As colleges and universities navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we're continuing our efforts to provide you with useful student resources and the latest online program information. Check our coronavirus resources page to learn more.

Affordability is a key concern for many students who apply to and enroll in online master of science in nursing (MSN) programs. It's important, however, to look beyond the cheapest online MSN programs in terms of tuition and fees. There are many affordable online MSN programs available that will provide true value and a return on the investment of time and money.

Accredited online programs are designed to prepare graduates to work as managers, policy experts, or educators in the field. An MSN degree is also a required prerequisite for some doctoral programs in nursing education. Many graduate-level nursing students are registered nurses (RNs). Some MSN programs, however, admit students with undergraduate degrees in other fields. These students from other backgrounds are usually required to take additional entry-level nursing courses.

What Are the Most Affordable Online Master's in Nursing Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

Rank School Location
1 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
2 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL
3 California State University-Dominguez Hills Carson, CA
4 New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM
5 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
6 McNeese State University Lake Charles, LA
7 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN
8 Utah Valley University Orem, UT
9 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA
10 Georgetown University Washington, DC
How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Coursework in online MSN programs covers a variety of topics, including healthcare ethics, health care policy, advanced practice nursing, biochemistry, and pharmacology. Additionally, online MSN students pick a specialty in the field, such as health care leadership, nurse-midwifery, gerontology, pediatrics, or psychiatry. The flexibility of online coursework allows students to continue working as RNs or as full-time professionals while they earn their degree.

In the interest of helping students evaluate the most affordable online MSN programs, we use our College Affordability Score methodology to rank programs based on several factors, including financial aid opportunities, the number of students who take out loans, graduation rates, and loan default rates for graduates. The list below is not a ranking of schools by lowest tuition rate; that is, they're not necessarily the "cheapest" online MSN programs. Instead, our rankings reflect the overall economic value these colleges offer online MSN students.

2021 Most Affordable Accredited Online Master's in Nursing Programs

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

A public university in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian offers an online master of science in nursing program with an emphasis on educational creativity, nursing practice, and leadership and research. Applicants must have at least one year of nursing experience to be eligible for the program.

The 39-credit program consists of courses like pathophysiology for advanced nursing, contemporary issues in nursing, nursing program development and evaluation, and educational tests and measurements in nursing. Students also complete a 120-hour advanced clinical practicum and a capstone thesis or project.

Appalachian is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $267 per credit (in-state); $925 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 39 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

2

Florida Atlantic University

Boca Raton, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

A public university with a main campus in Boca Raton, FAU offers multiple master of science in nursing programs for online learners. Students can pursue an MSN in nursing administrative and financial leadership or an MSN in advanced holistic nursing entirely online. FAU also offers a nurse educator MSN for students interested in a hybrid program.

All nursing students complete 12 credits of core nursing classes, including advanced nursing practice grounded in caring; nursing research and evidence-based practice; and leadership, policy, and finance in advanced nursing practice. Students also complete concentration coursework and practicum requirements, although these vary depending on the program.

FAU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $372 per credit (in-state); $1,027 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 33-39 credits
Program Length: 4-7 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required over last 60 undergraduate credits
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

3

California State University-Dominguez Hills

Carson, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

A public university based in Carson, CSUDH offers an online master of science in nursing program with four different tracks: family nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, administrator, and educator. Students must hold a California RN license prior to admission.

Depending on their program, students complete 15-24 credits of core courses and then choose courses specific to their selected track. Core courses cover topics like advanced nursing roles, research utilization in advanced nursing practice, healthcare policy and economics, and nursing ethics. Participants also complete 288-576 clinical hours, depending on their degree plan.

CSUDH is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $2,686 per semester (part-time, in-state); $5,062 per semester (part-time, out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 30-48 credits
Program Length: 3-4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required over last 60 undergraduate credits
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

4

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

A public university located in Las Cruces, NMSU offers an online master of science in nursing program with an emphasis on leadership and administration. Students can complete this program on a part-time or full-time basis.

The 32-credit curriculum covers course topics such as evidence-based practice for healthcare leaders, quality improvement for healthcare leaders, nursing informatics, and innovations and healthcare organizations. Students must also complete 128 hours of supervised practicum experience.

Applicants should have completed a statistics course, and they may be asked to sit for an interview as part of the admissions process. NMSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing Program
School Status: Public
Tuition: $412 per credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

5

University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

A public university located in Orlando, UCF provides an online master of science in nursing program with three tracks: nursing leadership and management, nurse educator, and nursing and healthcare simulation. This program is for active healthcare practitioners who hold an RN license.

Depending on their track and enrollment status, students take 31-36 credits over the course of 4-7 semesters, completing required coursework, internships, practica, and electives. All students take the same core courses on theory for advanced practice nursing, legal and professional behavior in advanced nursing practice, research methodology for advanced practice nursing, and evidence-based practice. Graduates are eligible to sit for national certification exams in their respective fields.

UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $327 per credit (in-state); $1,152 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 31-36 credits
Program Length: 4-7 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

6

McNeese State University

Lake Charles, LA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

McNeese is a public university located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The university offers an online master of science in nursing program with three concentrations: family nurse practitioner, nursing education, and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.

Students complete 40-48 credits, depending on their concentration. Course topics include theoretical foundations of advanced learning, population-based primary care, applied statistics for the health sciences, and pharmacotherapeutics. To finish the program, learners choose between completing a focused scholarly project or a thesis.

Mcneese is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $1,418 per credit
Credit Requirements: 40-51 credits
Program Length: 2-4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.8 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

7

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Indianapolis, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

A public university in Indianapolis, IUPUI offers an online master of science in nursing program. Distance learners can choose one of six different tracks, including nursing education, nursing leadership in health systems, pediatric clinical nurse specialist, adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist, pediatric nurse practitioner - primary care, or psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.

Students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis, completing their program in 2-3 years. All students take the same 22-credit core before studying subjects specific to their selected concentration. Core course topics include leadership for advanced nursing practice, nursing research methods, advanced physical assessment lifespan, and measurement and data analysis. Most students complete 525 practicum hours, although nursing education students only need to complete 225 practicum hours.

IUPUI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $607 per credit (in-state); $1,600 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 42 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

8

Utah Valley University

Orem, UT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 26%

A public university based in Orem, UVU offers an online master of science in nursing program for individuals who hold or are eligible for an RN license in Utah.

The program's curriculum covers course topics such as nursing informatics, teaching nursing in the classroom settings, curriculum design and development, and advanced nursing in health systems and policy. Students also complete a five-credit practicum experience and dedicate 1-4 credits on project work or a thesis.

Applicants should have completed at least one undergraduate statistics course, and they must submit three letters of recommendation with their admissions packet. UVU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $328 per credit (in-state); $926 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 26-29 credits
Program Length: 4 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.2 minimum required
Standardized tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

9

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Based in northern Louisiana, ULM offers an online master of science in nursing program with three concentrations: gerontological clinical nurse leader, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner. Active practitioners residing in Louisiana who hold a state nursing license and at least two years of experience can apply to this program.

Students can complete this 38-40-credit program in two years. Core courses include advanced theoretical foundations in nursing, health policy and global health, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced pharmacology. Aspiring gerontologic clinical nurse leaders must complete 429 clinical contact hours, while learners pursuing the adult-gerontology primary care or family nurse practitioner concentrations need to accrue 640 clinical contact hours.

ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $366 per credit
Credit Requirements: 38-40 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.8 minimum required
Standardized tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

10

Georgetown University

Washington, DC Graduation Rate: 94%

A private university located in Washington, D.C., Georgetown provides an online master of science in nursing program with nurse practitioner tracks in adult gerontology acute care, family nursing, women's health, and dual midwifery and women's health. Working RNs can apply to this program.

Programs require 40-49 credits. Most students complete coursework on a part-time basis, although family nurse practitioner students can enroll full time. All students take the same 22 credits of core courses and then complete classes specific to their selected concentration. Core topics include advanced physiology and pathophysiology, advanced concepts in pharmacology, healthcare ethics, and care of the family in crisis. Students complete 600-1000+ clinical hours and engage in two or three on-campus intensives.

Georgetown is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Tuition: $2,214 per credit
Credit Requirements: 40-49 credits
Program Length: 19-27 months
Format: Online with 2-3 on-campus intensives

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

11

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

A public university located in Morgantown, WVU offers a master of science in nursing program with family nurse practitioner and pediatric nurse practitioner pathways. To apply, students must hold an unencumbered nursing license.

Students can graduate in 5-8 semesters, depending on their enrollment status. The core curriculum covers topics like theory and disciplined reasoning, evidence-based practice, lifespan health promotion, and healthcare informatics. Students also dedicate 10 credits towards a practicum experience. Graduates meeting all degree requirements can sit for the relevant national certification examination.

WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $688 per credit (in-state); $1,578 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 46 credits
Program Length: 5-8 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

12

California State University-Chico

Chico, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 66%

Chico State offers an online master of science in nursing for RNs who hold a license in California. Students can select a nurse educator or nurse leadership track.

The 30-credit curriculum covers core subjects like issues and ethics in the delivery of healthcare, advanced nursing research and theory, and information and technology in advanced nursing practices. Students also complete five classes in their concentration, as well as a culminating activity, which can take the form of a professional paper, a master's project, or a master's thesis.

Chico State is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $3,116 per semester (part-time, in-state); $5,492 per semester (part-time, out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 5 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA:3.0 minimum required over last 60 undergraduate credits
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

13

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD Graduation Rate: 93%

A private university in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins offers a master of science in nursing program focused on healthcare organizational leadership.

Core course topics in this 35-credit program include biostatistics for evidence-based practice, context of healthcare for advanced nursing practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare economics for management and practice. Students must also complete a three-phase practicum, gaining 504 hours of clinical experience. Graduates can pursue certification as nurse executives.

Transfer credits are awarded on a case-by-case basis, and applicants should expect to sit for an interview with the program's admissions committee. Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,738 per credit
Credit Requirements: 35 credits
Program Length: 4-7 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

14

University of Nevada-Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

UNLV is a public university that offers a master of science in nursing program. Online learners can complete the program's nursing education track. Applicants to this program should hold an RN license and have at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience.

This 33-credit program includes 18 credits of core courses, 10 credits of specialized theoretical coursework, and four practicum credits. Nursing education students cover topics like health assessment, informatics and quality improvement, developing and evaluating curriculum for nursing education, and course level evaluation strategies for nurse educators. The program culminates with a one-credit scholarship project.

UNLV is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $298 per credit (in-state); $624 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA:3.0 minimum required over last 60 undergraduate credits
Standardized tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

15

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

A public university located in Tucson, UArizona, offers an online master of science in nursing for registered nurses. The online program offers two tracks: one for individuals who hold an associate of science in nursing and another for students with a bachelor of science in nursing.

Depending on their academic experience, students can graduate in 15-24 months. To earn their master's, students with an ASN must complete 11 courses, while BSN-holders complete eight. Courses cover topics like healthcare environments and care coordination, health information and patient care technologies, foundations of systems leadership, and population health. Applicants need at least one year of clinical experience as an RN to be eligible for the program.

UArizona is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing - Clinical Systems Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $680 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30-38 credits
Program Length: 15-24 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Nursing Program?

Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Nursing

To enter an online master's program in nursing, you must hold a bachelor's degree. Most programs require an undergraduate degree in nursing from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or a similar body. Some schools also require a valid license as a registered nurse.

Professional experience requirements vary from program to program. Some schools cater to recent graduates, while others prefer applicants with at least three years of relevant work experience. Even when not required, experience as a nurse can improve your chances of earning admission into a master's program.

Academic requirements also vary. Generally speaking, graduate schools of nursing look for candidates who maintain an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, though some programs conditionally admit students with a slightly lower average. Schools may also ask that you submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. GRE scores remain valid for five years.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master's Degree in Nursing

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners train to treat certain medical conditions without the supervision of a doctor. They may focus on caring for a particular population, such as adolescents or the elderly, or specialize in a particular area of health, like providing mental health therapy to patients.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: General nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner

Public Health Nursing

Public health nurses work to address issues of health and healthcare access, most often in communities underserved by private healthcare organizations. Generally, they work for either nonprofit organizations or government agencies. Students specializing in public health nursing often take coursework in both direct health service and program administration.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Population health nurse, program director

Leadership and Management

The quickly evolving fields of nursing and healthcare need dynamic leaders. Nurses who choose a concentration in leadership and management often take courses in areas like planning, finance, human resources, and decision-making. They take on roles leading nursing departments and smaller healthcare settings. They may also act as consultants to multiple organizations.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Nurse manager, clinical nurse leader

Nursing Education

Many students seeking a master's degree in nursing hope to educate the next generation of healthcare providers. Through coursework in adult learning, curriculum development, and the integration of technology into the classroom, a concentration in nursing education helps them develop the knowledge and skills to become educators.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Assistant professor of nursing, assistant dean of nursing

Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics involves the enhancement of patient care through the use of technology. For example, students specializing in this area may learn how to develop patient databases that help improve the accuracy of diagnoses, eliminate redundancy in care, and lower overall cost. Students who choose this concentration often possess a strong academic or professional background in a field like computer science or information technology.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Clinical informatics specialist, chief nursing informatics officer

Sample Courses for an Online Master's in Nursing Program

Your exact course of study in an online master's in nursing program varies depending on the electives and concentration you choose. However, five courses commonly offered in these programs appear below.

  • Biostatistics: This course introduces students to the principles and practices of collecting and analyzing data for use in health-related contexts. Topics covered include probability theory, hypothesis testing, probability theory, confidence interval testing, and multivariable methods. This course helps lay a foundation for students pursuing a thesis option or who plan to continue their education and earn a doctorate in nursing.
  • Healthcare Quality and Improvement: In this class, students explore the current healthcare environment in the United States, including its evolution over time, the impact of shifting demographics in the country, and potential solutions to pressing issues. The course also looks at how healthcare technologies can promote quality at the organizational and systemic levels.
  • Advanced Nursing Concepts: Students in this course analyze the history of the nursing profession and various conceptual models and theories related to it. They apply these theories to real-world nursing situations through communication, critical thinking, and decision-making. They may also collect quantitative and qualitative data in a healthcare setting, aiding in future research projects.
  • Advanced Pathophysiology: Building on undergraduate coursework in pathophysiology, this course explores the relationship between normal physiology and the changes caused by disease and injury, helping to enhance clinical reasoning skills. The course focuses on topics like pathogenesis, environmental influences, and the clinical manifestations of major health problems.
  • Global Health and Diversity: Students in this class examine issues related to global healthcare delivery systems. They analyze political, financial, and social constraints on those systems and learn how to both work within those constraints and press for change when needed. This elective provides invaluable training for nurses who plan to work internationally.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Nursing?

Most full-time students earn their online master's in nursing in about two years. However, several factors can affect the amount of time it takes to earn your degree.

For example, if you did not earn a bachelor's degree in nursing, programs require that you complete this coursework before you enroll in graduate-level classes. If you plan to study on a part-time basis so that you can remain in your current job, you may need up to four years to complete your program's graduation requirements.

Some self-paced programs do allow you to earn your degree in less than two years. On these accelerated tracks, students can advance through their course material as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the core concepts. While graduating sooner appeals to working professionals, remember that self-paced programs do not offer the same level of support as more traditional, cohort-based master's program.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Master's in Nursing Program

Nursing requires a wide range of skills and deep expertise in a variety of content areas. To succeed as a nursing professional, you need to hone all of the skills listed below.

Critical-Thinking Skills
As the primary monitors of their patients' health, nurses must know when to take corrective action to address a change in a status. For example, a nurse may need to make the call to transfer a patient to emergency care if their condition rapidly deteriorates.
Communication Skills
Nurses must know how to explain medical conditions and proposed treatments to patients and their families. They must also communicate with doctors, explaining patient concerns and needs that may influence care.
Organizational Skills
Especially in larger organizations and urban settings, nurses may work with dozens of patients. Keeping track of charts, medicines, and schedules requires exceptional organizational skills and tremendous attention to detail.
Diagnostic Skills
Nurses sometimes see patients before doctors, meaning they often form the first opinion of a patient's illness or injury. To diagnose and convey this information accurately, nurses must possess expertise in pathophysiology.
Life-Saving Skills
Nurses often must provide emergency care, necessitating training in basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and other first-responder techniques. This kind of training often makes the difference between life and death.

Additional Requirements for an Online Master's in Nursing

Most master's in nursing programs do not require an internship or practicum, as students have already completed one during their undergraduate studies. Instead, students can complete either a research-based thesis or a more practice-oriented capstone project as a culmination of their graduate program.

On a thesis track, students collect and analyze data from a healthcare setting and document their findings in a research paper. While some students conduct original research, others may use an existing data set or combine data from multiple sources. Students often work closely with a faculty adviser when writing their thesis.

On a capstone track, students take a course near the end of their studies that allows them to apply their learning to an actual issue in nursing. For example, they may partner with a local hospital to examine its nurse staffing policy and make a recommendation for how to meet the needs of patients.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Nursing Prepares For

  • Registered Nurse License: Registered nurses must hold a license to practice. To receive a license, you must graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses. Additional requirements vary from state to state, but often include a criminal background check and an application to a state board of nursing.
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Nursing Certification: Dozens of voluntary certifications exist within the field of nursing. Neonatal resuscitation certification ensures that a nurse possess the skills necessary to provide emergency care to infants, especially premature babies. This certification can help you qualify for jobs in obstetrics and requires passing both a training course and an exam.
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Certification: This certification signals expertise in caring for patients with various forms of cancer. Many healthcare employers look for an oncology certification when hiring nurses for both home and hospital care positions. To qualify, you must complete 1000 hours of work in a field related to oncology, pass an exam, and earn continuing-education credits to remain certified.

RN-to-MSN Online Programs

What are RN-to-MSN Online Programs?

RN-to-MSN online programs allow students to earn both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in nursing, often in less time and for less money than earning these two degrees separately. Generally speaking, applicants to these programs hold an associate degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Before entering an RN-to-MSN online program, you must possess a license as a registered nurse.

Admission requirements for these programs closely resemble those of bachelor's programs in nursing. Schools may require you to maintain a minimum GPA in your undergraduate nursing classes before you enroll in graduate-level courses. Students who want to continue their education and pursue a master's degree often take on roles as nurse leaders, nurse educators, or nurse practitioners after graduating.

If you hope to continue working while completing coursework, make sure that your online RN-to-MSN program allows for part-time study.

How Long Do Online RN to MSN Programs Take to Complete?

The amount of time it takes you to earn your RN-to-MSN online depends largely on your level of education entering the program. For example, if you hold an associate degree in nursing, you can complete all of the requirements for both a bachelor's and master's degree in just four years of full-time study. Part-time students, or those without any undergraduate credits, may need six to eight years to earn both degrees.

Employment Outlook for MSN Graduates

Master's in Nursing Careers

Many career paths exist in the field of nursing. You may want to provide general care to your patients as a registered nurse. You may want to specialize in obstetrics, working as a nurse midwife to aid mothers during pregnancy and labor. You may want to take on greater levels of responsibility as a nurse practitioner, diagnosing and treating patients without the supervision of a doctor. Or you may hope to share your knowledge and passion for healthcare with aspiring nurses, working as a nurse educator.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses provide care to patients in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and health clinics. They may also educate the public about health issues, provide advice to patients and families dealing with chronic illnesses, and consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Median Annual Salary: $71,730 *

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia to patients preparing for surgery and other major medical procedures. They also provide care to patients as they recover from the effects of anesthesia. You must hold a master's degree and complete coursework in this area to qualify for a position as a nurse anesthetist.

Median Annual Salary: $167,950 *

Nurse Midwives

Nurse midwives offer care to pregnant women, such as gynecological exams, family planning advice, prenatal care, and support both during delivery and after. Some nurse midwives provide wellness education during infancy. You must hold a master's degree to take on this role.

Median Annual Salary: $103,770 *

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners receive specialized training that allows them to diagnose and treat certain medical conditions without the supervision of a licensed doctor. They may act as primary care providers or focus on a particular area of health, such as geriatric care.

Median Annual Salary: $107,030 *

Postsecondary Teachers, Nursing

Postsecondary teachers work at colleges and universities instructing students and conducting research. While most of these jobs require a doctorate, nurse educators often qualify for academic positions with just a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $73,490 *

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master's in Nursing Salaries

According to the BLS, the median registered nurse $71,730 per year in 2018. The lowest 10% of registered nurses earned less than $50,800 that year, while the highest 10% of earners brought in more than $106,530.

Earning a master's degree can qualify you for more advanced positions and higher salaries. For example, the BLS estimates that the median nurse anesthetist earned a staggering $167,950 in 2018 more than four times the median salary for all other occupations.

The table below uses data from Payscale to illustrate potential earnings over the course of five different careers in nursing.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Salary for Entry-Level Employees (1 Year Experience) Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-9 Years Experience) Salary for Late-Career Employees (10-19 Years Experience)
Registered Nurse $63,393 $51,520 $60,700 $66,040
Nurse Anesthetist $148,187 $131,000 $151,000 $163,000
Nurse Midwife $93,279 $87,000 $92,000 $99,000
Nurse Practitioner $93,622 $88,000 $97,000 $101,000
Nursing Instructor $61,140 $60,000 $60,000 $64,000

Source: PayScale

Where Can You Work With an Online Nursing Degree?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nearly half of all nurses employed in the U.S. work outside of a hospital setting in places like schools, homes, and private businesses. After you earn your online master's in nursing, think carefully about what kind of work environment fits your professional goals. Recent graduates may also consider relocating for a job, as the demand for qualified nurses varies considerably from state to state.

Nursing Homes: Nursing homes, also known as assisted-living facilities or convalescent homes, provide 24-hour nursing care for the elderly, disabled, or chronically ill. In addition to coordinating medical care, nurses who work in these settings must perform administrative tasks related to the housing, feeding, and socializing of their patients. Nurses who prefer to develop closer and long-term relationships with their patients may seek out jobs at nursing homes and other extended-care settings.

Schools: School nurses provide healthcare services to students. The type of care provided depends greatly on the educational setting in which the school nurse works. For example, a nurse employed by an elementary school can expect to deal largely with minor injuries and infectious diseases common among juveniles. A nurse working at a high school may also need to educate students on issues of sexual health and substance abuse. Nurses working at colleges or universities may need to offer or coordinate family planning and mental health services for their students.

Businesses: Many private businesses employ nurses and other healthcare professionals to offer more convenient care for their employees. For example, a construction firm may keep a nurse on staff to respond to minor job-related injuries that do not require a visit to the hospital. Nurses in these roles may also perform a variety of healthcare services for their colleagues, such as administering flu vaccines, offering regular check-ups, or leading a program to help employees quit smoking.

Corrections: The logistical challenges associated with bringing incarcerated individuals to a hospital or health clinic means that correctional facilities often hire nurses to work on staff and provide on-site care. Nurses working in jails, prisons, and rehabilitation centers must know how to treat illnesses and disease, respond to emergency situations, and assist individuals with mental health issues arising from their imprisonment.

Median Annual Salary for Nurse Practitioners by Setting
Hospitals; State, Local, and Private $120,540
Outpatient Care Centers $115,720
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $12,740
Offices of Physicians $111,440
Educational Services; State, Local, and Private $104,310

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

After completing a BSN-to-MSN online program, you should consider joining a professional organization for nurses. These groups provide a wealth of resources to help you advance in your career, including local and national networking events, online and in-person professional development opportunities, and mentorship programs. Many associations also host job boards and provide guidance to both recent graduates and established professionals looking to change directions in their career.

American Nurses Association:

Founded in 1896, ANA represents more than 4 million registered nurses working in the United States. The association establishes standards and codes of ethics for the field, advocates for more effective healthcare policy, offers continuing-education resources to its members, and organizes networking events and research convenings.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners:

AANP represents nurse practitioners qualified to diagnose and treat medical conditions without the supervision of a doctor. The association uses national conferences, affinity groups, and regional chapters to help its more than 102,000 members network and collaborate.

American Academy of Nursing:

The Academy works to advance the nursing profession by promoting organizational excellence and effective nursing leadership. Through public education programs and expert testimony, the organization plays a key role in advocating for health equity.

National Black Nurses Association:

Since 1971, NBNA has supported the professional interests of African-American nurses. The association publishes a scholarly journal, hosts online training opportunities, awards scholarships to both aspiring and established nurses, and administers a career center.

National Student Nurses Association:

NSNA specifically serves students on the path to a career in nursing. In addition to scholarships, networking opportunities, and a job board, the association provides invaluable advice to students preparing for licensure exams and to those considering graduate-level education.

Financing Your Online Master's in Nursing Program

Students should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal grants, work-study opportunities, and low-interest student loans. States typically also use the FAFSA to award need-based aid to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Many states and private organizations also provide financial aid specifically to students pursuing a career in nursing. For example, certain states forgive student loan debt if you agree to work for a certain number of years in a high-need healthcare setting.

Financing Your Online Master's in Nursing Program

Students should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal grants, work-study opportunities, and low-interest student loans. States typically also use the FAFSA to award need-based aid to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Many states and private organizations also provide financial aid specifically to students pursuing a career in nursing. For example, certain states forgive student loan debt if you agree to work for a certain number of years in a high-need healthcare setting.

Scholarships for Online MSN Programs

Promise of Nursing Regional Faculty Fellowship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be registered nurses enrolled in a master's or doctoral program in nursing education. Students must also attend school and pledge to work within regions of high need. The foundation offers awards based on academic excellence, established financial need, and commitment to the profession.

Amount: $1,000-$7,500

View Scholarship
American Association of Nurse Practitioners Master's in Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship serves registered nurses currently seeking their master's or planning to enroll in an accredited master's in nursing program. Applicants must be members of AANP. The association offers awards largely on the basis of academic achievement.

Amount: $2,500-$5,000

View Scholarship
Graduate Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Practice

Who Can Apply: To receive this award, you must pursue an advanced degree in nursing with a concentration in oncology. The program caters to international applicants attending accredited institutions, and recipients may qualify to receive up to two years of funding at $10,000 per year.

Amount: $10,000, up to two years

View Scholarship
NURSE Corps Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, this program addresses the critical shortage of nurses. Applicants must pursue a degree in nursing and commit to work in an underserved community. The program awards scholarships based largely on financial need.

Amount: Up to the full cost of tuition

View Scholarship
Emergency Nurses Association Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The ENA foundation awards scholarships to aspiring emergency nurses pursuing associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. To apply, you must submit academic transcripts, a professional resume, a personal essay, and letters of recommendation. The foundation prioritizes individuals with a strong record of academic excellence and financial need.

Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
Nurses Educational Funds Scholarships

Who Can Apply: This program serves nurses pursuing an advanced degree. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing, complete at least 12 credits of a master's program by the time of application, and maintain at least a 3.6 GPA in their graduate studies. Applicants must also hold a registered nurse license.

Amount: Varies

View Scholarship
March of Dimes Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: This scholarship program supports nurses pursuing a graduate degree in either maternal or child care. Applicants must be a registered nurse and a member of a nursing organization partnered with the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes Foundation offers awards based primarily on academic achievement.

Amount: $5,000

View Scholarship