Best Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 2/22/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: ACEN, ACEN, CCNE, NPWH
Average Tuition: $26,929

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.

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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-Metropolitan Campus $9,900 $117,274 $30,750 $1,169,000
# 7 #7 United States University $11,400 $116,083 $53,149 $1,128,900
# 8 #8 Felician University $12,720 $113,360 $35,870 $1,122,400
# 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 AdventHealth University (AHU) offers three program tracks: family nurse practitioner (FNP), education, and administration and leadership. The program offers varied entry points for nurses depending on their current career stage and can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. This online degree program provides nurses with knowledge in research,... leadership, and ethical issues. All tracks require practicum work and a capstone project. AHU is a Seventh-day Adventist school that welcomes students of all backgrounds.

Students use Canvas to access classes asynchronously. Students communicate with classmates and professors and have access to online office hours. Varying points of entry allow nurses to use their previous education to create a personalized course of study. AHU offers scholarships and tuition assistance programs. Students have access to an online job placement service, career fairs, and can take advantage of a strong alumni network.

Nurses applying for admission to the administration/leadership and education tracks for the Summer 2021 semester must apply by April 11, 2021. Classes for the Summer 2021 semester begin May 1, 2021. Students applying to the FNP track for the Fall 2021 semester must apply by May 1, 2021. The start date for the Fall 2021 semester is to be determined. The application process is completed online. Students who take classes online have access to a 24/7 support network.

Cost per Credit: $650
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 91

#2

Touro University Nevada

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

The online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner program offered at Touro University Nevada (TUN) consists of 53 credits that can be completed in seven trimesters. The degree program is completed primarily online with three on-campus clinical intensives. Students also complete 585 hours in a supervised clinical practicum and a one-credit capstone project, which... includes preparation for the AANP and ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner National Certification Exam. Students study cultural understanding, physical assessment, pharmacology, and primary care for specific ages and conditions. The program requires that students take two online courses at a time for the first four trimesters and complete clinical requirements for the final three trimesters.

Online coursework is primarily asynchronous. Some courses include conference calls or lectures that students can attend or view later. On-campus attendance is required for one week during trimesters five, six, and seven. Students may transfer credit from other institutions in certain situations. Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, including one specifically for veterans, and federal and private loans. Minority Nurse Magazine has recognized the School of Nursing as a Nursing Diversity Champion for its recruiting and retention of diverse students and faculty.

Prospective students can apply three times a year -- in March, July, and November -- with specific deadlines for each cohort. Applications are submitted online with supporting documents mailed. Resources available to 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: 233

#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

The Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner degree at the University of Southern California (USC) is designed for registered nurses who want a nurse practitioner certification. This program includes 49 credits of coursework in health care technology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and more, along with 784 hours of clinical experience. Full-time students can complete... the program in five semesters, while part-time students can finish it in eight semesters. Graduates are eligible for the national nurse practitioner certification exam.

Coursework is completed online, but students are required to attend two on-campus experiences during the program. Graduate students may be eligible for financial aid through the school of nursing or their employers.

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. Accepted students who do not fulfill these prerequisites must take a two-credit bridge course. 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: 6,691

#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

The online Master of Science in Nursing program at the University of South Carolina - Columbia (USCC) is designed for registered nurses who want to improve their career prospects. Students can choose 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 each program, allowing online students the opportunity to connect with classmates and faculty in person. Graduates can take the national certification exam for their area of specialty.

USCC delivers asynchronous coursework through Blackboard and AdobeConnect. Enrollees can connect with classmates and receive support from faculty mentors through the informal Student Cafe discussion board. Students can pursue a range of scholarships offered through the School of Nursing.

Prospective students can apply online, but they must first check with their home state guidelines to see if they can enroll in the online NP programs at USCC. Online students have remote access to academic advising and technical support services.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,469

#5

Samuel Merritt University

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

The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner degree at Samuel Merritt University (SMU) is a full degree program that offers both full and part-time course loads. The program provides instruction on nursing theory, advanced practice nursing, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and more. Students are required to complete a 210-hour clinical practicum... as well as an internship experience.

Students at SMU use the Canvas learning management system to access coursework. SMU's online programs combine theory and practice and prepare students for hands-on practice and internship experiences. 86% of students at SMU receive some financial aid. Students have access to SMU's Career Services office and also have access to a robust alumni network. SMU has a low rate of graduates who default on their student loans (0.9% compared to a national average of 9.7%).

Applicants can apply and submit required documentation online. Classes for the Fall 2021 semester begin on September 7, 2021. Online students have access to Canvas support, IT support, the school's online library, online tutoring, writing support, academic advising, and more.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 260

#6

Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus

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 Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) allows students to complete coursework on a full- or part-time basis. Students complete 37 credits, as well as at least 640 clinical hours. Through the course of the program, students learn about diverse medical conditions, practice diagnostic skills, and nursing research. The program culminates... with a master's project.

Students use an online learning platform to work through asynchronous classes at times that are convenient for them. FDU is proud to work with military veterans and has been recognized as a Yellow Ribbon School. Students at FDU have access to the career development center, and can also utilize the school's alumni network after graduation.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants can apply and submit all necessary documentation online. Online students have access to library resources and remote tutoring (each student gets 300 free tutoring minutes per semester).

Cost per Credit: $825
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 321

#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

United States University offers an online Master of Science Nurse Practitioner program for registered nurses who want to promote and manage the health of patients, families, and communities. The 48-semester credit course is a 24-month program. Graduates can sit for a national certification exam from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing... Center (ANCC) and apply for a Nurse Practitioner (NP) license from the California Board of Registered Nurses.

This program follows a hybrid online instructional model, including real-time face-to-face instruction and video conferencing, phone conferencing, and/or live chats with faculty and fellow students. Lessons require students to participate in activities with mentors and other students, interact with computer-simulated patients, and review case studies. Students will take part in online and synchronous lectures, discussions, videos, and other activities. Online students must also attend a four-day immersion program at one of the university’s three campuses in San Diego, Tempe, AZ, or Tampa, FL. Students must also complete at least 540 clinical hours, starting in the second year of the program.

Applicants must complete program entrance requirements and submit an application and enrollment agreement. Academic advising, online tutoring, and additional student success resources are also available.

Cost per Credit: $475
School Type: For-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 661

#8

Felician University

Lodi (NJ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,122,400
  • Median Salary: $113,360
  • Annual Tuition: $12,720
  • Median Debt: $35,870

The online Master of Science in Nursing program at Felician University offers concentrations in adult-gerontology and family nursing. Most students complete the program on a part-time basis, taking approximately five credits per semester. Felician University is a Roman Catholic university but is open to students of all religious/non-religious backgrounds. Throughout the program,... students study nursing research, clinical pathophysiology, ethical issues, and more. Students also take part in an advanced nursing practice seminar.

Online students use Zoom and the Brightspace learning management system to work closely with experienced faculty members. The program combines online courses with hands-on experience. Felician University provides financial aid and offers students financial counseling. Upon graduation, students have access to the alumni network, as well as the school's career development center. Upon graduation, students are eligible to apply for doctoral study or to sit for the national certification exam from the ANCC, AANP, or the APN.

Admissions are accepted on a rolling basis, and applicants can fill out their information and submit required documents online. Online students have access to The Center for Academic Success, electronic access to the school's libraries, and virtual tutoring services.

Cost per Credit: $1,060
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 150

#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

Midwestern State University Wilson School of Nursing (MSUWSN) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner degree. Students who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree can enroll in the Family Nurse Practitioner program if they intend to move forward with their education and want to work primarily with families. The course comprises 48 credit hours... in total, 18 of which are core-related, 24 are spent in clinical, and the final six on an evidence-based project or thesis. Students will learn how to meet the health-related needs of families.

MSUWSN students use the BrightSpace platform to access their online courses provided by WebAssign. BrightSpace offers videos, meetings, discussion groups, quizzes, exams, and many other classroom tools students can use to move through their coursework. Students can utilize a variety of financial aid resources. There are scholarships awarded for good grades, military service, as well as available grants and loans. Graduates who complete their degree program qualify to take national certification examinations.

MSUWSN allows students to apply for their FNP degree programs online. The university offers virtual library access as well as online tutoring and support programs. 24/7 online support is available for students interested in pursuing their degrees or already started the education process. Students can enroll in the FNP MSN degree program for the fall semester. The deadline to apply for MSN degree courses is April 1st.

Cost per Credit: $319
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 475

#10

Northeastern University

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

The online Master of Science in Nursing – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner 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. The university created the Double Husky Scholarship to award 25% off tuition to master’s students who also earned their bachelor’s degree at Northeastern.

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 resume. Academic transcripts must indicate a minimum of 3.0 GPA. Distance learners can take advantage of tutoring services, academic advising, library access, and mental health counseling.

Cost per Credit: $1,622
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NECHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 152

#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

The University of North Dakota offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with three concentrations: adult-gerontology primary care nursing, family nurse practitioner (FNP), and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Each track is intended for RNs looking to advance as leaders in patient-focused health care. Students can finish in as few as eight semesters.... The program features 22 core credits (including an independent project) and three 4-credit advanced clinical practicums.

Online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Graduates of each program will be prepared to sit for the relevant certification exam for their specialty; passing these exams widens a nurse’s career options.

Prospective students connect with an enrollment advisor when they begin their application process, which requires official college transcripts and a personal statement but doesn’t require GRE scores. Distance learners have access to student services like academic advising, technical support, and assistance with clinical placements.

Cost per Credit: $837
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,664

#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 University's Master of Science in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program prepares students to practice psychiatric mental health nursing at an advanced level. The program places a particular focus on treating patients with substance abuse disorders. Students gain hands-on experience by engaging in complex patient scenarios using simulation software. Graduates... can pursue positions at various institutions, nonprofit organizations, private practices, and more.

Online coursework is delivered on the Brightspace learning platform. In addition to part-time online classes, students must also complete clinicals in a location that is convenient for them. Pace University offers financial aid in the form of scholarships and awards, such as the Veterans Tuitions Award, and grants, including the Pace Grant and the Trustee Admission Grant.

To apply to this program, students must fill out the online application. Online students have access to IT support, career services, library resources, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $1,344
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 441

#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 online Master of Science in Nursing – Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at the University of Connecticut (UC) is intended for current nurse practitioners looking to advance their careers. Students in this 44-credit program must attend an on-campus orientation and two on-site simulations at different times. Full-time students can finish in five semesters and part-time students can... complete the degree in six or seven. The curriculum includes courses in advanced pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, health assessment, and health policy. Graduates are eligible to sit for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner exam administered by the National Certification Corporation.

UC hosts courses on Husky Course Tools, an extension of the Blackboard system. Readings, lectures, and assignments are available 24/7, and students work independently to meet due dates and study for scheduled exams. UC provides many endowed scholarships to help nursing students fund the degree.

There are three start dates for the program, and online applications are accepted on a rolling basis. To apply, students must have two years of professional nursing experience. A personal essay, three letters of reference, a CV, and unofficial transcripts are required for acceptance. 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: 536

#14

Gonzaga University

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

Gonzaga University 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 family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health tracks are available as second M.S.N. degrees to Registered Nurses who want to add a specialty to their practice.... The nursing leadership program is 30 credits and requires 180 clinical hours, while the other two are both 47 credits long and require six on-campus immersions and 660 clinical hours.

Online courses are available 24/7 through Canvas, where students can submit assignments, take quizzes, watch video lectures, download text resources, and engage with classmates and professors through discussion forums and email. Gonzaga doesn’t provide scholarships for graduate students but does have a Career Services office to help graduates in their job search.

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. Online students have access to resources such as the career center, the Foley Library, disability services, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $1,030
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NWCCU
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,113

#15

Marymount University

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

The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner Program (MSN-FNP) at Marymount University (MU) provides instruction in population health, care delivery, practice management, leadership, health promotion, and family care. The 45-credit hour online degree program also includes in-person clinicals and a two- to three-day on-campus residency. Students must complete... 700 clinical hours to graduate. This online MSN-FNP program is only available part-time.

Students complete their coursework online through a blend of asynchronous and synchronous components. The program offers free clinical placement services that guarantee students a placement site and preceptor within 100 miles of their residence. Marymount participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program for military members, veterans, and dependents. The MU nursing program is recognized for its high exam pass rates, faculty with expertise in the field, and student support services.

To apply for a master’s degree at MU, students must fill out an online form and schedule an appointment with an admissions advisor (a required step in the application process). The application deadline for summer classes is April 2, 2021. The next program starts on May 10, 2021. 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: 76

#16

La Salle University

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

The online Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees at La Salle University include family nurse practitioner (FNP) and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGNP) programs, which require 45 and 41 credit hours, respectively. The accelerated online programs require students to complete a number of clinical hours: 692 hours for the family nurse practitioner master... and 512 hours for the adult-gerontology primary care program.

Online coursework follows an asynchronous format and is delivered on the Blackboard platform, where students can access and submit their assignments. These programs offer pay-by-the-course tuition, which is the same cost for both in-state and out-of-state students. La Salle University’s Common Scholarship Application allows students to apply for relevant scholarships, including awards offered by academic departments. A virtual coffee house series and 1-1 individualized coaching are some of the career-related resources available to students and alumni.

An online application is required for enrollment in the online MSN programs. There are five start dates each year in the spring, summer, and fall, with application deadlines approximately two months before classes begin. Online students have access to resources like Handshake, academic support tutors, and Helpdesk for technical assistance.

Cost per Credit: $845
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 456

#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

Monmouth University offers a 33-45-credit hour Master of Science (MSN) in Nursing in adult-gerontological nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner. The programs require that students complete clinical placements throughout the state or at the Monmouth Medical Center and Hacken Meridian Health system.

Online courses follow a hybrid learning... format, and students complete most assignments online. Monmouth’s online learning platform allows students to connect with faculty and classmates over video conferencing and access lessons via voice-over PowerPoint presentations, YouTube, and email. The same instructors that teach on-campus MSN programs instruct the online versions. Nearly 100% of graduates pass the national certification exams. Monmouth has partnered with Great Lakes & Affiliates to help applicants find scholarships, grants, student loans, and federal aid.

Prospective students must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and one year of experience as a registered RN. Interested candidates must submit an online application to be considered.

Cost per Credit: $1,267
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 181

#18

West Coast University

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

West Coast University (WCU) offers several online degree options, including the Registered Nurse (RN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - Family Nurse Practitioner (40-month program), MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner (36-month program), and the MSN - Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (32-month program). Upon graduation, students are prepared to sit for national... board exams with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Students at WCU access courses using the Blackboard learning management system. Classes may consist of videos, simulations, interaction with peers, quizzes, and more. Financial aid is offered to students in the form of scholarships and grants. WCU also offers military education benefits to active-duty members and their spouses. WCU accepts transfer credits from prior coursework. Students with military healthcare training may be eligible to receive academic credit. Online students have access to WCU's Career Service Department.

Applicants can fill out applications and submit required materials online. Students are assigned a start date upon acceptance. Online students have access to 24/7 IT support, a success advisor, tutoring, a writing center, and more.

School Type: For-Profit
Accreditation: WSCUC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 927

#19

Old Dominion University

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

Old Dominion University (ODU) offers three online programs for practicing and licensed nurses pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing: family nurse practitioner (FNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Concentrations are available in telehealth, holistic medicine, national healthcare solutions, health promotion, and restorative... care. Graduates are prepared to sit for the nursing certification or licensing exams. Each program requires students to participate in a clinical practicum and travel to ODU’s campus at least once per semester.

ODU’s online classes are hosted on the LEO Online learning platform. Synchronous courses are regularly scheduled each semester, and students meet in group settings over video calls. Students are taught by faculty who have active careers in the field. Graduates of ODU’s PMHNP program have a 100% pass rate on the national certification exam. The program offers financial assistance to students through grants and the Virginia Health Care Foundation’s scholarship program.

Interested applicants can apply online and may qualify for financial assistance and discounts if they live in-state. Once enrolled, online students 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: 2,275

#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

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing program with four possible concentrations: adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner. The program is intended for experienced registered nurses and is divided into 14 courses... over seven semesters. The curriculum focuses on supporting health and delivering care in a holistic manner to the specialty population.

Although the didactic coursework is facilitated mostly online, there are on-site clinical practicums 2-3 days of on-campus simulation lab experiences required each semester. UTMB hosts a number of scholarships specifically for graduate nursing students.

Applicants 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. Online students have access to 24/7 technical support during their program.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 628

#21

Albany State University

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

Albany State University (ASU) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing degree. This degree program is offered in both part-time and full-time formats. The program requires 44 credits total, and it's recommended that part-time students take six to seven credits per semester. Throughout the program, students learn about pathophysiology, pharmacology, research in nursing practice,... and more. Students are required to complete a practicum in their final year in the form of a preceptorship and a thesis or scholarly project.

Students use the GaVIEW system to access online courses. Class format is at the discretion of faculty members and may include both synchronous and asynchronous components. Many students at ASU receive financial aid and are eligible for both state- and university-based scholarships and grants. Students have access to both a robust alumni network and ASU's Office of Career Services. Upon program completion, graduates are eligible to sit for a credentialing exam through the AANP or the ANCC.

Applicants must apply online and submit the required documentation. Online students have access to the online writing center and tutoring services.

Cost per Credit: $300
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 205

#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

The University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing degree with seven concentrations: 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 in order to graduate. Students need to attend on-campus residencies each semester during their clinical courses. Graduates will be able to take the national certification exam for their chosen specialty.

Online classes are delivered over Canvas. Most course elements are asynchronous, but some are courses have mandatory class and discussion times. The School of Nursing and Health Studies provides competitive scholarships to eligible applicants.

Candidates must have at least one year of experience as a registered nurse. Prospective students must submit an online application and official transcripts. Students should check their home state regulations to confirm that they will be permitted to enroll in a distance learning program. Academic advisors are available to support students throughout the program.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 761

#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

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) offers experienced registered nurses an online Master's of Science in Nursing with a choice of concentration in nurse practitioner, adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and pediatric nurse practitioner (acute or primary care). These programs range from 46–49 credits and require 675–775... clinical hours. The online portion of the program is divided into seven-week classes, and students can choose from three start dates. Graduates are eligible to sit for the relevant certification exam for their specialty.

Although the classes are offered online, UTEP encourages enrollees to attend the on-site student orientation. Nursing students can pursue funding opportunities through the Office of Scholarships.

Applicants can submit their transcripts, resume, and letter of intent online for admissions consideration. Distance learners can access technical support and academic advising through UTEP Connect. Students also receive customized support from faculty and program directors to help them succeed in this online program.

Cost per Credit: $782
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,156

#24

Drexel University

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

The online Master of Science in Nursing at Drexel University offers several specialty options in women's health/gender-related nursing, adult-gerontology, family nursing, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric/mental health nursing. This degree program requires 56 credits and is offered on a part-time basis. Most students take two classes per semester and... begin clinical hours at the end of their second year of study. Graduates are immediately eligible to take the nurse practitioner certification exam through ANCC or AANP.

Students use Blackboard to access online course content. Lectures are offered synchronously, providing students the opportunity to connect with peers and faculty. For the 2019-2020 school year, 95% of Drexel students were offered financial aid. Graduates have access to the alumni network and the school's career planning and development center.

Students can apply to the program online. Online learners have 24/7 remote library access, can set up appointments with a tutor at the Drexel Writing Center, and can receive telehealth counseling and therapy through the Office of Counseling and Health Services.

Cost per Credit: $1,140
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 878

#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 University offers an MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree and an accelerated RN to MSN-FNP program. The program consists of 48 semester hours, 30 of which must be in the FNP concentration. Another 675 total clinical hours and 500 total patient encounters are required. The program is five semesters and can be completed in 20... months if taken full time. The curriculum emphasizes clinical decision-making, health policy and management, and organizational systems and behaviors.

Online coursework is asynchronous and offers interprofessional educational opportunities in an interactive environment. Classwork is delivered 100% online other than clinical rotations. The program’s Clinical Guidance Process ensures that all students receive clinical practice experiences and offers a virtual boot camp that assists students in preparing for the certification examination. The school offers several scholarships, including the Military Appreciation Grant and Herzing University Grant, which offers a 10% discount to veterans and the family members of active-duty military members.

To apply, students may request information online from Herzing University. There are six start-dates per year for incoming students. Prospective students must hold a current, unrestricted, and active license as a registered nurse (RN) in the state where they live. They must also have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited university or college with a minimum GPA of 3.0. 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: 637

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.

Program Requirements

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.

Curriculum

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.

Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Programs

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.

Prospective NPs should choose online degrees that are accredited by programmatic accrediting agencies, such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and by institutional accrediting agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain databases of all accredited schools and programs.

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 DNP 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.

To work as an NP anywhere in the United States, you must obtain a license through your state's nursing board. Licensing requirements vary by state. To work as an NP, most states require a nurse to be licensed as an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN). At a minimum, prospective NPs must complete these steps:

  • Gain clinical patient experience, which is often a prerequisite for NP school.
  • Earn a graduate degree (MSN or DNP).
  • Choose a specialization. All NP programs are specialization-specific.

Certification is required to work with different patient populations. There are five different NP certification boards in the U.S., with each offering certifications for different patient groups. These include:

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Family
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Pediatric Acute Care

The National Certification Corporation (NCC)

  • Neonatal
  • Women’s Health-Gender Related

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP)

  • Family
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care

In addition to national certification, there may be additional requirements on a state level. Specific requirements for nurse practitioner licensure can vary on a state-by-state basis, but in general, applicants need the following to practice legally in any state:

  • Photo identification
  • Proof of completion for education requirements
  • Proof of legal name change (if applicable)
  • Criminal history and fingerprinting for background checks
  • An application fee

Nurse Practitioner Specializations

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 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.

What's the difference between a nurse practitioner and a doctor?

Nurse practitioners and doctors have overlapping responsibilities but are different from one another in training criteria and scope of practice. It takes less time and a more flexible timeline to become an NP than a physician, and the medical model of patient care is different than the nursing model.

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.

Can nurse practitioners write prescriptions?

NPs can have prescriptive authority, including prescriptions for controlled substances, in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Not every state offers the same level of independence, however. Depending on where an NP practices, he or she may treat and prescribe under the supervision of, or in collaboration with, a physician. In addition to pharmaceuticals, medical devices and certain services may also require physician oversight. It depends on a state’s “practice authority,” which refers to the ability of an NP to practice and work to the extent of their education, training, and highest level of certification. In some states, NPs must also apply for prescriptive authority separately.

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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