50 Best Graduate Nursing Schools in America

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By Iris Stone In this ranking of the 50 best graduate nursing programs, we set out to uncover precisely what advanced nursing students want (and need) from a master’s degree. Using guides from sources such as the American Association of College of Nursing, we researched the qualities that make nursing schools both “in demand” and accessible. While it would have been impossible to highlight every good and bad feature of every school in a way that every single nursing student would agree on, we did pinpoint a few specific characteristics that say a lot about the quality of experience a program offers. For example, many people pursuing an MSN in nursing are adults with an RN who plan to work while they attend school. As such, flexibility is a must. Schools with online, part-time, and accelerated options give students more control over their academic schedule without negatively affecting their work life. In addition, it’s important that nursing schools employ experienced faculty members who keep up with the demands of the field and are knowledgeable about the most recent medical developments. And of course cost is always a consideration, as even the most prestigious degree programs are of little use if the pricing is prohibitive. With this information in mind, we developed the following methodology: Flexibility: This attribute can be difficult to quantify, but we came as close as we could by dividing this indicator into sub-categories: online programs, part-time and full-time attendance options, and accelerated degree formats. Just as we mentioned above, these three features say a lot about a student’s ability to control his pace of study and maintain work-life balance. Schools received points for providing options in each of the three categories, with each category weighted 15% of the total score. Collectively, the Flexibility indicator was worth 45% of the total. Active Faculty: Using data available from U.S. News & World Report, we recorded the percentage of faculty members at each school who currently work in the healthcare field in addition to teaching. Higher percentages earned schools more points for retaining faculty who are experienced and updated on contemporary practices. This indicator was weighted 30% of the total. Tuition & Fees: Lastly, we considered each school’s price from several angles. We combined both in-state and out-of-state graduate-level tuition rates and fees and calculated an average amount that a student could expect to pay for an MSN program. Bear in mind that the actual cost of attending a program varies according to part-time or full-time status, online or in-person attendance, and several other factors. However, our calculations nonetheless represent a fair approximation of each college’s affordability. This indicator was weighted 25% of the total score. Note: we only considered nursing graduate programs that are CCNE-accredited and thus only applied the above methodology after filtering out the schools that have not acquired this level of approval. Each school earned a score out of a total possible 200 points, and the top 50 performers made it onto this ranking. These schools represent every type of nursing graduate program, from degrees that focus on leadership and administration to ones that emphasize clinical proficiency, degrees available online and those with a “traditional” feel, as well as options that cross the spectrum of program length and cost.

50.Rhode Island College

Master of Science in Nursing

Website Nursing is a diverse field that touches on every facet of the medical system. At Rhode Island College, MSN nursing students acquire a depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that will prepare them for an array of challenges sure to confront them in their nursing careers. To start with, RIC offers an unparalleled range of specialization options, including Population/Public Health and a nationally accredited Nurse Anesthesia program in collaboration with the St. Joseph Hospital School of Nurse Anesthesia. To support students’ career opportunities, Advanced Practices Roles guarantee practical experience before graduation, and an interdisciplinary curricular focus leaves no stone unturned. Tuition and Fees: $10,346.00/year Score:100.67

49.Prairie View A & M University

Master's Degree in Nursing

Website Prairie View A & M University makes getting an MSN in nursing as convenient as it is expedient. Featuring Master of Science degrees in Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Administration, and Nurse Education, as well a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, Prairie View provides many ways for students to make a difference in the medical field. Plus, Prairie View offers all of its degree programs in a hybrid online format, with 49% of coursework available over the internet – that means in person class attendance is only required about half the time. Tuition and Fees: $10,144.50/year Score:101.42

48.Southeast Missouri State University

Master of Science in Nursing

Website The Master of Science in Nursing graduate program at Southeast Missouri State University is not for the faint of heart. Widely regarded to be as challenging as it is rewarding, there is no part-time option available for this program, making it particularly difficult for working students. However, online coursework is offered for a portion of the curriculum, and the entire online MSN nursing program—regardless of specialization—can be completed in as little as two years. And with dozens of clinical contract sites around Missouri and southern Illinois, SMSU makes it easy for students to gain practical experience in their field before venturing out on their own. Tuition and Fees: $9,898.00/year Score:101.79

47.University of Delaware

Master of Science Nursing

Website At the University of Delaware, MSN nursing students are afforded ultimate flexibility with their scheduling and coursework through full-time online education, in-class coursework, or a hybrid program of both. Delaware also offers a host of clinical settings to arrange for practicums and internships near students’ work or home. This flexibility makes Delaware’s MSN nursing program ideal for working students or parents, but that doesn’t compromise the excellence of the education it provides. With a significant contingent of the faculty currently practicing in the field, Delaware provides students with a practical education with tangible results. In fact, Delaware MSN graduates boast a 99% first-time success rate on in-state certification exams. Tuition and Fees: $30,042.00/year Score:101.54

46.Texas Woman's University

Master of Science in Nursing

Website Texas Woman’s University is well-known for having the largest doctoral graduate nursing program in the United States. What is less known is that, while—in the health sciences particularly—the curriculum and research is focused on women’s studies, TWU has offered a premiere education in the health sciences to men since 1972. The MSN program at TWU is particularly robust, featuring degrees in Nursing Health Systems Management, Nursing Practitioner MS specializations in Family (FNP), Adult (ANP), Women’s Health (WHNP), and Pediatric (PNP) Nursing, as well as accelerated Post-Bacc. RNs for working nurses with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in another field. Tuition and Fees: $9,420.00/year Score:102.54

45.Georgia Southwestern State University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Website Georgia Southwestern State University prepares RNs for a wide range of career opportunities with three degree tracks, two certification tracks, and one advanced practitioner program, all of which are offered as a 100% online MSN nursing program. In fact, the only program requirements not online are the preceptorships and practicum internships that give students hands-on experience in their field of specialization. The nursing program at GSW is also partnered in a consortium with Columbus State University, doubling the available faculty, courses, and professional/research resources available to MSN students and allowing Family Nurse Practitioner students to complete their degree in as little as 5 semesters. Tuition and Fees: $9,412.00/year Score:102.91

44. Kennesaw State University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Website The Advanced Care Management and Leadership program at Kennesaw State is not just another MSN in nursing to add to a resume. Through two tracks in Nursing Education Leadership in a Digital World and Nursing Administration and Transformational Leadership, Kennesaw’s MSN students develop critical awareness and fluency in the core issues surrounding contemporary nursing management. Working RNs looking to make a bigger impact on the world of healthcare have nothing to lose and so much to gain from these targeted, practical degree programs, which are offered part-time in hybrid-online programs for optimal convenience. Tuition and Fees: $17,000.00/year Score:102.69

43.University of Wyoming

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Website The University of Wyoming has long been a singular resource for nursing education, with its 100% online, 36 credit-hour MSN in Nursing Educator program. Starting next Fall, however, Wyoming is adding a brand new MSN program to its repertoire: Nursing Leadership. While both programs prepare students for the unique challenges of rural healthcare, the similarities end there. Unlike the Nursing Educator MSN, which prepares students primarily for academic work, the Nursing Leadership MSN combines advanced practitioner coursework, administrative tools and informatics, and business to prepare students for the diverse range of challenges facing the nursing field today. Tuition and Fees: $9,185.00/year Score:104.4

42.Georgia State University

Master of Science in Nursing

Website The MSN nursing program at Georgia State University is perfect for Registered Nurses looking to acquire an advanced practitioner specialization. Where many schools on this list aid in the transition from practitionership to administration and/or education, GSU is geared towards students who want to remain on the front lines of the medical frontier. As a result, GSU offers a huge range of unique concentrations, including MSNs in Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse. These programs are all web-based, with a mixture of online and in-class coursework, and are even available to RNs without bachelor’s degrees (provided they take supplemental undergraduate coursework to support their graduate studies). Tuition and Fees: $16,393.00/year Score:104.55

41.Texas A & M University Corpus Christi

Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN

Website Ranked as one of the best online education programs by U.S. News & World Report and now the fourth-largest MSN nursing program in the state, Texas A & M University Corpus Christi’s MSN program is a top choice for RNs looking to become leaders in their industry and community. The College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers specializations in Family Nurse Practitioner, Leadership in Nursing Systems, and Nurse Educator, all of which are 100% online (outside of practicums and internships). These programs all prepare students to sit for National Certification Exams in their specialization. Tuition and Fees: $9,161.00/year Score:104.78

40.Stockton University

Master of Science in Nursing

Website Designed for Registered Nurses with bachelor’s degrees, the graduate nursing program at Stockton is a great resource for advanced specialization in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care. In fact, it’s the only program that’s offered. In 42 credits that can be distributed among 2-, 3-, and 4-year tracks, Stockton students develop a range of theoretical, statistical, and administrative skill-sets that will transform them into leaders in their career. Coursework in Advanced Pathology, Healthcare Systems, and Pharmacology are featured alongside three practicums that challenge students’ professional experiences, allowing them to apply their new skills to real-world situations. Tuition and Fees: $16,128.00/year Score:104.93

39.West Virginia University

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Website Offering specializations in Family (FNP) and Pediatric (PNP) Nursing Practitioner as well as Nursing Leadership in 100% online and synchronous/asynchronous scheduling formats, the MSN program at West Virginia University makes it easy for working nurses to work their way up the chain of command. Whether studying full- or part-time, MSN students at WVU can prepare to sit for the National Certification Exam in their specialization completely from the convenience of their own home. Students with certain specializations in this online MSN nursing program may be required to attend up to seven mandatory assessment/practicum sessions in either Morgantown or Charleston over the course of the program. Tuition and Fees: $14,445.00/year Score:105.16

38.University of Nebraska Medical Center


Website Whether a student wants to continue as a nursing practitioner, go into nursing education, cut her teeth as a nursing executive, or pursue doctoral research at an academic institution, she can find the roadmap to success at UNMC. All programs also offer dual training in nursing education, allowing students to double their qualifications and chances of finding meaningful work with their degree. And with a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio, online coursework, libraries, and faculty resources, and the flexibility to complete a degree in as little as 4 semesters or up to 5 years, the MSN nursing program at UNMC offers no excuse not to succeed. Tuition and Fees: $15,856.00/year Score:105.67

37.University of North Alabama

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Website The University of North Alabama offers two paths to greatness in the nursing graduate program. Option one is Nursing in Teaching-Learning Environments, which prepares students to be faculty in higher education or instructors in a clinical setting. Option two is Nursing Leadership in Organizational Environments, which is perfect for students who want to get their hands dirty with politics and legislation, budgeting and economics, and administration and informatics. Each track requires two clinical courses apiece, but are otherwise available completely online and asynchronous. Tuition and Fees: $8,783.00/year Score:105.9

36.Winona State University

Master's Nursing Program

Website How does the MSN nursing program at Winona State University create caring, ethical, creative, and accountable leaders in nursing? Maybe it has something to do with their clinical affiliations with prestigious healthcare facilities like Alina Health, Gunderson Lutheran Health System, the Mayo Clinic Health System, and Mercy Medical Center. Perhaps it’s the flexible 2- and 3-year scheduling programs that accommodate working professionals looking to advance the field and their own career. Or it could be the huge range of specializations available, from acute care and clinical nursing to organization leadership and leadership innovations. One thing’s for sure: the low tuition means that graduates can actually afford to give back to their community instead of paying off loans to the bank. Tuition and Fees: $8,770.00/year Score:106.27

35.Texas A & M University Texarkana

Master of Science in Nursing Administration Track

Website The brand new MSN nursing program at Texas A&M University Texarkana should appeal to Registered Nurses (with a baccalaureate degree in nursing) seeking a leadership role in nursing administration. In as little as seven semesters of three classes or less, this innovative and comprehensive program transforms students from practitioners to executive leaders. Through a robust combination of independent research, clinical proposals for evidence-based projects, and theoretical studies in administrative policy, best practices, technology, and economics, MSN candidates at Texarkana develop the core competencies to take their careers to the next level. Tuition and Fees: $7,945.50/year Score:107.01

34.Southern University and A & M College

Graduate Nursing Program

Website At Southern University and A&M College, all graduates of the MSN specialize in family health nursing with an additional “professional” concentration in Nursing Administration, Nursing Education or Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Where other schools ask students to choose a single concentration for practical purposes, MSN candidates at Southern are encouraged to broaden their horizons and encounter diverse coursework in administration, curricular development, and primary family healthcare. And with required FNP theory and practicums, MSN graduates are further eligible to sit for not one but two certification exams from the American Nurse Credentialing Center's (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP). Tuition and Fees: $7,406.00/year Score:107.76

33.University of Central Missouri

Master of Science in Nursing

Website The University of Central Missouri features two 100% online, part-time MSN programs in Nurse Educator and Family Nurse Practitioner. Where FNP candidates must complete practicums within the MO or greater Kansas City area, there are no geographical restrictions for Nurse Educator candidates, making it ideal for itinerant or working students. And while each program prepares students for widely divergent career paths down the road, they are both fortified by a core curriculum that includes Methods of Research in Nursing; Theories of Nursing; Family Population Health; and Healthcare Policy and Advocacy. Tuition and Fees: $10,641.00/year Score:108.04

32.University of Massachusetts Lowell

Master's in Nursing and Fast Track Programs

Website Offering a variety of fast-track degree programs alongside traditional family and adult-gerontology practitioner programs, the MSN program at University of Massachusetts Lowell appeals to ambitious nursing students with a variety of needs and qualifications. RNs without a bachelor’s degree in their field and pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing students alike can accelerate their education with fast-track MSN programs that consolidate undergraduate and graduate coursework into a single abridged curriculum. UMass Lowell also offers fast-track doctoral programs for MSN candidates to begin advanced research even while they are still taking graduate courses. Tuition and Fees: $15,193.00/year Score:107.91

31.Ball State University

Online Master of Science (MS) in Nursing

Website With Fall and Spring admission, no GRE requirements, and asynchronous, online coursework, Ball State University is attractive for its convenience. But that’s far from the only reason. BSU is also known for nursing faculty who practice in the field and grapple with the same day-to-day challenges that their MSN students can expect to face upon graduation. Students preparing to be Family Nursing Practitioners, Nursing Educators, or a Nursing Administrators will all find robust support resources online that extend far beyond coursework. Textbooks, advisement, career services, free software and more make BSU’s distance education services a key to student success and learning. Tuition and Fees: $14,718.00/year Score:109.03

30.Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Website The first school in the state to offer a master’s of science in nursing, Northwestern State University of Louisiana has a long tradition of advancing the standards of healthcare. As a result, the academic standards for MSN candidates at NSULA are higher than most other programs on this list. Students are required to develop both a clinical concentration as a well as a professional, “functional role” concentration in administration and/or education to earn their degree. They must also satisfy a year of clinical experience before their first clinical practicum, keeping the program competitive among working professionals. Tuition and Fees: $12,864.00/year Score:112.93

29.Washington State University

RN-Master of Nursing

Website With nearly a quarter of the nursing faculty actively practicing in the medical field, Washington State University’s MSN program provides actionable education in-tune with the needs and challenges of modern nursing. Students can pursue advanced specializations in nursing education, leadership, or an individualized program that combines the two for greater career opportunities. This program caters to working professionals and students alike, with an RN-to-MSN option available to fast track a degree. It is also offered in hybrid-online format, requiring students to meet for classes no more than five times a semester. Tuition and Fees: $19,444.00/year Score:113.24

28.California State University San Bernardino

Master of Science in Nursing

Website California State University San Bernardino offers a unique MSN program that allows students to pursue concentrations in either Population-Based Nursing, Advanced Public/Community Health, or Nursing Education. Students in the former programs select populations of focus and develop healthcare systems that leverage community resources to create the largest sustainable impact on a presiding health issue. In the latter (Nursing Education) program, students work to develop a curriculum that introduces nursing students to the technologies, theories, and principles of modern nursing. This hybrid-online program offers scheduling flexibility through three different degree tracks (including full- and part-time options) and a foundational core curriculum for all three specializations. Tuition and Fees: $13,396.00/year Score:115.37

27.San Francisco State University

Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (ELMSN)

Website The robust San Francisco State University nursing program is perfect for any student of any vocation who wants to become a leader in the nursing field. Registered Nurses practicing in the field and novices with no nursing experience whatsoever can achieve an MSN through SFSU’s numerous degree tracks. The entry-level Master of Science in Nursing program, for instance, prepares students for national certification in nursing (NCLEX-RN) while simultaneously granting them a BSN and MSN in just four years. This program allows students to choose among concentrations in Clinical Nursing Specialist, Nursing Administration, and Public Communication/Health. Tuition and Fees: $13,314.00/year Score:116.49

26.University of Connecticut

Master of Science (MS) in Nursing

Website In just the last five years, the MSN program at the University of Connecticut has jumped from the 79th to 43rd best graduate nursing program in the country, according to U.S. News. Now ranked among the top five such programs in New England, UConn boasts a 100% certification pass-rate in the last three years, a highly experienced faculty of practicing nurses and physicians, and six concentrations ranging from gerontology and family health to nursing leadership. To top it all off, UConn offers their entire core curriculum online, requiring students to attend only practicums and research courses on campus. Tuition and Fees: $24,208.00/year Score:116.5

25.Angelo State University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Website Angelo State University offers its entire graduate nursing program online through the Blackboard course delivery system. Although certain tracks require minimal in-person course attendance, even the clinical components of the degree can usually be satisfied in students’ home cities (provided they are in Texas). This makes Angelo one of the premiere schools for working nurses seeking an advanced degree. Plus, with a 27-course core curriculum (featuring diverse classes in Pharmacotherapeutics, Population Health/Epidemiology, and Health Policy and Ethics), and nearly half the faculty serving as active healthcare professionals, Angelo’s online MSN programs offer degrees that are as useful as they are academically rigorous. Tuition and Fees: $9,397.00/year Score:117.13

24.University of Mississippi

Master of Science in Nursing Degree

Website With eight concentrations and an almost entirely online curriculum, the MSN program at the University of Mississippi is truly one of a kind. In addition to being offered on the state’s only academic health sciences campus, this program provides students with access to the only Level-1 trauma center and children’s hospital in the state. And as if that weren’t enough, the nursing school at UM is also affiliated with 200+ hospitals, community health centers, health departments, mental health facilities, and community clinics, providing unprecedented outreach and internship opportunities to enterprising students. Tuition and Fees: $13,126.00/year Score:118.73

22.Western Kentucky University

Master of Science in Nursing

Website With 70% of the faculty currently active in nursing practice, it’s hard to imagine a better resource for aspiring leaders in healthcare than the nursing graduate program at Western Kentucky University. The MSN program at WKU builds on students’ baccalaureate nursing education and professional RN experience to prepare them for the diverse challenges of administration, education, and advanced clinical practice. And for students without a bachelor’s degree, WKU even features an RN to MSN bridge program to eliminate redundant coursework. WKU also offers unique specializations such as Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Emergency Nurse Practitioner—both of which are growing fields with huge career potential for the right candidates. Tuition and Fees: $12,060.00/year Score:121.27

21.West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Website Registered nurses looking for a career in education, acute or long-term care, or community health care will find that the MSN program at West Chester University of Pennsylvania is a great way to achieve specific nursing career goals while continuing to work. WCUPA offers an array of scheduling options—from full- and part-time study to a mixture of hybrid and online coursework (both synchronous and asynchronous)—that allow students to create personalized educational plans that meet their goals and needs. Tuition and Fees: $12,446.00/year Score:122.09

20.University of Massachusetts Boston

Nursing, MS

Website Being located in the medical mecca of Boston gives this MSN nursing program a distinct advantage when it comes to clinical placements. Students benefit from their school’s affiliations with such prestigious institutions as Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Dana Farber. Students are also exposed to healthcare abroad through international study in Glasgow, Scotland, Korea, China, and Kenya. Recent service trips (available to both local and online students) have provided relief

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