Why This Matters

  • AGING POPULATION WILL DOUBLE by 2060

    The number of Americans aged 65 and older will double by 2060, leading to an increased need for nurse practitioners skilled in working with this population.

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 117,700 MORE NURSE PRACTITIONERS BY 2029

    Overall growth for nurse practitioners and other master’s level nurses is expected to grow by 45% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — much higher than the average job growth of 4%.

  • EARN $42,500 MORE PER YEAR WITH A MASTER’S

    Master’s level nurse practitioners earn a median wage of $115,800 annually, $42K more than baccalaureate-level RNs, who earn an average of $73,300.

Our Research

The programs on our list all lead to a master of science degree in nursing or nurse practitioner. This degree is the necessary precursor to taking the licensing exam to become a nurse practitioner. Licensing varies from state to state, but all areas of the U.S. require a master’s-level education to be considered a nurse practitioner.

All our chosen programs are accredited by one of three accreditation agencies: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Higher Learning Commission, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Accreditation is a rigorous periodic review that ensures that the curriculum is up-to-date and relevant for the degree being awarded, and that professors have the terminal degrees in their field and real-world experience when possible.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Nurse Practitioner Degree program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 56 hours to write this article
  • 158 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 333 education programs we compared

The Top 46 Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs

Best Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists are referred to collectively as advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs. All must have a master’s degree and be licensed registered nurses in their home state. They will have passed a national certification exam and have a state APRN license.

If becoming an APRN interests you, you’ll need to be an RN with an undergraduate nursing degree to qualify for most master’s degree programs. A few offer bridge programs for RNs with an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing. Other programs may be willing to work with you if you have an undergraduate degree in a related healthcare field.

There are several possible certifications for nurse practitioners. Your first step should be to check with your state’s licensing board to see what you need to practice legally in your state. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board is a good source of information, as is The American Nurses Credentialing Center.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Nurse Practitioner degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? To be eligible for a Nurse Practitioner master’s program, you will need an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Some programs require you to have a registered nursing license and be working already in the field. Others will only want a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related field.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Online programs are generally delivered in one of two ways. Synchronous classes are held in real time, and you need to attend the class remotely at the assigned time. Asynchronous classes are pre-recorded, and you may watch the class at your convenience. There may be some flexibility, as well, in when assignments must be submitted.

When researching programs, note any specialties of the program you’re interested in — such as gerontology or pediatric care. There may be additional certifications or licensing needed for particular areas of nursing. Admissions counselors can be an excellent source of information. They are often available via live chat during business hours, and can answer your questions about the program you’re interested in.

Financial aid — either needs-based or merit-based — may be available from your college or university. But don’t stop there when looking for support. You may be able to find scholarship, grant, or loan support through your place of employment or professional organizations to which you belong.