2022 Best Online Master's in Nursing (MSN) Programs

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 6/6/2022
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We rank the best online master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees currently available based on each program's alumni salary outcomes. This graduate degree is designed to help registered nurses (RNs) gain advanced knowledge of patient care and become experts in their field. An MSN opens the door to managerial and specialty roles as well as positions in the higher education sector involving research or teaching. Currently, 2.6 million new jobs are expected to open up in this industry through 2030, which is the highest growth among all U.S. occupational groups. 

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2022 Best Online Master's in Nursing (MSN) Programs

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 AdventHealth University 98 98 $187,060
# 2 #2 University of Southern California 95 $167,228
# 3 #3 Touro University Nevada 92 $149,891
# 4 #4 Texas A&M International University 85 $129,066
# 5 #5 Midwestern State University 84 $125,822
# 6 #6 Samuel Merritt University 83 $123,663
# 7 #7 California State University - Dominguez Hills 82 $120,577
# 8 #8 Mercy College 82 $120,372
# 9 #9 Fairleigh Dickinson University 80 $117,472
# 10 #10 University of San Francisco 80 $117,274

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2022 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 AdventHealth University

  • Salary Score: 98
  • Median Starting Salary: $187,060
  • Locations: Orlando (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

AdventHealth University offers an online MSN program. The degree is entirely online, with the option to work on coursework at any time. However, students choosing the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty track are expected to visit the campus at least twice. Students must complete 14 credit hours of core courses and 17 additional credit hours from one of the three MSN specialty tracks: (1) Administration and Leadership, (2) Education, and (3) Family Nurse Practitioner. Students who already have a Bachelor’s of Nursing may be required to take some prerequisite courses before beginning this MSN program.

#2 University of Southern California

  • Salary Score: 95
  • Median Starting Salary: $167,228
  • Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The University of Southern California — a large, private non-profit — offers an online MSN - FNP. Focused on research and evidence-based practice, the program's curriculum explores the biomedical, social, economic, and environmental influences on nursing care. Applicants must be RNs with bachelor's degrees and at least one year of clinical experience. Full-time students typically complete the MSN program in 21 months, while part-time students typically need 33 months. Graduation requirements include the completion of 49 credit hours, 784 clinical practice hours, and two on-campus intensives.

The Blackboard learning platform allows online students to interact with peers, access course materials, and complete assignments.

#3 Touro University Nevada

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Median Starting Salary: $149,891
  • Locations: Henderson (NV)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Touro University — a small, private, non-profit — offers an MSN - FNP. The program requires the completion of 53 credit hours, including five trimester practicums and three clinical intensives on the Nevada campus. Courses cover specialized topics, such as disease prevention, mental health, pharmacology, and caring for children and seniors. Newly enrolled students can choose among three annual start dates per year, and most complete the program in seven trimesters.

Touro's MSN is delivered primarily online through the Canvas learning platform. Graduate students can take advantage of the school's academic coaching, mental health counseling, and other services.

#4 Texas A&M International University

  • Salary Score: 85
  • Median Starting Salary: $129,066
  • Locations: Laredo (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Students can pursue an online MSN - Nursing Administration at Texas A&M International University. This fast-track program — which can be completed in 10 months or less — prepares students for managerial and executive nursing roles. The MSN program is composed of 31 credit hours, with a 180-hour intensive practicum focused on the leadership roles of nurse executives. Eligible applicants must have a BSN, 3.0 minimum GPA, at least one year of work experience as a registered nurse, an unencumbered Texas RN license, and a completed undergraduate course in statistics.

#5 Midwestern State University

  • Salary Score: 84
  • Median Starting Salary: $125,822
  • Locations: Wichita Falls (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Midwestern State University, a medium public institution, offers an online Family Nurse Practitioner MSN program. This degree is suitable for graduates with a Bachelor's of Nursing who want to expand their skill sets in the field. A total of 48 credit hours are required to complete the course, which includes 24 hours of clinical work, 18 hours of nursing core courses, and six hours of thesis or project-based courses.

Out-of-state students can complete their clinical rotations locally with preceptor supervision. Graduates of the program are eligible to take the National Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam, and they are eligible to meet the Board of Nurse Examiners' needs for the state of Texas.

#6 Samuel Merritt University

  • Salary Score: 83
  • Median Starting Salary: $123,663
  • Locations: Oakland (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) is a small, private, non-profit. Applicants to the MSN - FNP must hold a bachelor's degree and a license to practice nursing in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, or Virginia. Once enrolled, students take courses in health assessment, pharmacology, and care management. In addition to completing 49 credit hours of coursework, MSN students must complete three clinical practicum semesters and attend two on-campus intensives in Sacramento. Full-time students may be able to finish in 20 months.

SMU students gain access to coursework and class discussions through Canvas, a digital learning platform. Academic advising, writing support, and career services are among the available resources.

#7 California State University - Dominguez Hills

  • Salary Score: 82
  • Median Starting Salary: $120,577
  • Locations: Carson (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

California State University (CSU) - Dominguez Hills is a large, public university offering an online MSN program. This online degree requires the completion of 30-48 credit hours composed of core courses, role-specific classes, and practicums. Students can choose between five role-specific outcomes for their degree: (1) Clinical Nurse Specialist (Adult/Gerontology), (2) Clinical Nurse Specialist (Neonatal), (3) Clinical Nurse Specialist (Pediatric), (4) Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), (5) Nurse Administrator, and (6) Nurse Educator.

All coursework done through Blackboard must be completed within five years after beginning the program. In addition, CSU students are required to have a California RN license and complete their clinical hours within the state of California.

#8 Mercy College

  • Salary Score: 82
  • Median Starting Salary: $120,372
  • Locations: Dobbs Ferry (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Mercy College, which is a medium-sized, private, non-profit, has earned the distinction of being a Hispanic-serving institution. RNs interested in furthering their careers in nursing management may be interested in Mercy's MSN Administration. On the other hand, RNs interested in becoming nurse educators may be interested in an MSN Education. Both programs require the completion of 36 credit hours and 120 practicum hours, and most students complete their degrees in 15 months.

Mercy graduate students use the Blackboard platform to access course materials and interact with peers and instructors. The school's student support services include academic advising, tutoring, and mental health counseling.

#9 Fairleigh Dickinson University

  • Salary Score: 80
  • Median Starting Salary: $117,472
  • Locations: Teaneck (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

A medium-sized, private, non-profit college, Fairleigh Dickinson University's (FDU) Metropolitan Campus has earned the distinction of being a Hispanic-serving institution. FDU offers two MSN programs for licensed New Jersey State nurses: The MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) requires the completion of 37 credit hours and 650 clinical practicum hours to graduate, and the MSN - Nursing Education requires 35 credit hours and a one-semester practicum.

Although online nursing students at FDU enjoy the flexibility of independent online learning, they are encouraged to engage with peers in a supportive environment. The FDU Metropolitan Campus offers a number of student services, including counseling, tutoring, library access, and career development assistance.

#10 University of San Francisco

  • Salary Score: 80
  • Median Starting Salary: $117,274
  • Locations: San Francisco (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The private, non-profit University of San Francisco (USF) is a medium-sized school associated with the Catholic church. USF offers an MSN designed for both practicing RNs and bachelor's degree holders from other fields. Depending on their background, students are required to complete 33-38 credit hours. Most students take two years to fulfill the degree requirements, including an internship and practicum. With a focus on nursing leadership, the MSN program synthesizes concepts from the physical sciences, management, public health, and the humanities.

MSN students at USF use the Canvas learning platform to access course materials, complete assignments, and engage in class discussions. Tutoring and job placement assistance are among the student resources available.

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MSN Program Overview

An MSN is a post-graduate degree program that helps students with a strong professional or academic background in nursing to broaden their knowledge of the field and advance their careers. RNs usually undertake this level of education with some years of work experience already under their belt. In general, individuals with field experience and a bachelor’s degree, already have the prerequisite knowledge to pursue further education.

Overall, an MSN degree program focuses on developing leadership and research skills to prepare students for advanced positions in the workplace and higher levels of responsibility. Master’s programs offer courses in advanced biochemistry, advanced pharmacology, and medical equipment operation, to name a few. Coursework also expands its scope to cover management tactics, healthcare policy, and nursing specializations.



Pursuing a master’s degree in nursing allows you to gain knowledge and experience in a more specific area of nursing, opening up opportunities to explore more job options and achieve higher pay.

Some nursing specializations include critical care, medical-surgical nursing, public health, gerontology, and mental health. Pursuing a master’s degree in nursing allows you to gain knowledge and experience in a more specific area of nursing, opening up opportunities to explore more job options and achieve higher pay. If you’re interested in moving into a new area of nursing, consider a master’s degree program.

What Are the Requirements for Online MSN Programs?

Although it depends on the type of nursing program, most online MSN programs have the same requirements: a college degree in the nursing field, an RN license, and work experience. Some programs, however, also require an interview, letters of recommendation, and a statistics course. Check the admission requirements of the programs you’re interested in to find their specific criteria.

How Long Does It Take To Complete an Online MSN?

Many programs have full- and part-time options. Since most online MSN programs take one to two years to complete with a full-time schedule, if you’re interested in working toward your degree part time, it may take upwards of three years. These programs may also require a thesis or capstone project, which can add a semester or two to your program.

Although some universities offer entirely online programs, they may still include an in-person practicum or lab. Some universities also require clinic hours, which entails working in-person as a nurse. Check with the programs you are interested in to see how many in-person hours they require. If you obtain your MSN while working, your work hours may count toward your practicum hours.

Three Main Types of Master's Degrees

There are three primary types of master's degrees in nursing for aspiring students to consider: (1) RN to MSN programs, (2) Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to MSN programs, and (3) direct entry MSN programs.

1

Online RN to MSN programs are the most common degrees because they are designed for individuals who are already RNs but would like to further their knowledge in the field. Applicants need to hold a valid RN license and have — at least — an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma. In many cases, RN to MSN programs also confer a BSN upon students once they complete the undergraduate portion of the coursework. These programs allow students to accelerate the process of earning their BSN and MSN degrees, as compared to enrolling in separate BSN and MSN programs. Online RN to MSN programs may take approximately two years of study.

2

Online BSN to MSN programs are geared toward students who already have an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing. Applicants must have a valid RN license in addition to their BSN, and they often need to have experience working as a nurse to be eligible. Aspiring nursing master's students with a BSN will want to look for this type of online MSN program.

3

Online direct entry MSN programs are designed for students who already have an accredited bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. These degree programs enable students to fast-track their nursing careers by allowing them to skip the process of earning a BSN before enrolling in a graduate nursing program. Direct entry programs are not intended for students with an RN license or a BSN.

Is Getting an MSN Worth It?

In the past few years, the field of health care has been pushed to the limit. As a result, nurses are in high demand, especially RNs, travel nurses, and those with MSNs who have specialized knowledge and can support doctors and health care facilities with their expertise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the role of specialized nurses — such as nurse practitioners, anesthesiologists, and midwives — is projected to grow by 45% through 2030.

This is over five times the US national job growth average across occupations. And the BLS' grouping of these roles presents an annual median salary of $123,780. Specifically, nurse practitioners are projected to increase by 52.2% over the next decade.

In addition to a promising job outlook, nursing can be a satisfying and fulfilling career. Nursing allows individuals to work closely with patients and guide them through their recovery. If you’re someone who enjoys helping people and supporting them during trying times, consider pursuing an MSN online and furthering your education.

There are a few possible cons to consider as well, however. Nurses work in a high-risk environment, spending a lot of their time around people with illnesses. The same compassion that provides satisfaction and fulfillment may lead to emotional exhaustion. It can be difficult to provide for others in distress so often. Nurses and health care workers are also at higher risk for injuries. Registered nurses take a median of 12 days off each year due to injury.

In general, the health care field is rapidly growing, and it’s projected to continue expanding. While there is the risk of injury, there are also reasons to enter the field of nursing. Your choice largely depends on your personal circumstances, and it's important to weigh the long-term impact of such a large financial investment, which is why we base our rankings list of online nursing schools on salary score.

What Can You Do With an MSN?

Once you’ve earned your nursing masters, several career paths become available. An RN with a master’s in nursing is referred to as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). They are eligible for many positions such as a nursing consultant, research nurse, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse administrator.

If you’re interested in community education, consider public health nursing. These nurses advocate for community-led health education programs. They visit medical centers and work within the community to provide health care. Another job option for MSN graduates may involve research and clinical trials. For example, clinical research nurses aid doctors during studies and trials by finding participants, analyzing data, and synthesizing results into formal reports.

Nurses with an MSN may also pursue administrative and management roles. Nursing directors, for example, run the nursing departments at hospitals, medical centers, and other health care facilities. They lead teams of nurses and coordinate between departments to provide the best care possible for their patients. If you’re interested in a specific area of medicine, it’s also possible to specialize in a field like oncology, pediatrics, or orthopedics.

Do you already know your career goals? Check out our articles about how to become a neonatal nurse, pediatric nurse, or nurse anesthetist.

What Is the Best Online MSN Program?

To find the best online MSN degree, it's important to first consider the cost of the program and potential financial aid options in order to alleviate the burden of student loan debt. The cost of an MSN program includes tuition, any necessary supplies, and time investment — including practicum and/or clinic hours. The university may provide financial aid directly, but there are also independent scholarships and grants for those pursuing advanced nursing degrees.

In order to find the right school for you, consider several other components besides cost:

How Much Does an Online MSN Cost?

According to our internal data, the most affordable MSN programs range from approximately $295 to $350 per credit hour. Depending on the program, some online colleges base tuition on a monthly rate, such as charging $250 per month. Even at these cheaper-than-average tuition rates, it's still helpful to thoroughly research available financial aid options.

Financial Aid for Online MSN Programs

Several organizations provide financial aid for online MSN programs. For example, the Oncology Nursing Foundation offers awards, grants, and scholarships each year for MSN students, specifically. Additionally, the Health Resources and Services Administration offers a monthly stipend for tuition, fees, and learning supplies. There are also organizations, like Johnson & Johnson, that assist students in finding financial aid programs that provide tuition reimbursement and other forms of financial assistance.

Read our financial aid guide to learn how online students can apply and obtain financial assistance.

FAQs About Online MSN Programs

Can You Get an MSN Without Being an RN?


Yes, some programs are available for prospective students who are not already RNs. While most MSN programs require a nursing license for admission, some online programs do not have this requirement. Some programs also have BSN-to-MSN programs that prepare students to take the board exam and become registered before continuing their education.

Can You Get an MSN Without a BSN?


Yes, some online MSN programs do not require a BSN. Instead, these programs accept undergraduate degrees in health-related fields.

Can You Get an MSN Online?


Yes, many universities offer online MSN programs. However, some in-person requirements may be part of an online program, so it's important to check with your school.

Are Online MSN Programs Respected?


Yes, online MSN programs are as well-respected as traditional, on-campus programs. As long as a program is accredited and approved by the state board, it is considered as legitimate and respected as an in-person program.

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