According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners in 2017 was more than $110,000 — a significant increase over the median salary of registered nurses (i.e., $70,000). In addition to increased pay, the BLS projects that advanced nursing positions will increase by a staggering 31% between 2016 and 2026. Due to the aging population in the U.S., the demand for preventative care and other healthcare services continues to increase, providing ample job security for professionals working in the field of nursing. Nurses who hold a master’s degree may also have the option of choosing a specialization, such as pediatric health, geriatric health, or mental health.
What Are the Best Online Master’s Programs in Nursing?
And that’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of the top 50 online 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.
The 25 Best Online MSN Degree Programs
Johns Hopkins University
College Choice Score: 100.00
Tuition Per Credit: $1,509
Registered nurses who hold a BS in nursing can advance their careers by earning an MSN degree online from Johns Hopkins University. Distance learners can select from an MSN health systems management track or pursue an MSN/MBA dual degree. The management track consists of 35 credits and 376 clinical hours, and students may apply for full-time (in the fall) or part-time (in the fall or spring) entry. Individuals in the dual-degree track complete 35 credits and 376 clinical hours. Individuals interested in the MSN/MBA program must have at least two years of work experience, and all applicants should hold a minimum GPA of 3.0.
College Choice Score: 99.94
Tuition Per Credit: $1,568
Duke University hosts a popular online master of science in nursing program where students can choose from eight advanced practice registered nurse majors and three non-clinical majors. Nursing majors include health informatics, nursing education, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and women’s health nurse practitioner. Coursework — which consists of 42-49 credits — varies depending on the degree track, but all students begin by completing a 12-credit MSN core. Students can complete most coursework online but must come to campus at least once every semester for 2-5-day intensives. Learners also carry out a final clinical residency under an experienced clinician in their field.
Ohio State University
College Choice Score: 99.06
Tuition Per Credit: $746
Students with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (or an RN license with any bachelor’s degree) can enroll in online MSN programs at Ohio State University. Learners can select from one of three online specialties: family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. All students complete at least five core nursing classes in addition to several specialty courses. In addition to class work, nursing students must complete hundreds of hours of clinical experience. Upon graduation, students qualify to sit for certification in a variety of specialties. Applicants must hold an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 and pick their specialty area at the time of application.
University of South Carolina
College Choice Score: 98.68
Tuition Per Credit: $1,303
The University of South Carolina offers an MSN in nursing administration program that students can complete online. Learners typically complete this 30-credit degree in 12-18 months. In addition to coursework that covers topics like biostatistics and financing healthcare, learners complete field study hours and either a seminar in clinical research or a thesis project. Graduates of this program also prepare for national certification in nursing administration. Applicants should hold a minimum GPA of 3.0 and RN licensure in their home state.
St. Xavier University
College Choice Score: 98.42
Tuition Per Credit: $690
Learners at Saint Xavier University can pursue one of three online MSN programs, choosing from clinical leadership, executive leadership, and nurse educator tracks. Curricula consist of 35 or 38 credits, depending on a student’s program, and feature a balanced blend of core courses and specialty topics. In addition to classroom learning, participants must complete a practicum experience. Graduates of the nurse educator track can also sit for the certified nurse educator certification exam offered by the National League for Nursing. Additionally, nurses who already hold an MSN can enroll and earn a clinical leadership or nurse educator stand-alone certificate.
University of Cincinnati
College Choice Score: 98.37
Tuition Per Credit: $655
The University of Cincinnati hosts five online MSN programs. Participants can take all coursework online, although some students may need to complete on-site components once or twice per semester. Students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis, with full-time learners taking two years to graduate. UC also hosts a nurse faculty loan program, which awards up to $35,000 a year to MSN students who plan on becoming nurse educators; up to 85% of these loans may be canceled in exchange for service as a full-time nursing faculty at a nursing school after graduation. Applicants to UC’s MSN programs must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a current RN license.
University of Texas at Tyler
College Choice Score: 98.37
Tuition Per Credit: $440
The University of Texas at Tyler helps nurses advance their careers by offering four MSN degrees to distance learners. Students can choose from administration, dual MSN/MBA, education, and family nurse practitioner programs. Degree tracks range from 36-63 credits and all participants must complete a capstone project and clinical hours. Graduate students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis, with full-time learners finishing in 5-8 terms (including some summer classes), depending on their program. The school’s nurse practitioner program uses a hybrid format, requiring students to spend some time on campus. Applicants must show proof of a current nursing license.
Stony Brook University (SUNY)
College Choice Score: 98.31
Tuition Per Credit: $925
Stony Brook University’s nursing school offers eight MSN programs that students can complete through a combination of online coursework and some on-site requirements. Program options include neonatal nurse practitioner, nurse midwifery, and nursing leadership. Degree tracks require students to complete 36-45 credits and most curricula feature extensive clinical coursework. Graduates of many of these programs also qualify to sit for national certification exams. All applicants should hold a current RN license, and at least one year of relevant work experience is preferred.
George Washington University
College Choice Score: 98.06
Tuition Per Credit: $1,030
Students with a bachelor’s degree in nursing can choose from six different online MSN programs at George Washington University, including degree tracks focusing on adult gerontology and psychiatric mental health. The school also caters to experienced nurses who only hold an associate degree, offering three online RN-MSN programs. Specific curricula vary depending on a learner’s chosen concentration, but most students need to complete a minimum number of clinical hours and participate in some events and classes on campus. Participants must hold an active and unencumbered nursing license, and GW prefers that applicants have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Georgia College & State University
College Choice Score: 97.74
Tuition Per Credit: $373
Georgia College & State University hosts three online MSN programs suitable for BSN-prepared nurses: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and nurse educator. All of these programs can be completed online with minimal on-campus attendance. Each degree tracks consists of about 40 credits and features clinical and practicum requirements. Individuals may enroll as part-time or full-time learners. Additionally, students seeking to earn a doctoral degree can complete MSN and DNP programs in approximately 3.5 years. All applicants should have a minimum 2.75 GPA over their last 60 undergraduate credits, an unencumbered RN license, and at least one year of clinical practice.
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
College Choice Score: 97.60
Tuition Per Credit: $1,115
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs offers three options for students interested in earning an online master of science in nursing. Learners can choose primary care adult/gero, primary care family, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs. To graduate, students must complete 46-48 credits of coursework, including a practicum, 630 contact hours, and a research project or thesis. Participants must complete all degree requirements within a period of six years. Applicants should hold a minimum overall GPA of 2.75 (with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 in nursing-related classes) and an unrestricted RN license.
University of Nevada Las Vegas
College Choice Score: 97.48
Tuition Per Credit: $725
Distance learners at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas can choose from two online MSN programs: a family nurse practitioner track and a nursing education track. The 46-credit practitioner track culminates with a clinical synthesis experience, whereas the 33-credit education track finishes with a scholarship project. Nursing programs hold 2-3-day orientation sessions on campus before the beginning of each fall semester, and some clinical courses feature mandatory on-campus sessions during the semester. Applicants must hold an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher (or a minimum 3.0 during their last two years of undergrad), a valid RN license in their state of residence, and at least one year of experience as an RN.
University of Pittsburgh
College Choice Score: 97.34
Tuition Per Credit: $1,179
The University of Pittsburgh hosts a popular online platform that allows distance learners to earn an MSN degree through a clinical nurse leader track or a nursing informatics track. Each concentration takes students five terms (including one summer term) to complete and features practicum coursework and a comprehensive exam. Online classrooms allow for ample discussion, problem solving, networking, and community building. Upon graduation, candidates qualify to sit for the clinical nurse leader or nursing informatics certification exams. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA, relevant clinical experience, and a current RN license.
College Choice Score: 97.34
Tuition Per Credit: $1,218
Learners interested in earning an online MSN specializing in forensic nursing, nursing education and faculty role, or family nurse practitioner can enroll at Duquesne University. These courses of study range from 36-42 credits, combining a 21-credit MSN core with five specialization-related classes. Participants can choose from three start dates each year. Students who want to pursue any of these specializations need to hold a BSN from an accredited school (earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA), a valid RN license, and at least one year of full-time experience working as an RN.
University of Alabama Birmingham
College Choice Score: 97.15
Tuition Per Credit: $1,157
The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers about a dozen online MSN programs, including an RN to MSN pathway, a nurse practitioner neonatal track, and a nursing health systems admin track. Each of these blended programs delivers at least half of its coursework online, with the remaining content delivered in face-to-face intensives on campus. Most of these programs consist of 45 credits and feature practicum coursework and residency experiences. Graduates qualify to sit for relevant certification exams, and many students elect to pursue DNP programs. Applicants should possess a BSN and an unencumbered nursing license.
College Choice Score: 97.14
Tuition Per Credit: $1,863
Registered nurses seeking to advance their careers and further their education can pursue one of four MSN degree tracks online at Georgetown University. These include specializations in adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner, and women’s health nurse practitioner. [email protected] programs allow for ample individualized attention, featuring a student-to-teacher ratio of about 12:1. Depending on the program, students complete 40-49 credits and accumulate at least 600 clinical hours. Learners can expect to graduate in 19-27 months, depending on their program and enrollment status. Finally, in addition to online coursework, students participate in two or three mandatory on-campus intensives.
Oregon Health and Science University
College Choice Score: 97.13
Tuition Per Credit: $729
The nursing school at Oregon Health & Science University hosts two online master’s programs that can help professional nurses assume leadership roles: a nursing education program and a health systems and organizational leadership (HSOL) program. Both programs start in the fall and take 18 months (seven terms) to complete. The HSOL option is offered fully online, while nursing education students complete most coursework online with occasional face-to-face intensives. Participants of the nursing education track can further customize their degree by choosing a clinical population focus area in psychiatric mental health nursing, community health nursing, or adult gerontological nursing.
College Choice Score: 97.10
Tuition Per Credit: $999
Chicago’s Rush University helps working nurses earn an advanced degree and qualify for leadership positions. The school’s MSN nursing leadership: clinical nurse leader program is a part-time degree track that students can complete in two years. To earn this 37-credit degree, participants complete six or seven credits each term. Most coursework can be completed online, although one class requires students to spend two days on campus. Learners must also complete certain residency requirements at their place of employment. All applicants should hold a BSN — earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA — and a valid RN license.
University of Arizona
College Choice Score: 97.02
Tuition Per Credit: $800
Practicing nurses with an associate or bachelor’s in nursing can enroll in the college of nursing at the University of Arizona to earn an MSN degree online. The school’s clinical systems leadership program helps nurses advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Students with an associate degree can earn their master’s in as few as 24 months, while bachelor’s degree holders can graduate in 15 months. Learners elect to enroll on a full-time or part-time basis, and all coursework can be completed online. Classes in this program start three times a year, and applicants should hold hold at least one full year of RN work experience.
Texas Christian University
College Choice Score: 97.02
Tuition Per Credit: $1,415
Students at Texas Christian University can pick from four different online MSN programs: clinical nurse specialist, clinical nurse leader, nursing education, and nursing administration and leadership. These programs require students to finish 33-38 credits and complete clinical practicum experiences. Full-time students graduate in two years, while part-timers can earn their diplomas in three years. Students pursuing the clinical nurse specialist or nurse education tracks can further customize their degree by choose from adult-gerontology or pediatric tracks. Applicants should hold a BSN from an accredited school — preferably earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA — and at least one year of full-time experience as an RN.
University of Missouri Kansas City
College Choice Score: 96.73
Tuition Per Credit: $400
The University of Missouri-Kansas City hosts seven online MSN tracks, including neonatal nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner options. Students must complete 41-46 credits to graduate, depending on their program of study. Most programs offer start dates in the spring and summer. Faculty deliver online coursework through the Blackboard learning management system and use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes. Applicants must hold a BSN (earned with a GPA of at least 3.2) and an unencumbered nursing license.
College Choice Score: 96.58
Tuition Per Credit: $1,219
Learners interested in pursuing an MSN degree online with a nurse-midwifery specialty can enroll at Vanderbilt University’s school of nursing. Faculty deliver this program using a hybrid format, where course delivery and attendance requirements vary each semester. For example, this specialty uses weekly face-to-face coursework during the first term, but on-campus requirements gradually decrease as students progress through their course of study. During their last term, participants only need to attend campus for the first and last weeks of the semester. Online learners can also choose to pursue a nurse-midwifery/family nurse practitioner dual-focus pathway.
Eastern Kentucky University
College Choice Score: 96.55
Tuition Per Credit: $625
Eastern Kentucky University delivers two online MSN programs: a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner track and a rural health family nurse practitioner track. These programs, which consist of 46 or 47 credits, feature eight-week long classes and require no campus visits. Students complete both an internship and clinical hours before graduating. Participants may transfer as many as 12 credits into the program, and learners can elect to enroll in the fall, spring, or summer term. Applicants must hold a BSN earned with a GPA of at least 3.0, an unrestricted RN license, and at least one year of experience working as a registered nurse.
East Carolina University
College Choice Score: 96.37
Tuition Per Credit: $957
East Carolina University houses a popular college of nursing that offers seven online MSN programs, including clinical nurse specialist and nursing midwifery concentrations. Programs range from 37-51 credits in length, and students can elect to enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Most concentrations do not require campus visits, although participants of the midwifery track need to attend campus for 2-4 days at the beginning of each clinical course. Applicants to each of these programs must have a BSN earned with an overall GPA of at least 2.7 (with an in-major GPA of 3.0 or higher) and a current RN license.
Ball State University
College Choice Score: 96.30
Tuition Per Credit: $579
Distance learners at Ball State University can pursue nurse educator, nurse administrator, or family nurse practitioner pathways to earn an MSN degree online. Students in each of these degree tracks complete a research core, a nursing core, several concentration-specific classes, and practicum or clinical hours. Faculty deliver coursework entirely online using an asynchronous format. Students have six years to complete the program. Applicants should hold a BSN, earned with an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, and an unencumbered license as an RN.