The 25 Best Online MSN Programs

Are you ready to take your nursing career to the next level with a master’s degree? Online MSN programs provide an opportunity for nurses to get the education they need to advance their career while continuing to earn an income. Read on to learn more about what you can do with an online MSN degree, and find the program that best aligns with your career goals.

With new healthcare legislation, increased emphasis on preventative medicine, and aging baby-boomers, demand for healthcare services for MSN graduates is expected to grow 31% between 2012 and 2022.

Choosing a Program

Who can earn an online master’s in nursing?

Generally, those who enter an MSN program online already have a bachelor’s in nursing. The master’s builds on the bachelor’s degree, allowing students to develop expertise in one area. Specifically, an MSN program is for students who have assessed personal career goals and matched them to individual, community, and industry needs. However, even students who haven’t received a bachelor’s degrees in nursing can find “bridge” programs that take them from an RN to an MSN seamlessly.

Will an online MSN equip me the skills I need?

In an MSN program, you will contribute to health care research, grow your professional network, develop management and leadership skills, and gain the advanced knowledge needed to move forward in your career. Graduates of an online MSN program can work as nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, certified clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse anesthetists, among other specialized roles.

Will an online program fit into my schedule?

Online programs are designed to be flexible. Students can log in anywhere at any time and complete their coursework, making the distance format ideal for busy professionals. Nurses can continue to work and earn money while they complete an online MSN and advance their training.

How do I find the best Online MSN program for me?

Every school approaches distance learning differently. To help you find the right program, we’ve created a ranking of the best online MSN degrees across the U.S. Explore the school profiles below to find program highlights, areas of specialization, and course information, and take the first step in launching your new career.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1University of Texas – Medical Branch 2/5N/AGalveston, TX

Founded in 1891, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) is the state's first medical school. Starting out as one hospital and one school with 23 students, it's grown into a massive complex with six hospitals, four schools with 2,500 students and residents, an extensive network of campus- and community-based clinics, a Level I trauma center, two institutes, an affiliated Shriners Burns Hospital and state-of-the-art research facilities.

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Texas offers six specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP), Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), Executive Nurse Leader (ENL) and Nurse Educator (NE).

All programs are offered online, and they share seven core courses: Foundations of Theory and Research, Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, Informatics/QI, Public Policy, Advanced Health Assessment and Innovations in Community Health Practice. The ENL track excludes Pathophysiology, Pharmacology and Advanced Health Assessment.

UTMB arms graduates not only to contribute to the improvement of health care, but also to influence healthcare policy through practice and research. Students will develop collaborative relationships with colleagues from nursing and other disciplines, and they'll be primed for leadership in today's market.

Quick Facts

  • In 2003 UTMB received funding to construct a $150 million Galveston National Biocontainment Laboratory on its campus.
  • It houses several Biosafety Level 4 research laboratories, where studies on highly infectious materials can be carried out safely.
  • As of 2014, there are 5,729 alumni from the School of Nursing.
  • The School of Nursing was a pioneer in online education offering its first online class in 1996 and its first fully online program (Geriatric Nurse Practitioner) in 1998
  • The School of Nursing is one of five sites in the nation participating in the Graduate Nurse Education (GNE) Demonstration Project funded through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
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2Liberty University 2/550.41%Lynchburg, VA

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is an eight-week online course accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students have the flexibility to complete assignments any time during the week, with no required log-in times. Completion requires up to 42 credit hours; students can transfer in up to 6.

LU's focus is on nursing as a ministry of caring based on Christian ethical standards. Two concentrations are available: Nurse Educator and Nursing Administration. Students can expect experienced faculty and approved preceptors to guide them through their courses.

Graduates will have the critical skills necessary for advanced clinical practice, teaching, research and scholarship. They also have the option for concentration-specific certifications such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center Nurse Executive certification or National League of Nursing Nurse Education certification.

Students who hold an RN license and a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing must complete specific Bachelor of Science in Nursing bridge courses during their first year in the MSN program.

Quick Facts

  • LU became a fully-accredited university in 1985, when they pioneered their first distance learning program: Liberty University Online.
  • LU is the 5th largest school in the US and the world's largest Christian University.
  • They have an 8:1 student to faculty ratio.
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3Frontier Nursing University 3/5N/AHyden, KY

Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is focused on getting fully-equipped graduates out into the workforce. Three specializations are available: Nurse-Midwife, Family Nurse Practitioner or Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner. While the coursework is delivered online, students are required to come to the Hyden, KY campus twice during the program: a four-day orientation at the beginning of the program and a "Clinical Bound" session.

During orientation, students will review their courses, learn skills for distance learning and meet their fellow classmates, faculty, staff and advisors. After completing the majority of coursework, they'll return to campus for the five-day "Clinical Bound" session to strengthen hands-on and clinical management skills. After that, they must complete a minimum of 675 clinical hours in their home community.

Once students have finished the MSN program, they will have an opportunity to seamlessly move onto earning a Companion Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. It requires 17 extra credit hours and 360 additional hours of clinical experience.

Quick Facts

  • FNU's MSN + Companion DNP program is offered in a distance education format where coursework is delivered online and clinical experiences are completed in the student's home community.
  • The Companion DNP takes only 9 months to complete, as opposed to the traditional 15 to complete.
  • Full-time study is estimated to require a commitment of 40 hours per week, while part-time study is estimated at 30.
  • As of 2014, there were 855 students enrolled in the Nurse-Midwifery program. There are more than 1600 total students enrolled, including nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner specialties.
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4Graceland University – Lamoni 2/554.08%Lamoni, IA

Graceland College first opened its doors in 1895, and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools approved the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program in 1995. Today, their Master of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education CCNE.

Their programs are designed to provide working RNs the opportunity to pursue a master's degree through the completion of a combination of online courses, on-campus focus sessions and faculty- and preceptor-guided practicum experiences in the student's local community.

MSN courses are offered online within a 16-week trimester. The main specializations are Family Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Educator. Full-time and part-time curriculums are available.

Over the course of the program, students must attend a two-day focus session located at Graceland University's School of Nursing in Independence, Missouri. This is scheduled in conjunction with the Advanced Practice Competencies Lab.

Common courses include Pharmacotherapeutics, Theory in Nursing, Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning, Research Methods and Evidence Based Practice and Advanced Practice Competencies Lab.

Quick Facts

  • The MSN program was Graceland University's first ever graduate program.
  • The School of Nursing curriculum was developed from Christian beliefs.
  • As of Fall 2014, there were 813 graduate students in total.
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5Georgetown University 5/594.91%Washington, DC

Georgetown has around 2,300 faculty members; the school awarded nearly 3,000 master's degrees across all studies in 2013. Due to their location, students have unique opportunities to participate in site visits, high-level discussions and guest lectures and seminars.

Their Master of Science in Nursing offers multiple tracks for students. Specializations include Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse-Midwifery/Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (NM/WHNP) and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP).

Many of the programs prepare students for exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Graduates regularly achieve first-time pass rates.

Classes are delivered in a live, collaborative online format. Students join fellow nurses in weekly classes hosted by faculty members. The small (12:1) student-to-faculty ratio helps students form strong relationships with their classmates and instructors.

Students may have to complete one or more visits to the Georgetown University campus and NHS's affiliate organizations to collaborate with peers and complete simulations.

Quick Facts

  • Founded in 1798, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the US.
  • The School of Nursing opened in 1903.
  • Georgetown is home to over 2,000 international students (undergraduates and graduates) from more than 120 countries.
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6Nova Southeastern University 3/546.11%Fort Lauderdale, FL

Founded in 1964, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) started as a small college in Fort Lauderdale. Since merging with the Southeastern University of Health Sciences, they've grown to have approximately 27,000 students, 162,000 alumni and a 314-acre campus.

The MSN program at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) requires eight or fewer semesters. The standard specializations include: Nurse Practitioner MSN-Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Concentration and Gerontology-Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (GAACNP). All of which prepare students for certification exams.

For prospective students without a BSN, NSU offers a dual degree program. Students first enter and graduate from the BSN program. Once completed, they can choose from three MSN specializations: Nursing Education, Health System Leadership and Nursing Informatics. Each requires 36 semester hours. They all offer a similar core curriculum and then expand into specially tailored electives. Overall, this takes less time and costs less money than doing both independently.

On the other side, every MSN program prepares students for a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Quick Facts

  • NSU's College of Nursing is one of the largest providers of nursing education in Florida.
  • NSU is a not-for-profit, independent research school.
  • NSU is among 37 universities nationwide to be awarded Carnegie's Community Engagement Classification.
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7Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 2/5N/ALubbock, TX

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) has trained more than 10,000 health care professionals. The school currently meets the health care needs of more than 2.5 million people.

TTUHSC's Master of Science in Nursing offers specializations in administration, education, informatics and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles with focus practice tracks in nurse midwifery, family, adult gerontology acute care, pediatric acute care and pediatrics. The master's program is online with clinical learning experiences available in the student's home community. A post-master's certificate is offered for the APRN tracks.

Students will learn leadership and management skills, the ability to assess safety and effectiveness of health care assessment and how to adapt to today's market. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is required for some of the degrees.

The master's program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education and the Texas Board of Nursing.

Quick Facts

  • The school educates more than 1,400 students each year.
  • Enrollment has steadily increased since 2005.
  • They created The Center for Innovation in Nursing Education (CINE), which provides leadership in designing and implementing nursing education initiatives to change the nature and quality of nursing education within Texas and throughout the nation.
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8University of St. Francis-Joliet 3/556.16%Joliet, IL

The USF Master of Science in Nursing offers a few specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Administration, Nursing Education and a RN-BS-MSN program, for those without bachelor's degrees in nursing.

Certificate programs are also available, including a teaching in nursing option, a post-master's in FNP and psychiatrics and mental health.

Each program is available online and prepares students for careers as nurse practitioners, educators or administrators in the current market. Through their education, they'll develop the skills to assume leadership roles and become instrumental in the promotion of health in today's society.

Due to State Board of Nursing requirements and a shortage of clinical placement sites, students who wish to enroll in the MSN Education or FNP programs must reside in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico or Wisconsin.

Quick Facts

  • The student to faculty ratio is 11:1.
  • The average graduation rate for graduate students from (2006-07 to 2008-09) is 77%.
  • 64% of the student body is female.
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9University of Mississippi – Medical Center 2/5N/AJackson, MS

The Master of Science in Nursing program at the University of Mississippi School of Nursing (UMSN) offers low costs and flexibility in scheduling. Courses are predominantly online.

The eight specializations include: Nursing and Health Care Administrator, Nurse Educator, Acute Care Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Acute/Primary Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Graduates have high pass-rates on national certification exams.

All of the programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). At the most recent accreditation review in March 2012, the Master of Science in Nursing programs was awarded the maximum ten year accreditation period.

The program is affiliated with more than 200 hospitals, community health centers, health departments, mental health facilities, private practice and community clinics and schools, thus offering students extensive opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration in clinical practice and research.

Quick Facts

  • The school of Nursing is located on Mississippi's only academic health science campus.
  • The campus houses the state's only Level 1 trauma center and children's hospital.
  • The Medical Center's has a $1.6 billion annual budget, representing 10% of the Jackson metro area economy and 2% of the state economy.
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10Regis University 3/559.05%Denver, CO

At Regis University (RU), the Master of Science in Nursing program offers these major specializations: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Leadership in Health Care Systems: Education Focus, Leadership in Health Care Systems: Management Focus and Completion for Certified Nurse Practitioners. All are accelerated courses, while only some are online.
RU is especially focused on a MSN to Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner program, where post-BSN students can seamlessly earn a DNP if they so desire.

The program is designed to be taken while maintaining employment, though students may need to decrease hours in order to meet clinical demands. The two specializations offered in this track are Family Nurse Practitioner and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

Courses are taught through classroom instruction on the Denver campus either every-other-weekend for FNP or one day a week for NNP. This allows for face-to-face learning of the important clinical skills needed for advanced practice nursing. Clinical hours are completed on a variable weekday schedule throughout the Denver area, including urban and rural sites.

Once students complete the first two years, they earn the Master of Science (MS) degree in Nursing and are eligible to sit for the corresponding certification exam.

Quick Facts

  • RU is the only Jesuit Catholic University in the Rocky Mountain West
  • The Nursing school is recognized by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) for "creating an environment that fosters superior leadership skills in neonatal nursing practice."
  • Regis University students were awarded more than $142 million in federal, state and institutional aid during the 2013-14 school year.
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11Concordia University – Wisconsin 2/561.19%Mequon, WI

Founded in 1881, Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) is a Lutheran higher education community focused on developing mature Christian students by sharing the teaching of Jesus Christ in all of its educational programs.

The CUW Master of Science in Nursing program offers flexible part-time and full-time options, with a focus in online course delivery. Only two weeks are required on campus for an advanced health assessment course.

The two specialization tracks are Nurse Practitioner, requiring 44 credits, and Nurse Educator, requiring 43. Core coursework includes bioethics, evidence based practice, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment, in addition to electives in their area of specialty.

They also offer a RN-BSN-MSN for students with an associate in nursing who wish to obtain a MSN efficiently.

Quick Facts

  • As of 2015, full-time faculty is evenly split between males and females.
  • There were around 3,200 graduate students across all departments during the last academic year.
  • There were 1,427 graduate students enrolled in nursing programs in the 2014-2015 academic year.
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12Thomas Jefferson University 4/5N/APhiladelphia, PA

The Thomas Jefferson University's Master of Science in Nursing approaches nursing as an art and a science, incorporating theory, research and clinical practice. Full-time students can complete the course of study in 15 months, beginning with a summer semester. Part-time options enable students to take up to five years to complete the program. Courses are available online.

The large variety of specialties include: Adult Gerontology – Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nursing Informatics, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthesia and Pediatric Primary Care. Every specialty includes the same core curriculum, and all specialty areas, with the exception of the Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA) program, require 36 credits.

Students have the opportunity to learn from professionals who are active in clinical practice and research, regularly publish in prestigious journals and who are leaders in state and national organizations. They also gain 16 hours of clinical experience a week in each clinical course.

Quick Facts

  • Students have a 95% pass rate on national certification exams.
  • Graduates have a 98% job placement rate.
  • There are five hospitals, nine outpatient centers and four urgent care centers on-site.
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13The George Washington University 4/579.38%Washington, DC

In 1986, George Washington University partnered with George Mason University (GMU) to allow students to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. GWU is committed to meeting the demand for flexible educational opportunities for nurses to advance their careers through online learning.

For professionals with a bachelor's, their MSN program offers the following specialties: Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Health Care Quality, Nursing Leadership and Management and Nurse-Midwifery.

For those without, they offer a "bridge program" where students can take a Bridge Course over the summer and then move straight into a master's specialty of their choice.

While all of the courses are online, students can expect to come to campus at least one time during their course of study. Each focuses on interdisciplinary teamwork and effective communication across health settings and systems of care system in which they work.

Students can expect to develop leadership skills and improve patient experiences.

Quick Facts

  • GWU offers two skills and simulation laboratories with an additional major expansion underway
  • More than 750 students are enrolled at GW SON, with 54% in the MSN program.
  • The Virginia Science and Technology Campus, in Ashburn, VA, has a premier Skills and Simulation Laboratory.
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14Medical University of South Carolina 3/5N/ACharleston, SC

The Medical University of South Carolina's (MUSC) Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program prepares students for the advanced professional practice role as a primary care nurse practitioner in the areas of adult, family or pediatrics. The MSN program is offered online with a few visits to campus.

The primary care specializations for MSN students are adult-gerontology, family and pediatric practice tracks. Graduates are eligible for certification as a nurse practitioner.

Precepted clinical experiences are individually arranged by the student and can be done where they live. However, they may have to travel to clinical sites if a local preceptor is not available.

For those with a BSN, the MSN program begins in the fall, with full and part-time plans of study available. An individual plan of study is completed at the time of admission into the program.

Throughout the program, students can expect to develop leadership skills, integrate scientific findings into the continual improvement of care and collaborate with other health professionals to manage and coordinate care.

Quick Facts

  • MUSC has 3,973 community contacts through PASOs, Abrazos and Teen Health Leadership programs.
  • They offer 40 radio talk shows on health topics.
  • The Medical College of South Carolina was one of the first medical schools in the United States to establish, in 1834, an infirmary specifically for teaching purposes.
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15Benedictine University 3/550.92%Lisle, IL

For more than 25 years, Benedictine University (BU) has offered cutting-edge education programs for working nurses. Their affordable, flexible Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is designed to meet the challenges facing the nursing profession requiring advanced knowledge and skills that aren't taught on the job.

The two specializations are Nursing Executive Leader (Nurse Administrator) and Nurse Educator. They'll help students transform their nursing careers and rise to the demands of healthcare in the 21st century.

To align with the demanding schedules of today's professionals, Benedictine's Online MSN program offers three opportunities to start courses per year. They offer six academic sessions per year, which means most students take six courses per year. On average, the program is designed to be completed in about two years.

Graduates fulfill the academic requirements necessary to sit for the Nurse Executive (NE-BC) or Nurse Executive - Advanced (NEA-BC) certification examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) or Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) examination offered by the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

Quick Facts

  • There is no residency requirement for this program; it can be completed entirely online.
  • The school has an 18:1 student to faculty ratio.
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16California State University – Dominguez Hills 2/532.28%Carson, CA

Centrally located in the South Bay and Los Angeles, California State University-Dominguez Hills (CSU) emphasizes diversity and collaboration in their education.

CUS's Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program prepares students for advanced practice in the following specializations: Nurse Educator, Nurse Administrator, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).

Each track offers the same core curriculum, including Advanced Roles in Nursing, Health Care Policy/Economics, Health Promotion/Disease Prevention and Nursing Ethics. Beyond that, students move into track-specific electives, as well as clinical hours.

CUS also offers an MSN Pathway Program for Registered Nurses (RNs) who hold a bachelor's in another field. This allows students to attain an MSN degree while taking the BSN course prerequisites along the way. Those interested in the FNP program must complete all BSN course requirements beforehand.

Students can expect to focus on gaining leadership skills, studying ethics, and developing the ability to design culturally sensitive programs for diverse and vulnerable populations.

Quick Facts

  • Students have five years to complete the program.
  • They conferred 107 MSN degrees in the 2013-2014 academic year.
  • CSU's mission is to have "diversity in all its forms [...] explored, understood, and transformed into knowledge and practice that benefits the world."
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17Samuel Merritt University 5/5N/AOakland, CA

Samuel Merritt University offers a Master of Science in Nursing for prospects with or without bachelor's degrees in nursing or professional experience who are seeking to practice in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada and Ohio.

For those with degrees, SMU's MSN program offers three specializations: Case Management, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and Family Nurse Practitioner. Only the FNP track is available online.

Each program is accredited and teaches the skills needed for successful careers in each respective category. In particular, the CRNA is a student-driven program with a 90% local employment rate (largely with Kaiser Permanente).

For those without a BSN, the Entry-Level MSN program allows pre-professionals to get master's degrees in CM or FNP, and everything else along the way. The program is divided into three sections, RN/pre-licensure, FNP and then CM. Students are admitted into the MSN program from the start, but do not begin those studies until after four semesters of RN courses.

Quick Facts

  • Students are eligible to sit for the NCLEX certification exams upon the fifth semester of the Entry-Level MSN program.
  • 100% of the graduates from the 2013 and 2014 CRNA programs were employed within six months of passing the National Certification Exam (NCE).
  • 98% of students receive enough financial aid to cover the cost of tuition, fees and living expenses.
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18University of Central Florida 2/569.7%Orlando, FL

Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the largest University in Florida. There are 1,560 graduate students in the college of health and public affairs.

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs build upon the student's baccalaureate nursing education and professional experience.
The goal of the Master of Science in Nursing program is to prepare advanced practice nurses, nurse educators and nursing leaders and managers to assume leadership positions in a variety of health care settings.

The specializations are as follows: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (42 credit hours), Family Nurse Practitioner (46 credit hours), Nursing Leadership and Management (36 credit hours) and Nurse Educator (38 credit hours). Graduates are eligible to sit for national certification examinations in their respective specialties.

Students with a non-nursing bachelor's can be admitted with prerequisites through the RN-MSN program.

Quick Facts

  • UCF is the second largest college in the U.S.
  • The college campus and the adjacent Central Florida Research Park are home to specialized centers, a clinic and an institute.
  • There are 1,961 faculty members across the campus; 77% with Ph.Ds.
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19Drexel University 4/567.36%Philadelphia, PA

Set in a bustling urban setting, Drexel University (DU) began in 1891 with the establishment of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. They offer a unique co-operative program, where students alternate education with full-time employment.

The DU Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) prepares students for leadership roles in clinical care. They offer both full-time and part-time options and provide access to clinical practice environments and simulated health care scenarios.

Students have the option to choose from these specializations: Clinical Nurse Leader, Nurse Anesthesia, Clinical Trials Research, Nursing Education & Faculty Role, Nursing Innovation, Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP), and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GPC). The program as a whole requires a BSN and most specializations are available online (Nurse Anesthesia being an exception).

Graduate opportunities for employment exist within and outside of the hospital environment. All tracks prepare students for certification exams.

For those without BSNs, DU offers a RN-MSN program. It's designed for the working professional, so students can enroll during any term. Students start with all of the MSN requirement courses and then move into the MSN program.

Quick Facts

  • Introduced in 1919, the co-operative education program at DU was one of the first the of its kind.
  • The DU College of Nursing and Health Professions serves nearly 3,000 students and is fully accredited.
  • 92% of Drexel grads are working full-time jobs or are enrolled in graduate or professional education.
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20Lewis University 3/562.46%Romeoville, IL

Lewis University (LU) is a Catholic and Lasallian University founded in 1932 under the direction of the Chicago Archdiocese. The College of Nursing was proposed in 1971.

LU offers a multitude of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) specializations, giving students an opportunity to move forward in various careers within the health industry.

Focus tracks include: Nursing Education (online), Healthcare Systems and Leadership (online), Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist and Family Nurse Practitioner. All programs prepare students for national certification exams.

LU also offers an RN to MSN program, as well as a unique dual MSN/MBA program. This helps students design and execute specialized health care systems, identify and resolve organizational challenges and manage the financial order of a healthcare organization.

Quick Facts

  • Students work one-on-one with faculty who have real world experience in our state-of-the art simulation labs.
  • A $1.3 million renovation on the main campus includes new facility spaces.
  • The Oak Brook campus offers seven new patient exam rooms for Nurse Practitioner graduate students.
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21Clarkson College 2/559.09%Omaha, NE

Clarkson College (CC) began in 1888 as Nebraska's first school of nursing. Since then, it has expanded into a full college, though it still remains dedicated to health care.

CC's Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is for RNs who are interested in experiencing greater challenges, opportunities and advantages in their nursing careers. The rigorous, patient-focused program prepares students to function independently and collaboratively in designing, implementing and evaluating complex health care strategies in a variety of roles.

They offer four specializations: Nursing Healthcare Administration, Nursing Education, Adult–Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse Practitioner. In the final semester, students complete a scholarly practice journal article and poster presentation based on their research in an approved clinical setting.

Students can enroll three times per year for all programs, except for nurse anesthesia, which is fall only. Although the programs are entirely online, students in either of the nurse practitioner programs are required to make a few on-campus visits. Graduates are prepared to take national certification exams.

Quick Facts

  • In 2011, CC added a state-of-the-art simulation lab, equipped with simulated adult and infant patients (manikins) that display conditions ranging from stagnant to high-fidelity.
  • They offer an 11:1 student to faculty ratio.
  • First-time National Board Examination pass rates are consistently above the state and national averages.
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22Mercy College 3/528.8%Dobbs Ferry, NY

A short distance from NYC, Mercy College is a four-year private institution founded by the Sisters of Mercy as a junior college in 1950 that became a four-year college in 1961.

Mercy (MC) offers two specializations in their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program: Nursing Administration and Nursing Education.

The education program prepares students to use state of the art technology in the planning, implementing and delivery of educational programs. The administration program focuses on interprofessional practice in today's healthcare environment.

Both programs are designed for full and part-time students alike, with each taking three to nine credits per semester. Core courses are offered prior to the specialization courses, which are are offered prior to the practicum course. All courses either on-site or online.

Quick Facts

  • Mercy College is now a non-sectarian college.
  • There are 196 full-time professors with many Fulbright Scholars, published and national best-selling authors.
  • According to Higher Education Magazine, MC is one of the top 100 institutions for minority students.
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23Allen College 3/575%Waterloo, IA

Allen College (AC) has been offering health care education for over 90 years. Their Master of Science in Nursing program prepares graduates to meet essential professional practice standards in a variety of settings within diverse communities.

The school approaches nursing as an art and science that continuously evolves through the synthesis of theory and knowledge from nursing and related disciplines. Students can expect to improve their organizational and leadership skills, employ advocacy strategies to improve health policy and collaborate with inter-professional teams to improve the outcomes of care.

The following MSN tracks are available: Leadership in Health Care Delivery (Administration), Nursing Education, Community/Public Health Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult - Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP), Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (FPMHNP), Adult - Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and Master's Completion Program for Nurse Practitioners.

An Early Entry DNP option provides an opportunity for post-bachelor's students to enter the graduate nursing program, obtain an MSN degree and then progress into the DNP program. They accept students from out of state or country. Students outside of Iowa should be aware that AC's program may not be applicable in their home state.

Quick Facts

  • The MSN program had a 97.6% pass rate in 2014.
  • 91% of enrolled students are women.
  • AC offered $550,000+ in scholarships and awards in 2014.
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24University of Texas at Arlington 2/541.88%Arlington, TX

Founded in 1892 as Arlington College with 75 students, the University of Texas at Arlington has grown into a large research university in the heart of North Texas.

The UTA College of Nursing and Health Innovation seeks to assure quality health care for the people of Texas through excellence in education, scholarship and service.

UTA's Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs include Nursing Administration (NA), Nursing Education, Family Nurse Practitioner and On-Campus Nurse Practitioner. NA graduates have 100% pass rate on the advanced administration national certification exam.

The MSN program offers evening classes, all-day classes scheduled approximately every other week, Saturday classes and some distance education courses. The Nursing Administration and Nursing Education Programs are entirely online.

Graduates will have the skills to take on advanced nursing roles, participate in scholarly endeavors and provide leadership in professional nursing. Students can enroll for spring, summer and fall semesters.

Quick Facts

  • UTA is classified as a High Research Activity University according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • Total funding for research reached a record $77.7 million in 2013.
  • There were 9,134 enrolled graduate students as of fall 2014.
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25Ball State University 2/559.45%Muncie, IN

Ball State University originated in NY as a small, private teacher training school that opened in 1899. After it lost funding, the Ball brothers donated the land and buildings to the state of Indiana, ultimately leading to a new school opening in 1918.

All Ball State Master of Science in Nursing courses are delivered online. Any clinical components can be arranged by the students with qualified preceptors and supervisors in their community.

The two specializations are the Leadership Track (Educator or Administrator) and the Family Nurse Practitioner Track. Each student's graduate advisor will work with them on an individual basis to develop a plan of study for their chosen track. These are flexible within certain limits and students have up to six years to complete the program.

Generally, studies begin with an introductory course that focuses on the use of information technology in nursing practice, administration, education and research. Next, students move onto the nursing core. Finally, they'll progress through the specialization courses for the MSN.

Quick Facts

  • The MSN program is among only a handful in the nation designated the National League for Nursing Center of Excellence.
  • Ball State offers popular software programs for PC and Mac users at costs well below retail, and even for free in some cases.
  • They were granted the Quality Matters Implementation Plan award that ensures their online programs provide students with all of the tools and info they need to succeed.
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What to Expect from an Online MSN Program

Online master’s in nursing programs take students through a set of core courses before introducing them to the specialty they’re planning on going into. Generally, students can expect to take classes like: Statistics or Data Analysis, Nursing Research, Nursing Theory, Nursing Information Technology, Health Promotion, Concept Analysis and Clinical Decision Making.

Upon graduation, they’ll have developed countless practical skills for the healthcare industry, like incorporating concepts of advanced nursing roles into healthcare practices, leadership and management strategies in advanced nursing roles, how to analyze individual and societal issues that influence health care, collaborating with members of interdisciplinary teams and communicating effectively and accurately. Most importantly, they learn how to solve problems and make decisions in difficult situations.

Employment Outlook for MSN Graduates

According to the BLS, projected job growth for MSN graduates is 31% between 2012 and 2022, which is significantly higher than the 10.8% projected rate of all professions.

Annual Projected Job Growth

This is primarily due to the effects of healthcare legislation, an increased emphasis on preventative medicine and demand from the large, aging baby-boom population for healthcare services as they live longer and more active lives.

Graduates of online master’s in nursing programs can expect to see job openings within many specializations, such as: Nurse Practitioner in Hershey, PA, Nurse Educator for the U.S. Department of State in Arizona and Nurse Anesthetist at a clinic in Wausau, WI.

Depending on where graduates end up, they could be working a standard 9-5pm office shift or an around-the-clock schedule including weekends and holidays. Jobs can also be both physically and emotionally demanding, with much time spent on their feet.

Generally, MSN degree holders can expect to make a high salary right out of college, depending on location, experience and the specialization they choose. Nurse practitioners receive a mean annual wage of $97,990, according to the BLS. Nurse Anesthetists make around $148,160 per year and Midwives can expect $89,600.

Average Nursing Salaries

Aside from specializations, there are many reasons to get an MSN over a BSN. For one, MSN-prepared nurses don’t just implement orders and perform basic nursing care; they make major decisions and provide healthcare leadership to a group of patients or healthcare professionals.

An MSN is required for positions like nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife or clinical nurse specialist. It also prepares nurses for careers in healthcare administration, nursing informatics and nursing education.

Another pro is that there is a major physician shortage in the US. One that will only be exacerbated by current healthcare legislation. Many states have proposed looking to advanced practice nurses to fill those shoes (and pay them the same amount.)

Finally, despite the current nursing shortage, schools of nursing are turning qualified applicants away because there aren’t enough teachers. According to the AACN, in 2010, accredited nursing schools turned away over 67,000 promising applicants.

MSN-prepared nurses are qualified to teach and lead clinical classes. A master’s degree can also be a stepping stone to a PhD and a long career in academia.

No matter the path, an online MSN can help any nursing professional have a rewarding and lucrative career. They’ll be more hirable, make more money and have a bigger impact on health care as a whole.

Financing Your Online Degree

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, the need for financial aid is still a reality for most students. But rest assured, loans aren’t your only option. Explore our collection of financial aid resources or dig into one of the following guides to read more about financing your education.]

An Overview of Financial Aid

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options savvy students can use to reduce the total costs of their education.

Understanding the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first and most crucial step for any student seeking financial aid. Follow our step-by-step guide for answers to frequently asked questions.

Scholarships for Nursing Students

We’ve hand-curated a list of 40 scholarships for nursing students representing $125,000 in total award dollars. Students at all levels can find an opportunity to apply for free money to help offset the cost of tuition.

Financial Aid for Online College Students

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place and funding opportunities for online students.

Scholarships for Women

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

Scholarships for Single Parents

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for single parents looking for a more secure financial future for their children. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships for these hard-working parents.

Financial Aid for Veterans and Active Military

Millions in education benefits are available for veterans and active members of the military. Unfortunately, much of this goes unused. Find out if you’re entitled to help with college and start planning for your future.

Best Online MSN Programs of 2015
Rank School Location
1 Georgetown University Washington, DC
2 Duke University Durham, NC
3 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
4 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
5 Ohio State University Columbus, OH
6 The George Washington University Washington, DC
7 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing Omaha, NE
8 Mount Carmel College of Nursing Columbus, OH
9 Bryan College of Health Sciences Lincoln, NE
10 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
11 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
12 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
13 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
14 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
15 Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI
16 Clarkson College Omaha, NE
17 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
18 University of South Carolina Columbia, SC
19 Texas Christian University Fort Worth, TX
20 Georgia College & State University Milledgeville, GA
21 University of Delaware Newark, DE
22 Chamberlain College of Nursing Addison, IL
23 University of Tennessee Knoxville, TN
24 University of Arkansas Little Rock, AR
25 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA


The methodology behind our rankings is grounded in statistical data and a few consistently applied guiding principles. Our 2017 rankings reflect the most recent data compiled from IPEDS and the College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Our goal is to objectively assess relative quality based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities. The following criteria was used to make these assessments:

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, not-for-profit institution.
  • Must offer an online master’s in Master’s in Nursing degree program
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

All eligible institutions are ranked on a 100 point scale. A perfect score of 100 is earned by ranking #1 for all ranking factors.


  • Admissions Rate – 25%
  • Enrollment Rates – 15%
  • Retention Rate – 15%
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate – 25%
  • Number of Master’s in Master’s in Nursing Graduates – 20%


  • Average Net Price – 40%
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans – 20%
  • Loan Default Rate – 40%


  • Percentage of Graduate Programs Offered Online – 40%
  • Graduate School Enrollment – 40%
  • Percentage of Programs Offered at the Graduate level – 20%