Best Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 2/2/2022
Quick Facts
Accreditation: ACEN, ACEN, CCNE, NPWH
Average Tuition: $26,929
Alumni Salary: $96,740

Medical teams and patients alike value nurse practitioners for their mastery of skills and compassion. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires a Master's of Science in Nursing — which you can obtain online — to prepare for these advanced practice roles or to be able to continue with doctoral studies. As the population in the U.S. continues to grow and age, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 45% job growth through 2030 for these healthcare professionals who earn a median annual salary of $117,670.

The following is a list of the best online master’s nurse practitioner degree programs. We've also included information on common nursing courses, certifications and licensing, careers, and whether this degree is worth the investment of time and money.

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Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees in Nurse Practitioner (NP) Badge

The national average ROI for nurse practitioner degree programs is $968,000 over 10 years. All of the top online nurse practitioner schools have ROIs above that average, with ROIs ranging from $1,006,200 at Herzing University to $1,691,400 at AdventHealth University. Tuitions start as low as $6,600 per year for these top online nurse practitioner programs. Alumni of the top nurse practitioner programs earn median salaries of over $100,000.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 AdventHealth University $13,000 $182,280 $148,677 $1,691,400
# 2 #2 Touro University Nevada $20,250 $155,297 $44,364 $1,543,500
# 3 #3 University of Southern California $61,845 $161,637 $140,524 $1,489,000
# 4 #4 University of South Carolina - Columbia $9,067 $131,707 $46,050 $1,298,600
# 5 #5 Samuel Merritt University $37,689 $130,283 $133,233 $1,175,300
# 6 #6 Fairleigh Dickinson University $9,900 $117,274 $30,750 $1,169,000
# 7 #7 United States University $11,400 $116,083 $53,149 $1,128,900
# 9 #9 Midwestern State University $7,662 $114,595 $48,803 $1,119,000
# 10 #10 Northeastern University $34,062 $115,020 $60,776 $1,108,400
# 11 #11 University of North Dakota $15,072 $108,852 $30,767 $1,082,300
# 12 #12 Pace University $25,536 $109,909 $41,000 $1,080,500
# 13 #13 University of Connecticut $24,050 $107,376 $38,753 $1,057,200
# 14 #14 Gonzaga University $16,480 $109,219 $55,377 $1,055,400
# 15 #15 Marymount University $24,150 $104,510 $33,773 $1,033,900
# 16 #16 La Salle University $19,435 $107,089 $59,980 $1,027,800
# 17 #17 Monmouth University $19,005 $105,083 $47,392 $1,022,800
# 18 #18 West Coast University $12,268 $103,078 $31,483 $1,022,000
# 19 #19 Old Dominion University $13,685 $103,913 $41,000 $1,018,700
# 20 #20 The University of Texas Medical Branch $12,268 $102,791 $34,167 $1,015,700
# 21 #21 Albany State University $6,600 $103,913 $45,242 $1,013,400
# 22 #22 University of Missouri - Kansas City $14,365 $101,406 $27,464 $1,009,800
# 23 #23 The University of Texas at El Paso $16,422 $102,754 $38,835 $1,009,500
# 24 #24 Drexel University $29,640 $104,168 $51,250 $1,008,600
# 25 #25 Herzing University $23,505 $102,409 $38,602 $1,006,200

Best Master's Degrees in Nurse Practitioner (NP) Rankings Details

#1

AdventHealth University

Orlando (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,691,400
  • Median Salary: $182,280
  • Annual Tuition: $13,000
  • Median Debt: $148,677

The Master of Science in Nursing at AHU, a Seventh-day Adventist school, offers three program tracks: family nurse practitioner, education, and administration and leadership. All tracks can be completed on full- or part-time schedules, with each requiring practicum work and a capstone project. The program offers varied entry points for nurses depending on their experience, allowing... for a personalized course of study.

This online degree program for nurses offers courses that cover research, leadership, and ethical issues. Students use Canvas to communicate with classmates and professors. Through this digital platform, they can access asynchronous classes, professors through office hours, a 24/7 support network, a job placement service, career fairs, and a strong alumni network.

Cost per Credit: $650
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 158

#2

Touro University Nevada

Henderson (NV)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,543,500
  • Median Salary: $155,297
  • Annual Tuition: $20,250
  • Median Debt: $44,364

TUN's primarily online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner program consists of 53 credits that can be completed in seven trimesters. Students must complete three on-campus clinical intensives, 585 hours in a supervised clinical practicum, and a one-credit capstone project. Notably, Minority Nurse Magazine has recognized TUN's School of Nursing as a Nursing Diversity... Champion due to its recruiting and retention of diverse students and faculty.

The online coursework is mostly asynchronous, including conference calls or lectures. Students study cultural understanding, physical assessment, pharmacology, and primary care for specific ages and conditions. Resources for online students include academic coaching through the Office of Academic Services and Institutional Support and remote library access.

Cost per Credit: $750
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 290

#3

University of Southern California

Los Angeles (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,489,000
  • Median Salary: $161,637
  • Annual Tuition: $61,845
  • Median Debt: $140,524

USC's Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner degree is designed to be completed in five semesters by RNs who want a nurse practitioner certification. This program includes 49 credits and 784 hours of clinical experience.

The online coursework covers healthcare technology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and more, but students are still required to attend two on-campus... experiences. Distance learners at USC have access to virtual services, including academic advising and technical support.

Cost per Credit: $1,995
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 6,641

#4

University of South Carolina - Columbia

Columbia (SC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,298,600
  • Median Salary: $131,707
  • Annual Tuition: $9,067
  • Median Debt: $46,050

USCC's online Master of Science in Nursing program is designed for RNs who want to improve their career prospects and potentially take the national certification exam for their area of specialization. Students can choose from three nurse practitioner programs: adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner....

USCC delivers asynchronous coursework online through Blackboard and AdobeConnect. Enrollees can connect with peers and faculty through the informal Student Cafe discussion board. Online students also have remote access to academic advising and technical support services. On-site immersive experiences are required throughout each program, encouraging online students to make in-person connections.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,462

#5

Samuel Merritt University

Oakland (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,175,300
  • Median Salary: $130,283
  • Annual Tuition: $37,689
  • Median Debt: $133,233

SMU's online Master of Science in Nursing & Family Nurse Practitioner degree offers full- and part-time schedules. This program, which includes a 210-hour clinical practicum and internship, prepares students for hands-on practice and provides instruction on nursing theory, advanced practice nursing, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and more.

Students at SMU use the... Canvas learning management system to access their coursework. They also have access to a range of online support regarding Canvas, IT, the school's online library, tutoring, writing guidance, academic advising, career services, and a robust alumni network.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 292

#6

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Teaneck (NJ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,169,000
  • Median Salary: $117,274
  • Annual Tuition: $9,900
  • Median Debt: $30,750

The online Master of Science in Nursing program at FDU requires that students complete 37 credits and 640 clinical hours on either a full- or part-time schedule. Students learn about diverse medical conditions and other nursing research while practicing diagnostic skills. The program culminates in a master's project.

Students use an online learning platform to work through asynchronous... classes. Online students have access to library resources, a career development center, and the school's alumni network. They can also participate in remote tutoring, as the school provides each student with 300 free tutoring minutes per semester.

Cost per Credit: $825
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 345

#7

United States University

National City (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,128,900
  • Median Salary: $116,083
  • Annual Tuition: $11,400
  • Median Debt: $53,149

USU’s online Master of Science Nurse Practitioner degree is a 24-month program for RNs requiring 48 credits and at least 540 clinical hours. Graduates can take a national certification exam and apply for a Nurse Practitioner license from the California Board of Registered Nurses.

This program follows a hybrid online instructional model, including online and in-person synchronous... lectures, discussions, and videos. Students participate in activities with mentors and peers, interact with computer-simulated patients, and review case studies. Online students must also attend a four-day immersion program at one of USU’s three campuses in San Diego, Tempe, or Tampa. Academic advising, online tutoring, and additional student success resources are available.

Cost per Credit: $475
School Type: For-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,097

#9

Midwestern State University

Wichita Falls (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,119,000
  • Median Salary: $114,595
  • Annual Tuition: $7,662
  • Median Debt: $48,803

MSU offers an online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner degree, which is comprised of 48 credits, including an evidence-based project or thesis. Students with a BS in Nursing can enroll if they desire to continue their education with an emphasis on families’ health-related needs. This program qualifies graduates to take a national certification examination....

MSUWSN students use the BrightSpace platform to access their online courses — including videos, meetings, discussion groups, exams, and other tools — provided by WebAssign. The university offers virtual library access, online tutoring, and 24/7 online support.

Cost per Credit: $319
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 511

#10

Northeastern University

Burlington (MA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,108,400
  • Median Salary: $115,020
  • Annual Tuition: $34,062
  • Median Debt: $60,776

NEU’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is for active RNs with at least two years of experience in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The program focuses on providing care to high-risk newborns in levels 2 and 3 of the NICU while improving students’ diagnostic reasoning and delivery room management skills. The curriculum explores advanced pharmacology,... epidemiology, community health, pathophysiology, and neonatal health assessments.

Online coursework is offered in full- and part-time formats through the Canvas learning management platform, which allows students to study at their convenience. Distance learners can utilize tutoring services, academic advising, library access, and mental health counseling services

Cost per Credit: $1,622
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NECHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 183

#11

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks (ND)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,082,300
  • Median Salary: $108,852
  • Annual Tuition: $15,072
  • Median Debt: $30,767

UND offers an online Master of Science in Nursing with three concentrations: adult-gerontology primary care nursing, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner. Each track is for RNs who want to become leaders in patient-focused health care. The program is designed to be completed in eight semesters and features 22 core credits — including an independent... project — and three 4-credit advanced clinical practicums. Graduates can take the relevant certification exam for their specialty to widen their career options.

Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Distance learners have access to various student services, including academic advising, technical support, and clinical placement assistance.

Cost per Credit: $837
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,500

#12

Pace University

New York (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,080,500
  • Median Salary: $109,909
  • Annual Tuition: $25,536
  • Median Debt: $41,000

Pace’s Master of Science in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program prepares students to practice advanced psychiatric mental health nursing with an emphasis on treating patients with substance use disorders. Courses cover the assessment and treatment of psychiatric diseases and disorders across the lifespan, especially health disparities and caring for vulnerable... populations.

A part-time online format is available, and this coursework is delivered on the Brightspace learning platform. Students gain hands-on experience by engaging in complex patient scenarios through simulation software. Online students have access to IT support, career services, library resources, and tutoring. In addition to online classes, students must also complete clinicals in a location that is convenient for them.

Cost per Credit: $1,344
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 654

#13

University of Connecticut

Storrs (CT)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,057,200
  • Median Salary: $107,376
  • Annual Tuition: $24,050
  • Median Debt: $38,753

The UC’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is a 44-credit program for current nurse practitioners looking to advance their careers. The program is designed to be completed in five semesters and includes courses in advanced pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, health assessment, and health policy. Graduates can take the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner... exam administered by the National Certification Corporation.

Although online courses are available through Husky Course Tools, an extension of the Blackboard system, an on-campus orientation and two on-site simulations are required at different times. Readings, lectures, and assignments are available 24/7, and students work independently. Resources for distance learners include technical support, accessibility services, virtual library access, career development support, and online tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $925
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NECHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 606

#14

Gonzaga University

Spokane (WA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,055,400
  • Median Salary: $109,219
  • Annual Tuition: $16,480
  • Median Debt: $55,377

GU offers an online Master of Science in Nursing degree with concentrations in nursing leadership in health care, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The latter two tracks are available as second M.S.N. degrees for RNs who want a specialty. The nursing leadership program is 30 credits and requires 180 clinical hours, while the other two each... require 47 credits, six on-campus immersions, and 660 clinical hours.

Online courses are available 24/7 through Canvas — a digital platform where students can submit assignments, take quizzes, watch video lectures, download text resources, and communicate. Online students can access the following resources: the career center, Foley Library, disability services, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $1,030
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NWCCU
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,309

#15

Marymount University

Arlington (VA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,033,900
  • Median Salary: $104,510
  • Annual Tuition: $24,150
  • Median Debt: $33,773

MU’s 45-credit online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program is only offered part-time. Students learn about population health, care delivery, practice management, leadership, health promotion, and family care. The MU nursing program is recognized for its high exam pass rates, expert faculty, and student support services.

Online coursework blends asynchronous... and synchronous components, requiring in-person clinicals, a two- to three-day on-campus residency, and the completion of 700 clinical hours. Free clinical placement services guarantee students a site and preceptor within 100 miles of their residence. Online resources for students include academic advising, career development, 24/7 Canvas support, and IT support services.

Cost per Credit: $1,050
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 93

#16

La Salle University

Philadelphia (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,027,800
  • Median Salary: $107,089
  • Annual Tuition: $19,435
  • Median Debt: $59,980

LSU’s accelerated online Master's of Science in Nursing degrees include the following programs: family nurse practitioner — requiring 45 credits and 692 clinical hours — and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, a 41-credit program requiring 512 hours. These programs offer pay-by-the-course tuition, which is the same cost for both in-state and out-of-state students....

Asynchronous online classes are delivered through the Blackboard platform, where students can access and submit assignments. A virtual coffee house series and 1-1 individualized coaching are some of the career-related resources available to students and alumni. Online students can access resources, such as Handshake, academic tutors, and Helpdesk for technical assistance.

Cost per Credit: $845
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 501

#17

Monmouth University

West Long Branch (NJ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,022,800
  • Median Salary: $105,083
  • Annual Tuition: $19,005
  • Median Debt: $47,392

MU offers a Master of Science (MSN) in Nursing for adult-gerontological nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and family nurse practitioners. Prospective students must have a BS in Nursing and one year of experience as an RN. The programs require 33-45 credits and the completion of clinical placements in New Jersey or through the Monmouth Medical Center and Hacken... Meridian Health system. Importantly, nearly 100% of graduates pass the national certification exams.

Online courses follow a hybrid learning format, but students complete most assignments through MU’s online learning platform by connecting with faculty and classmates over video and accessing lessons via voice-over PowerPoint presentations, YouTube, and email.

Cost per Credit: $1,267
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 201

#18

West Coast University

Multiple Locations
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,022,000
  • Median Salary: $103,078
  • Annual Tuition: $12,268
  • Median Debt: $31,483

WCU offers several online degree options, including the RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner, and MSN - Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, which take 40, 36, and 32 months, respectively. Graduates of any track can take a national board exam.

WCU students can access courses through the Blackboard learning... management system, which may consist of videos, simulations, discussion forums, and quizzes. Online students can also access WCU's Career Service Department, 24/7 IT support, a success advisor, tutoring, a writing center, and more.

School Type: For-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,314

#19

Old Dominion University

Norfolk (VA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,018,700
  • Median Salary: $103,913
  • Annual Tuition: $13,685
  • Median Debt: $41,000

ODU offers three online programs for practicing, licensed nurses pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing: family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (which have a 100% pass rate on the national certification exam). Concentrations are available in telehealth, holistic medicine, national healthcare solutions, health promotion,... and restorative care.

ODU’s synchronous online classes are hosted through the LEO Online learning platform, where students meet virtually in groups. However, each program also requires students to participate in a clinical practicum and travel to ODU’s campus at least once per semester. Online students also have access to support staff, professors, online coaching, and other students through the online platform.

Cost per Credit: $595
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,206

#20

The University of Texas Medical Branch

Galveston (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,015,700
  • Median Salary: $102,791
  • Annual Tuition: $12,268
  • Median Debt: $34,167

UTMB offers an online Master of Science in Nursing program for experienced RNs with four possible concentrations: adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner. Each program is divided into 14 courses over seven semesters, focusing on supporting health and delivering... care in a holistic manner to the specialty population.

Online students have access to 24/7 technical support during their program. Although the didactic coursework is facilitated mostly online, on-site clinical practicums and 2-3 days of on-campus simulation lab experiences are required each semester.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 752

#21

Albany State University

Albany (GA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,013,400
  • Median Salary: $103,913
  • Annual Tuition: $6,600
  • Median Debt: $45,242

ASU’s online Master of Science in Nursing program is offered in part- and full-time formats, requiring 44 credits total. Students learn about pathophysiology, pharmacology, research in nursing practice, and more. In their final year, students are required to complete a practicum through either a preceptorship, thesis, or another scholarly project.

Students use the GaVIEW system to... access online courses, which may include synchronous and asynchronous components. Online students have access to the online writing center, tutoring services, a robust alumni network, and ASU's Office of Career Services.

Cost per Credit: $300
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 229

#22

University of Missouri - Kansas City

Kansas City (MO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,009,800
  • Median Salary: $101,406
  • Annual Tuition: $14,365
  • Median Debt: $27,464

UMKC offers an online Master of Science in Nursing degree with seven concentrations to RNs with at least one year of experience: adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, women's health nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, and pediatric nurse practitioner (primary or acute care). These 52-credit online... programs require 660 clinical hours and on-campus residencies.

Online classes are delivered over Canvas, and while most course elements are asynchronous, some have mandatory class and discussion times. Academic advisors are available to support online students throughout the program.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 855

#23

The University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,009,500
  • Median Salary: $102,754
  • Annual Tuition: $16,422
  • Median Debt: $38,835

UTEP offers experienced RNs an online Master of Science in Nursing with several concentration opportunities: nurse practitioner, adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and pediatric nurse practitioner (acute or primary care). These programs require 46-49 credits and 675-775 clinical hours.

The online portion of the program is... divided into seven-week classes. Although the classes are offered online, UTEP encourages enrollees to attend the on-site student orientation. Distance learners can access technical support and academic advising through UTEP Connect, and they also receive customized support from faculty and program directors.

Cost per Credit: $782
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,069

#24

Drexel University

Philadelphia (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,008,600
  • Median Salary: $104,168
  • Annual Tuition: $29,640
  • Median Debt: $51,250

DU’s online Master of Science in Nursing offers several specialty options: women's health/gender-related nursing, adult-gerontology, family nursing, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric/mental health nursing. This part-time program requires 56 credits. Typically, students take two classes per semester and begin clinical hours at the end of their second year....

Students use Blackboard to access online course content. Lectures are synchronous, connecting students with peers and faculty. Graduates have access to the alumni network and the school's career planning center. Online learners have remote access to 24/7 library access, tutoring services at the Drexel Writing Center, and telehealth counseling through the Office of Counseling and Health Services.

Cost per Credit: $1,140
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,697

#25

Herzing University

Multiple Locations
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,006,200
  • Median Salary: $102,409
  • Annual Tuition: $23,505
  • Median Debt: $38,602

The online Master of Science in Nursing at Herzing offers RNs an MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree and an accelerated RN to MSN-FNP program, each requiring 48 semester hours, 675 clinical hours, and 500 patient encounters. The program is designed to be completed in five semesters, and it emphasizes health policy and management, organizational systems and behaviors, and... clinical decision-making.

Coursework is 100% online except for clinical rotations, offering asynchronous classes, interprofessional educational opportunities in an interactive environment, a Clinical Guidance Process to ensure that students receive clinical practice experiences, and a virtual boot camp to prepare students for the certification examination. Herzing requires students to live in a state where the university is authorized to offer the program.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 731

Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Overview

The Master of Science in Nursing for nurse practitioners is for registered nurses and focuses on advanced nursing theory and principles in the design and delivery of primary care. MSN students choose a specialization, such as family health, gerontology, women's health, or neonatal care. The curriculum is intended to prepare students for the national certification exam and also establishes a foundation for pursuing doctoral studies as a DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice. Program completion generally requires 42-48 credits and approximately 600 practicum hours to gain clinical experience. Full-time students may complete the program in two years, while part-time students may need four.

While on-campus NP programs emphasize collaborative group work and class discussion, as an online student, you'll work autonomously. There is also an expectation that you maintain your nursing job while enrolled to practice and implement new skills and eventually complete your practicum.

Admission Requirements

An NP degree program applicant must be a registered nurse with an active license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If your bachelor's degree is in another field, you'll have to enroll in an RN to MSN bridge program. Most programs also require approximately one year of nursing work experience and proof of employment, in addition to letters of recommendation from employers.

Other admission requirements are similar across programs:

  • A minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Prerequisites that may include microbiology, physiology, anatomy, psychology, chemistry, and statistics.
  • GRE test scores.
  • College transcripts.
  • A current resume.
  • An application fee of approximately $50.

The admissions office may require an interview that an advisor will schedule once they review all the applications.

Types of Nurse Practitioner Programs

You can choose from one of several NP programs based on your prior education, RN status, and career goals. Requirements vary as well as program completion time. Some programs may take two years full-time to complete, while accelerated programs may take RNs as little as a year and a half.

Degree Type Typical Prerequisites Average Years to Complete Details
ADN to MSN Associate Degree in Nursing 2 Years This program may be ideal for licensed RNs who have their Associate Degree in Nursing and want to earn their master's without taking extra time to complete a BSN program in between.
RN to MSN Bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field 2-3 Years This program bridges a bachelor's program to a master's program for RNs who already have a bachelor's degree in another field. Students interested in becoming nurse practitioners can complete master's core courses in lieu of BSN electives.
BSN to MSN Bachelor's of Science in Nursing 2 Years This program is for RNs who want to complete their MSN to become nurse practitioners.
NP Certificate Licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRNs) with a master's degree 12-16 Months A nurse practitioner certificate is a post-graduate certificate in a specialty area, such as pediatrics, neonatal, or gerontology.
DNP MSN 2 Years A Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest clinical degree for nursing and will give students all the same tools and knowledge as an MSN, but with more in-depth analysis and practice. DNP programs usually require a residency period, where students work under the guidance of a licensed NP.

Accelerated NP Programs

There are two distinct types of accelerated nurse practitioner programs: those for current RNs and those for non-nurses. You'll need at least a master’s degree in advanced nursing skills to become a certified NP.

Accelerated NP programs for current BSNs

Time to Completion: Approximately a year and a half

These programs often utilize online courses for the instructional portion of the degree but include an element of clinical classes to be completed in the student's local area. Like NP programs for non-nurses, these accelerated degrees are available in a variety of advanced practice areas.

Accelerated NP programs for non-nurses

Time to Completion: Around 3 years

Open to individuals with an accredited bachelor’s degree. The first step is to complete bachelor’s degree-level bridge coursework, which can take one year. After completing this successfully, the next step is to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn a general nursing license. After passing this test, students may begin their two years of master’s-level nurse practitioner coursework.

What to Consider When Choosing an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Career goals, specialization, and relevant experience will dictate which online NP programs may suit you best. Once you identify schools you're interested in, you can narrow your choices by considering several factors.

Cost

You'll most likely incur some student debt, so you'll want to choose an affordable program that meets your needs and fits within your budget. Public colleges often cost less than private, and many online programs cost less than those on campus. Accelerated programs can save both money and time.

Location

If you need to complete campus intensives or other on-campus work, you may want to only consider local programs.

Curriculum

Make sure to look through the course catalog to ensure courses meet your expectations, and that the school offers your specialty.

Clinical experience opportunities

Online programs may require you to complete a minimum number of hours of real-world experience, where you'll treat patients under the supervision of licensed professionals at a recognized healthcare facility.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners exam pass rates

If you're interested in a program such as an online family nurse practitioner (FNP) program, ask school advisors for their NP certification exam pass rates to ensure the number of graduates passing is satisfactory.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Most professional nursing certification exams are only open to those who have completed accredited degree programs. Programmatic accrediting bodies ensure programs in their field offer high-quality curriculum that meets employer needs. Graduates should be proficient in the skills currently in-demand in order to pass certification exams and remain competitive in the job market.

You should choose an online nursing degree program specifically accredited by an agency such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing Inc., the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or the Commission for Education in Nursing. You can visit Ed.gov to check accreditation status.

Common Courses in an NP Program

An online master's degree in nursing with a nurse practitioner concentration includes a combination of foundational, clinical, and specialty courses. Foundational courses cover nursing theory, diversity, ethics, health policy, research, and advanced practice nursing roles. Clinical studies equip you with skills in advanced nursing interventions, anatomy and physiology, assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. You may also choose specialty courses suited to your career interests and, finally, you'll complete a practicum to gain clinical experience.

Below are some classes that remain similar across all nurse practitioner programs to ensure the same learning outcomes.

Advanced Health Assessment

Through interactive coursework and the use of online simulation, students apply their knowledge to complete comprehensive physical assessments across the lifespan. Students also explore the use of diagnostic reasoning, differential diagnosis, and problem-solving skills to conduct physical assessments of patients.

Advanced Pharmacology

Instruction focuses on advanced pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacotherapeutic principles, and the skills necessary to prescribe medications safely. Students also investigate herbal remedy efficacy and potential drug interactions.

Clinical Prevention for Diverse Populations

Students examine the determinants of health, epidemiology, population health, and clinical prevention. Topics include how cultural competency plays a role in delivering equitable health prevention and intervention to diverse populations.

Information Technology and Data Management

Through the study of healthcare informatics and technology, students observe how each enhances collaboration and communication among healthcare teams. Students apply these skills to advanced practice roles to improve population health.

Innovative Models of Health Delivery

Coursework prepares students to become healthcare leaders through the study and design of innovative care delivery models. Students gain experience applying continuous quality management principles and business process improvement strategies to practice management while balancing productivity with quality of care.

It's important to note that programs may require some amount of on-campus intensive learning, though it's not extensive. For example, online FNP programs may require you to attend a five-day intensive at the beginning of a course and then to complete an assessment exam in person at the end.

Nurse Practitioner Specializations and Careers

NP specializations through online programs can lead to gratifying careers. NPs work in various healthcare environments, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, trauma centers, intensive care units, and emergency rooms. The demand for these roles is high with a median salary of $117,670, which is well above the national average for all jobs of $41,950.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (AGACNPs)

AGACNPs work to improve the health outcomes of adults and seniors with complex chronic and acute illnesses. Those who work in acute care units may have to work non-traditional hours that extend into evenings and weekends.

Adult Nurse Practitioners (ANPs)

ANPs provide primary or acute care to adults throughout their lifespan. ANPs interview patients, record medical histories, and conduct and interpret medical tests for patients.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNPs)

FNPs provide comprehensive and collaborative healthcare to families. FNPs interview and counsel patients, review patient medical histories, perform physical examinations, administer preventative care, and design treatment plans.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs)

NNPs provide care for at-risk infants born prematurely or with serious health conditions, such as low birth weight, infections, or cardiovascular abnormalities. NNPs often provide care through age 2 while continuing to educate and support parents.

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs)

PMHNPs assess, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions. They often work after-hours or on-call to administer physical and psychosocial assessments and provide emergency psychiatric care at a facility.

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

WHNPs treat the sexual well-being and gynecological needs of women of all ages. They often provide preventative care exams, such as breast cancer and Pap smear exams. They administer pregnancy tests, provide contraceptive care, and provide menstrual and menopausal care.

Certification and Licensing Requirements for Nurse Practitioners

Certification is required for NPs to work with patients and to obtain a license. While eligibility requirements may vary, you'll generally need an active RN license and a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in your specialty to take a certification exam to demonstrate your competency. Once certified and licensed, NPs work in various settings, including clinics, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and physicians' offices.

There are five different NP certification boards in the U.S., each offering certifications for various specialties listed below:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Family
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Pediatric Acute Care
  • Neonatal
  • Women’s Health-Gender Related

Once you've passed your certification exam, you'll be eligible for licensing through your state's nursing board. Requirements differ depending on the state, but in general, you'll need the following to obtain your license:

  • Photo identification.
  • Proof of completion for education requirements.
  • Proof of NP certification.
  • A background check and fingerprints.
  • An application fee.

Is an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Worth It?

You can determine whether an online nurse practitioner degree is worth it based on your interests, desired lifestyle, professional goals, and financial situation. Your preferred learning style will also influence your decision whether to complete an online or on-campus program. As with any big life decision, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Potential Benefits

Earning an online degree is convenient for rural nurses who may work far from universities, shift nurses whose schedules rotate, and anyone juggling multiple responsibilities.

The work can be rewarding. Healthcare workers are often passionate about the work they do to improve the well-being of others and consider nursing their vocation — something they feel called to do.

There are many opportunities for job growth as a nurse practitioner, not only with annual salaries potentially exceeding $100,000 but also with the possibility to work anywhere — from a healthcare clinic or intensive care unit to a delivery room or private practice.

An online nurse practitioner degree may be more affordable than on-campus programs because schools often waive campus fees, charge tuition a flat rate, and offer free and affordable digital materials and resources.

Potential Drawbacks

Practicum opportunities may be limited for you as an online student if you don't live close to campus and don't live near healthcare facilities. It may be difficult for you to find opportunities locally, especially if you live in a rural area.

The work can be stressful, especially for NPs who work in emergency rooms, trauma centers, and neonatal clinics, which can be physically and emotionally exhausting.

Work hours and shifts may be irregular and stressful for you and your family. You may be an on-call NP, work rotating shifts, or you may be scheduled for evenings, weekends, or holidays. Your hours are often longer than the average workday, which can negatively impact your free time.

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