Best Online Nurse Practitioners Degree Programs

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Why Earn a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

Nurse practitioners (NP) are advanced practice nurses who have earned a master’s degree, completed clinical training, and received licensure. Nurse practitioners examine and treat patients. They may work under the supervision of a medical doctor, but many states allow NPs to practice without supervision.

Experienced nurses with a bachelor’s degree are excellent candidates to pursue a nurse practitioner degree online. These programs often require at least one year of nursing experience. Many nurse practitioners specialize in an area of patient care, which can lead to more career opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nurse practitioner jobs to grow 26% between 2018 and 2028, so students who earn a nurse practitioner master’s degree online enjoy strong job prospects.

Top 10 Best Online Nurse Practitioners Degree Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
2 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL
3 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY
4 Maryville University Saint Louis, MO
5 University of Missouri-Kansas City Kansas City, MO
6 Northern Illinois University Dekalb, IL
7 American International College Springfield, MA
8 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
9 University of Rochester Rochester, NY
10 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
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FAQ

How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

Most NP programs take two years of full-time study to complete. Graduates also need to complete licensure requirements, which vary by state.

What are the most common specialities for a nurse practitioner?

Common specialties for nurse practitioners include family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and psychiatric nurse practitioner.

What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant?

Nurse practitioners attend nursing school, while physicians’ assistants (PAs) attend medical school. Both professionals may consult with or work under the supervision of medical doctors. NPs generally take a patient-centered approach to care, while PAs deliver a disease-centered approach.

Are nurse practitioner programs online?

Yes, online nurse practitioner programs exist, including nurse practitioner master’s online programs. Typically, students complete coursework online and practicum hours at an approved local site.

Accreditation for Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees

Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to factors like faculty qualifications, academic rigor, and student learning outcomes. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions, while national accreditation applies to for-profit, vocational and technical schools. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two.

Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. To receive accreditation, programs must undergo a critical review and onsite evaluation by a third-party accrediting body. The program must meet a formal set of standards and procedures. Programs must demonstrate continued compliance with the standards and procedures to maintain accreditation. Accredited programs in good standing are more likely to offer a well-rounded, professionally relevant education than non-accredited programs.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is the primary accreditor of nursing programs. CCNE accredits bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, certificate, and residency programs. The agency is currently developing nurse practitioner residency program accreditation standards.

Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

These rankings represent the best online nurse practitioner programs in the country – and the most affordable. Searching for the right program is a daunting process. To make your research easier, we provide information on important factors like tuition, credit hours, and degree specialties.

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Colorado - Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus offers an online master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner concentration. Students learn to manage common chronic and acute illnesses, complete advanced physical assessments, and prevent disease. The program combines online coursework with on-campus intensives and features a cohort model that helps students develop connections with each other.

    The 2.5-year program requires 42 didactic credits, 14 clinical credits, and 630 clinical hours. Classes include advanced pharmacology and therapeutics, foundations of healthcare informatics, and foundational clinical skills for advanced practice nurse practitioners. Students can participate in interprofessional learning and global health opportunities. The program offers two start dates each year.

    The University of Colorado - Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.



  2. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online nurse practitioner MSN from the University of Alabama at Birmingham prepares students for advanced practice nursing roles in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and community agencies. The program combines online coursework with four on-campus intensives. Students can choose from nine specialties, including family nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, and women's healthcare nurse practitioner.

    Applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA in their last 60 credits and a valid nursing license. They must also submit official transcripts; three professional letters of recommendation; and GRE, GMAT, or MAT scores. Prospective students with a 3.2 GPA or higher receive a standardized test score waiver. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Stony Brook University
    Location

    Stony Brook, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Stony Brook University boasts one of the best nurse practitioner degree programs. The online MSN - family nurse practitioner combines online coursework with on-site clinical requirements. The 45-credit degree includes classes like statistical methods and scholarly inquiry, healthcare policy and advocacy, and applications in clinical nursing research. Graduates can sit for family nurse practitioner certification exams from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

    Applicants need a BSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a current RN license, and one year of relevant experience. They must also submit three letters of recommendation and unofficial college transcripts. Prospective students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing must submit a clinical practice portfolio. Stony Brook University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  4. Maryville University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Maryville University in Saint Louis, Missouri, offers a fully online family nurse practitioner MSN that lets students complete clinical requirements in their local communities. The program offers six start dates per year and includes courses like evidence-based practice in nursing, theoretical foundations of nursing practice, and leadership and quality.

    Students must complete 15 classes and 745 clinical hours over four semesters. Online students gain access to resources like personalized advising, an online library, a writing studio, technical support, and personal counseling.

    Maryville University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The family nurse practitioner MSN is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  5. University of Missouri-Kansas City
    Location

    Kansas City, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Missouri - Kansas City offers one of the best nurse practitioner degree programs in the state. The online MSN - family nurse practitioner program explores topics like health promotion, diagnosis, assessment, and management. The primarily online program includes an on-campus clinical institute each semester. Some online classes require attendance at specific times.

    The 46-credit program requires classes like theoretical foundations in nursing, health promotion across the lifespan, and ethics in advanced practice and research. In addition to coursework, students must complete 660 clinical hours and 90 lab hours.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.2 GPA during the last 60 credits and a personal interview. The University of Missouri-Kansas City is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  6. Northern Illinois University
    Location

    Dekalb, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northern Illinois University offers one of the top online nurse practitioner programs in the state. The online MSN - family nurse practitioner program features fully online courses and in-person clinical requirements. An internship coordinator helps students find appropriate clinical placements.

    Classes include clinical prevention for population health, advanced physical assessment across the lifespan, and primary care for women across the lifespan. Graduates can work as family nurse practitioners and nurse educators.

    The program accepts up to six transfer credits. NIU provides dedicated scholarships to distance learners. Admission requirements include an accredited BSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 undergraduate credits and a current RN license. Northern Illinois University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. American International College
    Location

    Springfield, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the online MSN - family nurse practitioner program from American International College takes two years of full-time study to complete. The 46-credit program includes core courses on topics like advanced concepts of pathophysiology, advanced concepts of health assessment, and nursing research and evidence-based practice.

    The program offers rolling admissions, evaluating applications year-round. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and an active RN license. The program prefers applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also submit official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

    American International College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  8. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers an online master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner program that emphasizes wellness care, health promotion, chronic illness management, and current issues in family medicine. Graduates can sit for family nurse practitioner certification exams from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

    Classes feature a synchronous, interactive learning format. The mostly online program requires two two-day on-campus simulated clinical learning experiences. Drexel University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The family nurse practitioner MSN is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  9. University of Rochester
    Location

    Rochester, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Rochester offers an online nurse practitioner program with concentrations in pediatric nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner.

    Regardless of their concentration, all students complete core courses on topics like advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, and research principles for evidence-based practice. In addition to coursework, students must complete 672 clinical hours.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited nursing school with a minimum 3.0 GPA, an RN license, and CPR certification. They must also submit official transcripts, two letters of reference, a professional goal statement, a resume, and a writing sample. The University of Rochester is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  10. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    East Carolina University offers an online master of science in nursing with neonatal nurse practitioner and psychiatric nurse practitioner concentrations. Regardless of their concentration, all students take courses like theory for the practice of advanced nursing, health assessment for advanced nursing across the lifespan, and research for the practice of advanced nursing.

    Applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the nursing major and a valid RN license. They must also submit GRE scores, a career statement, and three professional references. East Carolina University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

10 Best Online DNP Programs for Nurse Practitioners

Career and Salary Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners enjoy strong job prospects. The BLS projects a 26% increase in nurse practitioner jobs between 2018 and 2028, amounting to around 16,900 new jobs per year. NPs also earn strong salaries. The median salary for nurse practitioners in May 2019 was $109,820.

However, many factors influence salary, including industry, location, and experience. Hospitals pay the highest average salaries, followed by outpatient care centers. Meanwhile, NPs in California earn approximately $16,000 more per year than their counterparts in Minnesota.

Bottom 10% Annual SalaryMedian Annual SalaryTop 10% Annual Salary
Less than $80,670$107.030More than $182,750

Source: BLS

Specialties for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners often specialize in an area of patient care. Students generally choose their specialty when applying to a master’s program, so experience in the field is helpful. The most common NP specialty is family nurse practitioner. Family nurse practitioners fill advanced roles in hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practices.

Psychiatric nurse practitioner is another common specialty. These NPs provide case management, therapy, and interventions to people in need of psychiatric care. Psychiatric nurse practitioners earn one of the highest average salaries among NPs. Programs offer various specialties, so students should research the offerings of each prospective program.

Courses in Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse practitioner students develop the skills necessary to assess, prevent, and treat acute and chronic illnesses. Students also develop research and analytical skills through projects and theses. Additionally, learners gain hands-on experience through clinical practicums, honing their patient care skills.

All students complete core coursework in nursing, research, and health assessment. Specialized courses may include healthcare delivery models and policy, health promotion at different life stages, and pharmacology. Courses vary by program, but we cover several common courses found in online nurse practitioner programs below.

Research for Advanced Nursing Practice

In this course, students learn to integrate evidence-based approaches into their practice. Coursework focuses on the role of nursing theory and research to identify problems, evaluate studies, and implement evidence-based guidelines. Students learn methods for improving patient outcomes through evidence-based and values-based approaches.

Advanced Pathophysiology

In this course, learners study the various disease processes of the body and their underlying mechanisms, clinical presentations of disease, and evidence-based therapies. Students also develop skills in diagnostic screening and testing. Graduates can apply pathophysiological concepts to patient care and support patients in leading healthy lives.

Health Assessment Across the Lifespan

This course prepares students to conduct health assessments with patients of all ages. Topics include cognitive processes and psychomotor skills, differential diagnoses, and diagnostic procedures. Graduates can perform comprehensive physical, mental, developmental, and nutritional assessments.

Healthcare Delivery Models

In this class, students examine healthcare delivery systems, economics, and policy to understand how healthcare policy is formed and implemented. Students explore nursing practice and healthcare delivery theories in addition to the impact of economics on patients and the role of policy and economics in healthcare reform.

Health Promotion

This specialized course for family nurse practitioners is often offered as a series, with each course focused on a specific age group or demographic. Coursework generally covers the maintenance and management of chronic and acute health conditions. Students learn preventative methods, diagnostic techniques, and treatment options for common diseases.

Certifications and Licensure for Nurse Practitioners

NPs need a license to practice, but licensure requirements vary by state. States also vary in how much they restrict a nurse practitioner’s ability to practice, with some allowing unsupervised practice and others requiring NPs to practice under a medical doctor’s supervision.

Restricted states generally do not hold reciprocity agreements with other states. However, some states are moving toward adopting a common set of requirements, which helps ease restrictions and make reciprocal licensure easier. Typical licensure requirements include a master’s degree from an accredited program, certification from a recognized certification board, and a current RN license.

The three most recognized certification boards for NPs are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). AANPCB offers family NP, adult-gerontology NP, and emergency NP certifications. ANCC offers family, primary care, acute care, clinical care, adult-gerontology, and psychiatric-mental health NP certifications. PNCB certifies pediatric nurse practitioners in acute and primary care.

Scholarships for Nurse Practitioners

Many private businesses and professional organizations offer scholarships that help nurses offset the costs of tuition. Below, we cover several of many potential scholarships for nurse practitioner students.

AACN Scholarship

Who Can Apply: These scholarships are available to pre-licensure students enrolled at AACN member schools. Two scholarships are awarded twice per year. Deadlines to apply are January 15 and July 15.
Amount: $2,500

Madeline Pickett (Halbert) Cogswell Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students in an accredited nursing program who are members of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), descendants of a member, or eligible for membership can apply. Applicants are encouraged to contact their local DAR chapter.
Amount: $2,500

NAHN Nursing Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Members of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses who have been in good standing for at least six months prior to the application deadline can apply. Students must be enrolled full time in an accredited program.
Amount: Up to $5,000

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be enrolled in a CastleBranch-affiliated AACN member school with a minimum 3.2 GPA. Two scholarships are awarded four times per year. The application form is available on the website.
Amount: $5,000

Tylenol Future Care Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Current graduate students or college seniors enrolling in a graduate nursing program can apply. Applicants must be U.S. residents seeking a degree to actively treat patients. Candidates must submit an essay and transcripts.
Amount: $5,000 (25), $10,000 (10)

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