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 nursing certificate programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
2 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
3 University of St. Francis Joliet, IL
4 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
5 University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI
6 University of Tennessee, Knoxville Knoxville, TN
7 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, AL
8 Thomas Edison State University Trenton, NJ
9 George Mason University Fairfax, VA
10 Maryville University Saint Louis, MO

2020 Best Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Johns Hopkins University

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

As America's first research university, Johns Hopkins offers more than 260 courses of study across six academic schools and divisions. The university enrolls more than 27,000 graduate and undergraduate students online and at its campus in Baltimore, Maryland.

Johns Hopkins offers an online pediatric acute care nurse practitioner certificate for experienced pediatric nurses aspiring to practice acute care. The 14-credit program spans three semesters, including a seven-hour clinical practicum requirement. The curriculum explores advanced pediatric acute care procedures and roles.

Each applicant must possess an MSN or doctoral nursing degree, current licensure as a pediatric nurse practitioner, and a minimum 2.0 GPA for admission consideration. Johns Hopkins offers a fall start for the online graduate certificate in nursing program.

Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

2

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 87%

UW enrolls more than 45,000 students on campus and online. Students may choose from more than 450 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across 13 schools and colleges.

The university offers an online nurse educator certificate and a nurse educator capstone certificate for students currently enrolled in or already graduated from a doctoral nursing program, respectively. Both certificates prepare enrollees to sit for the nurse educator certification exam.

Students must complete nine credits over 1-2 years to earn the graduate certificate in nursing. The curriculum requires a nursing education practicum experience. Each applicant must hold a valid RN license, possess a master's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA, or maintain current enrollment in a doctoral program.

UW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

3

University of St. Francis

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

USF, which ranks among the nation's premier Catholic, liberal arts institutions, enrolls more than 1,500 online students each semester. Located in Joliet, Illinois, the university offers more than 120 traditional and online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

USF offers its online graduate certificate in teaching in nursing through the Leach College of Nursing. The 12-credit program includes required courses in teaching in nursing, nursing education methods and measurement, and a nursing education practicum. Graduates of the certificate program who also accrue at least two years of academic experience may qualify for the National League for Nursing credentialing exam.

Each candidate must hold RN licensure to qualify for the online graduate certificate in nursing. Students complete courses asynchronously in a virtual classroom. USF offers 24/7 technology support, financial aid assistance, and advising services.

USF is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

4

Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 29%

After launching its first online program in 1998, Penn State's World Campus today is the second-largest entity in the university system. Penn State enrolls more than 20,000 online students and offers more than 150 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

The university offers two online graduate certificates: nursing educator and nursing administrator. Both graduate certificates in nursing require nine credits in theoretical and practical skills specific to their respective nursing specialties. Students may opt to complete a four-credit practicum course.

Each applicant must hold a current, valid RN license and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution for admission consideration. Penn State offers a set, per-credit rate to all online nursing certificate students, regardless of their state of residence.

Penn State is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

5

University of Michigan-Flint

Flint, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

The University of Michigan comprises three campuses statewide, enrolling more than 8,500 students at its Flint location. UM-Flint offers more than 100 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across five academic schools and colleges.

UM-Flint's graduate certificates in nursing combine online coursework with hands-on clinical experience. Students may choose a concentration in adult gerontology acute care, psychiatric mental health, or nurse educator, each requiring 14-29 credits and spanning 4-5 semesters.

All concentrations include a clinical practicum to fulfill core course requirements. Each applicant must hold a current, unencumbered RN license and a master's or doctoral degree in nursing from a regionally accredited university. The certificates also require a minimum 3.0-3.2 GPA for admission consideration.

UM-Flint is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

6

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Knoxville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

With four campuses throughout the state, multiple global engagement centers, and an online division, University of Tennessee enrolls nearly 30,000 students at its Knoxville location. UT Knoxville offers more than 900 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across 11 colleges — on campus and online.

UT Knoxville's online graduate certificate in nursing features an emphasis in nursing education. The 12-credit program splits course requirements equally between nursing and education curriculum. Students can complete the program in four semesters, including a summer term, culminating in a teaching practicum for healthcare professionals.

Each candidate must hold a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and a minimum 2.7-3.0 GPA. While UT Knoxville charges differential tuition rates for state residents and non-resident students, the university recently implemented lower out-of-state rates. Students may apply in any semester.

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

7

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 42%

Featuring the highest percentage of academic programs of any regionally accredited college in Alabama, Jacksonville State University offers more than 95 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs, including more than 50 online options. JSU enrolls more than 9,000 students on campus and online.

JSU offers its online graduate certificate in nursing through the School of Health Professions and Wellness and the Department of Nursing. The 15-credit program explores instructional design and online teaching, developing instruction programs, and issues and trends in collegiate nursing education. This certificate culminates with a practicum requirement.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing from a school with regional and national nursing accreditation. Additionally, a prospective student must hold a current, unencumbered RN license in their state of practice. Enrollees pay a set, per-credit tuition rate for online study, regardless of their state of residence.

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

8

Thomas Edison State University

Trenton, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

With a physical campus in Trenton, New Jersey, and an online division, TESU enrolls more than 17,000 students from 60 countries. The university offers graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs in more than 100 areas of study, with most available online.

Its online graduate certificate in nursing offers concentrations in nursing educator, nursing informatics, or nursing administration. The nursing educator and nursing administration certificates comprise 15 credits each, and the nursing informatics certificate requires 18 credits. All programs culminate in a two-part seminar and practicum course.

Each applicant must possess a regionally accredited MSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a valid RN license for admission consideration. Graduate nursing students in the online program receive a set, per-credit tuition rate, regardless of their state of residence.

TESU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

9

George Mason University

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

As Virginia's largest public research institution, Mason enrolls more than 37,000 students on campus in Fairfax and online. Mason offers dozens of in-person majors and minors, along with more than 60 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

Mason's online graduate certificate in nursing features a focus in nursing education. The hybrid program takes place 75% online, including a two-part, in-person seminar and practicum in nursing education. The 15-credit program explores the principles, perspectives, and application of nursing education. Students may only complete the program through part-time study.

Though Mason charges differential tuition rates for Virginians and non-residents, students may pursue several program-specific nursing scholarships. The online graduate certificate in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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

10

Maryville University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

Established in 1872 as an all-women school, Maryville currently serves a coeducational enrollment of more than 6,000 students. Maryville offers more than 50 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

Students with graduate education in nursing who aspire to become nurse practitioners in a specialized area can pursue Maryville's online graduate certificate in nursing. The program requires 29-38 credits in a combination of graduate nursing core and concentration coursework. Enrollees may choose from one of five concentrations, all of which require a practicum course.

Maryville guarantees that students are not placed on a waiting list to begin the program once accepted. The university does not require GRE, GMAT, or statistics prerequisites for admission consideration.

Maryville is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

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

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.