 credit hours of advanced coursework offered online and on-campus. The UM’s RN to MSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
The University of Michigan offers master’s in nursing degrees based in advanced clinical practice to students that want to pursue specialized credentials in acute, primary, family, and midwifery care. Practicing nurses study assessment, diagnostics, therapeutic techniques, and consultation methods to develop enhanced skills in patient care while simultaneously building leadership competencies applicable to the field. Students can also pursue a MSN in systems, population, and leadership, emphasizing improving health outcomes throughout the human lifespan and in various community and social settings. The UM’s MSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the midwifery concentration is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
Duke University offers master of science in nursing degrees in 11 specialized areas, eight of which provide advanced practice content for registered nurses. Three non-clinical degree tracks emphasize nurse education, health informatics, and nursing and healthcare leadership for professionals that want to focus on administrative and managerial aspect of nursing. All students complete core coursework designed to meet the standards for numerous nursing certifications, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Advanced classes also provide students with opportunities to study nursing fields, including oncology, orthopedics, and cardiology. Duke’s programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
The master’s program at New York University provides practicing nurses with advanced coursework to build knowledge and develop skills for professional growth and career enhancement. NYU’s MSN program includes specializations in nine areas, including adult-gerontology primary and acute care, midwifery, nursing administration, and pediatric nurse practice. Students can also specialize in palliative care, holistic nursing, and substance abuse care, further tailoring the MSN to meet their needs and goals. Core coursework includes nursing theory, research methods, issues and trends in nursing, and population-focused care. Combined with clinical placements, NYU’s MSN programs give students access to fundamental information and experiential learning opportunities. Students interested in community-based health practice, policy, and programming can enroll in the dual MSN/MPH program.
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
The University of Colorado’s master’s degree in nursing program includes nine specializations, including family care, women’s health, pediatrics, and psychiatry, for practicing nurses to enhance their expertise and further their careers. Five specializations allow learners to work with underserved urban populations, adding valuable hands-on experience to their degree. Coursework incorporates interdisciplinary content, nursing theory, and evidence-based knowledge to build critical-thinking and analytical skills as students learn to to best meet the needs of their patients and communities. Applicants must have an unencumbered nursing license and a BSN in nursing with prerequisite coursework in statistics. Students must also participate in an interview prior to admission. The UC’s MSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the midwife MSN is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
Vanderbilt University’s master of science in nursing program provides multiple entry options for practicing nurses and non-nursing students alike. The MSN also has advanced practice specialties in acute and primary care across the human life span, midwifery, mental health practice, and women’s health. Learners can pursue dual degrees in MSN and divinity or theological studies as well. Core classes give students access to nursing fundamentals and clinical placements offer experiential-learning opportunities for students as they focus on an aspect of nursing. Students in VU’s MSN program participate in block-scheduled classes, online conferencing, and other education delivery methods throughout their degree. VU’s nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of California Los Angeles
The University of California Los Angeles has two master’s degrees in nursing, one for entry-level students and one for advanced practice nursing professionals. The entry-level MSN prepares students with an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing for careers in clinical nursing over a two-year curriculum. The advanced MSN offers students the opportunity to specialize in clinical nursing or nurse practitioner coursework as they complete their degree. All MSN students take core classes in nursing theory and practice, research methods, and healthcare management as they build critical-thinking and evidence-based analytical skills. Clinical practica provide learners with experiential-learning designed to enhance learning and facilitate future career opportunities. The UCLA’s MSN degrees are approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
University of California San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
The University of California San Francisco’s extensive master of science advanced practice offerings in nursing prepares nurses for enhanced roles as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, midwives, and healthcare administrators. The UCSF provides specializations in primary and acute care for adults and children, women’s health, public health, and psychiatric nursing for students that want to pursue individual interests while building professional opportunities. MSN students can also complete minors in nine areas, including global health, palliative care, and rural health, to further focus their studies. All of UCSF’s MSN students study theory, clinical practice, and research methods as they develop the skills needed to assess and implement patient care.
Yale University’s master of science in nursing focuses on clinical specialization, providing students with areas of study in adult-gerontology, family nursing, midwifery, pediatrics, and psychiatry. With each degree designed to meet the individual needs of the specialization, students study theory, research, and practice relevant to their interests and professional goals. During the second year of their program, students participate in seminars and practical coursework to apply what they have learned. Full-time students complete Yale’s MSN programs in two years; part-time students successfully fulfill degree requirements in three years. Yale’s MSN degrees are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
A master’s in nursing at Arizona State University includes on-campus and online coursework for practicing nurses to specialize and advance their careers in the field. ASU’s MSN specializations include care coordination, nursing informatics, patient safety, and nursing education, all designed to provide nurses with core competencies directly applicable to the field of nursing. Offered through ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, nursing master’s degrees include 35-credit hours of coursework. Students study nursing theory, research methods, and nursing leadership before exploring advanced concepts and completing clinical placements or comprehensive projects. Students in ASU’s MSN programs can apply for loan forgiveness through the Faculty Loan Program which places them in an in-need facility for four years following graduation.
New Brunswick, NJ
Rutger’s University’s master of science in nursing provides on-campus, hybrid, and online options for nurses that want to study informatics, nursing leadership, and clinical leadership. Rutger’s MSN prepares nurses to conduct and apply nursing research and integrate nursing theory and best-practices into patient care. Rutger’s informatics specialization includes coursework on use and management of nursing technologies, while the nursing and clinical leadership concentrations provide students with communication, leadership, and organizational skills applicable to public, private, and non-profit nursing and healthcare. Full-time students complete Rutger’s MSN programs in two years; part-time learners can earn a MSN from Rutgers in three years. Rutger’s School of Nursing is accredited by the New Jersey Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of Texas Health Science Center
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston offers five nurse practitioner and one system tracks to practicing nurses. Nurse practitioner concentrations in adult-gerontology primary and acute care, family care, and psychiatry prepare nurses to advance in their current positions while the nursing leadership and administration program trains nurses in information systems, management strategy, and other aspects of business, finance, and communication applicable to healthcare. The MSN in leadership and administration includes 38 credit hours; nurse practitioner MSN degrees require students to complete 41 credit hours. Many courses can be completed online but students must attend on-campus testing and case simulation exercises.
A master of science in nursing from the University of Pittsburg prepares practicing nurses to advance to leadership and management positions in the field through a curriculum based in theory, research, and clinical experience. Students can specialize to become a clinical nursing leader or an expert in nursing informatics through one of Pitt’s two degree specializations. The MSN in clinical nursing leadership can be completed online or on-campus but the nurse informatics program is only available online. Students can also apply to Pitt’s MSN to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. Core coursework for all MSN students includes statistics, research methods, and ethics in nursing. Registered nurses that do not hold BSN degrees can enter Pitt’s BSN through an early admission program.
The University of Rochesters master’s programs in nursing include an accelerated track for non-nurses, an RN to BSN to MSN option, nurse practitioner degrees, and nurse education and leadership curricula. MSN students in nurse practitioner and clinical specialties can focus on gerontology, mental health, family, pediatric or clinical nurse leadership. Rochester’s MSN degree in nursing education prepares nurses to teach and inform in clinical, academic, and community roles. The MS in healthcare leadership is open to all healthcare professionals, including practices nurses that want to move to managerial and administrative positions in the healthcare field. All nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of Illinois at Chicago
With two master of science programs in nursing, the University of Illinois Chicago offers programs for nurses that want to enter the field and those already practicing. The UIC’s graduate-entry MSN gives students without a nursing degree fundamental knowledge as they become registered nurses and establish their roles as skilled practitioners in the field. The advanced generalist MSN program gives practicing nurses clinical leadership skills needed to enhance their careers and apply evidence-based practice to patient care. Both programs include core coursework and clinical experiences but the advanced generalist degree also allows students to specialize in women’s health or clinical nurse leadership. UIC’s programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and graduate-entry programs is approved by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The University of Arizona’s master of science for entry to the profession of nursing (MEPN) offers learners the opportunity to become a registered nurse while simultaneously studying theories, best-practices, and evidence-based information to become nurse educators, administrators, and advanced practice nurses. The master’s of nursing in clinical systems leadership at the University of Arizona provides registered nurses with a path to advanced nursing careers in clinical settings with online coursework that can be completed in two years. Students with a BSN can complete the MSN program in as few as 15 months. The online MSN in Clinical Systems Leadership is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and approved by the Arizona State Board of Nursing.
University of Missouri Kansas City
The University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) School of Nursing provides practicing nurses with numerous online and on-campus master’s programs in nursing. Students in one of UMKC’s MSN degrees can specialize to become a nurse practitioner in women’s health, adult-gerontology, family, pediatric, or psychiatric nursing, all programs that include 46 credit hours of coursework and clinical residency requirements. UMKC’s MSN in neonatal nurse practice includes 45 credit hours, while the nursing education degree provides learners with 41 credit hours of coursework. UMKC’s online degrees are part of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and can enroll students from 48 states. UMKC’s nursing degrees are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina’s two master of science in nursing programs provide practicing nurses with opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills in patient care, safety, and practice. The UNC Chapel Hill’s RN to MSN offers registered nurses without a BSN the opportunity to complete undergraduate coursework in nursing theory, concepts, and community-based practice before continuing to advanced nursing classes. Students can prepare to become nurse practitioners in gerontology, family nursing, pediatrics, or psychiatry. Learners interested in administration, clinical nurse leadership, nursing leadership, and nursing informatics can focus their degrees on health care systems. UNC Chapel Hill’s BSN and MSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The school will release new nursing degree curricula in 2020.
Rush University, located in Chicago, IL, offers an MSN generalist entry master’s program (GEM) designed for learners that want to enter the field. Students with a bachelor’s degree in an area other than nursing complete comprehensive, evidence-based coursework and clinical practica in anticipation of becoming registered nurses and clinical nursing leaders. Classwork emphasizes the application of nursing theory and best practices to clinical situations, training students to communicate with healthcare teams and enhance patient outcomes. Students also study finance and develop management skills applicable to nursing and healthcare settings.Full-time students can complete Rush’s GEM program in two years. Rush’s College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).