The nursing field offers numerous advancement opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry has the highest projected growth of all occupations, with an estimated 9.8 million new healthcare jobs from 2014 to 2024.

A graduate certificate for RNs helps students sharpen existing skills and learn new approaches to healthcare and training. Requiring only two semesters of study, an online graduate certificate in nursing will help you achieve your professional goals.

What Are The Best Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Programs?

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George Washington University

Washington, DC

Chartered as an act of the United States Congress in 1821, GWU functions as a private research university in Washington, D.C. The university features 14 schools and colleges focusing on different areas of study. The largest higher learning institution in the District of Columbia, GWU highlights its online learning opportunities, including one of the best online postgraduate certificate programs in nursing.

The online nursing education graduate certificate teaches students how to design, develop, and deliver top-of-the-line education to prepare competent health professionals. The completely online format allows students with busy schedules to earn a degree with flexibility. The online program takes students just one year to complete, taking four courses over three semesters. Students can also pursue continuing education credits as they seek opportunities for professional development.

Students can complete coursework to earn a standalone certificate, or they can combine the program with MSN or DNP program options. The certificate fulfills the National League of Nurses Certification for Nurse Educators requirements. Students can complete their courses individually in any sequence they desire, and they can register for classes any time before the course's start date.

The Maryland Nurses Association approves the courses in the program for continuing education hours. GWU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI

A public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, UW-Madison was founded in 1848 when Wisconsin achieved statehood. The university functions as the official state university and is the flagship university of the University of Wisconsin System. The first public university in the state, the school is the largest school in Wisconsin. Students can pursue a variety of programs, including one of the top online postgraduate certificate programs in nursing in the country.

UW-Madison offers an online clinical nurse specialist (CNS) certificate focused on adult/gerontology. The program provides students with the specialized education, training, and academic credentials they need to earn national certification as a clinical nurse specialist.

In general, a master's degree in nursing is required to practice as a clinical nurse specialist, but many states, such as Wisconsin, include title protection and the scope of practice as requirements to work as a CNS. This new certificate program meets eligibility standards to sit for certification as a CNS.

Students begin the three-semester, 15-credit program in the fall and move through the curriculum as a cohort, completing the program with the same group of students along the way. The five required courses in the program combine theory with clinical application. The UW-Madison is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Florida International University

Miami, FL

A metropolitan public research university in Greater Miami, Florida, FIU boasts classification from the Carnegie Foundation as a research university; it is also considered a research university by the Florida legislature. Functioning as part of the 12-campus State University System of Florida, FIU is one of the primary graduate universities in the state and offers online graduate certificate in nursing education.

FIU is the second-largest university in Florida, the largest university in southern Florida, and the fourth-largest university in the country by enrollment. Among its diverse graduate programs, FIU features one of the best postgraduate certificate programs in nursing online.

The online graduate certificate in nursing education caters to students who plan to enroll in the master of science in nursing program or who are already enrolled and want to earn a dual master of science in nursing and nursing educator certificate. Graduates of the certificate program can work in a variety of educational settings such as healthcare and nursing facilities and schools. The program features a combination of courses in pedagogical competencies vital to nursing, preparing students to teach complex nursing competencies.

Students enjoy the technologically enhanced plan of study that builds on the use of a variety of instructional, assessment, and development strategies to facilitate learning. FIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT

Founded in 1881, UConn is a public land-, space-, and sea-grant research university in Storrs, Connecticut. The university boasts a 4,400-acre campus, just an hour and a half drive from Boston. Consistently ranked as the best public national university in New England, UConn is a flagship university offering a variety of programs, including several online opportunities such as their top postgraduate certificate program in nursing.

UConn's online graduate certificate in holistic nursing integrates traditional healthcare with a patient-centered approach focused on healing and health. Most standard nursing programs do not cover holistic nursing, so UConn's nursing school features the program online to fill the need, making it highly flexible and accessible. The program consists of three, three-credit courses that students can complete within one year if they start during the fall semester.

The program serves registered nurses with a bachelor's degree and an interest in integrating evidence-based, holistic approaches in their professional practice. Throughout the rigorous curriculum, students learn about both the state of science related to holistic care and the latest research on the safety and efficacy of integrative and complementary health approaches.

The program provides students with the foundation they need to take the national board certification exam in holistic nursing. The school is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.


George Mason University

Fairfax, VA

A public research university located in Fairfax, Virginia, Mason was originally founded in 1949 as a branch of the University of Virginia and became an independent institution in 1972. The university operates four campuses across Virginia, as well as a fifth campus in Songdo, South Korea. Classified as an R1: Doctoral University with very high research activity, the university boasts a variety of prestigious programs, including a postgraduate certificate program in nursing online.

Mason's online nursing education graduate certificate teaches students to work as nurse educators in a variety of healthcare and university environments, providing professional development, continuing education, and other forms of critical instruction.

The program caters to nurse educators who want to teach in hospitals, nursing schools, and community healthcare agencies. Students enjoy the opportunity to explore the principles of learning and teaching as they focus on developing program evaluation and curricula and become confident in their roles as educators.

Students must complete 15 credits of coursework covering topics such as perspectives in nursing education, principles of assessment and evaluation in nursing education, and application of nursing education principles. Mason is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


Sacred Heart University

Fairfield, CT

Sacred Heart University operates as a private Roman Catholic university in Fairfield, Connecticut. Founded in 1963 by Walter W. Curtis, the Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Sacred Heart was the first Catholic university in the United States to be staffed by the laity. The second-largest Catholic university in New England behind Boston College, the school boasts more than 80 programs of study at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Students can also explore online opportunities, including one of the best postgraduate certificate programs in nursing online.

The online advanced graduate certificate in nursing education teaches students to work as nurse educators teaching families, patients, student nurses, healthcare providers, and staff nurses. The rigorous curriculum teaches students how to share their expertise with others to provide quality education and healthcare.

The program coincides with student clinical expertise regarding the latest strategies and theories in learning and teaching. Following completion of the program, graduates can work as clinical instructors in nursing schools or staff development educators in healthcare organizations or hospitals. Students can complete coursework entirely online, enjoying flexibility to continue working full time as they pursue certification.

Courses last eight weeks and are offered on an ongoing basis. Students must complete 120 practicum hours and 15 credit hours of coursework to successfully finish the program. Course topics focus on things like curriculum development, evaluation in nursing education, and the theoretical basis of teaching and learning in nursing education. The school is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.


University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Amherst, MA

A land-grant, public research university in Amherst, Massachusetts, UMass-Amherst is the flagship campus of the UMass system. The school features more than 100 undergraduate programs, nearly 80 master's opportunities, and almost 50 doctoral programs. Among its diverse program offerings, the university offers one of the top postgraduate certificate programs in nursing online.

The online graduate certificate in nursing education prepares registered nurses to work in clinical settings, colleges, and universities. Students enrolled in the clinical nurse leader master's program, the doctor of nursing practice, and Ph.D. programs can complete the certificate program in addition to their individual program requirements. Students may also enroll in the program if they are nurses or nursing faculty who want to enhance their teaching skills and abilities.

Students who hold a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and complete the certificate program can sit to take the National League for Nursing Certification for Nurse Educators exam. The university's nursing college offers a variety of benefits and resources for students, including renowned professors and five flexible courses.

Students also choose from two nursing core courses, two education electives, and a capstone teaching practicum. Course topics focus on teaching in nursing, curriculum development and the evaluation process in nursing, and foundations of higher education. The school is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.


University of Alabama in Huntsville

Huntsville, AL

UAH is a state-supported, coeducational public research university. Boasting regional accreditation, the university awards baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees across eight colleges that focus on topics like education, engineering, professional and continuing studies, science and graduate studies, and nursing. Programs cover a variety of subject areas including one of the most renowned online postgraduate certificates in nursing.

The online graduate certificate in nursing education program at UAH serves students who hold a master's degree or who are currently enrolled in graduate education with the certification to provide nurse education. Instructors deliver coursework asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at a time and place that works best for them. The program's flexible format encourages and enables students to continue working full time as they pursue their certificate.

Students must complete six courses that they can complete within one year. Program graduates can sit for certification exams in teaching offered by the National League of Nursing. The 18 semester hour program prepares nurses to teach in a variety of settings, understanding a variety of teaching strategies and delivery systems for the current student learner. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

Denver, CO

The CU Denver Anschutz Medical Campus houses CU's health science-related colleges and schools, including the CU School of Medicine, the CU College of Nursing, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The school offers programs in a variety of fields across the biomedical and biological sciences, including one of the best online postgraduate certificates in nursing.

The online nursing education certificate at the school explores the best practices in evidence-based learning and teaching through an online format. Students can broaden their nursing career opportunities by earning the certificate, taking the next step to pursue a career in nursing education. Throughout their curriculum, students combine nursing education with clinical expertise, preparing them for careers in nursing education programs, community education, and patient education.

The curriculum focuses on practical nursing application through evidence-based learning and teaching strategies, emphasizing the skills and knowledge necessary to develop curricula, integrate technology in the classroom, and improve teaching skills and evaluation strategies. Students can complete the program in as little as one year, finishing nine credits of coursework through three separate courses.

Applicants to the program must select their specific specialty as their desired program of study. Students can also elect to take individual courses. The institution is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville, AL

Founded in 1883, Jacksonville State University offers programs of study across five academic units that feature bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and education specialist degrees -- along with continuing and distance programs. The university adopted its first doctoral program in 2011 in emergency management. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the university features 40 programs that also boast programmatic accreditation. Among its varied degree offerings, the university offers one of the top online postgraduate certificates in nursing.

The online graduate certificate in nursing education at JSU prepares nurses to teach in health and nursing professional programs, the community, and in healthcare institutions and agencies. Throughout coursework, students gain essential skills and knowledge about program development, teaching, clinical instruction, and evaluation. Students do not need to complete a comprehensive exam to earn a graduate certificate.

Students enjoy an entirely online format with a practicum based on the student's needs, planned in a location most convenient for them. Students who complete the graduate certificate program can apply their practicum hours toward a master of science in nursing with a concentration in nursing education.

Applicants to the program must complete an admissions application, pay the application fee, hold a bachelor's degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution, and hold a current unencumbered RN license.


The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Knoxville, TN

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville is a public research university. Founded two years before Tennessee became the nation's 16th state in 1794, the university is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, which features 11 graduate colleges and ten undergraduate colleges. Students enjoy the diverse atmosphere promoted at the university, with students from over 100 foreign countries and all 50 states enrolled. The university partners with the University of Tennessee Medical Centers and is the only university in the United States to boast three presidential papers editing projects.

Among its unique and diverse program offerings, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville boasts one of the best online postgraduate certificates in nursing in the nation. The online registered nurse first assistant certificate program serves students who are perioperative or advanced practice registered nurses who work in expanded roles as surgical first assistants.

Throughout the curriculum, students learn how to collaborate with healthcare team members and surgeons to achieve positive patient outcomes. They also learn to expand the role of clinical practice in the profession.

Graduates of the program can explore potential surgical hazards and identify safety measures to prevent injury. They can also explain the use and design of important surgical instruments used during surgical procedure and demonstrate knowledge of common surgical procedures by incorporating an understanding of physiology, pathophysiology, and anatomy. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS

Boasting a main campus in Lawrence, Kansas, KU harbors several satellite campuses, research centers, educational centers, and medical centers around the state. KU features two branch campuses in the Kansas City metropolitan area: the Edwards campus in Overland Park and the medical school and hospital in Kansas City. The university is one of 62 members of the Association of American Universities and enrolls nearly 30,000 students each year. Students pursue a variety of programs including one of the country's top online postgraduate certificates in nursing.

KU features a variety of hybrid and online graduate programs, including a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner graduate certificate. The online certificate program prepares advanced practice nurses to diagnose and treat common mental health conditions in general medical settings. Throughout their rigorous curriculum, students prepare to apply their skills and knowledge in psychotherapeutic, psychopharmacologic, and interpersonal interventions for groups, families, and individuals with psychiatric disorders.

The program requires students to complete an advanced practice registered nurse graduate educational program from a nationally accredited nursing school. Students must also complete three separate comprehensive graduate-level courses in advanced health assessment, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced pharmacology.

Applicants to the program should also complete a health promotion or maintenance course before applying. All required courses in the certificate program feature an online format and are offered in sequence every other year. KU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

University Park, PA

The online campus of Penn State University, Penn State-World Campus extends Penn State's graduate and undergraduate degree and certificate programs to students who cannot attend other Penn State campuses due to location or life factors. The campus features over 150 online degrees and certificates. The school also frequently adds new programs to the curriculum. Among its unique program offerings, the university offers one of the United States' best online postgraduate certificates in nursing.

The online graduate certificate in nurse administrator at Penn State requires students to complete nine credits of coursework. The completely online format of the graduate certificate program allows students to continue working as they pursue their degree, enjoying asynchronous coursework that they complete at any time and place.

Along with boasting flexibility, the program promotes a highly dynamic and relevant curriculum taught by world-class faculty. Coursework covers a variety of concepts, including healthcare economics and policy; nurse leadership concepts, theories, and roles; and human resources in healthcare organizations.

Students can pursue the program as a "stand-alone" certificate or as a "step up" to the nurse administrator option in the master of science in nursing degree. Penn State is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.


Winona State University

Winona, MN

A public university in Winona, Minnesota, WSU began as Winona Normal School in 1858 and currently serves as the oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The first school established west of the Mississippi River, WSU offers more than 80 programs of study through its main campus, as well as program offerings on satellite campuses. Students can pursue an array of programs online, including one of the top online postgraduate certificates in nursing.

The online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner graduate certificate program offers a specialized curriculum to nurses who hold a graduate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited graduate nursing program. Students must complete 24 credits of coursework offered predominantly online. Totalling 600 hours of clinical experiences, the program requires students to enroll full time in the program, and its cohort format includes scheduled synchronous courses that allow students to complete the program in 15 months.

Students must complete a required on-campus orientation along with online classes, as well as class meetings via webinar. The asynchronous coursework format requires students to log on to an online forum at a specific time to participate in real-time classroom discussions and complete and submit assignments on a schedule.

Students can explore other nursing certificates at the university, including programs focusing on nurse education, nurse leadership, family nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology. The school is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Thomas Edison University

Trenton, NJ

A public institution of higher education, TESU is located in Trenton, New Jersey. The university offers programs predominantly online to serve the state's nontraditional student population. Students can pursue degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

TESU earned university status in 2015, upon approval of the state college Presidents' Council and the Secretary of Higher Education. Students can explore a variety of prestigious programs, including one of the best online postgraduate certificates in nursing in the country.

The online graduate nursing certificate programs at TESU serve experienced registered nurses who hold a master's in nursing and want to practice professionally in other nursing areas. The programs comprise two practicums and theory courses that require students to complete a maximum of 18 credits each. Students can pursue certificate programs in the same areas of speciality as the university's MSN degree program.

Students can focus online certificate programs on nurse education, nursing informatics, or nursing administration. The nurse educator certificate program teaches students to apply theories of various sciences and education related to the evaluation and development of healthcare and nursing.

The nursing informatics program integrates skills, knowledge, and scientific findings from areas such as information science and nursing science. Students pursuing the nursing administration certificate program learn to use systems thinking to manage and lead complex healthcare organizations. TESU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

What Do I Need to Get Into an Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Program?

Students earning a graduate certificate in nursing refresh skills learned during undergraduate work and learn new skills necessary for occupations in healthcare. Specialized training allows students to pursue new careers in the field. For example, a registered nurse working in a clinical setting may pursue a graduate certificate in nursing education, which opens career opportunities teaching in schools or leading professional workshops. A graduate certificate also allows nurses to move into managerial or administrative roles. A variety of nursing concentrations, such as clinical research management and healthcare informatics, prepare nurses for specialized occupations in the healthcare industry.

Applicants to a graduate certificate in nursing program should hold bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited university and have at least a 3.0 GPA. Most graduate certificate programs require applicants to have unencumbered RN licensure.

What Will I Learn in an Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Program?

While curricula vary by school and concentration, the following courses are common to most online graduate certificate in nursing programs. Each course teaches skills applicable to a variety of nursing professions. A student's concentration influences curriculum requirements; students may focus on administrative, educational, or clinical training.

  • Curriculum development in nursing: A common course for those in the nurse educator track, this course teaches students how to design a nursing curriculum and assess student learning. This training prepares students for roles as clinical trainers and community educators.
  • Chronic disease management: This course familiarizes students with interdisciplinary care approaches for people with chronic and life-limiting illnesses. Students learn to assess the needs of patients and their families. This course prepares students for careers as chronic disease outreach coordinators and chronic care managers.
  • Healthcare policy, politics, and economics: This course examines the impact of healthcare policies on nursing practices. With an emphasis on patient safety, coursework prepares students for careers as nurse administrators and public health clinicians.
  • Holistic nursing: This course covers concepts of holistic nursing, including health and wellness, spirituality, and the mind-body connection. Students gain skills in integrative practices and team collaboration. The course examines contemporary views of holistic nursing and prepares students for careers as botanic therapists and integrated health specialists.

What Can I Do With a Certificate in Nursing?

An online graduate certificate in nursing prepares students for careers in areas such as clinical practice and community advocacy. Depending on a student's concentration, potential occupations include nurse educator, laboratory analyst, and nurse administrator. Hospital nurses often work 12-hour shifts, while school and community nurses typically work traditional business hours. Healthcare professionals are detail-oriented and compassionate, and they possess strong critical thinking, organizational, and communication skills.

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

These healthcare professionals assess the health needs of individuals and groups. They provide training programs for public service workers and advocate for improved healthcare.

Median Annual Salary: $44,390
Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists

Nurses with training in healthcare informatics operate laboratory equipment used to analyze blood, urine, and tissue. They discuss findings with physicians and supervise medical laboratory technicians.

Median Annual Salary: $50,930
Projected Growth Rate: 16%

Medical and Health Services Managers

These healthcare professionals manage facility finances, recruitment and training of clinical and office staff, and budget development. They identify and implement goals to improve healthcare delivery.

Median Annual Salary: $96,540
Projected Growth Rate: 17%

Postsecondary Teachers

Nurse educators employed by community colleges and universities teach nursing courses, develop syllabi, and plan lessons. Postsecondary teachers advise students, collaborate with colleagues, and conduct research.

Median Annual Salary: $75,430
Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses may specialize in areas such as critical care or neonatology. They conduct intake assessments, administer medication and treatments, and operate medical equipment.

Median Annual Salary: $68,450
Projected Growth Rate: 16%

Accreditation for Graduate Certificate Programs

Choosing an accredited online graduate certificate in nursing program ensures the program adheres to rigorous academic standards. The two most common types of accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national accreditation. Regional accreditation is awarded by six regional accrediting agencies and is the most common and highly regarded form of accreditation.

Nationally accredited colleges tend to cost less, but most regionally accredited programs do not accept credits earned from nationally accredited schools. Online students should look for programs accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which specializes in distance education. Nursing-specific accrediting organizations include the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the National League for Nursing. These organizations promote improvements in healthcare delivery by implementing training standards that emphasize integrity and diversity.

Financing Your Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Program

Numerous resources are available to finance a graduate certificate in nursing. The most desirable forms of financial assistance are scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment. Nursing scholarships support students interested in areas such as gerontology and neuroscience. Students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine their eligibility for federal assistance programs, including low-interest loans and work-study programs.


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