Why This Matters


    Meaning that despite high demand, the job market for nurses with bachelor’s degrees is getting tighter. Earning a MSN can help differentiate you from the crowd and hone in your career.


    The nursing job market is growing twice as fast as the U.S. average — 15% versus 7%. Nurse specialties that require an MSN are growing even faster, with a projected 31% increase in demand by 2024.


    Nurse specialists like nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earn on average $110,930 each year – a significant jump from nurses with bachelor degrees ($70,000 per year).

Our Research

Master degrees in nursing (MSN) can set you up to succeed in a variety of roles, including clinical nurse practitioner, nurse administrator, and nurse educator. The right online MSN for you will depend on which career path you choose, but we’ll help you narrow down your search with our top Master Degrees in Nursing guide.

To find the best, we only looked at nonprofit universities accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) to make sure every program met national standards on preparing nurses for the field. Then we compared each university based on its program strength, degree options available, and relative cost.

This gave us our Intelligent Score, based on a scale from 0 to 100 (for full details, see Our Ranking Methodology). Each program listed is 100% online, without any on-campus residency or visit requirements. Additionally, some schools offer a direct RN to MSN degree program, so if you don’t have a bachelor’s in nursing, you can jump straight into your chosen specialty.

  • 80 hours to write this article
  • 176 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 358 education programs we compared

The Top 59 Online Master’s in Nursing Programs

Best Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree Programs

What You Should Know About This Degree

There are a few caveats to be aware of with online MSN degrees. If you live close enough to a university campus to attend on-campus sessions, more clinical-focused MSN degrees than those on our list will be open to you. So while the degrees listed for each university are (at time of writing) 100% online, this meant we excluded a fair number of clinical-focused programs that required on-campus work.

Similarly, if you want to become a nurse anesthetist or nurse midwife, you’ll probably need to commit to some on-campus work. For more details, see our Best Online Nursing Degrees.

What’s Next?

As with every online degree, as you figure out which of our top online MSN programs could be right for you, you’ll want to keep an eye on state authorizations. If your state of residence is different from the state where your future university is located, you’ll need to check whether your home state has authorized your school’s state to teach classes online.

Most universities include a “state authorization” page to help you out. If it’s unclear or missing, contact the nursing department or your local board of nursing for clarification before you apply.

You’ll also want to double check whether the program you’re interested in is a RN or BSN-entry program. While some MSN degrees allow registered nurses to apply without having earned a BSN first, many require that intermediary step.