Nursing has seen quite the evolution of late. With the availability of healthcare improving overall throughout the United States, there’s an increasing demand for highly qualified, and highly educated nurses.
Today’s nurses are taking on responsibilities once held by doctors, including diagnosing and treating illnesses, prescribing medication, and accruing advanced-level skills to apply new medical technologies. It’s now become a smart career choice for nurses to attain a master’s of science in nursing (MSN), on top of their existing bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN).
How does this translate in terms of pay?
Well, a BSN can earn between $70,000-90,000, but an MSN typically starts around $90,000. And because many MSNs hold high-level leadership roles, their pay can rise all the way past $150,000 per year. Nurse anesthetists can earn around $154,390, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
What is an Online MSN Program?
Like we said, MSN stands for master’s of science in nursing. However, in 2017 this doesn’t mean that you’ll have to attend a university in person for another two to four years. An MSN degree has become a popular choice among students who are past their early twenties, and have a family or full-time job. Modern MSN programs work with you, allowing you to sculpt and create your own class schedule according to your busy life. Through a mixture of online coursework and in-person clinical practicum, students can gain a well-rounded education that will help them land a high-paying job shortly after graduation.
There are tons of MSN programs available, but you deserve to know the very best ones. We’re here today to help you understand which schools provide the best options for you during and after your graduation. We’re accounting for factors like tuition cost, graduation rate, and best online resources for your studies, as well as which departments will best help their students find practice hour opportunities at healthcare centers.
No matter what kind of nursing career you’re looking to attain, there’s a school that should fit your standards in the following list.
Best Online MSN Programs for 2017
With a mind boggling 100,000 online students, Liberty University ranks as the largest Christian college in the world—not to mention one of the largest online schools in general. Providing a cross-section of Evangelical Christian values tied in with a comprehensive educational focus, Liberty offers two concentrations to prepare their students: nurse administrator and nurse educator.
Tuition: $565/hr full-time
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Not nearly as large as Liberty University, Concordia University-Wisconsin is a private liberal arts college providing an education based in the Christian faith. Students aiming for an online MSN degree can choose from three specializations, including nurse educator, adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.
They even have an RN-BSN-MSN program. This caters to working RNs who have an associate degree and would like to transition into the BSN to MSN-slot within a single program.
Location: Mequon, WI
King University is one of the oldest institutions on our list. Established in 1867, the private university is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church. King provides an online MSN degree providing focuses in nursing administration and nursing education.
The nurse education track takes 39 semester hours and the administration track requires 35 hours. Upon graduation, MSN degree holders will be eligible for advanced career opportunities including the ability to pursue a doctoral degree.
Tuition: $515/semester hour
Location: Bristol, TN
With more than 24,000 students in its Davie, Florida campus, the nursing program can be completed in eight semesters or less. Students without a bachelor’s in nursing can get both their BSN and MSN through the school’s dual degree program offering.
Students can take core courses in theory and research as well as health care policy.
Tuition: $515/semester hour
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
5. University of St. Francis
According to the Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report, the University of St. Francis ranked as one of the best colleges in the Midwest. Students can select from four concentrations, like family nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education.
Because of state restrictions, the online MSN programs in nursing education and family nurse practitioner track are only available to residents of certain states, including—Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.
Location: Joliet, IL
6. Mercy College
This private liberal arts college is just 25 miles north of New York City, a major national center for health care. Mercy is partnered with the New York State Nurses Association and the 119 Local HealthCare Workers Union. Its nursing administration track preps nurses for interprofessional practice across the field.
The curriculum contains core courses in health policy, research methods, and computer technology.
Location: Dobbs Ferry, NY
7. University of Central Florida
UCF offers a comprehensive program that allows students to choose from three separate areas: nursing leadership and management (NLM), nurse educator, and nursing and health care simulations.
While the NLM track can be rewarding, keep in mind that it requires 36 total credit hours, a practicum of 135 clinical hours, and internship of 180 hours.
Location: Orlando, FL
8. Chatham University
Although it’s on the higher end when it comes to cost, Chatham provides its nursing students eight AfterCollege/AACN Scholarships throughout the school year. Each one totals $2,500.
Full-time students can typically finish their degree in just four semesters, whereas part-time students can complete it in six semesters. US News & World Report has the college ranked among their top nursing programs in the country.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
9. Columbus State University
Not to be confused with Columbus, Ohio, this city is located 100 miles southwest of Atlanta, GA. Columbus State University provides incredible preparation for registered BSN professionals to take on more advanced roles in family health care.
In order to be accepted, you must have a minimum 3.0 GPA as well as an RN license in the state where clinical requirements will be obtained.
Tuition: $201/hr in-state, $801/hr out-of-state
Location: Columbus, GA
10. Pennsylvania State University
Penn State has always been highly-regarded for their health care programs, and the MSN is no different. Graduates will be prepared to earn national certification as a nurse educator, and attain a wide understanding of global, policy, and economic perspectives towards nursing. This track also covers evaluation strategies, curriculum development, and evidence-based teaching principles.
Upon graduating, students may enter the online DNP program to take their studies to the next level.
Tuition: $821/credit (if taking fewer than 12 credits per semester)
Location: University Park, PA
11. Saint Xavier University
Saint Xavier is situated in Chicago, IL, which is a great location for jobs in the health care and nursing field. This Roman Catholic private university specializes in two focuses: clinical and executive leadership, which can lead to many high-level, high-paying positions for graduates.
Graduates will be ready to take the clinical nursing exam (CNL), as well as subsequent exams like nurse executive, board certification (NE-BC). Both tracks require 18 credit hours of core classes, nine credits of support courses, and 11 credits of specialty coursework.
Tuition: $730/credit hr online
Location: Chicago, IL
12. Wilkes University
Wilkes University is known as a private liberal arts college, but it also happens to have a powerful online MSN program. Students must finish 24 credit hours of graduate nursing core curriculum in addition to 16-19 credit hours of concentration courses.
All students are required to complete their clinical hours at a location approved by the college. Students who would like to continue on with their studies can apply for the school’s doctor of nursing program.
Tuition: $648/credit hr
Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA
13. Kentucky Christian University
Grayson, Kentucky might be a tiny town in Kentucky, but Kentucky Christian University is certainly a big force in the world of the online MSN program.
Among the core courses you’ll take are professional role development, advanced nursing research, and bioethics. Students must complete 528 hours of clinical rotation in order to accrue real-world practice in the nursing field. Clinical components to the degree can be completed in students’ home communities.
Tuition: $605/credit hr
Location: Grayson, KY
14. East Carolina University
One of the top online MSN nursing programs in the nation, East Carolina University gives students the opportunity to pick from one of five concentrations. These include clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwifery, neonatal nurse practitioner, nursing leadership, and nursing education.
Graduates can continue their education by earning a doctorate degree online.
Tuition: $249/credit hr (in-state), $893/credit hr (out-of-state)
Location: Greenville, NC
15. Benedictine University
Benedictine’s MSN online programs prides itself on promoting the following emphases: healthcare technologies, organizational leadership, cultural awareness, and interprofessional collaboration.
Nursing students are also eligible to earn a dual MSN/MBA degree that deals in the economic/finance side of healthcare.
Tuition: $650/credit hr
Location: Lisle, IL
16. Northern Arizona University
If you’re looking for a very affordable, but very high-quality online MSN program, look no further than the mountains of Arizona. NAU is nestled in Flagstaff, the perfect skiing, snowboarding, and hiking location. Even if those activities aren’t your cup of tea, the university offers a great online MSN program, which obviously doesn’t require you to be on location for much of the time.
At the end of their program, all students must complete an evidence-based practice capstone project.
Tuition: $60/credit hr
Location: Flagstaff, AZ
17. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
The good news with NSU is that online students are excluded from paying any out of state fees. There are a total of five graduate tracks available 100% online: nurse administrator, family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, women’s health nurse practitioner, and primary care pediatric nurse practitioner.
Completion of the online MSN program requires that students complete between 39-42 semester credits, which can be done either full-time or part-time (depending on your current career and the demands of your schedule).
Tuition: $475/credit hr up to 9 hours, $100/credit hr thereafter
Location: Natchitoches, LA
18. Gardner-Webb University
One of the top regional universities in the southern U.S., Gardner-Webb University presents an online nursing program with two focuses: nursing administration and nursing education. Each one requires between 30-36 credit hours of coursework which focuses on core topics of nursing theory, contemporary issues, role development, statistics, and research.
You have the option to complete a 69-hour dual MSN/MBA degree if you’d like to advance into the economics side of the business and potentially raise your asking price for salary.
Tuition: $467/credit hr
Location: Boiling Springs, NC
19. University of West Florida
UWF is a beautiful, 1,600-acre campus in Pensacola, Florida that has 12,000 students, and offers an online MSN program with tracks in nursing education, nursing management, and leadership.
In order to be accepted, you must hold a BSN from a CCNE or an NLN-accredited nursing program—GPA must be at 3.0, minimum.
Tuition: $467/credit hr
Location: Pensacola, FL
20. Olivet Nazarene University
Another Chicago area college to make our list, Olivet Nazarene is a Christian liberal arts college which is affiliated with the evangelical Church of the Nazarene. Their online MSN program is meant for baccalaureate-level RNs seeking a leadership role or doctoral studies in the nursing field.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Olivet one of the top 10 “value” universities in the Midwest for 2017. Enrollment periods are offered in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Tuition: $29,100 total
Location: Bourbonnais, IL
21. Stevenson University
Ranked as the most affordable private school in Maryland, Stevenson University is certainly generous when it comes to giving students financial assistance.
Online courses are taught in an eight-week format, although the final capstone project is delivered in an entire semester. Students are primarily able to do this as an online MSN program, however they’re supposed to visit campus at least once for a weekend workshop.
Location: Stevenson, MD
22. Gonzaga University
Gonzaga University offers students the opportunity to complete their practicum hours at the location of their employment. The only stipulation is that your practicum hours must be completed separately from your worked hours.
As a graduate student, you can quality for Federal Student Aid to help you cover the school’s higher than average tuition.
Location: Spokane, WA
23. Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
Located just outside of South Beach, Keiser University has multiple locations around Florida. Courses for their nursing program are offered in blocks of 8 weeks, followed by a final capstone project that is 8 weeks by itself.
Students must first secure a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution, hold a status as an active unrestricted professional RN, among other requirements.
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
24. Albany State University
The graduate program at Albany State is the next step for students who’ve secured a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Degree. Through furthering their education, they’ll be prepared for a career in healthcare as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) or Nurse Educator (NE).
The FNP focus demands 44 semester hours while the NE track requires 36 semester hours.
Tuition: $5,192/annual (in-state), $15,196/annual (out-of-state)
Location: Albany, GA
25. Sacred Heart University
The second-largest Catholic university in New England boasts a beautiful, quaint campus environment. It’s online MSN program is on the pricier end, but it has a great track record of preparing students for roles as clinical nurse leaders, nursing management professionals, and executive leaders.
If you’re going into the program unsure of which track to choose, fear not, you’re able to choose a concentration up until the middle of the program.
Location: Fairfield, CT
26. Graceland University – Missouri
Graceland is ranked as a “Best College in the Midwest” for 2016 according to Princeton Review. One of the reasons for this praise is their high-quality graduate nursing program. All students are required to take core classes on advanced practice nursing, pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacotherapeutics.
Online MSN program students are able to take classes on a full-time or part-time basis.
Tuition: $550/semester hr
Location: Independence, MO
27. Bryan College of Health Sciences
As its name would suggest, Bryan College of Health Sciences offers a number of health care-related programs and coursework. Students will be prepared for careers in leadership and educator positions in the industry. They’ll quickly become experts in advanced teaching strategies and build upon a network of some of the brightest minds in the health industry.
The program is designed for students who are already working in the field, but are looking to advance their education and skill set.
Tuition: $519/credit hr
Location: Lincoln, NE
28. Fitchburg State University
Fitchburg State offers an affordable, yet high-quality online MSN program to its students. The degree is a popular jumping off point for students who are interested in obtaining doctoral degrees.
If you’re thinking of applying to the program, you must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as a current RN license.
Tuition: $319/credit hr
Location: Fitchburg, MA
29. George Washington University
If you’re a fan of location, George Washington University is a great spot. Location in the Washington, DC area, it’s a hotbed for the healthcare industry.
The college provides an RN-MSN bridge option for nurses with an ADN, with four fields of study available: adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nurse coaching & leadership, and midwifery.
Location: Washington, DC
30. Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is marketed heavily throughout the United States, and provides three concentrations for prospective students: nurse educator, patient safety & quality, and clinical nurse leader. The online MSN program covers advanced nursing concepts, advanced pharmacology across the lifespan, and advanced health assessments.
Tuition: $627/credit hr
Location: Manchester, NH
31. Mount Carmel College of Nursing
Mount Carmel College of Nursing (MCCN) students are treated to plenty of financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Their online MSN program is one of the best around, and they also have the largest private BSN program in the state of Ohio.
They offer multiple tracks like Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Administration, and Nursing Education.
Tuition: $520/credit hr
Location: Columbus, OH
32. Lewis University
26 miles outside of Chicago, Lewis’s online MSN program is a great foray into the prominent Chicago-area nursing scene.
To complete the degree, students must take 40 total credits including 18 credits of corse courses, four of specialty courses, and 18 credits of specialty track courses.
Tuition: $775/credit hr
Location: Romeoville, IL
33. Northwest Nazarene University
This quiet, private Christian college in Idaho has an enrollment of 2,000 students, and a curriculum which focuses on education and leadership, helping students prepare for roles in clinical and educational facilities.
Beyond offering the standard MSN program option, students can also take an RN-MSN path which focuses on teaching-learning strategies, curriculum development, and evaluation processes.
Location: Nampa, ID
34. Indiana State University
Online MSN students may be eligible for federal students loans through the school. Certificate programs aren’t eligible for financial aid. Students can finish in 2.5-3 years when taking classes part-time.
It’s maintained accreditation by the ACEN since 1989.
Location: Terre Haute, IN
35. SUNY – Polytechnic Institute
New York State’s polytechnic school has a great nursing program across many disciplines. Its 36 credit hours can be taken as either full-time or part-time options. The curriculum focuses on topics in the legal and regulatory area, as well as health policy, research, and grant writing.
Courses are available entirely online. Students wrap the program up with an education practicum which focuses on cultivating the teaching experience.
Tuition: $453/credit (in-state), $925/credit (out-of-state)
Location: Utica, NY
36. Clarkson College
Omaha, NE has many institutions, but Clarkson is the best in the area when it comes to nursing. U.S. News & World Report ranks Clarkson’s graduate program as one of the best in the United States.
The online MSN programs provide four specialities including nursing education, nursing healthcare administration, gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.
Tuition: $575/credit hr
Location: Omaha, NE
37. Midwestern State University
MSU is the only public liberal arts college in Texas. Its online MSN program offers two concentrations: family psychiatric, mental health nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.
MSN students are only admitted in the fall semester each year.
Location: Wichita Falls, TX
38. Alcorn State University
Alcorn State is an affordable nursing program located in Lorman, Mississippi. It was established in 1871 and became the first black land grant college in the nation.
Over the years, the university has expanded its specialties to encompass a variety of nursing disciplines.
Location: Alcorn State, MS
39. Charleston Southern University
One of the top online MSN programs in the state of South Carolina, Charleston Southern is a Baptist university which operates within a faith-based framework. Programs are available in 10 blocks of five-week classes, and students can complete their degree within just 16 months.
Full-time students may complete their degree in as little as 16 months.
Tuition: $625/credit hr
Location: Charleston, SC
40. Indiana Wesleyan University
With just over 15,000 students, Indiana Wesleyan is the biggest private school in Indiana. The online MSN program is offered as a dual MSN-MBA degree that preps students for a career on the financial side of the healthcare industry.
Students who have an MBA are able to get their MSN at an accelerated pace via the school’s MSN post-MBA program. Students applying for a dual degree must have a minimum of 1,000 hours of nursing practice under their belt.
Location: Marion, IN
41. Rivier University
This private Catholic university offers three concentrations for online MSN program students: nursing education, leadership in health systems management, and family nurse practitioner. The latter requires three to five years of full-time study.
Rivier offers multiple options for working students, giving them the ability to finish the program in three- to five-year tracks.
Location: Nashua, NH
42. University of Alabama-Birmingham
Believe it or not, UAB is the oldest public college in Alabama. The concentration of nurse practitioner is offered in a blended format, giving students a mix of online and classroom coursework.
Students may complete a thesis or non-thesis option.
Tuition: $555/credit hr
Location: Birmingham, AL
43. Cox College
Since 1907, Cox College reaches the intersection between health, nursing, learning, and society. These programs include core courses on leadership in healthcare and nursing education systems.
The programs have both 8-week and 16-week course blocks. The nurse educator track involves 420 hours while the nurse practitioner track requires 660 hours.
Tuition: $600/credit hr
Location: Springfield, MO
44. Georgia Southwestern State University
GSW’s online MSN programs are available in four general areas: nursing education, nursing informatics, family nurse practitioner, and nursing leadership/management.
Tuition: $385/credit hr
Location: Americus, GA
45. Georgetown University
Established in Washington, D.C. in 1789, Georgetown is not just an excellent basketball college, it’s a graduate nursing powerhouse. U.S. News & World Report ranks it among the top 30 in the nation.
Most students can get through the program in less than 2 years, and are required to complete upwards of 1,000 hours in the process.
Four concentrations are offered: nurse-midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner, women’s health nurse practitioner, adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.
Tuition: $1,995/credit hr
Location: Washington, DC
46. Drexel University
Drexel is one of the finest institutions for nursing in the nation. It’s ranked as the 2nd best program according to U.S. News & World Report, and was among the first to offer online courses—way back in 1996.
To enter the program, applicants must have a BSN from a reputable nursing program that’s accredited by the NLN or the AACN, in addition to having a 3.0 minimum GPA.
Tuition: $917/credit hr
Location: Philadelphia, PA
47. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky has one of the best online programs for graduate nursing, and has been repeatedly ranked as a top school for veterans.
There are multiple tracks students can take, but each one can be finished in less than three years. The rural health family nurse practitioner track is a one-of-a-kind option that isn’t offered in many institutions.
Tuition: $662/credit hr
Location: Richmond, KY
48. California State University – Dominguez Hills
Just south of Los Angeles, Cal State – Dominguez Hills is not very well-known by most of the country, even though their online MSN program is top notch.
Students who are not yet admitted to it are allowed to take individual courses at a reduced cost.
Location: Carson, CA
49. University of Mary
University of Mary is located amidst the oftentimes frozen landscape of Bismarck, North Dakota. It offers students a BSN to MSN program equipped for would-be nurse educators, as well as a dual MSN/MBA degree option.
Those in the MSN/MBA dual degree track must complete a seminar and service project in partnership with a healthcare organization.