Are you ready to take your nursing career to the next level with a master's degree? Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs provide an opportunity for nurses to get the education they need to advance their career while continuing to earn an income.

Online MSN programs are geared toward nurses who plan to take on managerial or administrative roles at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. The curriculum combines classroom-based studies with practicum training at the hands of certified nurses. Most MSN programs require a two-year commitment, and allow you to earn a degree specialization in areas like clinical leadership or healthcare administration. 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.

What are the best Nursing programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

  1. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD
  2. Georgetown University - Washington, DC
  3. Duke University - Durham, NC
  4. University of Central Florida - Orlando, FL
  5. George Washington University - Washington, DC
  6. Ohio State University - Columbus, OH
  7. University of Southern California - Los Angeles, CA
  8. University of Rochester - Rochester, NY
  9. The University of West Florida - Pensacola, FL
  10. University of St Francis - Joliet, IL

The Best Online MSN Programs of 2020

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online MSN programs in the United States. If you are considering an online master's in education, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific MSN requirements and offerings.

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1

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 93%

Johns Hopkins delivers 12 online graduate programs. Offerings include a master of science in nursing with a specialty track in health systems management. Through a comprehensive degree plan, students learn to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between different healthcare experts and other professionals. The program prepares learners to pursue careers in consultation, program development, and health education.

As one of the best online master's in nursing programs, Johns Hopkins receives full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Candidates take classes such as biostatistics for evidence-based practice and financial management theory. They also develop the skills to create business plans and lead complex learning organizations.

Graduates can pursue nurse executive certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Johns Hopkins funds a variety of merit scholarships for nursing students. The university also delivers a dual-degree option that lets candidates couple their MSN with an online master of business administration.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Health systems management
Tuition: $47,264/annual
Credit Requirements: 35 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: RN license

Contact

Phone: (410) 955-7548
Email: jhuson@jhu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

2

Georgetown University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 94%

Georgetown offers an online master of science in nursing that boasts four specializations. Students can enroll in the 23-month women's health nurse practitioner program to develop the specialized skills to deliver primary and reproductive health services. WHNP candidates can add on a nurse-midwifery specialization to assist women through childbearing.

MSN students who pursue the family nurse practitioner track delve into all aspects of primary care. They learn to treat common acute and complex chronic conditions. By completing one of the best online master's in nursing programs, Georgetown graduates boast a 100% pass rate for certification exams administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

For nurses who possess at least one year of full-time work experience in relevant settings, Georgetown offers an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner specialization. This track helps students develop the case management skills to oversee complex acute health situations. All MSN candidates complete clinical experiences and on-campus immersions.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Family nurse practitioner; women's health nurse practitioner; nurse-midwifery/women's health nurse practitioner; adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
Tuition: $2,139/credit
Credit Requirements: 40-49 credits
Program Length: 19-27 months

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: RN license

Contact

Phone: (877) 910-4692
Email: onlinenursingadmissions@georgetown.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

3

Duke University

Durham, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 96%

Based in Durham, North Carolina, Duke facilitates a career-focused online master of science in nursing program. Candidates pick from one of 11 majors based on their academic interests and professional goals. Options include adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, nursing education, and nursing and healthcare leadership.

Duke delivers a 43-credit neonatal nurse practitioner track that includes 616 clinical hours. Through a curriculum that emphasizes culturally sensitive and family-centered care, students learn to support low- and high-risk neonates. This MSN major requires applicants to display at least two years of clinical experience.

As one of the best online master's in nursing programs, Duke also offers a health informatics option that combines remote coursework with one campus session per semester. Candidates develop the IT competencies to develop and implement systems for electronic health records and clinical documentation. They round out their training by completing an intensive, individualized practicum.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner - acute care; adult-gerontology nurse practitioner - primary care; family nurse practitioner; health informatics; neonatal nurse practitioner; nursing and healthcare leadership; nursing education; pediatric nurse practitioner - acute care; pediatric nurse practitioner - primary care; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner; women's health nurse practitioner
Tuition: $11,028/semester
Credit Requirements: 42-49 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: Certain majors require applicants to possess an RN license and 1-2 years of relevant work experience

Contact

Phone: (877) 415-3853
Email: SONAdmissions@dm.duke.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

4

University of Central Florida

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

UCF delivers over 90 remote undergraduate and graduate programs through the Canvas platform. The catalog features an online master of science in nursing that allows students to pick from three specialty tracks. The UCF College of Nursing enjoys full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

MSN candidates who enroll in the nursing leadership and management track prepare for leadership roles by cultivating evidence-based evaluation and critical analysis skills for organizational challenges at all levels. By completing the nurse educator track, students can pursue teaching careers in undergraduate nursing and health professions programs. Both of the aforementioned degrees require distance learners to complete clinical experiences in their communities.

Lastly, the nursing and healthcare simulation track teaches candidates to create simulated training programs for practice and academic settings. Coursework includes curriculum development and intelligent systems. The curriculum necessitates one in-person capstone experience.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Nursing, MSN
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Nursing leadership and management; nurse educator; nursing and healthcare simulation
Tuition: $327/credit in-state; $1,152/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 31-36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Work Experience: RN license

Contact

Phone: (855) 903-8576
Email: gradnurseadvisor@ucf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

5

George Washington University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

GW powers distance education with Blackboard and offers an online master of science in nursing with five concentration options. These programs use a hybrid learning format that combines flexible remote coursework with hands-on training at GW's state-of-the-art simulation centers. MSN tracks include adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, nursing leadership and management, and family nurse practitioner.

Students can also enroll in the 36-credit nurse-midwifery program, which comes with part-time and full-time degree plans. Coursework covers topics such as concepts in population health, comprehensive prenatal care, and advanced occupational role development. Graduates are eligible to pursue professional credentials from the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Finally, GW offers an online MSN in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Through a 50-credit degree plan, students learn to diagnose, treat, and evaluate acute and chronic mental illnesses. Candidates complete skill intensives on campus and 600 hours of clinical placement.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner; family nurse practitioner; nursing leadership and management nurse-midwifery; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
Tuition: $1,395/credit
Credit Requirements: 36-50
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: Active and unencumbered RN license

Contact

Phone: (571) 553-0138
Email: nursing@gwu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

6

Ohio State University

Columbus, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

OSU delivers over 30 remote academic programs through Canvas. Distance learners can obtain an online master of science in nursing fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. MSN options include neonatal nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

The family nurse practitioner track prepares students to work in primary care settings supporting patients through the lifespan. OSU also provides a clinical nurse leader track that allows learners to access careers as advanced generalists who manage comprehensive care services and improve patient outcomes. All MSN programs meet the academic standards of their industry, enabling graduates to pursue professional certification.

Depending on the track, applicants can typically enroll as traditional students if they possess RN licensure. Candidates who do not hold work experience or a relevant bachelor's degree can pursue the graduate entry route. OSU provides scholarships specifically for nursing students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Family nurse practitioner; neonatal nurse practitioner; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner; clinical nurse leader
Tuition: $38,900 total
Credit Requirements: 42-63 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Work Experience: Traditional master's applicants need an RN license

Contact

Phone: (614) 292-4041
Email: nursing@osu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

7

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 92%

USC offers comprehensive remote learning opportunities through Blackboard. Degree options include an online master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner specialization that full-time students can earn in under two years. The 49-unit curriculum highlights the social and biomedical factors that affect patient health, preparing candidates to deliver integrative care.

As one of the best online master's in nursing programs, USC receives full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. MSN candidates take classes in research and analytical methods, health assessment across the lifespan, and clinical pharmacology for advanced practice nursing. Students complete 784 hours of clinical training in their community and two campus intensive experiences.

Prospective learners must possess a bachelor of science in nursing. The USC College of Nursing facilitates a variety of financial aid. Award opportunities include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Scholarship specifically for graduate students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner
Tuition: $1,928/unit
Credit Requirements: 49 units
Program Length: 21-33 months

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: An RN license and one year of clinical experience

Contact

Phone: (844) 487-2676
Email: admissions@nursing.usc.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

8

University of Rochester

Rochester, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 86%

Rochester delivers hybrid master of science in nursing programs that enable students to achieve careers in several areas of nursing. MSN candidates can pick from degree tracks in clinical nurse leader and nursing education. The latter option allows candidates to personalize the curriculum by pursuing clinical interest areas such as oncology or ambulatory nursing.

Rochester also offers a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program that combines online coursework with on-site intensives. Students take classes such as psychopathology/psychiatric assessment and diagnosis, group/family psychotherapy, and advanced pharmacology. Distance learners complete 616 clinical placement hours with one of the institution's 500 preceptors.

As one of the best online master's in nursing programs, Rochester provides ample financial aid, including six nursing scholarships. Undergraduate students who want to expedite their career may enroll in the RN-BSN-MSN track. The university also offers an accelerated master's degree for non-nurses.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Clinical nurse leader; nursing education; family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
Tuition: $1,562/credit
Credit Requirements: 54 credits for nurse practitioner; 36 credits for clinical nurse leader and nursing education
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Work Experience: An RN license; 1-3 years of relevant clinical experience depending on program

Contact

Phone: (585) 275-2375
Email: son_admissions@urmc.rochester.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

9

The University of West Florida

Pensacola, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

Based in Pensacola, UWF delivers 19 fully online graduate programs, including a master of science in nursing. The comprehensive curriculum prepares students for advanced practice roles and doctoral studies. To enroll, applicants need a fully accredited bachelor's degree in nursing.

Candidates take core classes in population health promotion, health systems policy strategies, and project evaluation and dissemination. They pursue advanced coursework in either a nurse executive or nursing education specialization. The former option enables graduates to occupy administrative and management positions. The latter track helps candidates pursue careers in academic and agency settings.

Both MSN options require candidates to complete 630 clinical placement hours. UWF awards over $100 million in financial aid each year. Out-of-state students may qualify for a tuition waiver that reduces academic costs by 75%-90%.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Nurse executive; nursing education
Tuition: $378/credit in-state; $483/credit Alabama resident; $1,037/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 39 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current and unencumbered RN license

Contact

Phone: (850) 473-7756
Email: msnnursing@uwf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

10

University of St Francis

Joliet, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

For over 20 years, USF has been one of the largest distance education providers in Illinois. Students can enroll in a fully online master of science in nursing program that delivers four concentration options. Through specialized curricula, candidates gain the skills needed to synthesize their research and education into practice serving the needs of diverse communities.

MSN candidates may pursue tracks in family nurse practitioner and nursing education. Alternatively, they can enroll in the nursing administration program, taking classes such as healthcare finance, human resources management, and ethics and decision-making. USF also delivers a degree in psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.

Nursing students benefit from general financial aid and exclusive scholarships. As one of the best online master's in nursing programs, USF facilitates an RN-BSN-MSN program for licensed nurses without undergraduate credentials in nursing.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Family nurse practitioner; psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner; nursing administration; nursing educator
Tuition: $775/credit
Credit Requirements: 42-56 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current and unencumbered RN license

Contact

Phone: (800) 735-7500
Email: information@stfrancis.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

11

University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 85%

UConn is headquartered in Storrs and delivers distance education through Blackboard Learn. Working RNs can prepare for career advancement by earning a master of science in nursing with a neonatal nurse practitioner specialization. Students who enroll full time graduate in five semesters, while part-time candidates may earn their credentials in seven semesters.

Courses cover topics such as statistical methods in nursing, health assessment across the lifespan, and neonatal embryology and physiology. Students examine the role advanced practice nurses play as part of collaborative healthcare teams with regards to policy and populations-based advocacy. Learners engage in practicums that focus on assessing and managing critically ill high-risk neonates.

MSN graduates are qualified to obtain professional certification from the National Certification Corporation. UConn accepts applications on a rolling basis. The School of Nursing offers a variety of scholarship opportunities.


Program Overview

Program Name: Neonatal Nursing Master’s Degree
School Status: Public
Tuition: $925/credit
Credit Requirements: 44 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 2 years full-time, RN-level practice experience in a level three neonatal intensive care unit

Contact

Phone: (860) 486-8063
Email: sandra.bellini@UConn.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

12

Georgia College

Milledgeville, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

GCSU offers over 30 graduate programs, including an online master of science in nursing with four concentration options. These MSN tracks offer career-focused training that prepares candidates for careers in teaching, administration and management, and advanced clinical positions. The college maintains full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Graduate candidates can enroll in programs for family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Students may also pursue an MSN in nurse educator, taking classes such as statistical analysis and ensuring healthcare safety and quality. Learners engage in practicums that center on developing and implementing educational programs.

Lastly, GCSU offers a women's health nurse practitioner track with full-time and part-time enrollment plans. Candidates learn to provide routine health check-ups along with gynecologic, pregnancy, and postpartum care. All MSN candidates complete clinical rotations in Georgia.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Family nurse practitioner; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner; women's health nurse practitioner; nurse educator
Tuition: $373/credit
Credit Requirements: 39-40 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Work Experience: A current unencumbered Georgia RN license and one year of clinical experience

Contact

Phone: (478) 445-8757
Email: sallie.coke@gcsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

13

University of Mary

Bismarck, ND Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

Located in Bismarck, North Dakota, Mary offers more than 50 online and flexible evening programs. Degree options include a master of science in nursing that allows students to specialize in one of four areas. Mary receives full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

MSN students can pursue degrees in nurse educator or nursing leadership and management. Alternatively, they may enroll in the nursing informatics track that combines data science with medical expertise. The 38-credit curriculum covers topics such as human technology interface, resilient nursing leadership, and applied clinical informatics in patient-centered care.

One of the best online master's in nursing programs, USM also delivers an MSN/MBA track for healthcare administration. Dual-degree candidates learn to collaborate with interdisciplinary teams to improve quality and cost effectiveness of nursing delivery systems. All MSN applicants submit a professional statement, a current resume, and two references.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Nurse educator; nursing informatics; nursing leadership and management; and healthcare administration (dual degree with MBA)
Tuition: $540/credit for MSN/MBA; $450/credit for other programs
Credit Requirements: 60 credits for MSN/MBA; 36-43 credits for other programs
Program Length: 2-2.5 years

Delivery

Format: Online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Work Experience: A current unencumbered RN license

Contact

Phone: (701) 355-8030
Email: enroll@umary.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

14

California State University, San Bernardino

San Bernardino, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

CSUSB offers 13 online academic programs powered by Blackboard. The catalog includes a hybrid master of science in nursing fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Candidates choose from three specialization options and complete clinical practicums near their location.

MSN students who pursue the nurse educator track prepare for teaching roles in clinical and academic settings by taking classes in curriculum assessment and instructional technology. CSUSB also provides a population-based nursing option, which focuses on transcultural healthcare. This track prepares graduates to work in hospitals and skilled clinical settings.

Lastly, the MSN program delivers an advanced community/public health nursing specialization.This track requires students to complete community-based internships in addition to clinical experiences. All graduate candidates can access fellowships and grants. CSUB also provides a variety of on-campus and off-campus scholarships.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Specializations: Nurse educator; population-based nursing; advanced community/public health nursing
Tuition: $2,392/semester in-state; $3,976/semester out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60-70 units
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current California RN license

Contact

Phone: (909) 537-5380
Email: nursinginfo@csusb.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

15

The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

Through its Bama by Distance platform, UA offers comprehensive online academics. Remote learners can pursue a master of science in nursing with a nurse administrator concentration. The degree plan focuses on operational and policy issues, preparing candidates to make executive-level decisions and develop high-quality programming.

MSN students can enroll full time or part time. The fully remote curriculum includes classes such as human relations management, basic epidemiology, and research and statistics for health professionals. Candidates also delve into advanced clinical practice and community health issues related to rural populations.

Students can also enroll in a mostly online MSN with a concentration in nurse practitioner. One of the best online master's in nursing programs, UA's hybrid MSN comes with three nurse practitioner tracks. All students can apply for financial aid. Awards include scholarships specifically for distance learners and nursing candidates.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Nurse administrator; nurse practitioner
Tuition: $420/credit
Credit Requirements: 33-39 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online for nurse administrator; hybrid (online/on campus) for nurse practitioner
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current, unencumbered RN license in a qualifying state

Contact

Phone: (205) 348-8163
Email: vickie.bama@ua.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

16

Azusa Pacific University

Azusa, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

APU serves over 10,000 students across its eight campuses and online through Canvas. Distance learners can enroll in the master of science in nursing program, picking from a concentration in either nursing education or healthcare administration and leadership. Both degrees receive accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, enabling graduates to pursue specialty professional credentials or state advanced practice certification.

Nursing education candidates take classes in theories of instruction and educational technology. They also learn to develop curricula and assess educational programs for effectiveness. The program culminates in a supervised practicum, during which students apply current, evidence-based knowledge.

The healthcare administration and leadership curriculum covers topics such as managing human capital, financial management, and transitions across the care continuum. Students also delve into healthcare-oriented informatics and learn to use data science as a tool for clinical decision-making. All MSN candidates can access program-specific loans and scholarships.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Nursing education; healthcare administration and leadership
Tuition: $752/credit
Credit Requirements: 37
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: An active and unencumbered RN license

Contact

Phone: (626) 815-2056
Email: jelrod@apu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

17

George Mason University

Fairfax, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 70%

Based in Fairfax, Virginia, GMU delivers over 50 remote academic programs. The catalog includes a fully online master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner concentration and a hybrid master of science in nursing with a nurse educator concentration. Both degrees receive full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

MSN candidates who pursue the family nurse practitioner track complete a 49-credit degree plan. Coursework covers topics such as nursing informatics inquiry, health assessment in clinical practice, and family primary care. Students complete 500 hours of clinical placement, integrating their learning with evidence-based practice.

The 41-credit nurse educator track combines asynchronous classes with campus-based learning experiences that prepare candidates to tackle the rapidly changing healthcare environment. Coursework includes nursing research, biostatistics, and educational assessment and evaluation. Students also examine physiology and pathophysiology in advanced practice.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Nurse educator; family nurse practitioner
Tuition: $1031/credit for nurse educator; $850/credit for family nurse practitioner
Credit Requirements: 41-49
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus) for nurse educator; 100% online for family nurse practitioner
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: An active RN license with documented work experience

Contact

Phone: (703) 348-5006
Email: online2@gmu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

18

Gonzaga University

Spokane, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 86%

Gonzaga offers online graduate programming in seven fields of study, including a master of science in nursing. Through career-focused degree plans, students learn to serve vulnerable populations and collaborate with health communities at home and abroad. MSN candidates complete 1-6 campus immersions based on their specific track.

As one of the best online master's in nursing programs, Gonzaga's MSN delivers three specializations. Students may pursue the nursing leadership in healthcare track, which requires 160 clinical placement hours. Graduates are well-prepared to work as chief nursing officers, medical directors, and case management coordinators.

Alternatively, MSN students can enroll in the family or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner track. The FNP option emphasizes a holistic approach to primary care, along with treatment of acute and chronic health programs. PMHNP candidates develop skills in pathophysiology and psychopharmacology before completing 660 hours of clinical training.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Tracks: Nursing leadership in healthcare; family nurse practitioner; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
Tuition: $955/credit for nursing leadership track; $1,020/credit for nurse practitioner tracks
Credit Requirements: 30 credits for nursing leadership; 47 credits for nurse practitioner tracks
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 preferred
Work Experience: An unencumbered RN license

Contact

Phone: (866) 380-5323
Email: guonlineadmissions@gonzaga.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

19

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 77%

SLU provides an online master of science in nursing with four nurse practitioner concentrations. MSN candidates may pursue their studies part time or full time. The school requires two campus visits, an orientation at the start of the program and an in-person skill evaluation during clinical placement.

Concentration options include adult-gerontological acute care and family nurse practitioner. Students can also enroll in the pediatric primary care track, taking classes in family development and advanced clinical study of children. Family psychiatric mental health is the fourth NP track and covers specialized topics such as psychopharmacology and the ecological approach to human behavior.

Students who want to work as nurse educators can take four additional classes centered on theory and practicum. This optional training prepares them to earn the National League for Nursing Nurse Educator certificate. All MSN candidates receive personal advising from faculty mentors and access to tutoring services.


Program Overview

Program Name: Nursing, M.S. (Nurse Practitioner)
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Adult-gerontological acute care nurse practitioner; family nurse practitioner; pediatric primary care nurse practitioner; family psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner
Tuition: $1,090/credit
Credit Requirements: 36-43 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.25 minimum
Work Experience: An unencumbered RN license in the state in which clinical experience will be done.

Contact

Phone: (314) 977-8995
Email: slunurse@slu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

20

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Drexel is a long-time leader in distance education, offering over 150 remote academic programs. The catalog includes a graduate bridge track for working RNs who do not possess a bachelor's degree in nursing. Upon completing the bridge course, students can enroll in one of four masters of science in nursing programs, all of which receive full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

MSN options include clinical nurse leadership and nursing education. Candidates may also pursue the leadership in health systems management track to prepare for careers as senior administrators. These learners take classes such as healthcare economics and policy, data analytics for decision-making, and workforce management.

Additionally, Drexel provides an MSN track for quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare. Through a 46-credit curriculum, students learn to assess and improve healthcare outcomes in hospitals and community-based delivery settings. MSN candidates who complete their program in under three years enjoy a tuition lock guarantee.


Program Overview

Program Name: RN to MSN Online Bridge Program
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Clinical nurse leader; nursing education; leadership in health systems management; quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare
Tuition: $997/credit
Credit Requirements: 4.5 credits for bridge program; 46-48 credits for MSN
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current and unrestricted U.S. RN license

Contact

Phone: (267) 359-5692
Email: jnr56@drexel.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

21

University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 77%

UofSC delivers four online graduate programs for licensed registered nurses. Distance learners take live classes powered by Blackboard and, depending on their specific degree plan, complete practicum requirements with their current employer. UofSC's College of Nursing maintains specialized accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

MSN candidates pick from specialty tracks in areas such as psychiatric mental health or family nurse practitioner. The university also offers an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner track that teaches students how to support patients with complex needs. Coursework includes clinical application of population analysis and pharmacological management across the lifespan.

Students can also enroll in the nursing administration track, earning their MSN in as little as 12 months. The curriculum covers topics such as financing healthcare and integrative process in nursing administration. Graduates are eligible to sit for one of four professional credentialing exams.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Family nurse practitioner; adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner; nursing administration
Tuition: $572/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits for nursing administration; 44-47 credits for other programs
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: Nurse practitioner candidates need one year of full-time nursing experience (1,800 hours) within the past 24 months.

Contact

Phone: (803) 777-7412
Email: NURSGRAD@mailbox.sc.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

22

Appalachian State University

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

Based in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian facilitates over 150 academic programs, many of which students can complete remotely. Options include an online master of science in nursing that synthesizes leadership and research to prepare candidates for careers as nurse educators. The flexible curriculum allows part-time students to graduate in under two years.

Coursework covers topics like advanced health assessment for adults, pathophysiology, and nursing program development and evaluation. MSN candidates delve into instructional strategies for nursing and informatics, with an emphasis on methods to enhance student learning. They also learn how to apply adult learning and health literacy theories in professional practice settings.

Students complete two practicums centering on clinical practice and nurse education. The 39-credit program culminates with either a research thesis or a hands-on capstone project. Appalachian boasts full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Tuition: $237/credit in-state; $896/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 39 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.5 preferred
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT for candidates with GPA between 3.0-3.49
Work Experience: A current, unrestricted RN license in North Carolina or an eligible state within the Nurse Licensure Compact network.

Contact

Phone: (828) 262-3113
Email: online@appstate.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

23

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Mizzou has been offering remote nursing education for over two decades. Today, licensed RNs can enroll in an online master of science in nursing program, picking from either a nurse educator or leadership in nursing and healthcare systems concentration. Over 70% of Mizzou MSN candidates receive job offers in specialty nursing fields at the time of graduation.

The 41-credits nurse educator degree plan contains classes in teaching strategies, pharmacology and pharmacotherapeutics, and curriculum development. Students complete one campus residency in addition to their clinical placement hours. Graduates are well-prepared to obtain the certified nurse education designation from the National League for Nursing.

MSN candidates who pursue the nursing leadership track take classes in translational evidence-based nursing practice and healthcare financial management. Graduates are eligible to sit for the advanced nurse executive certification exam facilitated by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Nurse educator; leadership in nursing and healthcare systems
Tuition: $21,563/total for nurse educator; $17,071/total for leadership in nursing
Credit Requirements: 33-41 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current RN license

Contact

Phone: (573) 882-0277
Email: nursing@missouri.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

24

Harding University

Searcy, AR Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

Located in Searcy, Arkansas, Harding delivers over 20 graduate and professional programs. The academic catalog includes a master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner concentration. Through a hybrid curriculum that combines online classes with 3-5 days of campus intensives each semester, students develop the skills to work as primary care providers to diverse patient groups.

Coursework covers topics such as advanced research methodologies, health assessment and diagnostics, and epidemiology and vulnerable populations applications. Candidates delve into major theories concerning child/adolescent, reproductive, family, and adult/elder health. They also learn to incorporate healthcare technologies into nursing education and professional development programs.

Harding requires MSN students to complete 720 clinical practicum hours. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing fully accredited by a nursing accreditation body. They must also demonstrate 2,000 hours of RN work experience before starting clinical courses.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Family nurse practitioner
Tuition: $8,647/semester
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: An unencumbered and current RN license for Arkansas or a compact state

Contact

Phone: (501) 279-4859
Email: gradnursing@harding.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

25

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

For more than 100 years, the UND College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines has provided career-focused academic programming. Students can enroll in an online master of science in nursing program that comes with four specialization options. UND receives full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

MSN candidates who want to pursue nurse practitioner credentials pick from three tracks, including adult-gerontology primary care and psychiatric mental health. They may also specialize in family nurse practitioner, preparing for leadership roles in private practices, schools, and hospitals. Family nurse practitioner coursework includes pharmacotherapeutics and management of health conditions.

One of the best online master's in nursing programs, UND's MSN also features a 38-credit nurse educator track. Classes include curriculum development, teaching methodologies, and assessment and evaluation. Graduates are prepared to obtain professional certification from the National League for Nurses.


Program Overview

Program Name: Nursing Master's Degree Program
School Status: Public
Available Specializations: Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner; family nurse practitioner; psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner; nurse educator
Tuition: $765/credit
Credit Requirements: 38-49 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: A current and unencumbered RN license; at least 1 year of work experience preferred

Contact

Phone: (701) 777-4174
Email: und.graduatenursing@email.UND.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

IS THERE AN MSN ONLINE WITHOUT A PRACTICUM?

Some MSN programs that are not clinical-based may not require a practicum. Most degrees that are clinically based require a practicum as a way for students to gain hands-on experience and show that they understand key nursing concepts. Read more here.

CAN YOU GET A NURSING DEGREE ONLINE?

Many schools that offer an MSN program offer it in a completely online format. Students should check with their prospective program to ensure there are no on-campus requirements. Read more here.

HOW TO EARN A NURSING DEGREE ONLINE?

First, students must meet admission requirements, which commonly include holding a BSN and having work experience. Students must also maintain a minimum GPA throughout the program, and many programs require students to complete a capstone project. Read more here.

ARE ONLINE NURSING DEGREES LEGITIMATE?

It's important to check whether a prospective program or school is accredited. Accreditation ensures that minimum standards of education are met. Nurses should look for programs that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Read more here.

CAN YOU GET A JOB WITH AN ONLINE NURSING DEGREE?

Most MSN students already hold a BSN and have experience as an RN. Earning an MSN prepares you to earn a higher salary and obtain leadership positions in the field. Read more here.

Choosing a Program

Will an Online MSN Program Provide Me With the Skills I Need to Advance My Nursing Career?

In most cases, students who are accepted into an MSN program have a bachelor's degree in nursing. The MSN builds on undergraduate studies by allowing you to develop expertise in particular areas of nursing. Generally, you can expect to take classes like statistics and data analysis, nursing research, nursing theory, medical information technology, health promotion, and clinical decision-making. Throughout the course of your MSN program, you will contribute to healthcare research, grow your professional network, and gain skills in management and leadership. You also get plenty of hands-on training from clinical practicum sessions.

Will an Online MSN Work With My Schedule?

MSN online programs are designed for convenience and flexibility; you can access course lectures and readings, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with your professors any time of day from the comfort of your home computer. Current technology also enables you to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other devices with Wi-Fi. When it comes to completing the practicum component, many programs will help you get set up at a site that's close to your residence.

What Can I Do With an MSN?

MSN graduates will qualify for dozens of jobs after graduation. Depending on your specialization, you may pursue work as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or other specialized roles. You will also be well-positioned to pursue employment as a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, medical and health service manager, and other titles that require a bachelor's degree. Please note that most nursing roles that deal with patient care require state-issued licensure; more information about licensing requirements and procedures can be found in the 'Careers' section below.


Interview with Nancy Brook

Nancy Brook

Nancy Brook

RN, MSN, CNFP

Nancy Brook, RN, MSN, CNFP is a nurse practitioner at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. She has master's degrees in both nursing and counseling psychology from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and the University of San Francisco, respectively. Nancy has more than twenty years of experience treating patients, teaching and mentoring nurses, and counseling families. She is a consultant to patients and families facing cancer and nurses facing stress and burnout, helping them cultivate meaningful careers and healthier lifestyles.

Why did you choose to pursue a master's degree in nursing? Did this field always interest you?

I chose to pursue a master's degree in nursing because my goal was to move beyond bedside nursing and become a nurse practitioner. I also dreamed of being an educator/faculty member and teaching future nurses, which required an advanced degree.

While I was always interested in nursing, I learned about the role of nurse practitioner while I was an undergraduate student and became ill. My care was provided by an NP and I was so impressed with the scope of practice and the ability to be a care provider that I redirected my career in that direction.

What would you say are some of the most crucial skills you gained in your master's program? How do those skills apply directly to your day-to-day work?

My graduate program included several components; one was research, and this allowed me to become comfortable understanding basic research as well as conducting a research study. Statistics (both qualitative and quantitative research methods) were required courses, and [they were] challenging as well. Additionally, I learned how to communicate with professors [and] professional colleagues in healthcare (physicians, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians, etc.) -- skills that have served me well throughout my career. In my current day-to-day work, these skills continue to be valuable.

Nursing (and healthcare in general) is evidence-based, and understanding research is always applicable. My role has included participating in clinical trials or research studies over the years, and understanding how to interpret the research as well as how to write research papers have been valuable skills.

Finally, communication is part of any career that involves working with people. While I have continued to learn more over the years, communicating with patients, families, and colleagues continues to be a basic requirement of my role.

Did you complete a clinical experience as part of your master's program? If so, how did that inform your subsequent career choices?

Yes, my master's program included a clinical component. I spent time in a variety of clinical settings, from ambulatory clinics to community clinics to low income clinics, as well as schools, wellness centers, and health maintenance organizations. These experiences were enlightening for me and informed the kind of work I wanted to do as a new graduate. Seeing patients in the community who had little access to healthcare was very eye opening.

Overall, what are some of the greatest challenges you face in nursing?

There are many challenges in nursing, as there are in any career field. The majority of our patients are sick or facing health challenges. This may sometimes lead to difficult interactions with patients or their families. Challenges in nursing include working with insurance companies to ensure patients have access to care, the ever-changing healthcare environment and regulations mandated by JCOH, sufficient staffing, and the feeling of not having a voice in the workplace environment. Additionally, dealing with life or death issues on a regular basis can lead to feelings of burnout or exhaustion.

What are some changes you'd like to see in the typical curriculum for a master's program in nursing?

Many nursing programs have similar curriculums with standard courses (nursing theory, research, etc.). I think the most important thing that nursing programs can do is to remain current -- to continue to update the curriculum and course syllabi to include new developments, new technology, and changes within the profession.

What advice would you give to students considering earning a master's in nursing?

I would suggest that you choose carefully among the many excellent programs available. Take a look at the research interests of the faculty as well as the size and cost of the program as well. Choose between an online-type program or a more traditional learning experience that involves sitting in a classroom. Ensure that the other areas of your life are such that you have the time and energy to fully engage in your graduate program.

Time management is by far the biggest challenge for students, and making sure you have time for both your classwork, assignments, and clinical experiences is key. Once you have identified the program that best prepares you to meet your career goals, take that first step and don't look back. Your education is important -- an accomplishment that no one can take away and [that] will serve you well throughout your career and your life.

Meet More of our Experts


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

Online master's of nursing programs are suitable for registered and licensed nurses interested in expanding their career opportunities. Students who hold an associate or bachelor's in nursing may earn their master's in nursing through a bridge program. Graduates of online master's in nursing programs can pursue managerial positions and work as advanced practice nurses.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master's Degree in Nursing

Family Nurse Practitioner
This concentration prepares students to become family nurse practitioners. Graduates provide a wide range of primary care services to patients in a number of different settings, including hospitals, family practices, and community clinics. Students who choose this concentration can obtain certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Nurse Education
This concentration is intended for nursing students who want to pursue education-related jobs. Topics covered include research, policy, ethics, technology, and pedagogy. The curriculum includes a hands-on nursing experience. Graduates are prepared to educate their fellow nurses on a wide range of issues in order to improve patient outcomes and the nursing profession.
Nurse Administration
This concentration focuses on developing leadership skills and is appropriate for students seeking to become nurse administrators or other supervisory positions in the field. This concentration teaches students how to improve patient outcomes by ensuring that nurses have good working environments.

Nursing Bridge Programs

Nursing bridge programs are designed for working nurses who would like to pursue higher education. The advantage of these programs is that they allow students who have already completed some education to earn another degree quicker than usual.

Some students start bridge programs as registered or licensed practical nurses (RNs or LPNs), either without an academic degree or with an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Examples of this type of bridge program would be RN to BSN, ADN to BSN, and RN to MSN online. Another common bridge program is the BSN to MSN online, in which a nurse with a bachelor's can earn a master's of science in nursing online.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Nursing

Courses offered in online master's in nursing programs vary depending on the school. Sample courses have been listed below.

  • Advanced Nursing: This course helps students develop advanced knowledge of their role in the field. Students learn how to become effective leaders in management positions, education, and clinical nursing environments. Topics covered include leadership, planning, and evaluation. Students also develop individual career plans and consider contemporary issues related to advanced nursing. Skills learned in this course are useful for students seeking administrative and supervisory positions.
  • Health Promotion and Epidemiology: This course covers topics related to promoting evidence-based practices in health promotion and epidemiology. Students learn how to use tools needed to plan, implement, and evaluate health programs and improve patient outcomes. Cultural competence in diverse populations is an important issue covered in this course. This course is useful for students who want to become public health nurses.
  • Health Policy: This course covers a wide range of health policy issues and is suited for students interested in jobs that involve policy work. This may include administrators and other higher-level positions. Students learn to critically analyze rules and laws that impact the healthcare system and to advocate for changes that will improve patient care.

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

Master's degree in nursing online programs vary in length. Factors affecting program length are the number of courses available each term and whether students attend part time or full time. Some programs give students the choice to go at their own pace, while others adopt a cohort learning approach. In cohort programs, students progress through the program with the group they started with, taking the same courses each term. The cohort approach fosters a community of learners who support each other. Students who go at their own pace have more flexibility with how many courses they take and when.

On average, it takes two to three years to graduate from an online master's in nursing program. Students who already hold an RN license or a bachelor's in nursing may be able to complete their degree faster than average.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Nursing Prepares For

  • Nurse Practitioner License: Nurse practitioners, also called advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), are licensed individually by each state's board of nursing. A master's of science in nursing (MSN) is required to become one. Other requirements vary by state. Contact your state board of nursing to find out any additional steps needed to obtain a nurse practitioner license.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): This certification indicates a nurse who has graduated from a nurse-midwifery education program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. To earn the certification, the nurse must pass a national exam. Certified nurse midwives can provide a range of primary healthcare to women, including delivering babies, providing prenatal and postnatal care, and giving routine gynecological exams.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Nursing Degrees

When looking for online master's of nursing programs, it's important to make sure the school and program are both accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process in which schools and their academic programs are evaluated to make sure they meet minimum educational standards.

There are two types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation is more widely recognized and commonly accepts transfer credits. By choosing accredited online nursing schools, students can be assured they will get a quality education. It's also important for nursing students to make sure the online program they choose has an industry-specific accreditation. Nursing programs in the United States are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Two organizations play important roles in accreditation: the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The Department of Education (ED) is a U.S. government agency that establishes policy and coordinates federal assistance, including student loans and grants. The ED publishes a list of nationally recognized accreditors that students can trust. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is an organization of degree-granting American colleges and universities. Its purpose is to coordinate the accreditation process for higher education in the United States by ensuring the quality of accrediting agencies. For a list of all accredited schools, visit the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Employment Outlook for MSN Graduates

Qualified nurses are in high demand across the country. President Obama's Affordable Care Act has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of previously uninsured American citizens, and an aging baby boomer population has also increased the need for trained nursing personnel. According to U.S. News & World Report, registered nurses with a bachelor's or higher enjoy a low unemployment rate at only 2.1%. Furthermore, the field is projected to increase by 12% -- roughly 371,500 jobs -- between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. These figures are even more favorable for other nursing professions; for example, jobs for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are expected to grow 31% during the same period.

Earning a Living

In addition to better job placement rates, nurses with a master's also stand to outearn their bachelor's-holding counterparts by a considerable margin. The CEW survey found the average nurse with a graduate degree earns roughly $81,000 per year, compared to recent bachelor's graduates who pull in less than $50,000 on an annual basis. BLS also found that the median salary for a nurse with a master's was $12,000 higher than that of a bachelor's-holding nurse, representing a wage premium of 19%.

MSN graduates also stand to make more over the course of their careers. Using data from PayScale, the table below features average earnings for each degree level.

Degree Average Salary
Associate in Nursing $68,000
Bachelor's in Nursing $82,000
Master's in Nursing $94,000

Source: PayScale

Although a master's degree will boost a nurse's earning potential, salaries will vary by nursing profession. The rate at which these salaries grow over time will also depend on the specific job. The following table uses PayScale data to break down some of the most common career pathways for MSN-holding nurses.

Job Title Entry-Level Salary (1-4 Years of Experience) Mid-Career Salary (5-9 Years of Experience) Experienced Salary (10-19 Years of Experience) Late-Career Salary (Over 20 Years of Experience)
Registered Nurse (RN) $54,900 $60,700 $66,160 $69,760
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) $37,800 $40,000 $41,540 $43,100
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) $41,800 $45,780 $46,920 $47,380
Nurse Anesthetist $139,000 $151,000 $163,000 $171,000
Nurse Midwife $92,000 $97,000 $92,000 $100,000
Nurse Practitioner $92,000 $97,000 $101,000 $104,000

Career Opportunities

MSN students will be qualified for hundreds of nursing jobs once they graduate, although opportunities will vary by the candidate's degree specialization. Some pursue niche patient care roles in fields like midwifery and anesthesia, while others assume managerial and/or administrative responsibilities at medical facilities. Some of the most common career pathways for MSN graduates are listed below.

Registered Nurses

According to the BLS, more than 2.9 million registered nurses (or RNs) are currently employed in the United States. RNs are responsible for delivering patient care, coordinating treatment plans, and maintaining up-to-date records. They typically work alongside physicians, and may manage teams of nursing assistants and orderlies.

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are collectively known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). They handle niche areas of patient care. Anesthetists specialize in providing anesthesia for patients before surgeries and other procedures. Midwives assist pregnant women during the childbirth process. Nurse practitioners often take on the role of primary care provider, working directly with patients and overseeing the other nursing personnel that care for them.

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care to patients under the guidance of nurse practitioners, physicians, and other onsite managers. Day-to-day duties include changing bandages, checking vital signs (such as blood pressure), and assisting patients with basic tasks like eating and bathing.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers work behind the scenes to oversee the way patient care is coordinated, delivered, and evaluated at different healthcare facilities. They work closely with physicians, nurses, and other personnel to ensure their worksite is sanitary, outfitted with up-to-date equipment and compliant with medical laws and regulations.

Job Title Median Annual Salary Projected Growth (2016-26) Minimum College Degree Licensure Requirements
Registered Nurse $71,730 12% Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or associate's degree in nursing (ADN) NCLEX-RN required in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners $113,930 26% Master's degree with a specialization Varies by state; certification is required in states that recognize APRN roles.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses $46,240 11% 1-year diploma program at a technical college, community college or high school NCLEX-PN
Medical and Health Services Managers $99,730 18% Bachelor's degree None

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to nursing is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for professional nurses. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

American Nurses Association

The ANA was founded in 1896 to improve the working standards and conditions for professional nurses, and the organization has continued this work to the present day. Members receive access to a vast online resource library, discounted certification and recertification rates, access to five ANA publications and an invitation to the organization's annual conference.

American Academy of Nursing

The AAN follows a mission of "advancing health policy and practice through the generation, synthesis, and dissemination of nursing knowledge." The organization today represents more than 2,700 members.

Emergency Nurses Association

Established in 1968, the ENA was created to represent nurses who serve patients in emergency rooms, critical care units, and other highly demanding settings. The organization today advocates for patient safety, as well as optimal emergency nursing practices.