Most Affordable Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees

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What Are the Goals of a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) need a valid license, an advanced degree, and several years of nursing experience to practice. NPs enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for NPs to grow 26% between 2018 and 2028. In 2019, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $115,800.

Because of their training and experience, NPs often assume leadership positions in hospitals. Additionally, some NPs focus on research, adding to the body of knowledge that influences and improves nursing practice, while others work as educators, training a new generation of nursing professionals.

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FAQ

What is the difference between a registered nurse (RN) and a nurse practitioner?

An NP enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than an RN. NPs can see patients independently, order tests, diagnose illnesses, and, in many states, prescribe medications.

Do you need a bachelor’s degree to be a nurse practitioner?

Most NP programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Some programs accept RNs with an associate degree and extensive nursing experience. However, they may need to enroll in advanced nursing classes before they can begin postgraduate studies.

Do you need a license to be a nurse practitioner?

All states require NPs to hold a license to practice.

Are nurse practitioner programs online?

Many schools offer online NP programs, but these programs typically require an in-person internship. Most programs allow online enrollees to complete their internship at an approved site in their community.

Accreditation for an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree

Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to 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.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process. Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For instance, only learners at accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools and credentialing bodies only recognize and accept accredited degrees. Additionally, many employers prefer or require candidates to hold an accredited degree.

Programs within a school may also receive accreditation, such as business, social work, and nursing programs. Students researching online nurse practitioner degrees should look for programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Nicholls State University Thibodaux, LA
2 Angelo State University San Angelo, TX
3 Georgia Southwestern State University Americus, GA
4 Columbus State University Columbus, GA
5 Morningside College Sioux City, IA
6 Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi Corpus Christi, TX
7 Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, TX
8 Clayton State University Morrow, GA
9 Spring Arbor University Spring Arbor, MI
10 Delta State University Cleveland, MS

2020 Most Affordable Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees

We ranked the following online nurse practitioner degrees by factors like quality and affordability. Although not an exhaustive list, these schools offer some of the most affordable nurse practitioner degrees in their regions.

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Nicholls State University
    Location

    Thibodaux, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution in Thibodaux, Louisiana, Nicholls State University enrolls 6,500 students each year. Nicholls offers an online nurse practitioner degree with family nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner tracks.

    Depending on their track, online nursing students take 42-51 credits of coursework and complete 600 clinical hours. Core classes for both tracks cover topics like advanced practice nursing, leadership for nurse practitioners, and population-based primary care. Students also complete a focused scholarly project or thesis.

    Prospective nursing students need a BSN degree from an accredited nursing program with a minimum 2.7 GPA on the final 60 credits. Nicholls also requires a current Louisiana RN license. Nicholls State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The nurse practitioner degree holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  2. Angelo State University
    Location

    San Angelo, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1928, Angelo State University is a public institution in San Angelo, Texas. ASU offers an online nurse practitioner program that trains family nurse practitioners. The program prepares nurses for advanced practice roles through online coursework and clinical requirements.

    Students learn to provide holistic care, promote health, and prevent diseases. Online learners study topics like advanced nursing, evidence-based practice, and advanced health assessment. Students also complete practicum and family primary care courses. Learners can complete clinical requirements at an approved local site.

    Prospective students must reside in Texas and hold a BSN degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Angelo State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the graduate nursing programs at ASU.

  3. Georgia Southwestern State University
    Location

    Americus, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Americus, Georgia Southwestern State University offers an online nurse practitioner program with a family nurse practitioner track. The degree prepares nurses for advanced practice nursing roles through a flexible online format.

    Online nursing students complete theory courses online and 765 clinical hours in their local area. Clinical hours allow students to build hands-on skills working with patients. Full-time students can complete the 44-credit MSN program in 22 months.

    Applicants need a BSN degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Georgia Southwestern State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The nurse practitioner program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  4. Columbus State University
    Location

    Columbus, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution located in Columbus, Georgia, Columbus State University dates back to 1958. The school offers an affordable nurse practitioner degree online that trains family nurse practitioners. Online learners complete asynchronous coursework, allowing them to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

    The 44-credit program includes 15 core credits, 20 specialty credits, and six credits of practicum coursework, which translates into 765 clinical hours. The curriculum emphasizes healthcare delivery and health promotion for patients at different stages of life.

    Prospective students need a BSN degree from an accredited nursing program with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Columbus State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Morningside College
    Location

    Sioux City, IA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private liberal arts college, Morningside College hosts students on its 68-acre campus in Sioux City, Iowa, and online. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Morningside dates back to 1894 and offers an online MSN program with a family nurse practitioner specialization. The program integrates certification into the curriculum so graduates can pursue advanced practice roles.

    Online nursing students learn to diagnose and treat patients and administer treatments. The 47-credit program includes 600 clinical hours and three onsite residencies. Learners study topics like primary care, evidence-based research, and pediatric primary care, preparing for family nurse practitioner certification.

    Applicants need a BSN degree from an accredited nursing program with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Morningside College holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Nylen School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  6. Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi
    Location

    Corpus Christi, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Known as Island University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi operates from an island on the Texas Gulf Coast. The university is a public institution that hosts 12,000 students through on-campus and online programs, including an online family nurse practitioner program. Designed for full-time nurses, the program enrolls students on a part-time basis.

    The 49-credit MSN program incorporates 630 clinical hours that students can complete at an approved local site. Learners study topics like health promotion, health assessment, and acute chronic care. MSN students culminate the degree with an integrated clinical capstone course.

    Prospective students must hold a current Texas RN license. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The College of Nursing and Health Sciences holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  7. Midwestern State University
    Location

    Wichita Falls, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution located in Wichita Falls, Texas, Midwestern State University dates back to 1922. MSU enrolls students on its 255-acre campus and online. The online nurse practitioner degree offered through the Wilson School of Nursing expands the skills of registered nurses. Graduates qualify to sit for national certification exams.

    The family nurse practitioner curriculum includes 18 core credits, 24 clinical credits, and six credits of a thesis or evidence-based project courses. Online learners complete clinical hours at a family practice clinical site approved by the program.

    Applicants need a BSN degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA on the final 60 credits and a current RN license. Midwestern State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Wilson School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  8. Clayton State University
    Location

    Morrow, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Morrow, Georgia, Clayton State University is a public institution that offers a variety of online degrees, including an online family nurse practitioner degree. The program trains professional nurses for advanced practice roles through online coursework and clinical hours.

    The 47-credit program requires 585 clinical hours and emphasizes collaborative learning, community-based nursing skills, and care for vulnerable populations. Online nurse practitioner students take courses on topics like advanced health assessment, evidence-based nursing practice, and healthcare policy. Students culminate the degree with a nurse practitioner practicum.

    Prospective MSN students need a BSN degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a current Georgia RN license. Clayton State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  9. Spring Arbor University
    Location

    Spring Arbor, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private Methodist institution in Michigan, Spring Arbor University dates back to 1873. SAU offers online and on-campus nursing programs, including an online nurse practitioner degree. The curriculum provides a Christian perspective on nursing care and trains students to assess, treat, and manage acute and chronic illnesses.

    Students can choose from family nurse practitioner and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner tracks. In both tracks, students complete one seven-week course at a time. Courses cover topics like moral and ethical decision-making, theoretical perspectives for advanced practice, and role development and leadership. Online learners benefit from a dedicated student success coach.

    Prospective students need a BSN degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA on the final 60 credits. Spring Arbor University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredits the nurse practitioner program.

  10. Delta State University
    Location

    Cleveland, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution in Cleveland, Mississippi, Delta State University enrolls 3,500 students annually. The institution's Robert E. Smith School of Nursing offers an online MSN degree with a family nurse practitioner track.

    The program combines online courses with campus seminars to offer a hybrid route to an MSN degree. Learners study topics like nursing ethics, differential diagnosis, role synthesis, and informatics in clinical practice. Students must complete clinical requirements in Mississippi or Arkansas.

    Prospective students need a BSN degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a GRE analytical score of at least 3.0, and at least one year of clinical nursing experience. Delta State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Robert E. Smith School of Nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Career and Salary Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

The BLS projects a faster-than-average growth rate for NP jobs between 2018 and 2028. These professionals also enjoy above-average salaries, making a median annual salary over $115,000, with the top 10% of earners making more than $184,180. However, salary varies by factors like location, employer, and experience.

Private physicians hire the most NPs, followed by medical and surgical hospitals and outpatient care centers. The top five states that hire the most NPs include California (13,570), New York (13,450), Texas (10,730), Florida (10,380), and Ohio (7,460).

Specialties for Nurse Practitioners

NPs can pursue specialties to advance their careers and improve their earning potential. NPs can specialize in areas like gerontology and families. Some states allow family NPs to open their own practice. However, many family NPs work in hospitals, community clinics, and private physicians’ offices.

With an aging American population, the gerontology field offers rich professional opportunities for NPs. Within this specialty, NPs can further specialize in primary care or acute care. Primary care gerontology NPs often work in hospitals and clinics or private practice. Many acute care gerontology NPs work in nursing homes or hospice care centers.

In addition to licensure, most states require specialty NPs to be certified by a recognized accreditor in their specialization before they can treat patients within a specific practice arena.

Courses in Nurse Practitioner Programs

NPs typically need a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. Most MSN programs require at least 30 credits of graduate-level nursing coursework in addition to 400-1,000 clinical practice hours. The length of time it takes to earn an MSN depends on factors like enrollment status, program format, and specialization. Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines classes commonly found in MSN programs.

Advanced Health Assessment

In this course, students develop the diagnostic skills and knowledge needed to make accurate and timely health assessments. They learn to gather, interpret, and synthesize data to develop a comprehensive health evaluation and craft an individual treatment plan. The course focuses on evidence-based practice, which helps students develop critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology

This course explores different types of diseases from cellular, molecular, and systemic perspectives. Students learn how to integrate relevant data about a patient’s underlying physiological condition into an effective and comprehensive treatment protocol.

Biostatistics and Epidemiology

Students explore various epidemiological methods that can help them understand the effects of environmental factors on disease outbreaks and human health in general. The course provides students with hands-on opportunities to use advanced computer software that can help them link fundamental epidemiological principles with relevant statistical methodologies.

Healthcare Ethics

In this course, students reflect on current healthcare practice and analyze how it succeeds (or fails) to address the health needs of society’s most vulnerable populations. The course challenges students to develop a professional philosophy that advances the human condition and addresses the needs of underserved populations.

Health Policy

This course examines how advocacy, industry regulation, and public policy influence the delivery of healthcare services in the United States. Learners study topics like healthcare reform, national health expenditures, patient access, and health disparities as they relate to advanced nursing practice and overall health outcomes.

Certifications and Licensure for Nurse Practitioners

All states require NPs to hold licensure before they can practice, and some states require licensed NPs to hold additional certification in their specialization. The nursing field recognizes several organizations that offer specialized certifications. For example, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board administers certification programs for family, adult-gerontology, and emergency NPs.

The following list represents a small sample of available certification programs for qualified NPs.

Scholarships for Nurse Practitioners

Government agencies, private nursing organizations, and colleges and universities throughout the country offer several types of financial assistance programs to undergraduate and graduate nursing students. In addition to scholarships and grants, nursing students can pursue low-interest student loans or take advantage of federal loan forgiveness programs.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students currently enrolled in an accredited MSN program with an NP specialization qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must have completed at least one semester of their program before submitting the application.
Amount: $2,500-$5,000

Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: Administered by the March of Dimes, this program accepts applications from graduate nursing students pursuing a specialization in maternal-child nursing. Applicants need at least one more academic term to complete in their program at the time of application.
Amount: $5,000

Elaine Gelman Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Administered by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, this program accepts applications from MSN students enrolled in an accredited pediatric nursing program. Applicants must demonstrate the ability to craft innovative solutions to existing pediatric health issues.
Amount: $1,000

Nurses Educational Funds, Inc. Scholarships

Who Can Apply: NEF administers several scholarship programs for undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Scholarships are available for MSN students pursuing specializations in areas such as geriatric nursing, nurse leadership, and psychiatric mental health nursing.
Amount: Varies

Oncology Nursing Foundation Master’s Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from licensed RNs currently enrolled in or applying to an accredited nursing master’s program. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to pursue a career in oncology nursing after graduation.
Amount: $5,000

Learn More…

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