Best Nurse Practitioner Programs

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Picture this: you’re out and about town, and suddenly severe abdominal pain hits you like an electric shock. Think fast! What do you do? Go to the emergency room and rack up a $1,000 bill for five minutes with an ER doc, an X-ray, and a prescription for industrial-strength ibuprofen? Call 9-1-1 and score a $400 ambulance ride to the ER? Wait . . . what’s your primary care doctor’s name again? What about those new drop-in clinics? Maybe you should just sleep it off . . . but maybe not! Quick—the clock’s ticking!

Now, we here at College Choice aren’t medical professionals, and we can’t tell you what exactly you should do in a situation like this. But this sort of thing could happen to anyone at any time . . . and it does call for some professional help. And with the seismic shifts in the healthcare industry in the United States in recent years, it’s not always clear who to turn to, is it?

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Top 10 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
2 Boston College Newton, MA
3 Duke University Durham, NC
4 The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
5 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
6 University of Colorado Denver-Anschutz Medical Campus Aurora, CO
7 Yale University New Haven, CT
8 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
9 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
10 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA

These seismic shifts have also created new opportunities, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the field of nursing. Nurses in the United States are in extremely high demand, and they are quickly filling the ever-widening gap between the everyday patient and the MDs. There’s always the Registered Nurse designation, which you can achieve with or without a bachelor’s degree. (We are fans of education around here, so we always encourage the bachelor’s degree route!) But there’s another step beyond the RN that’s still short of the time investment involved in getting a full-fledged MD: the Nurse Practitioner.

Unlike Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners are advanced nurses who are qualified to see patients, prescribe medications, order X-rays and lab tests, and diagnose and treat certain maladies without the direct supervision of a doctor. In other words, they’d be a pretty good person to call in the case of unexpected abdominal pain! And for those interested in the nursing profession, the Nurse Practitioner designation is the highest designation you can achieve.

This high designation can bring with it some seriously high rewards. You’ll of course get the reward of knowing you’ve got the authority to do as much as you can to help a given patient short of, say, surgery . . . right here, right now. But as a national nursing shortage churns out higher demand for nursing professionals, you’ll also get the reward of job security for the foreseeable future. And if you’ve got the chops to stay in school for at least the required master’s degree—or even a doctoral degree—you’re also in for a lucrative career option with a 2015 national median salary of $104,740, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  1. University of Pittsburgh
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded shortly after the end of the revolutionary war, the historic University of Pittsburgh is a public research university which continues its reputation as one of the best public universities in the country. Home to the renowned Pitt School of Nursing, the school is recognized for world-class faculty and a top-tier educational experience.

    Program Features

    The Pitt School of Nursing offers an MSN degree that prepares nurses to be Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNP), providing care for high-risk infants and children up to 2 years of age. Program coursework and clinical experiences focus on the care and management of critically ill and convalescent premature and full-term infants. Courses include:

    • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Culturally Diverse Populations
    • Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan
    • Pediatric Well Child Care

    Details

    The NNP area of concentration offers both full-time and part-time study onsite at main campus in Pittsburgh. A post master’s option is also available. Applicants must have a BSN, as well as the equivalent of two years full-time (within the last five years) practice experience as a registered nurse (RN) caring for critically Ill newborns, infants and children in critical care inpatient settings.

  2. Boston College
    Location

    Newton, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    A private institution founded in 1863, Boston College is a private, Catholic (Jesuit) research university located just West of Boston, in the village of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The historic institution has a liberal arts focus with very high research activity. Boston College is home to the Connell School of Nursing and one of the best MSN programs in the country.

    Program Features

    The Connell School of Nursing offers an MSN degree that prepares Nurse Practitioners in one of five NP specialties. All specialties in the MSN program prepare students to become compassionate, evidence-based practitioners who are leaders in their fields. The program as a whole is grounded in Boston College’s commitment to social justice and a belief in the intrinsic worth of every student and patient. Nurse Practitioner specialties offered are:

    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP
    • Family Nurse NP
    • Pediatric Primary Care NP
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health NP
    • Women’s Health NP

    Details

    The Connell School of Nursing offers three entry options for their MSN programs, making it a uniquely flexible degree. The Traditional MSN is for RNs with a BSN, the Direct Entry MSN is for students with bachelor’s degrees from other disciplines to become NPs, and the RN to MSN is for RN’s who lack a bachelor’s degree.

  3. Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Durham, NC, Duke University is a renowned private research university. Consistently ranked among the best universities nationally and internationally, the school is a center for advancing innovative research and teaching methods. Duke’s School of Nursing is globally recognized as a nursing education institute.

    Program Features

    The School of Nursing at Duke University offers a top-ranked MSN degree with seven Nurse Practitioner majors. The program is offered in hybrid format – making it a manageable program for working nurses. Many courses take place online with on-campus activities at least once every semester. These two- to five-day intensives allow for interactions, simulations, and hands-on activities to be conducted. Nurse Practitioner specialties are:

    • Adult-Gerontology NP – Acute Care or Primary Care
    • Family NP
    • Pediatric NP – Acute Care or Primary Care
    • Neonatal NP
    • Women’s Health NP

    Details

    Duke’s MSN degree program requires students to complete 11 credit hours of clinical core courses for each major. Students then complete a final clinical residency under the mentorship of an experienced clinician in their chosen specialty. Depending on the major, the minimum number of credits required ranges from 42 to 49 credit hours.

  4. The University of Texas at Austin
    Location

    Austin, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university and the flagship institution of the University of Texas system – it has one of the largest campus enrollments in the country, allowing for great educational diversity. The School of Nursing at UT Austin is a leader in nurse education – and well known for having 13 graduate nursing faculty members that are Fellows in the American Academy of Nursing.

    Program Features

    UT Austin’s School of Nursing offers an MSN program with three Nurse Practitioner specialty areas. The core program provides advanced study in nursing science, professional foundations, related sciences, and modes of systematic inquiry which prepare students for advanced and specialized professional nursing practice. NP specialties offered are:

    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

    Details

    UT Austin’s MSN program is two years in length, with full-time or part-time options available. Applicants must have a current Registered Nurse license and hold either a BSN degree, or a non-nursing baccalaureate degree and an Associate Degree in Nursing or Nursing Diploma. The school also offers an alternate entry MSN for those without a background in nursing (with an NP specialty in Psych/Mental Health).

  5. University of Virginia
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Charlottesville, VA, The University of Virginia is a public research institution that has the distinction of being founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. The historic institution continues its longstanding tradition of academic excellence, and sits at the top of national rankings to the present day. UVA is home to a highly ranked School of Nursing which offers some of the best Nurse Practitioner programs in the US.

    Program Features

    UVA’s School of Nursing offers a top-ranked MSN degree that prepares Nurse Practitioners in a range of specialties. By drawing upon the academic excellence of the University of Virginia and the clinical strengths of the UVA Medical Center, students will be well prepared for rewarding careers. All nursing students conduct research – either independently, or as part of a team. The NP specialties offered are:

    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP
    • Family NP
    • Neonatal NP
    • Pediatric NP
    • Pediatric Acute Care NP
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health NP

    Details

    Depending on the specialization, students in UVA’s MSN Nurse Practitioner programs will complete a minimum of 30 credits of graduate coursework, with no more than 12 credits transferred into the program. Most specialties take 21 months (full-time) or 33 months (part-time) to completion.

  6. University of Colorado Denver-Anschutz Medical Campus
    Location

    Aurora, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1898, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, known as UCAMC, is one of the most recognized and well-respected nursing institutions in the United States. The school was the first College of Nursing to institute and confer Nurse Practitioner degrees in the country, and their MSN program currently ranks as #26 nationally by U.S. News and World Report.

    Program Features

    The CU College of Nursing offers an MSN program designed to prepare nurses for direct and indirect care roles, including four possible Nurse Practitioner specialties. The program has a focus on underserved populations and students will be prepared to formulate clinical, administrative or policy decisions to promote health with clients. The NP specialties offered are:

    • Adult-Gerontology (Primary Care or Acute Care)
    • Family Nurse NP
    • Psychiatric / Mental Health NP
    • Pediatric (Primary Care or Acute Care) NP

    Details

    Most students In CU’s College of Nursing are able to complete the program in 2 to 3 years, depending on their chosen specialty and life commitments. Students do need to complete the programs within 5 years. Four core courses and Health Promotion are offered online. All applicants should have a BSN and an unencumbered Colorado nursing licensure.

  7. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    One of the oldest universities in the country (it was founded in 1701), Yale University is a renowned private Ivy League research institution which sits among the top five universities nationally. Continuing its tradition of academic excellence, Yale is home to one of the best Schools of Nursing in the country – as well as highly ranked Nurse Practitioner programs.

    Program Features

    The School of Nursing at Yale University offers an MSN program with five Nurse Practitioner specialization options. The program provides students with training in high-quality, evidence-based clinical care and the knowledge to help shape health care systems. The MSN program of study prepares graduates for continuing activity in a variety of leadership roles. Specialization options are as follows:

    • Adult Gerontology (Primary Care or Acute Care) NP
    • Family NP
    • Pediatric NP
    • Psychiatric / Mental Health NP
    • Nurse-Midwifery / Women’s Health NP

    Details:

    Students in Yale’s MSN Nurse Practitioner program can choose to study on a full-time or part-time basis. Students will be enrolled in the program only once per year (in August), and students are not normally permitted to transfer between full-time and part-time schedules. Applicants should have a BSN and active Connecticut RN licensure.

  8. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The school is one of 14 founding members of the exclusive Association of American Universities and has a longstanding reputation for academic excellence and innovation. Penn Nursing continues this tradition with their highly ranked Nurse Practitioner programs.

    Program Features

    Penn Nursing offers an MSN at the forefront of nursing science and practice in a wide range of specialties. Students will benefit from high -level research, practice, and educational opportunities, guaranteeing the experiences and skill sets to lead and excel in your nursing career. The Nurse Practitioner specialties are:

    • Adult Gerontology Acute Care or Primary Care NP
    • Family NP
    • Neonatal NP
    • Pediatric Acute Care or Primary Care NP
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health NP
    • Women’s Health/Gender-Related NP

    Details

    Coursework in Penn Nursing’s MSN program includes theoretical content and mentored clinical experiences that emphasize research and holistic patient care. Students also have the ability to choose from a range of concentrations in addition to their specialty. Penn also offers flexibility for students to take time off from school to gain work experience, or work full-time as an RN as they complete their MSN program coursework part-time.

  9. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1956 in Tampa, Florida, the University of South Florida is a public research university and a member institution of the State University System of Florida. The College of Nursing ranks among the top 50 in the country and holds a deep commitment to building expert nurses who can provide excellent healthcare and educate other nursing professionals.

    Program Features

    The College of Nursing at the University of South Florida offers both an RN to MSN program and a BSN to MSN program with multiple Nurse Practitioner specialties. The program will prepare students for independent and interdependent decision-making and direct accountability for clinical judgment. The program also includes participation in and use of research, development and implementation of health policy, leadership, education, case management, and consultation. NP specialties offered are:

    • Adult- Gerontology Primary Care NP
    • Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP
    • Family NP

    Details

    The University of South Florida’s MSN Nurse Practitioner specialties include theoretical and clinical training. The number of required credits ranges from 45 – 52 depending on the specialty. Please note that the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care and Family concentrations are highly competitive. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care applicants must have one year current experience as an RN in an aggressive adult ICU critical care unit.

  10. Pennsylvania State University
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1855, Pennsylvania State University is a public, research university known colloquially as one of the “public ivies.” The school also has one of the largest campus enrollments in the country, allowing for an educational diversity not available at smaller schools. Penn State’s College of Nursing extends their reputation for teaching, research, and public service to the area of nursing education, providing some of the best Nurse Practitioner programs nationally.

    Program Features

    Penn State College of Nursing offers an MSN that enables BSN-prepared nurses to acquire advanced knowledge and clinical practice skills in direct care of individuals, families, and aggregate populations in primary and/or acute care settings. Penn State also offers a Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate program for students who are seeking additional certification as a Nurse Practitioner in the school’s offered specialty areas:

    • Family NP
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP

    Details

    Penn State’s MSN program is designed to be completed in two years (four semesters) of full-time study. All nursing courses for the Nurse Practitioner options are delivered using synchronous (meaning you have to watch at a certain time) video conference with selected courses delivered using an asynchronous online delivery system.

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