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Students who complete an online master’s in nursing degree program will further their knowledge of nursing and healthcare. Such a degree will also prepare them for a senior-level position within the medical field. For example, graduates may qualify for a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist job and expect to earn an average salary of $123,780 annually.

An online master’s in nursing degree requires students to complete between 36 and 50 credits of courses. Students can typically finish this course load within two to three years by full-time learners, and there are accelerated programs that can help students complete everything in one to two years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, such a degree will cost about $19,792, which is cheaper than the average cost of an undergraduate degree of about $26,000.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Program

Choose your area of study

The online master’s in nursing degree is already highly specialized, and students can typically customize their education further by choosing a specific area of study. While the exact areas of study available may vary by institution, students can select from concentrations such as nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse executive, and certified nurse midwife.

Each of these concentrations prepares students for a very different post-graduate nursing career. Because of that, students should carefully consider what kind of career they want to focus on after graduation and choose an area of study that will best prepare them for such a career.

Research schools and programs

Many universities offer an online master’s in nursing degree, so students must quickly determine how to narrow the list of prospective schools down.

The most important thing to do at this step is to skip any schools that need to be appropriately accredited. Most employers will not honor degrees from such a school, and it will be impossible for students to get federal financial aid while attending. Additionally, students may wish to rule out schools outside their budget because attending such institutions will lead to significant student debt. Lastly, students worried about succeeding as distance learners should avoid schools that don’t offer extensive support for remote students.

Prepare for tests and applications

Most online master’s in nursing programs will require students to submit GRE test scores as part of their application, and some programs may accept MAT scores in their place. The application or the school website may indicate the minimum score for students. Students who have not taken these tests may need up to three months to study and two to three weeks to receive test results.

The online application will also specify if students need to include other materials, including undergraduate transcripts, a cover letter, and letters of recommendation.

Select your program

With the list of online master’s in nursing programs narrowed down, students must now determine which program(s) they will apply to.

To do so, closely examine the cost of each school. Students can save significant amounts of tuition by choosing a more affordable program while avoiding unnecessary student debt. Students should also prioritize programs that offer the most financial aid. Finally, students may want to contact the university and inquire about job placement rates, as this allows them to apply to places that are likeliest to further their careers.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Everyone attending an online master’s in nursing program should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. By doing so, students will automatically qualify for federal student loans. Additionally, while these are harder for graduate students to obtain, completing the FAFSA might be a requirement to qualify for any grants or scholarships that may be available.

Contact the school’s financial aid office to determine what aid is available to remote grad students. They can answer student questions and inform students of additional aid available through the school or the state.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Best Master's in Nursing Programs
01

Ohio State University
01

University of Central Florida
01

Duke School of Nursing
01

University of South Carolina
01

University of Alabama
01

George Washington University
01

University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing
01

Stony Brook School of Nursing
01

Saint Xavier University
01

The Catholic University of America
01

Rush University
01

Boise State University
01

University of Nevada, Las Vegas
01

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
01

University of Colorado
01

University of Texas Medical Branch School of Nursing
01

ECU College of Nursing
01

University of Louisiana at Lafayette
01

Thomas Jefferson University
01

University of Connecticut
01

Ball State University
01

Marquette University
01

University of New Mexico
01

Georgia College & State University
01

Virginia Commonwealth University
01

The University of Texas at Tyler
01

Oregon Health and Science University
01

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
01

University of Colorado Colorado Springs
01

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
01

Florida Atlantic University
01

UNC Greensboro
01

University of Utah
01

Georgetown University
01

Seton Hall University
01

Duquesne University
01

University of Mississippi Medical Center
01

Texas A&M School of Nursing
01

Eastern Kentucky University
01

University of Southern Indiana
01

Pace University
01

Texas State University
01

University of North Carolina at Charlotte
01

University of Cincinnati College of Nursing
01

University of Detroit Mercy
01

University of Southern California
01

University of Memphis
01

University of San Francisco
01

University of South Florida
01

Western Governors University

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online master’s in nursing programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list are available at institutions accredited by professional organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online master’s in nursing programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Program?

Students who enroll in an online master’s in nursing degree program can expect coursework that builds on their knowledge of the health field while providing extensive leadership training. Courses will have a high focus on “soft skills” like communication and teamwork that are necessary to effectively interface with patients and the rest of the medical staff.

Students will also learn how to quickly assess medical and managerial emergencies and make quick, informed decisions amid various high-pressure scenarios. All of this requires confident critical thinking skills. The program will help kindle and nurture these skills among students.

Typically, students taking an online master’s in nursing program can complete coursework in two years if they attend full-time. If the program has a higher credit requirement, or if the student attends only part-time, then the coursework may take three years or more to complete. Fortunately, these online classes typically have no on-campus laboratory or residency requirements to worry about.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in nursing (MSN) degree program

  • Introduction to Advanced Registered Nursing. This course introduces and reinforces concepts such as nursing theory and the ethical considerations that must always apply to treating patients. It emphasizes leadership and its impact.
  • Advanced Health Assessment for Nurse Educators. This class builds on a students health assessment knowledge by teaching them how to assess a very diverse population using many types of assessments. The course emphasizes strong communication skills necessary to communicate with patients and colleagues alike.
  • Organizational Leadership and Informatics. This class focuses on leadership theory and implementation, along with policy and organizational science. Students learn how to balance patients’ needs against their institution’s resources, which helps them provide cost-effective care to patients and dynamic solutions based on robust leadership theories.
  • Advanced Pathophysiology and Pharmacology for Nurse Educators. This highly-specialized course focuses on three principles: pharmacology, pathophysiology, and physiology. Students learn how to diagnose specific symptoms and how to offer effective prescriptions and treatments using evidence-based research collected from various doctors, nurses, and researchers.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degree?

Career outlook

The healthcare sector has been experiencing rapid growth for the last several years, and this isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Open positions for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners — all positions that require a master’s in nursing degree — are expected to increase by 38% through 2032. This is astronomical compared to the 2.8% average increase expected for all positions. Salaries for these positions are also well above average, with the median pay being $125,900 or about $60 per hour.

Career paths

An online master’s in nursing degree program prepares graduates to provide more in-depth patient care and serve as primary care providers in certain environments. Students can choose from a variety of specialties, including women’s health, pediatrics, and research. This degree also provides the necessary background for a career as a nursing instructor. Below are just a few of the career paths open to graduates with a master’s degree in nursing.

  • Nurse anesthetist — administer anesthesia to patients in various medical settings
  • Nurse midwife — provide prenatal and postpartum care to patients and attend births
  • Nurse practitioner — provide direct patient care, including assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients
  • Certified nurse educator — serve as a subject matter expert for and provide instruction to nursing students
  • Nurse administrator — oversee nursing departments, including scheduling and training staff and meeting departmental goals

Nurse Practitioner

Earning Potential: $91,250-$208,080 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in nursing or related fields

Nurse practitioners provide direct patient care and can work in general medicine or a chosen specialty, such as dermatology or pediatrics. They evaluate patients, including taking full medical histories, analyzing symptoms, and diagnosing illnesses and injuries. Nurse practitioners can also prescribe medications and order lab work to assist in diagnosis and treatment. They often serve as the primary point of contact but can refer patients to specialists as needed. Nurse practitioners may work in private practices or larger healthcare facilities like hospitals.

Certified Nurse Educator

Earning Potential: $86,261-$111,215 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in nursing or related fields

Certified nurse educators teach the next generation of nursing students. They work in colleges, universities, and technical schools and instruct students on clinical skills, bedside manner, and proper documentation. Certified nurse educators can also work in hospitals to provide ongoing training and instruction to current nurses, usually in a specialty such as diabetic care instruction. They must be able to communicate information clearly and hold students accountable to a high level of accuracy. Nurse educators must remain current on changing medical guidelines and industry best practices.

Nurse Administrator

Earning Potential: $92,282-$113,148 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in nursing, health services management, or related fields

Nurse administrators manage nursing departments in various clinical settings. They may oversee the entire nursing staff in a private practice or small clinic, or they may be responsible for individual facilities or departments in large hospitals and health systems. Nurse administrators are focused on supporting nurses, serving as direct managers in some cases and ensuring staff have the proper training and tools to do their jobs effectively. They also perform a variety of administrative tasks, such as developing and monitoring budgets, creating staffing schedules, and handling disciplinary actions.

Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in nursing (MSN) degree program?

To apply to an online master’s in nursing program, students must navigate to the university website and submit the application there. At this point, students should closely review the application requirements, including whether test scores are required and whether they must submit a cover letter or letters of recommendation. If students have any remaining questions about the application.

How much does an online master’s in nursing (MSN) degree program cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, degrees such as an online master’s in nursing will cost an average of $19,792.

The exact cost a student will pay varies by the program they select. Public institutions are cheaper than private ones, for example, and programs with a higher credit requirement will be more expensive than ones with a lower credit requirement. Cost is one of the reasons why researching prospective schools is so important — in some cases, an afternoon of research could help students save thousands of dollars from their overall tuition.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in nursing (MSN) degree?

Most online master’s in nursing programs are designed to be completed within two years by full-time students, though some require enough extra credits that it would take the same student three years to complete.

Additionally, part-time students will take three years or longer to complete all required coursework. While students may feel the temptation to graduate as quickly as possible, it’s important not to take on too many courses too fast, which can compromise a student’s grade and sabotage their future career.

Is an online master’s in nursing (MSN) degree worth it?

An online master’s in nursing degree allows nurses to pursue higher positions — and the salaries that go with them. The average salary for someone with an MSN degree is $103,000. An online MSN program also makes it easier for nurses to advance their education while working full-time. Classes are held both synchronously and asynchronously, which provides the flexibility working nurses need.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in clinical training, which provides hands-on experience in their chosen specialty. It also gives students the chance to network with other nursing professionals and get mentorship from professors.

Graduating from an online master’s in nursing degree program shows potential employers that you have the clinical skills necessary for the job as well as time management and self-motivation skills. If you’re interested in going into telemedicine, experience in remote environments can set you apart from other candidates.


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