Nurses are indispensable, lifesaving agents on the front lines of health care.
It’s no secret that healthcare is changing by the day, whether it’s at the administrative level, like informatics and electronic medical records, or at the practitioner level, via new laws, insurance premiums, public health issues, or any other pressing healthcare concern. For working nurses, these disruptions at least bring some good news: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare employment across the industry is expected to grow nearly 20% through 2024, about triple the average rate. If we break that number down further, clinical nurse practitioners (including midwives, anesthetists, and other advanced practice registered nurses) are predicted to add 54,000 jobs, or 31% employment growth through 2024; at the same time, healthcare administrators, executives, and managers are predicted to add another 56,000 jobs, or about a 17% increase.
For nurse practitioners, educators, administrators, and other nursing professionals, the best way to take advantage of job expansion is enhancing your credentials. One method, of course, might be earning additional healthcare certifications, but the best way to ensure job stability and advance your career is to pursue a master’s in nursing, or MSN, which includes a core master’s curriculum, plus a specialization module that fits each student’s area of professional interest.
For your convenience, we’ve compiled our top 25 MSN degrees offered online, which allow nursing professionals to obtain a master’s without leaving their jobs. Keep reading to find the online master’s in nursing that best suits you!
- Affordability: the estimated out-of-state tuition rate per credit hour and the percentage of students receiving financial aid
- Prestige: a set of core measurements including faculty with terminal degrees, selectivity, and class sizes.
- Flexibility: a range of factors including if the program can be taken asynchronously, if it grants life-experience or competency credits, if it can be accelerated, and if there are different specializations.
1) University of Alabama – Birmingham
Founded in 1969, University of Alabama – Birmingham has a student enrollment of approximately 19,500, representing more than 100 countries across the world. Offering bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. UAB is particularly known for research, ranking 20th in the country for federal research and development funding and 1st in Alabama, and the school has been recognized by Princeton Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and US News, which ranks it 83rd among public universities in the country. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, UAB is able to combine the resources of a large university with the small, intimate atmosphere of a smaller liberal arts school. Over a third of classes have fewer than 20 students, and less than one in five have 50.
For students interested in online MSN tracks, UAB’s School of Nursing is a top-ranked school offering one of the largest selections of nursing masters currently available, including 6 tracks in Primary Care (Pediatric Acute/Prim Dual; Adult-Gero Primary Care; Family; Pediatric Primary Care; Psychiatric-Mental Health; and Women’s Health), 4 tracks in Acute Care (Pediatric Acute/Prim Dual; Adult-Gero Acute Care; Neonatal; and Pediatric Acute Care), 6 subspecialties, and MSN concentrations in Nursing Informatics, Health Systems Admin, and Clinical Nurse Leader. Finally, an RN to MSN is available, as well. For maximum flexibility, programs combine online, blended, and distance accessible, which include half online content and half on-campus. Applicants should have earned at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA for their last 60 credits, and may need to submit GRE/GMAT/MAT scores, pending a waiver approval. All tracks are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- Tuition Per Credit: $510
2) University of Alabama
The University of Alabama, founded in 1831, is a public research university consistently ranked among the top public schools in the country by, Washington Monthly, Forbes, and US News, which also ranks Alabama 76th in the nation for overall value, 68th for military veterans, and 90th among its high school counselor rankings. With a 23:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university combines a vibrant, collaborative educational environment with manageable class sizes and intimate, individualized instruction. Over a third of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 20% have 50. Alumni include 15 Rhodes Scholars, 16 Truman Scholars, 32 Hollings Scholars, 6 Boren Scholars, and 47 Goldwater Scholars. In 2015-16, 11 Alabama students accepted Fulbright scholarships to study around the world.
Alabama’s Nursing school is among US News‘s top programs, with master’s specializations in Case Manager (39 credits), Clinical Nurse Leader (39 credits), and Nurse Administrator (32 credits). Core requirements in the MSN include classes like Theoretical Models for Advanced Nursing Practice with Rural Populations, Advanced Health Assessment, Basic Epidemiology, Informatics in Healthcare, and Issues in Community Health for Rural Populations, among others. Students also complete practicum course work to gain hands-on experience, and thesis projects are available for optional capstone work. For maximum flexibility, each specialization is offered on full- or part-time enrollment to accommodate working professionals and adult learners, and self-paced course work is integrated into the program.
- Tuition Per Credit: $375
3) University of Kansas
Founded in 1865, University of Kansas is a major public comprehensive research university with a total enrollment of 27,600, about two-thirds of which is undergraduate, and with students from all 50 states and 110 countries. In addition to a high national ranking, Kansas is 70th for veterans and 89th for value, according to US News. The university’s 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio is excellent for a school of its size and helps to balance a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere with a tight-knit educational community, offering intimate classes and personal instruction. More than half of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 10% have 50.
As a prestigious nursing school, Kansas offers one of the top-ranked online MSN programs in the country, divided into a common core, leadership core, and functional specialty core, totaling 37-39 credits. Requirements include Health Care Research, Professionalism in Advanced Nursing Practice, Organizational Foundations for Leading Change, Global Perspectives and Diversity in Health Care, The Social Context for Health Care Policy, and Evaluation and Analysis for Health Care Effectiveness, among others. From there, nursing students can customize their course work to fit areas of professional interest through specializations in Nursing Informatics, Public Health Nursing, and Organizational Leadership. Enrollment is available on a full- or part-time basis to accommodate working professionals and adult learners, and accordingly a 2 or 3-4 year program. The degree is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- Tuition Per Credit: $375
4) University of Texas – Tyler
The University of Texas – Tyler, founded in 1971, is ranked among the top 90 colleges and universities in the West and the top 35 public schools in the region by US News, with an emphasis on small classes, enriched coursework, independent learning, and more. With a total enrollment of about 9,900 and 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio, UTT balances the tight-knit intellectual setting of a liberal arts school with the advantages of a large research university, including collaborative education and project-based learning. Over a third of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 10% have 50.
The UT Tyler School of Nursing ranks among the most affordable in the country and offers 7 potential tracks: Education, Administration, Nurse Educator Certification, Nurse Administrator Certification, Family Nurse Practitioner, Post-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate, and a unique MSN-MBA. Example core requirements include Translational Science, Health Care Informatics, Health Policy/Population Health, and Organizational Systems Leadership. Electives are offered to customize the curriculum to suit professional needs, and capstone course work provides a built-in experiential component. Scheduling is designed for maximum flexibility, and full- and part-time enrollment is offered to accommodate working medical professionals. Further, using the Canvas learning platform, students have 24/7 access to course materials, group discussion boards, and live chat rooms. Additional student support resources include tech assistance, career services, transfer credits, and academic advising.
- Tuition Per Credit: $458
5) University of Missouri – Kansas City
Founded in 1929, University of Missouri – Kansas City has a total enrollment of 17,000 and holds top national rankings among public schools and from high school counselors. The university’s 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio is well above average for a school of its size and helps to support an intimate learning environment, balancing peer-to-peer educational opportunities with individualized instruction. Over 55% of classes have less than 20 students and less than 10% have 50. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, UM Kansas City is the only university in western Missouri that offers graduate and professional course work, and one of only 25 institutions in the nation granting degrees in four health science areas.
For those interested in pursuing an MSN, UMKC offers 7 specialization tracks, providing nursing students with a variety of options to pursue areas of career interest. The Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner tracks all have spring and summer start dates and consist of 53 credit hours. The Nurse Educator begins in spring and fall (41 credit hours), and the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner begins in summer (45 credit hours). While the majority of the program consists of online classes, including synchronous and asynchronous course work, some credits must be completed on-campus, making the degree a hybrid delivery format. Also of note: all online work is completed through Blackboard, which supports a dynamic learning environment featuring group discussion boards, live chat rooms, video conferencing, and more.
- Tuition Per Credit: $450
6) Liberty University
Founded in 1971, Liberty University is a private Christian school with 100,000 online students and 14,000 on campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. As a leader in distance education since 1985, the university offers 250 online programs, all designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate working professionals, adult learners, and non-traditional students with affordable tuition and tailored delivery methods like hybrid, intensive, and blended. Better yet, Liberty’s generous transfer policy allows students to waive course work through previous academic credits, work/life experience, military service, MOOC certifications, examinations, and/or portfolio work. Finally, Liberty’s low student-to-faculty ratio supports an intimate learning community, with a third of classes consisting of fewer than 20 students.
One of the top-ranked nursing schools in the country according to US News, Liberty offers a 100% online MSN that features 42 credits, up to half of which can be transferred into the program. Some core requirements may include Health Policy and Ethics, Nursing Theory and Advanced Practices, Managing Population Health, and Nursing Issues, Informatics and Technologies. Following the core, nursing students choose between 3 specializations – Administration, Educator, and Informatics – to customize the curriculum to areas of professional interest. Practicum course work is included, as well, providing the degree with a valuable real-world component. Finally, for those interested, two dual degree tracks are available: MSN + MBA, and MSN + MS in Healthcare Administration. Student resources include career services, a writing center, tutoring, library access, and tech support. All nursing tracks are accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $460
7) Cedarville University
Founded in 1887, Cedarville University is a private Christian school with a total enrollment of 3,700. In addition to ranking it 13th in the Midwest, US News places 35th for value and 1st for veterans. Cedarville’s 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio reflects its tight-knit educational setting, which emphasizes religious values and faith-based learning, with personalized instruction and collaborative course work opportunities. Over 60% of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 5% have 50.
For students pursuing a graduate degree in nursing, Cedarville offers a 44-credit online MSN with 3 focus areas: Family Nurse Practitioner, Global Public Health Nursing, and Nurse Educator. Core requirements include Professional Role Development and Health Care Leadership, Healthcare Economics and Policy, Principles of Evidence Based Nursing Practice, several Biblical foundation classes, and more. All students are required to participate in four 2–3-day on-campus sessions and must complete 600 hours of direct care clinical work in various aspects of primary health care, established an excellent base of hands-on experience. Course are designed for maximum flexibility, and full- and part-time enrollment is available to accommodate working nurses and adult learners. Each track is accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $469
8) University of Texas – Arlington
Founded in 1895, The University of Texas – Arlington is a public research university with a total enrollment of 45,300. Categorized as an R1 Doctoral University by the Carnegie Foundation, The Chronicle of Higher Education has ranked the university one of the fastest growing public research universities in the nation, and the New America Foundation has named it among its “Next Generation University” class. UTA has also been highlighted by Forbes, Washington Monthly, and the Princeton Review, which categorizes the school as a “Best of the West.” With a 25:1 student-to-faculty ratio, UTA fosters a vibrant, collaborative intellectual atmosphere. A third of classes have fewer than 20 students.
Arlington offers 3 online MSN tracks – Administration (36 credits), Education (39 credits), and Practitioner (46 credits) – all of which are accelerated to help nursing professionals return to work as fast as possible. Some requirements include Exploration of Science and Theories for Nursing, Nursing and Healthcare Policy, Nursing Informatics, Evidence-Based Practice, and Principles of Research in Nursing. Courses deliver in 5-10 week blocks, and students may complete the track in as little as 18 months, depending on the track. Academic support resources include registration assistance, advising, an online writing center, tutoring, library access, and the Blackboard learning platform, which hosts group discussion boards, live chat rooms, and video conferencing tools to create a dynamic distance education experience. All nursing tracks are accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $494
9) Union University
Founded in 1823, Union University is private Christian university affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and prioritizing a liberal arts approach, character development, servant leadership, and cultural engagement. US News ranks Union as a Tier 1 National University; Peterson’s Guide to Competitive Colleges, Kiplinger’s, America’s Best College Buys, and The Templeton Foundation Guide for Colleges each highlight Union, as well. With a total enrollment of 3,400, Union boasts an impressive 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio that supports an intimate, tight-knit educational community and tailored instruction. Three-quarters of classes have fewer than 20 students and none have 50.
Union’s award-winning nursing school offers MSN tracks in Education, Administration, and Nurse Practitioner (Family; Family Psychiatric Mental Health; Adult/Geriatric Primary Care; or Pediatric). Core requirements include Advanced Nursing Statistics for the Health Sciences, Informatics and Healthcare, Clinical Prevention and Population Health, Theory and Ethics for Advanced Nursing Practice, Advanced Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice, Health Systems and Leadership for Advanced Nursing Practice, and Role Development and Collaborative Strategies in Advanced Nursing Practice. All courses deliver in flexible, accelerated 7-8 week blocks to accommodate working professionals, and students progress through the degree in cohorts, promoting collaborative learning and peer-to-peer work opportunities. Applicants should have earned at least a 3.0 GPA in their last 60 undergraduate credits. All tracks are accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $572
10) Queens University of Charlotte
Queens University of Charlotte is a private school in North Carolina with an enrollment of about 2,400. Founded in 1857, US News ranks QUC 20th among region schools, 30th for value, and 13th for veterans; Princeton Review has highlighted Queens, as well. In particular, the university emphasizes a student-centered educational approach and active, collaborative learning in a liberal arts setting. Further, the excellent 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio acts to foster intimate, individualized instruction. Over 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students and none have 50.
For nursing students pursuing graduate work, Queens University offers 3 MSN specializations – Nurse Administrator, Clinical Nurse Leader, Nurse Educator – each of which is highly flexible and designed to help working professionals hone areas of interest and advance career prospects. Core courses consist of Theoretical Foundations, Health Policy, Informatics in Health Care, Data Interpretations, Research Methods, and Integrative Clinical Concepts & Practicum. Combining accelerated 8-week courses and 16-week courses, students can complete the degree in as little as two years while continuing their regular professions. Applicants should have earned at least a 3.0 during upper-division bachelor course work, but no GRE scores are required. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $510
11) Briar Cliff University
Founded in 1930, Briar Cliff University is a private Catholic institution with a total enrollment of about 1,150, ranked 30th in the Midwest region and 6th among best colleges for veterans. Following its Franciscan tradition, Briar Cliff builds on a value-based foundation that support academic excellence, professional success, and meaningful character development. The university’s 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio helps maintain intimate, tight-knit classrooms that allow for a combination of hands-on instruction and peer-to-peer learning. Over 64% of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 2% have 50.
Nursing students and professionals interested in master’s tracks can pursue MSN emphases in either Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner. Core requirements include Theoretical Foundations For Advanced Nursing Practice, Foundations Of Advanced Nursing Practice, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Throughout the Lifespan, Research Methods for Advanced Practice Nursing, Advanced Human Pathophysiology, and Cultural Competence in Health Care, among others. Most classes are asynchronous, meaning work is conveniently self-paced, and the 540-hour clinical component features a hands-on, primary care experience in a rural, underserved or multicultural setting. Student support resources include career services, a writing center, counseling, and peer mentors. Each track is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $495
12) University of Central Missouri
The University of Central Missouri, founded in 1871, has a total enrollment of about 14,000 students, representing 42 states and 61 countries. US News ranks UCM among the top 25 public schools in the region, and Time, Princeton Review, and Times Higher Education feature the university on lists, too, particularly for affordability. The school’s expert faculty is another point of emphasis: of the nearly 500 faculty members on staff, over 70% hold a PhD or terminal degree in their field. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty, UCM combines a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere with tailored instruction. Half of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 4% have 50.
For those interested in nursing master’s degrees, Central Missouri offers MSN concentrations for Nurse Educators (33 credits) and Family Nurse Practitioners (44 credits). Core requirements include Methods of Research in Nursing, Theories of Nursing, Family Population Health, Organizational Leadership in Complex Health Systems, Health Care Policy and Advocacy, and Graduate Statistics. Each track also requires a clinical capstone experience to integrate real-world work into the program. (Note: FNP clinicals must be in Missouri or the greater Kansas City area.) All courses are designed for maximum flexibility, and online classes feature 24/7 access to materials and a user-friendly, dynamic learning platform that features group discussion boards, live chat rooms, and more. Students with previous graduate work may transfer into the program, and each MSN candidate has a personal academic advisor to help plan a curricular schedule and set career goals.
- Tuition Per Credit: $353
13) University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Founded in 1863, The University of Massachusetts – Amherst is a public research university with a total enrollment of 30,000. Ranked among the top 30 public universities in the country, UMass also receives high marks for overall value, veteran support, and high school counselor rankings; as a member of the Five Colleges consortium, students have access to courses at Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. UMass’s 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio is impressive for a university of its size and promotes a simultaneously collaborative and intimate learning environment. Half of all classes consist of fewer than 20 students and less than 20% have 50 or more.
UMass offers 3 online MSN tracks for Nursing Education, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Nursing Science (only available for students pursuing PhD or DNP programs). The 33-credit Nursing Education track features classes in Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, Health Assessment and Clinical Reasoning, Teaching in Nursing, and Curriculum Development & Evaluation Process. The Clinical Nursing track, on the other hand, is a 37-credit curriculum that necessarily focuses on patient care and hospital administration, with studies in Epidemiology, Leadership in Public Health Systems, and Healthcare Quality, in addition to Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, etc. Both programs integrate practicum course work to provide a hands-on component to the degree and prepare nursing students for real-world scenarios. In addition to a flexible online delivery system, students have access to library services, academic advising, a writing center, and more. The MSN is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $750
14) University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati, founded in 1819, is a public research institution with a total enrollment of 40,000 students, making it the second-largest university in Ohio and one of the fifty largest universities in the country. Several top publications rank it among the best universities in the country, including U.S. News, Washington Monthly, and Times Higher Education, and its annual $500 billion research purse places it 22nd among public universities in the U.S. For a school of its size, Cincinnati’s 17:1 student-to-faculty is impressive and helps to combine the resources of large research institute with the tight-knit community of a liberal arts school. Nearly 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students and less than one in five has 50.
Graduate nursing students at Cincinnati choose between 6 online/hybrid MSN specializations: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwifery, Occupational Health Nursing, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. (An Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner track is only available on campus.) All programs are designed for working professionals and, therefore, conform to a highly flexible, customizable format that accommodates individual schedules. Further, several accelerated options are offered, and some programs may be completed in as little as two years. (For those in need of a BSN, UC also offers an accelerated BSN-MSN pathway.) Practicum course work brings an immersive and experiential emphasis to the MSN, including hundreds of hours of clinical work, plus lab classes.
- Tuition Per Credit: $655
15) University of Arkansas
Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has a student enrollment of 27,000, with nearly 7,500 students taking at least one online class. US News ranks Arkansas among the top public schools in the country, with additional high marks for veteran support, value, and high school counselor rankings. In 2016, the Carnegie Foundation named U of A a Tier 1 research university. Despite its student population, the university maintains a student-faculty-ratio of 19:1, combining a vibrant, collaborative learning environment with individualized instruction. Half of classes have less than 20 students and less than one in five have 50.
Arkansas’s online MSN includes a Nurse Educator concentration. Core requirements include Nursing Theory, Concepts in Health Promotion within Diverse Populations, Evidence-based Practice and Innovation in Nursing, Health Care Policy, and advanced practice classes in Pathophysiology, Health Assessment, and Pharmacotherapeutics. From there, students complete concentration course work – including Nursing Education, Curriculum and Evaluation in Nursing Education, and Specialty Development – plus over 400 hours of practicum experience. As a capstone, students complete an independent study or thesis, plus a mandatory comprehensive exam. The program is designed for maximum flexibility with asynchronous classes to accommodate nursing professionals and adult learners, and students are encouraged to identify a population of interest to focus on throughout the program. Full-time students can finish the degree in as little as two years; part-time students must complete the degree within six years. The degree is accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $410
16) Lamar University
Lamar University, founded in 1923, has a total enrollment of about 15,000. US News ranks it as a top Tier 2 school, and the university is one of only 16 higher learning institutions to receive an “A” rating from the ACTA for core curriculum standards. To meet increasing demand for distance education, Lamar has significantly expanded its online offerings, including a free online dual credit program with UT Arlington for in-state high school students. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Lamar combines a collaborative learning setting with individual, tailored instruction. 35% of classes have less than 20 students and just 10% have 50.
For students pursuing an advanced nursing degree, Lamar offers an online MSN with concentrations available in Nursing Education and Nursing Administration. Core requirements include classes like Nursing Research, Theoretical Foundations, Healthcare Policy & Finance, and Advanced Nursing Issues. Each 37-credit track also incorporates hundreds of clinical and practicum work to provide hands-on opportunities, and a synthesis experience is required to graduate. For maximum flexibility, part-time progressions are available, but full-time students can complete the degree in as little as two years (and maintain their careers). Courses deliver in 15-week blocks. Finally, a variety of resources are available to every student: career services, tech support, a dynamic learning platform, and library access, among others. The programs is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
- Tuition Per Credit: $318
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18) University of Alabama – Huntsville
University of Alabama – Huntsville, founded in 1950, has a total enrollment of about 8,500. Ranked as a Tier 1 university by US News, Princeton Review, Washington Monthly, and USA Today also highlight the university; The Carnegie Foundation has classified UAH as a “very high” research institution. The university’s 18:1 student-to-faculty is a major point of emphasis, allowing for intimate, individualized instruction within a vibrant and collaborative atmosphere. Nearly a third of classes have fewer than 20 students and less than one in five has 50.
University of Alabama – Huntsville’s online MSN in Nursing Administration features 39 credits – among them, Leadership in Resource Management, Budgeting in Health Care Systems, Economic & Policy Implications for Leaders in Health Care Systems, Case Management in Health Care Systems, and Applied Leadership in Health Care Systems. In addition to rigorous class course work, students complete nearly 400 hours of clinical experiences to develop and hone standard healthcare admin practices. Alternatively, UAH offers MSN specializations in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Practitioner that combine on-campus and online classes to form a flexible hybrid degree. Each track is designed to accommodate nursing professionals, and accelerated delivery options are available, as well. Also of note: the MSN aligns with several professional nursing standards and guidelines, including the AACN, Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs, NONPF Nurse Practitioner Core Competencies, and AONE Nurse Executive Competencies.
- Tuition Per Credit: $381
19) Delta State University
Founded in 1924, Delta State University is a public institution located in Cleveland, Mississippi, midway between Jackson and Memphis. Despite its small enrollment of 4,000 students, Delta State includes students from all 50 states and more than 20 countries around the world. Further, the 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a tight-knit educational community that combines individualized instruction and collaborative education.
For nursing professionals pursuing advanced degrees, Delta State offers 3 online MSN specializations in Administration (44 credits), Education (46 credits), and Practice (49). Example core requirements include classes like Theoretical Issues in Nursing and Ethics, Health Assessment, and Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice. From there, students complete a rigorous curriculum within their specialization to master an area of professional interest, and then complete several hundred hours of practicum and clinical course work, building a solid base of real-world applicable experience. A final research project is required prior to graduation. To accommodate adult learners and working professionals, the MSN is highly flexible to individual schedules, and full- and part-time progressions are offered (full-time students may complete the degree in as little as two years). Applicants should have earned a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and must submit GRE scores.
- Tuition Per Credit: $375
20) Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University, founded in 1964, is a private school with a student enrollment of approximately 21,600. In addition to a Tier 1 ranking from US News, NSU has been recognized by Forbes, Washington Monthly, The Economist, and Times Higher Education. NSU places a special emphasis on innovation in education, including creative and flexible learning technologies, and career-oriented curricula that prepare students for professional advancement. With a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Nova allows for a combination of collaborative learning and tailored, personalized instruction. More than 80% of classes have fewer than 20 students and almost none have 50.
Nova offers several potential tracks for nursing graduate students: a non-clinical MSN (36 credits) with available specializations in Nursing Education, Health System Leadership, and Nursing Informatics; or a clinical MSN Nurse Practitioner (51-52) with specializations in Family Nurse Practitioner or Gerontology-Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. Core classes may include Advanced Nurse Roles, Theory and Research, Evidence and Practice, Information & Management Data Analysis, Health Care Policy, and Nursing Informatics. Both track incorporate practicum course work, with the Nurse Practitioner track featuring extensive, immersive clinical work to develop and hone skills (120 hours). While online courses make up a significant part of the programs, on-campus requirements create a dynamic hybrid format, giving students the best of both delivery advantages. Most full-time schedules take 8 semesters to complete.
- Tuition Per Credit: $675
21) Regis University
Founded by in 1877, Regis University is a private Roman Catholic university in Denver, Colorado, with a total enrollment of approximately 11,500. As a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Regis is ranked as one of the top 30 universities in the region by US News, and receives additional high marks for veteran support and overall value. Service and service learning is another emphasis, especially the Institute on the Common Good and Center for Service Learning, which incorporates community service and volunteering opportunities throughout curricula. Finally, with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Regis balances a vibrant, collaborative environment with individualized instruction. Nearly 60% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
Regis offers an online MSN in Leadership in Health Care Systems with focuses in Management (42 hours) and Nursing Leadership (45 hours). Core nursing classes include Ethics for Nurse Leaders, Health Care Policy, Foundations of Financial Management for Nursing Leaders, Health Care Organizations and Systems Leadership, Teaching and Learning Strategies in Health Care, and Leadership and Theoretical Frameworks. From there, students complete a tailored specialization track to gain expertise in an area of professional interests, plus electives and practicum course work to help develop applicable skills and techniques. Each track is designed to accommodate nursing professionals, with built-in flexibility and self-paced opportunities that allow students to balance work and study. On a full-time track with 8-week course blocks, students average 2.5 years to complete the master’s, which is accredited by the Collegiate Commission on Nursing Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $675
22) McKendree University
McKendree University, founded in 1828, has a student population of about 3,000. US News ranks it among the top 75 colleges and universities in the region, and as a top 55 school for overall value and veteran support. A broad-based curriculum serves to develop a wide range of knowledge and skills, but McKendree maintains a firm commitment to career and professional development via immersive and experiential learning. Finally, the university’s 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes an intimate setting, peer-to-peer course work, and tailored instruction. Three-quarters of classes have less than 20 students.
For nursing students pursuing a master’s, McKendree offers MSN tracks Nursing Education, Nursing Management/Administration, and Palliative Care, plus a unique dual MSN/MBA and a post master’s certificate. Core requirements across the curriculum include Advanced Nursing Research, Ethical Issues, Health Promotion/Disease Prevention, Cultural Diversity in Healthcare Populations, and Professional Role Development. From there, specialized modules help students hone their knowledge and skills in an area of career interest, and 150+ hours of practicum requirements provide valuable hands-on experience in the field. For maximum flexibility, McKendree offers full- and part-time progressions, which can be completed in 2 and 5 years, respectively. Student support services include tech support, academic advising, career services, a writing center, and more. The program is accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $525
23) Gardner-Webb University
Founded in 1905, Gardner-Webb University has a total enrollment of about 4,000, split between undergraduate and graduate students.Ranked among the best national universities by US News, Gardner-Web has also received praise from The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Carnegie Foundation, and is one of just 19 schools in North Carolina to earn an “A” grade from American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The university’s 13:1 student-to-faculty serves to maintain an intimate, collaborative learning environment that features personal and tailored instruction from world-class faculty. Nearly 70% of courses consist of fewer than 20 students, and none have 50 or more. Finally, Gardner-Webb’s online education initiative has significantly expanded in recent years to include 100% online, hybrid, and blended deliveries, accommodating students’ individual schedules and learning styles.
Nursing professionals pursuing a master’s degree will find two MSN specializations at GWU (30-36 credits), in Nursing Education and Nursing Administration. (An MSN-MBA is available, as well.) For either, core curricular requirements include Theoretical Basis for Advanced Practice, Nursing and Health Care Systems and Issues, Methods of Advanced Research, Perspectives of Caring, and Statistical Techniques for Graduate Research. From there, students complete a rigorous, carefully designed module for their specialization track, designed to hone and develop advanced skill sets. Prior to graduation, all students must also complete 6 credit hours in a specialty practicum, plus an additional 6 hours for a thesis. Student support services include academic advising, a writing center, tech support, and more. Applicant should have earned at least a 2.7 undergraduate GPA and may need to submit GRE scores.
- Tuition Per Credit: $467
24) McNeese State University
Founded in 1939, McNeese State University is located in Lake Charles, Louisiana, with a total enrollment of 8,200, representing students from 30 states and 40 countries around the world. Washington Monthly highlights McNeese’s master’s graduate programs, and US News ranks MSU 41st among public schools public schools in the region. It’s also earned a top ranking for affordable tuition and average salary earnings. With a 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university combines personalized instruction with a vibrant, collaborative educational community. Over 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and less than 10% have 50.
McNeese offers several Master’s of Nursing tracks: Family Nurse Practitioner (42 credits), Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (48 credits), Nurse Educator (40 credits), and Nurse Executive (38 credits). Still, each track conforms to a core curriculum, composed of classes in Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing Practice, Design and Methodology of Nursing Research, Issues in Advanced Nursing Practice, Health Assessment for Advanced Nursing Practice, Practicum for Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning, Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Nursing Practice, and Pathophysiology for Advanced Nursing Practice. All MSN students must complete a project or thesis, as well. For maximum flexibility, full- and part-time progressions are available, with full-time students capable of completing the course work in as little as two years. The program is accredited by the CCNE, and follows guidelines from the American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Advanced Practice Registered Nursing, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Essentials of Master’s Education for Advanced Practice Nursing, and the NONPF Curriculum Guidelines and Programs Standards for Nurse Practitioner Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $506
25) University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston
The University of Texas Medical Branch, founded in 1891 as the University of Texas Medical Department, is a public institution with an enrollment of 3,200. The country’s first public medical school and hospital under unified leadership, today UTMB boasts schools in medicine, nursing, health professions, and biomedicine, in addition to a highly-respected research initiative and comprehensive health system with hospitals on three campuses. It has a $3.3 billion annual statewide economic impact, and is responsible for over 40,000 in jobs.
UTMB’s top-ranked online MSN offers 7 potential specializations, offering students a wide range of professional opportunities: Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Leader, Executive Nurse Leader, and Nurse Educator. With the exception of the ENL track, core requirements for each track are Foundations of Theory and Research, Informatics, Public Policy, Innovations in Community Health Practice, Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, and Advanced Health Assessment (ENL excludes the last three). Courses are designed to accommodate current nursing professionals and adult learners, and on-campus clinical and practicum work provides a hybrid delivery format that combines flexibility, experiential learning, and immersive opportunities. Student services include career services, advising, and a dynamic learning platform featuring group discussion boards and live chat rooms. The program is accredited by the CCNE.
- Tuition Per Credit: $675