Nursing administrators essentially bridge the gap between medical staff and patients at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. These administrators often manage teams of nurses, monitoring their daily work activities and evaluating their on-the-job performance. They may also advise nurses on the best treatment options for different patients. In addition to staff management, nursing administrators may also communicate with patients and their families about diagnostics, medical procedures, prescriptions, and other aspects of their care.

What are the best nursing administration programs? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY
2 George Washington University Washington, DC
3 University of Mary Bismarck, ND
4 University of Colorado Denver Denver, CO
5 University of St. Francis Joliet, IL
6 Clarkson College Omaha, NE
7 University of Houston Houston, TX
8 Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT
9 University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Galveston, TX
10 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA

Nursing administrators are categorized in the broader career field of 'Medical and Health Services Managers'. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this field are expected to rise by as much as 17% — or roughly 56,000 individual positions — between 2014 and 2024; this demand is fueled in part by both an aging baby boomer population and a sharp uptick in the number of Americans with health insurance. The BLS also notes that professionals in this field earn a median annual salary of $96,540, which is much higher than the national average for all occupations. As a result, fields like nursing administration have become a popular academic choice for today's master's-seeking grad students. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) notes that more than 11,000 students earned a master's degree in nursing administration during the 2011-12 academic year alone.

Read on to learn more about the challenging — yet rewarding — field of nursing administration, as well as tips for finding the best online master's degree in nursing administration programs.

The Best Online Master's in Nursing Administration Programs of 2020

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Stony Brook oversees more than 250 programs, many of which offer online courses. The university awards a master of science in nursing leadership that prepares graduates to oversee patient services and programs in many healthcare settings. As a hybrid program, this program requires distance learners to attend some on-campus immersions.

Program coursework covers topics like communication and relationship management; legal, ethical, and regulatory issues; and quality improvement, safety, and healthcare technologies. Students learn to apply statistical methods and scholarly inquiry to nursing research. They gain hands-on experience by completing intensive clinical placements.

To earn admission into this online program, applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and a professional RN license with at least one year of relevant experience. They must also submit three recommendation letters.


George Washington University

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

A leading research institution, GW offers programs across its 10 schools and roughly 100 laboratory centers. Distance learners can earn an online master of science in nursing with a nursing leadership and management specialty. Throughout a 36-credit curriculum, students learn how to strategically guide policy decisions and help organizations navigate change.

Required courses include healthcare quality processes, biostatistics for healthcare research, and population health concepts. Students also examine the crucial roles health information and technology play in the U.S. healthcare system. Although this master's in nursing administration program does not require campus visits, learners need to complete two 150-hour practica.

Admission requirements include an unencumbered RN license and a regionally accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit a personal statement, a current resume, and two recommendation letters.


University of Mary

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

Located in Bismarck, North Dakota, Mary serves approximately 4,800 students in over 70 programs each year. The university delivers online degrees through the Canvas platform, including an online master's degree in nursing leadership and management. Designed for working nurses with BSN degrees, the program allows full-time students to graduate in 16 months.

The 36-credit curriculum includes courses like healthcare across the population, resilient nursing leadership, and evidence-based practice for strategic decision-making. Students also analyze how economic issues affect healthcare organizations.

Applicants need a 2.75 minimum undergraduate GPA. Additional requirements include a professional goals statement, a resume, and two references. Mary's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.


University of Colorado Denver

Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

CU Denver launched its first distance learning program 1996. The university now offers more than 60 online certificates and degrees, including an online MSN in leadership. Flexible, asynchronous courses enable professional nurses to maintain their busy work schedules while enrolling full time. Participants can graduate in less than two years.

The 30-credit curriculum covers topics like relational communication, systems and leadership theory, and foundations of healthcare informatics. Students gain practical skills and expand their professional network by completing an internship. Graduates are eligible to sit for the ANCC and AONL nurse executive certification exams.

CU Denver requires applicants to have an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing. Prospective students with a GPA below 3.0 must also submit GRE scores.


University of St. Francis

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

USF operates its flagship campus in Joliet, Illinois, and serves about 4,000 students each year. Distance learners can complete the university's online master's degree in nursing administration, which prepares graduates to effectively manage hospital personnel and patient care delivery services. Using a hybrid delivery method, USF's nursing administration program requires distance learners to take half of their coursework (including the practicum) on campus.

The program's curriculum includes required courses like biostatistics and nursing research, population health, and human resources management. The program culminates in a capstone experience in which students plan and implement a quality improvement initiative.

In addition to an active RN license, applicants need a bachelor's degree earned with at least a 3.0 GPA. They must also submit an essay, two recommendation letters, and a resume.


Clarkson College

Omaha, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

Founded in 1888 as a nursing school, Clarkson College carries on this academic tradition by offering a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs for health professionals. Graduate-level options include an online master of science in nursing with a nursing healthcare administration concentration. This patient-focused program prepares students to collaboratively implement complex strategies in advanced practice nursing positions.

This master's in nursing administration program includes courses like applied statistics, human resources/organizational behavior, and project management. Students also learn to develop strategic marketing plans. They gain practical skills by completing service experiences and a capstone practicum.

Admission requirements include an accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants also need to submit proof of an unencumbered RN license, a scholarly essay, a resume, and two recommendation letters. The program does not require GRE scores for admission.


University of Houston

Houston, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

UH powers distance learning with the Blackboard Learn platform, offering over 40 online undergraduate and graduate degrees. One such option is an online master's degree in nursing administration. Throughout the program's 36-credit curriculum, students gain the research and clinical skills needed to provide evidence-based healthcare.

Required coursework covers topics like biostatistics and informatics. Students also delve into healthcare finance, organizational behavior, and delivery systems. The program culminates in a 135-hour leadership practicum in which students work with nurse preceptors to demonstrate their ability to navigate complex healthcare systems.

Applicants need a current and unencumbered Texas RN license. Prospective students do not need to submit GRE or MAT scores if they have a 3.0 GPA or higher.


Sacred Heart University

Fairfield, CT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 70%

Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, SHU delivers online certificates and degrees through the Blackboard Learn platform, including an online master's in nursing with a nurse management and executive leadership specialization. Focusing on healthcare quality and safety, this 36-credit program prepares graduates for high-ranking positions in workforce development, human resources management, and nursing education.

Students take four core classes, including evidence-based practice and healthcare policy/ethics. The remaining credits consist of specialized courses that teach participants how to manage financial resources and create professional work environments. The program culminates in a 120-hour clinical practicum.

The program offers six start dates throughout the year and does not require GRE scores for admission. Unlike many MSN programs, which require a BSN, applicants only need a diploma or an associate degree in nursing.


University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Galveston, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

UTMB offers 13 career-focused programs through its School of Nursing, including an online master of science in nursing with an executive nurse leader track. Students in this program benefit from research-focused courses and opportunities to interact with experts in the field, preparing them to design and implement new approaches to strengthen individual and community health.

The curriculum includes courses like leader as communicator, informatics and quality improvement, and healthcare economics and finance. Although students may fulfill the majority of degree requirements online, this program requires a 2-3-day campus visit each semester.

Admission requirements include a BSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants also need at least one year of work experience as a licensed RN in the state in which they plan to complete their practicum.


Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Liberty serves approximately 80,000 students each year from its flagship campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, and online through the Blackboard platform. The university's graduate offerings include an MSN with a nursing administration specialization.

The program's 36-credit curriculum includes courses in organizational design and structure, health policy and ethics, and managing population health. Students also analyze contemporary issues in financial and human resources management within the healthcare sector. Each course lasts eight weeks. The program culminates in an integrative capstone seminar. Learners can graduate in about 18 months.

Applicants need an active RN license and at least one year of work experience. The program accepts up to 18 transfer credits and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.


Graduates with a master's in nursing administration are prepared to pursue careers as nurse administrators, nurse consultants, and health services managers. Read more here..


A master's in nursing administration is worth it for those who want to advance their career in nursing and pursue managerial positions.


A nursing administration degree is a graduate program that is geared toward licensed nurses who want to supervise or oversee an entire medical facility's nursing procedures and faculty.


Graduates with a master's in nursing administration can become nursing home administrators by earning a Certified Nursing Home Administrator license. Read more here..

Choosing a Program

Will This Program Provide Me With the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?

A master's in nursing administration online program will build on the skills you have gained during your undergraduate studies while also introducing new, more complex topics related to this field. The comprehensive curriculum will most likely include coursework in healthcare law and policy, public health, and advanced patient care techniques, as well as administration topics like finance, human resources, office management, and healthcare leadership. Most online nursing administration programs also include practicum (or hands-on) training courses, which are conducted at functioning healthcare facilities and led by experienced professionals.

How Do I Find the Right Online Program for Me?

Every online master's in nursing administration pathway is different, so students should carefully research all programs to make sure they align with their learning preferences and career goals. The curriculum is another important consideration, since some programs are more specialized and technical than others; also be sure to research practicum requirements to ensure the program will provide enough hands-on training. Finally, be sure to vet each potential school for student outcomes, such as dropout and graduation rates, post-degree employment trends among students, and school satisfaction scores; also make sure all programs on your list have received the proper accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency.

Can I Work While I Complete My Online Master's in Nursing Administration?

Some programs are asynchronous, or self-paced, and allow students to complete their coursework without regular class meetings and assignments. Others follow a synchronous (or not self-paced) schedule with weekly assignments and student requirements. Students tend to complete synchronous programs more quickly, but asynchronous options are more conducive to students with jobs, as well as childcare duties and other important commitments. Students who are adept at time management should have no trouble balancing work and school for the duration of their master's in nursing administration online program.

What Are the Advantages of Earning My Master's in Nursing Administration Online?

Earning an online master's in nursing administration is a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education. Students will be able to access lectures and course materials using streaming video and other platforms, submit assignments via email, take tests online, and participate in virtual discussions with their professors and fellow students. Current technology also enables you to study away from home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other portable devices with Wi-Fi access. For added convenience, students with practicum requirements can usually coordinate trainings and face-to-face meetings at locations that are relatively close to their current residence. And ultimately, online and on-campus students receive the same accredited degree, and will be qualified for similar positions once they graduate.

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

The best online master's degree in nursing administration programs emphasize advanced training in nursing theories and healthcare management and utilize evidence-based practices to guide instruction. While the details may vary depending on the school, the following information provides an overview of an online master's in nursing administration.


Concentration Description Potential Careers
Nursing Leadership This concentration prepares students for leadership roles in the field. You will gain skills as a nurse administrator and become familiarized with topics ranging from workforce management to disease prevention. Nursing leadership students are prepared for careers as nursing directors and chief nurse executives at hospitals, clinics, and extended care facilities.
Health Systems Management This focus emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration and program evaluation. You will learn how to manage nursing financial resources and utilize outcome data to promote health. A concentration in health systems management allows you to pursue careers in health education, program management, and consultation.
Health Administration A nursing degree in health administration prepares students for team-centered leadership roles and emphasizes the application of critical thinking skills in a fast-paced environment. You will be prepared to take on a leadership role in numerous healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, community agencies, and healthcare businesses.


While courses vary depending on your chosen concentration, the best online master's degree in nursing administration programs typically offer a curriculum with following core courses. These courses emphasize knowledge of theoretical foundations, scholarly research, and practical skills training.

  • Advanced Professional Nursing Practices: This course emphasizes the integration of theory and practice, and students are familiarized with contemporary approaches to nursing and healthcare administration. This course equips students with skills needed to evaluate and improve the current nursing practices of organizations, and prepares them for roles as leaders in a variety of healthcare settings.
  • Evidence-based Practice: This course teaches students how to examine research and utilize data when implementing healthcare practices. Students learn about various types of data analysis and when to use it. The course familiarizes students with academic writing and literature reviews. Skills gained through this course are important for careers in nurse consulting and program evaluation.
  • Healthcare Finance: This course focuses on resource allocation and business planning. Students gain skills necessary for nursing management roles and learn how to create budgets, analyze financial statements, and develop healthcare business models. Students who complete this course are able to manage patient fees and billing and monitor budgets.


A master's in nursing administration online takes approximately two years to complete. Factors that impact program length include prior degree level and concentration and field experience requirements. Some nursing programs offer an ASN-MSN track, allowing RNs to earn a master's degree without having to complete a bachelor's program first. This track extends the length of the program by requiring the completion of 15 additional credits. The average MSN program length for students who hold a bachelor's degree is 36 credits, and online students are either part of a cohort or move through the degree at an individual pace. In cohort programs, students progress through a fixed sequence of coursework together and must adhere to a specified plan of study that emphasizes teamwork and interactive learning. Self-paced learning allows students a more flexible schedule, and peer interactions and support are available but usually not mandatory.


  • Certified Nursing Home Administrator: Graduates of a master's in nursing administration online program can pursue a career in nursing home management. Licensure is awarded by the NAB, and certification prepares nurse administrators to operate long-term care facilities. The certification process consists of two exams that include core knowledge and line of service questions.
  • Nurse Leader Certification: Nursing administrators can become certified in executive nursing practice, a credential that emphasizes expertise in leadership, business skills, and professionalism. The certification program is available through AONE, and applicants must possess valid registered nurse licensure, a master's degree, and two years of experience as an executive nurse.

Accreditation for an Online Master's in Nursing Administration Program

Attending an accredited program ensures that your education adheres to professional standards. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for quality higher education. There are six major regional accrediting bodies in America. National accreditation has historically focused on vocational training, and nationally accredited academic programs are not as standardized as regionally accredited programs. While nationally accredited programs are on average more affordable than regionally accredited programs, regionally accredited programs have greater transferability and are more accepted by advanced degree programs.

Online programs that are accredited by the DEAC and regional accrediting agencies such as SACS, NCA, and MSA adhere to rigorous standards and provide students with quality education that meets the criteria of the accrediting body. Accredited nursing programs follow guidelines provided by accrediting bodies that promote best practices in healthcare management. Nurse education programs are accredited by agencies such as AUPHA, CAHME, and CCNE.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) play important roles in the recognition and review of accrediting agencies. Accrediting agencies recognized by ED allow students to apply for federal financial aid. CHEA provides quality assurance and promotes the academic integrity of higher learning institutions and programs. More than 3,000 universities are members of CHEA, and the organization advocates for students and their families through public service initiatives. Academic programs that are accredited by ED or CHEA are more desirable than unrecognized agencies. Employers favor graduates of accredited programs, and many graduate programs only accept applicants with degrees from accredited institutions. ED and CHEA provide comprehensive databases of accredited schools and online nursing administration programs.