As the population in the U.S. continues to grow and age, there is an increasing need for healthcare professionals with advanced skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting an astounding 45% rise in the demand for nurse practitioners through 2029. A nurse practitioner (NP), also known as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), provides primary care and performs tasks comparable to those of a doctor, from prescribing medication to ordering tests and interpreting the results. However, only a master’s degree is required to become a nurse practitioner. The following is a list of the best online master’s nurse practitioner degree programs. Read on for additional information about accreditation, accelerated programs, licensing requirements, and specializations in this growing field.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Master's in Nurse Practitioner (NP) Degrees
Ranked based on affordability and earning potential, these 23 schools offer the best online nurse practitioner programs. Graduates of the #1 school, Rivier University, report earning a median salary of $114,800. Tuition for Rivier University is also one of the lowest on the list, at $9,450 per year. At #2, the University of Connecticut charges $24,050 per year for its Master of Science in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner/Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist and has a reported alumni salary of $115,800.
Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.
The Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program at Rivier University prepares graduates to deliver patient care as primary health care professionals. Students in the online FNP program learn how to diagnose and treat patients, serve as their advocates, and work with a diverse population in various health care environments. The program covers topics in pathophysiology, health policy, family nursing theory, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum places a particular focus on the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to provide optimal patient care. The MSN program is designed to take between three and five years to complete, with courses running for 14 weeks. Graduates of the MSN-FNP program are eligible to sit for the licensing examination.
Online coursework is delivered through the Canvas learning management system, where students can communicate with peers and instructors, and some instructors may choose to use the system to administer exams. A self-paced Canvas tutorial is available to all new students. Distance learners have access to various support services, including tutoring, career development, and academic advising. With a strong Catholic foundation, Rivier University also offers online students the opportunity to become involved in Christian student groups.
To apply to the online graduate program at Rivier University, prospective students should have an active RN license and at least a 3.0 GPA from their prior academic experience. The admissions process requires applicants to submit a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and a resume indicating a minimum of two years of professional experience. These documents, along with the official online application, are used for consideration.
#2 University of Connecticut
Annual Tuition: $24,050
Median Salary: $115,800
Locations: Storrs (CT)
The Master of Science in Nursing – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) program at the University of Connecticut is suited for current nurse practitioners looking to advance their careers. The 44-credit online NNP program is facilitated remotely with a few exceptions: students must attend an on-campus orientation and two on-site simulations. The online master’s nurse practitioner program can be completed in five semesters as a full-time student or six to seven semesters as a part-time student. Coursework includes lessons in advanced pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, health assessment, and health policy. Graduates can sit for the neonatal nurse practitioner exam.
Online coursework is hosted on Husky Course Tools or HuskyCT, which is an extension of the Blackboard learning management system. Readings, lectures, and assignments are available 24/7, and students work independently to meet due dates and study for scheduled exams. Resources for distance learners include technical support, accessibility services, virtual library access, career development support, and online tutoring.
There are three start dates for the program, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. To apply, students must have two years of professional nursing experience. An online application, a personal essay, three letters of reference, a CV, unofficial transcripts, and a minimum GPA of 3.0 are required for admission.
#3 Northeastern University
Annual Tuition: $37,398
Median Salary: $119,300
Locations: Burlington (MA)
The online Master of Science in Nursing – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program at Northeastern University is offered in both full-time and part-time formats. This program focuses on providing care to high-risk newborns in levels 2 and 3 in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and advancing current skills in diagnostic reasoning and delivery room management. The curriculum explores advanced pharmacology, epidemiology, and community health, pathophysiology, and neonate health assessment.
Online coursework is available through the Canvas learning management platform, which houses virtual teaching tools and class content. Students can access Canvas 24/7, allowing them to study at their convenience. While in the online master’s program, students can take advantage of a variety of academic resources, such as tutoring services, academic advising, library access, and mental health counseling.
Applicants must be active RNs with at least two years of experience in the NICU. The application process requires students to submit an online application, academic transcripts, a personal statement, 1-3 letters of recommendation, and a professional resume. Academic transcripts must indicate a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Online course material is offered 24/7 through the Canvas learning management system, where students can submit assignments, take quizzes, watch video lectures, download text resources, and engage with classmates and professors through discussion forums and email. Online students have access to resources such as the career center, the Foley Library, disability services, and tutoring.
To apply to Gonzaga University’s online MSN programs, interested students can submit an online application with their official transcripts, proof of unencumbered RN license, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume. Students can transfer between six and nine credits from previous academic institutions.
Coursework is facilitated through the Canvas learning management system and focuses on evidence-based practice, research and theory, and clinical experiences. Online students have access to academic coaches, online tutoring, and library resources.
Prospective students must submit an online application and transcripts, and they must have an active RN license plus at least two years of experience. GRE scores can be waived for applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
The program is offered completely online via Blackboard, with the exception of a two-day orientation on campus and two-day, onsite immersive sessions. Online students have access to technical assistance and academic support.
Prospective students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and the application requires students fill out an online portion in addition to sending their transcripts. The University of Southern Indiana does not offer distance learning in all 50 states, so students should confirm that their home state regulations allow them to enroll in this program.
#7 Texas Woman's University
Annual Tuition: $10,474
Median Salary: $103,400
Locations: Denton (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Texas Woman’s University offers a Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program for experienced registered nurses who want to advance their professional skills in assessment, analysis, and diagnosis. The 46-credit online program is divided into 13 courses, nearly half of which require a clinical component. Students learn how to treat diseases and disorders while focusing on the patient’s entire well-being. Graduates are eligible to sit for the certification examination.
The curriculum focuses on treating diseases and disorders while considering the patient’s entire well-being. Students have access to clinical placement assistance and success coaches for program support. Students complete a simulation test during the final two semesters of the program to help them prepare for certification.
Admission is offered on a rolling basis, and students may enter the program in the fall, spring, or summer. Prospective students should submit an application form and fee, after which they will be connected with an admissions counselor to learn about additional required materials.
Online coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format. Students must attend three on-campus experiences: new student orientation, an acute care/primary care practicum, and a final practicum to assess skills at the end of the program.
Prospective students of these online NP programs must have an active RN license and at least two years of experience in acute care and one year of experience in primary care. Applicants must submit their transcripts from a BSN program at an accredited undergraduate program, as well as a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and proof of liability insurance. Primary care applicants should have at least a 3.0 GPA, while acute care applicants should have a minimum 3.2 GPA.
#9 University of North Dakota
Annual Tuition: $18,360
Median Salary: $104,000
Locations: Grand Forks (ND)
The University of North Dakota offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with three specializations: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). The fully online programs are intended for RNs looking to advance as leaders in patient-focused health care. Students can start in the fall, spring, or summer sessions and finish in as few as eight semesters. The master's program feature 22 core credits (including an independent project) and three, four-credit advanced clinical practicums. Graduates of the PMHNP program will be prepared to sit for the certification exam.
Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. This program offers small classes taught by experienced, board-certified faculty. Distance learners have access to student services like academic advising, technical support, and assistance with clinical placements.
Prospective students connect with an enrollment advisor when they begin their application process, which require the submission of official college transcripts and a personal statement. There is no GRE requirement for this program.
#10 Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi
Annual Tuition: $12,831
Median Salary: $101,200
Locations: Corpus Christi (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner program at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi focuses on disease prevention and management. The program is designed for experienced RNs seeking to advance their skills as primary care providers for diverse patients ranging in age from infants to seniors. This 48-credit program requires students to pass a comprehensive exam to graduate. Graduates will be able to sit for the ANCC and ANNP national certification exams.
While the didactic coursework is facilitated online, there are on-site practicum requirements for students. Online learners have access to remote campus services such as technical assistance and an academic advisory committee to support students through graduation.
Prospective students must submit an application (fee is required) along with their transcripts and GRE scores.
While the didactic coursework is facilitated mostly online, there are two to three days of on-campus simulation lab experiences required each semester, in addition to on-site clinical practicums. Online students have access to technical support at all times during their program.
Applicants to the program should have a BSN from an accredited program with a 3.0 GPA or higher. They must have an active RN license with at least one year of recent clinical experience. Applications require a resume, transcripts, and a letter of recommendation that focuses on the student’s experience and dedication to a nursing career.
#12 The University of Texas at El Paso
Annual Tuition: $17,986
Median Salary: $103,200
Locations: El Paso (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) offers experienced registered nurses several Master's of Science (MSN) in Nursing online programs, including an MSN in Nurse Practitioner, MSN in Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and MSN in Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. These online NP programs range from 46–49 credits and require 675–775 clinical hours. The didactic portion of the program is divided into seven-week classes, and students can choose from three start dates. Graduates can sit for the national FNP certification exam.
While the classes are offered online, students are strongly encouraged to attend the on-site student orientation. Online students have access to on-campus services like technical support and academic advising through UTEP Connect. Students also receive customized support from faculty and program directors to help them achieve success in this online program. Graduates can sit for the national FNP certification exam.
Applicants should be active RNs and submit their transcripts, resume, and letter of intent for admissions consideration.
#13 University of Southern California
Annual Tuition: $48,200
Median Salary: $114,100
Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
The Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Southern California (USC) is designed for registered nurses who want a nurse practitioner certification. This 49-credit program s offered through the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and includes didactic coursework plus 784 hours of clinical experience. Students can choose from three start dates. Full-time students can complete the program in five semesters, while part-time students can finish it in eight semesters. Graduates can sit for the national nurse practitioner certification exam.
While coursework is completed online, students are required to attend two on-campus experiences during the program. Online students at USC have access to remote campus services, including academic advising and technical support.
Prospective students can choose from three start dates. Successful applicants to the program have a BSN with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA, a current RN licensure, and at least one year of recent clinical experience. For accepted students who do not fulfill all these prerequisites, a two-credit bridge course is required.
#14 University of South Carolina-Columbia
Annual Tuition: $7,345
Median Salary: $96,000
Locations: Columbia (SC)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The online Master of Science in Nurse (MSN) program at the University of South Carolina - Columbia is designed for registered nurses looking to advance in their health care careers. Students may select from three nurse practitioner programs: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. On-site immersive experiences are required throughout the program, allowing online students the opportunity to connect with classmates and faculty in person. Graduates of the program can sit for the national nurse practitioner certification exam.
Didactic coursework is offered asynchronously through Blackboard and AdobeConnect. Online students have remote access to academic advising and technical support services. They can also remain connected to their classmates and receive support from their faculty mentors through the Student Cafe informal discussion board.
Prospective students can apply online, but they must first check with their home state guidelines to see if they are allowed to enroll in the online NP programs at USC - Columbia.
Online courses are facilitated 100% online through Blackboard; there are no on-site requirements. Students in this program have access to the same resources as their on-campus counterparts, including an international program, where students can gain valuable experience in global health.
Prospective students must have a current RN licensure and a minimum 3.0 GPA in their BSN degree, along with at least one year of clinical experience and a C or better in a statistics course. Applicants must submit a resume, a personal statement, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.
#16 Saint Louis University-Main Campus
Annual Tuition: $10,900
Median Salary: $96,400
Locations: St. Louis (MO)
Saint Louis University offers an online Master of Science in Nursing programs for registered nurses seeking career advancement in the field with several specializations: Adult/Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult/Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Family Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Graduates can sit for the national certification exam. Those who wish to become nurse educators can take a three-credit course in preparation for the National League for Nursing Nurse Educator exam.
While the majority of the curriculum is online, there are two required on-campus sessions, including a new student orientation. Students have remote access to library resources, academic advising, and the writing center. Faculty advisors are assigned as mentors to assist students through the program.
The admissions process is a comprehensive evaluation that takes into consideration transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a CV; some applicants may be invited for an interview. Before applying, prospective students should verify that their home state regulations will allow them to pursue distance learning. Competitive applicants will have a minimum 3.25 GPA in their Bachelor of Nursing degree coursework.
#17 Northern Kentucky University
Annual Tuition: $16,146
Median Salary: $98,100
Locations: Highland Heights (KY)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Northern Kentucky offers four specialization options for their online Master of Science in Nursing program: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Depending on the concentration, these 43–47 credit programs require 500–600 clinical hours and can be completed in 20–22 months. Graduates of the program can sit for the national FNP certification exam.
The online curriculum includes core classes, concentration courses, and a capstone class. Classes run in seven-week sessions, and there are multiple session start dates in the year. Online students have access to technical support, library resources, the Veterans Resource Station, and other campus resources.
Applicants to the program must submit an application and fee, transcripts from their BSN programs, proof of an active RN license, and proof of at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience. Students entering the program must have already completed a statistics course with a C or higher. Graduates of the program are able to sit for the national FNP certification exam.
#18 Sacred Heart University
Annual Tuition: $18,145
Median Salary: $98,800
Locations: Fairfield (CT)
The Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner program at Sacred Heart University is a flexible graduate program for working professionals. This 42-credit program is intended for RNs who wish to advance in their careers as health care professionals and to work with diverse patients in a variety of settings. Students are required to complete three on-campus experiences and assessments throughout the program. There are three 16-week sessions each year, and students who take one course each session can finish the program in three years. Graduates of the program can sit for the national ANA and AANP certification exams.
Online coursework is delivered asynchronously via Blackboard. Students can connect with a student services coordinator for personalized support during enrollment. Through Sacred Heart, students may participate in practical experiences abroad to obtain a greater understanding of health care on a global scale.
To apply, students must submit an online form along with transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume. Students should have completed a statistics and research course before entering the program.
#19 University of South Alabama
Annual Tuition: $13,662
Median Salary: $95,900
Locations: Mobile (AL)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree at the University of South Alabama provides a flexible option for RNs wishing to advance their careers. Students can select from the following MSN concentrations, Adult-Gerontological Acute Nurse Practitioner; Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner; Family NP/Emergency NP (Dual Role); Family Nurse Practitioner/Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Dual Role); Family Nurse Practitioner; Family Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner; Neonatal Nurse Practitioner; Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner; Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitione; and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner. Students are required to attend an on-campus orientation. Graduates of the program can sit for the AACN certification test. Students without a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) must first complete a sequence of core classes before enrolling.
Online students are assigned preceptors or mentors at their clinical sites for support during the program, and they have access to program faculty by phone or email.
Prospective students should confirm that their home state will allow them to study remotely. Students must submit an application and transcripts.
#20 University of Missouri-Kansas City
Annual Tuition: $22,840
Median Salary: $99,200
Locations: Kansas City (MO)
At the University of Missouri – Kansas City, an online Master of Science in Nursing is available for experienced RNs ready to take the next step in their careers. Online track options are available in Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Women's Health Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse Educator. This 52-credit online program offers three start dates throughout the year. Students will need to attend on-campus residencies during their clinical courses. Graduates will be able to sit for the national certification exam.
Online classes are delivered on Canvas, and while some are held synchronously with mandatory class/discussion times, others are asynchronous. Academic advisors are available to support students throughout the program.
Prospective students are required to have at least one year of experience as a registered nurse. Students must submit an online application and official transcripts to apply. To be competitive, students should have at least a 3.2 college GPA and have taken classes in statistics and health assessment. Students should check their home state regulations to confirm that they will be permitted to enroll in a distance learning program.
#21 The George Washington University
Annual Tuition: $33,480
Median Salary: $102,300
Locations: Washington D.C. (DC)
George Washington University offers several online Master’s of Science in Nursing programs in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (RN to MSN), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and a Family Nurse Practitioner (RN to MSN). The programs are intended for experienced RNs looking to advance in their careers as health care professionals in critical care, home health, and family and community care. Students must complete an on-site skills assessment in the campus simulation lab to graduate.
Online courses are offered in a hybrid format, with sessions starting in the fall and spring. Students have access to the same services as on-campus students, including library resources, tutoring, career development, veteran services, mental health counseling, disability services, and technical support.
Prospective students should submit an application, official transcripts, and a personal statement to apply.
#22 University of St. Francis
Annual Tuition: $18,600
Median Salary: $96,300
Locations: Joliet (IL)
The Leach College of Nursing at the University of St. Francis offers two online Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs: the MSN- Family Nurse Practitioner and the MSN - Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. The advanced nursing curriculum is focused on scientific inquiry and collaboration in the delivery of health care to patients. The programs require that students complete 47–56 credits, with 19 credits of clinical experience.
The program is offered completely online in an asynchronous format. Students wishing to become clinical educators can enroll in education courses. Online students have access to campus services, including academic advising and 24/7 tech support.
Program enrollment is restricted to certain states; students should check their state regulations for distance learning before applying. Applicants must submit an application form, transcripts, an essay, a resume, and two letters of recommendation. A drug and criminal background check is also required.
#23 Loyola University New Orleans
Annual Tuition: $19,632
Median Salary: $96,400
Locations: New Orleans (LA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner program at Loyola University New Orleans is designed for experienced RNs who want to advance in their careers. This 48-credit program includes over 700 hours of required clinical rotations. The curriculum focuses on pathophysiology, primary care for adult/women, and primary pediatric care. Students can also take electives in statistics, data management, and scientific writing. Graduates of the program can sit for the national NP certification exam.
The didactic curriculum is delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Online students have access to a variety of campus resources, including academic advising and tech support. Incoming students will have an online student readiness checklist to help prepare for the program’s online delivery.
After applicants submit their online application, they will be contacted by an enrollment specialist to discuss next steps and required documents.
Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Degree Overview & Career Information
The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) for nurse practitioners is usually a two-year degree, but some schools require three years of training. Students are expected to already be a practicing nurse, and they will learn about topics such as women's health, family practice, pharmaceuticals, injury treatment and prevention, and various types of medical testing. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) will give students all of the same tools and knowledge as an MSN, but with more in-depth analysis. DNPs also usually require a residency period, where students work under the guidance of a licensed NP.
Anyone applying to a nurse practitioner preparation degree program must be a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree. Some schools require that applicants have a certain amount of experience, measured either in years or hours. While on-campus NP programs emphasize collaborative group work and class discussion, online students do most of their learning alone. Most online students are also expected to maintain a nursing job while they are enrolled in order to implement and practice new skills as they learn them. Schools may ask for proof of employment and letters of recommendation from employers.
Online Master's Degrees in Nurse Practitioner (NP)
An online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a nurse practitioner concentration prepares nurses for advanced practice roles in the field. Programs focus on advanced nursing theory and principles in the design and delivery of primary care. This training helps students prepare to take the national certification exam after graduation. Master's NP programs also establish a foundation for pursuing doctoral studies in the field.
Applicants to an online nurse practitioner master's program should hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and a registered nurse (RN) license. Students may be required to complete prerequisite courses such as statistics and basic computer courses. Once enrolled, NP master's students will generally need to complete 42-48 credits including clinical practice hours. Full-time students may complete the program in two years, while part-time students may require three to six years.
An online master's degree in nursing with a nurse practitioner concentration will include a combination of foundation, clinical, and specialty courses. Foundation courses cover nursing theory, diversity, ethics, health policy, research, and advanced practice nursing roles. Clinical courses equip students with skills in advanced nursing interventions, anatomy and physiology, assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. Students choose specialty courses that best represent their career interests and complete a practicum to gain clinical experience. Specialty courses may include adults and older adults, health promotion, pediatrics, and women's health. MSN programs also typically include a comprehensive exam requirement in the final semester.
Master's programs help prepare students to provide primary care to individuals of all ages in various settings. Graduates may be able to take up NP positions in clinics, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and physicians' offices. Job opportunities may also available at care centers that specialize in areas such as oncology, nephrology, and women's health. NPs are in high demand in rural and under-served areas, and some graduates choose to pursue careers in the global health arena. Graduates may also go on to work in nursing administration and research or as faculty members in schools of nursing.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees prepare students for the highest level of nursing practice. Programs are clinical in nature and train students to play leadership roles in healthcare reform.
For traditional DNP programs, applicants must hold a master's degree in nursing and a current RN license. Students with only a Bachelor of Science in Nursing may be interested in a BSN-to-DNP program, which enables them to enroll in doctoral studies without a graduate degree. BSN-to-DNP programs last four or five years, requiring approximately 65-75 credit hours and over 1,000 clinical practicum hours. Traditional doctoral programs require completion of 43-48 credit hours and approximately 500 practicum hours, which takes two to three years. Part-time students may take up to five years to earn a doctoral degree.
The doctoral curriculum places heavy emphasis on research methodology. Prerequisites may include graduate-level statistics, advanced health assessment, advanced human physiology, advanced pharmacotherapeutics, and nursing research. Students enhance their skills in applying evidence-based practices in the field and gain the knowledge and expertise needed to play lead roles in quality improvement initiatives. Coursework covers areas such as epidemiology, ethical issues in practice, genetics, healthcare finance, healthcare policy, health systems management, informatics in healthcare, models of care, quality improvement, and the US health system. In addition to the more general coursework, DNP students may take specialized classes if they elect to focus on an area such as adult-gerontology, family practice, mental health, and women's health. Online students may be required to visit the school campus to complete some of the coursework. Doctoral programs also usually require completion of a clinical research project and practicum.
Online Certificates in Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Online graduate certificate programs are available for licensed RNs who have a master's or doctoral degree and wish to pursue advanced, specialized nursing roles. The most common NP certificates are for family practice nurse practitioners, but there are also certificate programs for adult-gerontology, neonatal, and psychiatric care. Certificate programs range from 26-50 credits and last two to five years, depending on whether students attend full-time or part-time. Because most online NP certificate programs are designed for currently practicing nurses, they are often offered in a flexible, part-time learning format to accommodate students' work schedules.
Admissions criteria for online NP certificates typically include a current license to practice as an RN, a resume, letters of recommendation, a written personal statement, undergraduate and graduate transcripts with a minimum GPA requirement, and clinical experience in a nursing specialization. Some schools may also have state residency requirements or require an interview with a faculty member or graduate exam scores.
Online NP certificate programs provide students with opportunities to perform evidence-based research and advanced analysis in their specialization. The curriculum will depend on the particular specialization chosen, but some examples of coursework include advanced pharmacology, human physiology and pathophysiology, clinical management principles, health assessment, theory for the practice of advanced nursing, research methods for advanced nursing, and specialty care courses for the population students are training to provide care for. Some online certificate programs may require students to visit campus or complete a clinical practicum in their community or in the state where the online school is located.
Nurse practitioners need at least a master’s degree in advanced nursing skills to become certified. Accelerated online NP programs provide a way for non-nurses or current registered nurses to earn the master’s credential in a shorter time frame. There are two distinct types of accelerated nurse practitioner programs: those for current RNs and those for non-nurses.
Accelerated NP programs for current bachelor’s degree-level RNs take approximately a year and a half to complete. These programs often utilize online courses for the didactic portion of the degree; students still complete clinical classes in their 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 usually take around three years to complete. These programs are open to individuals with an accredited bachelor’s degree and prerequisite courses in areas such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, developmental psychology, and statistics. After being accepted to the program, non-nurses complete a period of bachelor’s-degree-level bridge coursework; this usually takes one year to complete. After completing this successfully, students take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) nursing exam to earn their general nursing license. After passing this test, nurses then begin two years of master’s-level NP coursework.
Examples of common course requirements in accelerated NP degree programs include:
Advanced Pathophysiology: This course takes an advanced look at the biology of disease and how medicine treats diseases.
Applied Pharmacology: Students learn how to utilize knowledge about drug dosage and interactions when working with different types of patients.
Evaluating Evidence in Advanced Practice Nursing: This course teaches nurses how to take into account the various metrics of patient health when developing a diagnosis.
Health Assessment & Diagnosis: Nursing students learn how to interview patients and perform physical exams.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Accreditation is an important factor to consider when deciding which online degree or certificate NP program to attend. One of the most important reasons for attending an accredited program is that most professional nursing certification exams are only open to candidates who have completed an accredited degree program. When a program is accredited, it means that it meets the nationally-recognized standards set by independent agencies with regard to curriculum and the qualifications of faculty, among other things. Accreditation also helps to ensure that the credits you earn will be transferable to other accredited institutions and that you will be eligible for federal financial aid.
Licensing and Certification Requirements for Nurse Practitioners
All US states regulate the practices of nurse practitioners. Depending on the state, licensed NPs may be referred to as either an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) or an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP). Many states still accept an MSN with a concentration in NP studies as qualification to earn a license to practice; however, some states are slowly phasing this degree out in place of a doctoral degree. Applicants should consult their state's licensing board and talk to current NPs in their state to determine if the laws are likely to change soon. Those who do not need a doctorate for licensure purposes will probably find that a master’s degree program meets their professional needs.
The vast majority of those working to become NPs have already received a bachelor's degree in nursing at an accredited school and are licensed as an RN. Only after working two or more years as an RN can people pursue an advanced nursing degree to become a nurse practitioner. Although there are a few programs you can take to become a licensed NP without having previously obtained a bachelor's degree, they will require quite a bit more time to complete than traditional NP programs. An online master's degree in nursing will take about two years to complete, while an online doctorate in nursing practice can take up to five years. Additionally, in order to graduate, you must complete a certain number, usually hundreds, of clinical hours.
To work as an NP anywhere in the United States, you must obtain a license through your state's nursing board. You should first look to achieve certification (otherwise known as the Certified Nurse Practitioner) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. However, to even be able to sit for the NP certification exam, you must meet a number of eligibility requirements. For example, the certification eligibility criteria for the Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified includes holding an active RN license that was administered in the United States and having obtained a master's, post-master's, or doctoral degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.
The online NP master’s degree is a specialized degree program. Prospective NPs should decide which area of advanced practice care they would like to work in. Potential clinical areas include acute care, adult care, family care, geriatric care, pediatric nursing, and psychiatric/mental health nursing.
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Family nurse practitioners (FNP) provide collaborative healthcare for patients of all ages, from infants to adults. They work in many different settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practice, and urgent care clinics. Responsibilities for FNPs include interviewing and counseling patients, reviewing patient medical histories, performing physical examinations and screenings, promoting self-care and disease prevention, and designing treatment plans. Family nurse practitioners provide comprehensive care to individuals while also taking into account the family system as a whole.
Students interested in pursuing a career as a family nurse practitioner will need to begin by earning a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited institution. They will then need to work full-time for at least one year as a licensed registered nurse before applying to a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nurse Practice degree program. Some schools offer MSN programs with a family nurse practitioner concentration, while others offer a separate FNP certificate program for master's and doctoral graduates. After completing a graduate degree program and at least 500 hours of supervised practicum experience, graduates can then take an FNP certification exam through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
Adult nurse practitioners (ANP) are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed advanced training at the graduate level. They specialize in working with patients in all stages of adulthood, from young adults to seniors. Some ANPs work independently, while others are employed by hospitals, clinics, or public health units and work as part of a larger healthcare team to provide primary or acute care services to patients.
People who would be most successful in this career field are those who have a strong interest in individual and public health. Adult patients are not only individuals, they are also a part of families and communities, and nurse practitioners need to understand how their healthcare needs factor into these relationships as well.
To become an ANP, nurses must complete an accredited master's, doctorate, or post-master's certificate program and a clinical practicum with approximately 500-600 hours. Candidates who apply for an ANP program must have an accredited bachelor's degree and a current RN license, as well as relevant nursing experience. Some colleges will only admit prospective students who have achieved a minimum GPA in their undergraduate program. GRE scores may need to be submitted for consideration with the other application materials.
ANPs must have strong oral and written communication skills in order to effectively share information with patients, co-workers, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Much of an ANP's time will be spent interviewing patients, recording patients' medical histories, and conducting or ordering medical tests. The ANP will also be responsible for reviewing and interpreting test results and sharing them with patients in ways they can easily understand. The practitioner must have excellent listening skills and be able to create an atmosphere where patients can share their health concerns openly and directly.
The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer certification exams for adult nurse practitioners. Certification exams test candidates' competency in many areas, such as clinical decision making, cultural competence, evidence-based practice, health promotion and disease prevention, interviewing concepts, and pharmacological therapies. ANPs can apply for a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner license through their state's licensing board.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nurse Practitioner Degrees
How is a nurse practitioner different from a clinical nurse specialist?
Both the nurse practitioner role and the clinical nurse specialist role require master's degrees because they involve advanced healthcare activities. In fact, there is a fair degree of overlap between the two in terms of education, training, and practices. Both are required to be licensed to treat patients, conduct physical exams, and coordinate patient care. The main difference between the two roles is the focus. Nurse practitioners are more likely to provide direct patient care, while clinical nurse specialists are more likely to be employed in administrative, research, program development, and teaching positions.
What's the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician's assistant?
In some ways, the roles of nurse practitioner and physician's assistant are similar. Professionals in these roles must hold master's degrees and be licensed to practice, and they earn comparable salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects a dramatic increase in demand for professionals with either of these credentials. In practice, however, the roles are quite different. Nurse practitioners come from the nursing tradition, so they focus on long-term care and wellness. Physician's assistants come from the medical model and are focused on diagnosing and treating ailments and injuries.
How much can I expect to earn as a nurse practitioner?
The median annual income for a nurse practitioner was $109,820 as of May 2019, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth rate for nurse practitioners and other advanced nursing positions is projected to be 26% through 2028, which is much higher than the average for other employment opportunities.
How can I fulfill the clinical practice requirement for a nurse practitioner program if I'm going to school online?
Some nurse practitioner degree programs require students to complete a minimum number of hours of real-world experience as part of the curriculum. When students are completing their degrees online, they may have to work with their advisor or another faculty member to make arrangements to complete this requirement at a recognized healthcare facility that is convenient to the student. Students will need to work under the supervision of licensed professionals at the chosen facilities. The purpose of clinical hours is to give students valuable experience in treating patients.
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