It’s long been recognized that the U.S. is experiencing a physician and nursing shortage. According to the American Hospital Association, hospital nursing shortages rose by 30% in 2019-20. In addition, these shortages are being felt in the physician area as doctors are beginning to retire in record numbers or are suffering burnout. Nurse Practitioners have stepped in to help ease the physician shortage by shifting some traditional physician responsibilities to these specially trained nurses. But the nursing deficit was made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, which strained the nursing workforce and had a significant impact on the mental health of hospital-based nurses.
Another leading cause of the nursing deficit is a shortage of teachers in college and university nursing schools. Ironically, there are more applicants than there are nursing courses. To ease that strain, nursing schools and colleges have transitioned many of their programs to online formats.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for MSN-NP professionals is expected to grow at a remarkable 45%, a much faster than normal rate. Salary rates are commensurate with the need for advanced degree nurses and, depending on the work environment, range from $81k-$123k annually.
College Consensus has explored the many online graduate nursing degrees and chosen 10 programs we think offer excellent options for nurses pursuing an MSN-NP. These programs provide training in the top nurse practitioner specialties in family practice, gerontology, neonatal, mental and behavioral, pediatrics, women’s health, and pediatrics.
How We Ranked the 10 Best Online 2023 MSN-NP Degree Programs
The College Consensus 10 Best Online 2023 MSN-NP Degrees are ranked by three factors that we evenly weighted:
- US News Ranking
- Niche Score
- Grad Reports Score
With these elements in mind, our team looks at college programs according to their record of providing a return on investment. Our ranking of the 10 Best Online 2023 MSN-NP Degrees shows the best combination of market reputation, educational quality, and rewarding income. All the programs in this ranking hold accreditation. We hope there is a program on this list that inspires you to take the next step.
Earning your online/hybrid MSN degree from Duke University School of Nursing makes a statement that you have one of the best Nurse Practitioner educations available. Established in 1931 and offering online programming since 1994, the SON continues to have a transformative impact on the field of nursing nationally and globally.
The SON offers eleven (8 clinical and three non-clinical) APRN concentrations in FNP, Health Informatics, AGNP-PC, AGNP-AC, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care and Primary Care, PMHNP, Nursing Education, Neonatal NP, and Women’s Health. Coursework is provided online, but you’ll need to attend two- to five-day intensives each semester on the Durham, NC, campus. These intensives are filled with simulations, face-t0-face interactions, and direct, hands-on activities. You’ll complete a clinical residency in your specialty under the guidance of a qualified clinician. There’s a December 1 application deadline.
If you hold an MSN and are looking to specialize as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, you’ll want to explore the award-winning nursing programs offered by Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing. This SON was one of the first to train and place nurse practitioners with physicians, clinics, and health systems.
Long recognized as an outstanding graduate nursing program, you’ll find a range of 14 APRN specialties in family practice, pediatrics, gerontology, women’s health, psychiatric and mental health, and more. These concentrations are available as post-master’s options. Vanderbilt University offers modified distance learning (requiring some campus attendance) and flexible online formats for many specialties. The clinical practicum experience is conducted in your home community as practical. You’ll be impressed with the expert faculty, a 95% graduation rate, and the school’s exemplary first-time exam pass rates in 2021, ranging from 96-100%.
Emory University is often called the “Harvard of the South” for its educational excellence by Atlanta residents, and the Neil Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing lives up to that nickname. If you’re looking for an online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner or Women’s Health/Gender-Related Nurse Practitioner degree from one of the country’s top 20 nursing schools, you’ll want to look at these programs.
While coursework for the NNP and WHGRNP programs is offered online, you’ll be required to visit the Atlanta campus 1-2 times a semester to participate in skills labs, instructional intensives, and simulations. These programs feature low faculty-student ratios and didactic and clinical experiences. Clinical practices are required but not limited to Atlanta.
The University of Rochester School of Nursing has a strong slate of six Nurse Practitioner concentrations.
You can earn your NP degree in various formats with this program, ranging from online with occasional on-campus intensives, traditional face-t0-face classes, and a hybrid mix of online courses and activities. The Family Psychiatric Mental Health NP Program has online coursework with brief campus intensives. If you live close to the university, you may want to explore the hybrid NP programs that offer online core coursework with some on-campus attendance. These programs are designed to meet licensure requirements for national certification, but you should check with your state board to verify eligibility. The UR School of Nursing ranks in the top 25 of U.S. News and World Report’s best master’s nursing programs and #4 in our ranking.
Ohio State University’s College of Nursing has a 100+ year tradition of exceptional nurses training. Suppose you’re looking for a Nurse Practitioner curriculum that provides flexibility. In that case, you’ll want to look at the distance learning opportunities in Psychiatric Mental Health NP, Neonatal NP, Family NP, or Clinical Nurse Leader.
With these distance programs, you’ll complete coursework online and clinical experiences in your home community. Classes are synchronous and require specific online class attendance times. This curriculum is designed so that working nurses can continue to work as they earn the advanced degree. Depending on your specialty, you may be required Ohio State campus to travel up to three times during the program. The MSN-NP degree from this nursing college will qualify you for licensure in Ohio as well as other states (check with your state). OHSU consistently ranks in the top national rankings for its graduate nursing program in value, innovation, best public schools, etc.
It’s hard to find an online Nurse Practitioner program as strong as the one offered by the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing. Whether you’re looking for an MSN-NP specialty in Adult-Gerontology (Acute or Primary Care), Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Neonatal, or Nurse Leadership, you’ll be guaranteed a quality program at UConn.
This is Connecticut’s only higher ed institution offering the full range of nursing degrees, and the National League for Nursing designates UConn a Center of Excellence. Upon graduation, you’ll be eligible to sit for certification exams regardless of your concentration. FNP graduates had 100% AANP and ANCC exam pass rates for seven consecutive years. The curriculum is in a flexible online format, offered full-time or part-time, and taught by nursing faculty who are experienced clinicians. Each specialty requires a clinical experience.
Here’s another prestigious hybrid MSN-NP degree from one of the nation’s prestigious nursing schools. For over 100 years, the Nursing School at George Washington University has been at the forefront of innovative nursing practices and fields. With six program options, you’re sure to find a degree to suit your career goals.
You can earn a Nurse Practitioner degree in gerontology (acute and primary care), nurse-midwifery, nursing leadership, management, MPH, and family practice. The expert nursing faculty are nationally known, and you’ll benefit from a flexible curriculum, with courses that are provided online as well as some training on the Washington DC campus. Depending on your specialty, you may be required to complete a clinical experience and complete the degree in 24-36 months. This program is consistently included in national school rankings and receives high marks for value, best nursing schools, and one of the country’s best universities.
Suppose you’re a high-achieving student with an eye to becoming a family nurse practitioner. In that case, you may fit in well with the MSN online program at the University of Southern California offered through the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing.
This program’s reputation is demonstrated in its 100% AANP board pass rate and the average 93% pass rate for the ANCC exam. Your classes are provided live and online, and you’ll be able to access coursework 24/7 and complete your degree in as little as 21-33 months. The program is based on evidence-based practice and research. You’ll enhance your clinical skills through clinical placement and attending two on-campus intensives in Los Angeles, where you’ll participate in skills assessment exercises and exams with your faculty. With a small graduate nursing enrollment, you’ll receive personalized attention from faculty and staff in this MSN-NP program.
Boston’s Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences is one of our best online MSN-NP programs for students interested in a neonatal specialty. Coursework is provided 100% online, and you’ll complete a clinical practicum, with an approved preceptor, in a NICU in your local area.
You’ll need a minimum of two years of level 3 or greater NICU experience, and this program builds on your clinical work in the NICU. This program recognizes your nursing expertise and nursing knowledge. It builds on that to enhance your diagnostic skills, improve your proficiency in management, and provide you with the knowledge needed to care for high-risk neonates. The program can be completed in 24-36 months, depending on your full-time or part-time enrollment status. Depending on your state board’s requirements, you’ll be eligible for licensure with this program.
This well-respected College of Nursing at the University of South Carolina has graduated over 11,000 nurses since it opened in 1957. It will frequently be found in the top 10 in national rankings.
The CON offers three APRN online degrees in Adult-Gerontology, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Family Nurse Practitioner. The degrees are provided in interactive online courses, which include online group projects, meetings, and discussions. You’ll be taught by the same faculty as students attending in person on the USC campus. Advanced specialties require you to travel twice each semester to the Columbia, SC campus for clinical rotations. The APRN degrees can be completed in 8 semesters. Graduating from this program qualifies you to sit for certification exams necessary for your particular concentration.
What are the Advantages of an Online MSN-NP Program?
Like most nurses, you’d like to have the credentials to practice as an advanced practice registered nurse. But, like most nurses, you want (or need) to continue working. This is where online MSN-NP degree options come in.
Online MSN-NP programs can solve a variety of concerns.
By its very nature, online degrees provide greater flexibility in time spent earning your degree. Nursing schools understand that time is an issue. By placing coursework online, offering interactive classes, and encouraging group discussions and projects, nursing schools have tailored the online curriculum for the working nurse.
Clinical practicum experiences aren’t ignored with online training and can usually be completed in your home community under appropriate supervision. Some programs may require on-campus intensives, usually held on one or two weekends, that will allow you to interact with your professors and students and participate in skills training.
Online studies give you more manageable schedules, the ability to study anywhere convenient and comfortable, and you won’t waste time commuting.
You may wonder if an online program can offer the same educational standards as on-campus students. Coursework is typically taught by the same faculty of in-person classes. Online nursing programs are accredited by the CCNE and/or AACN, ensuring you’ll receive an education that meets or exceeds nursing standards. All Nurse Practitioner specialties are available online as well.
Greater Program Choices
With online programs available nationwide, you’ll have greater school choices beyond your geographical region. Colleges and universities accept online students regardless of state residency and may offer online students in-state tuition, which can be a significant saving.
Will Employers Trust an Online MSN?
In a word? Yes. The key here is accreditation.
There was a time when distance education programs didn’t need to be accredited to offer degrees, but that is definitely no longer the case. You’ll find that the Department of Education regionally or nationally accredits colleges and university-approved agencies. Look for accreditation and certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). These designations will assure you (and your employer) that your program met or exceeded nurse practitioner education standards.
Depending on your employment, you may find that your employer may offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for you to earn your online MSN-NP degree. With the national nursing shortage, employers will appreciate you earning an online degree while you continue to work. You should check with your supervisor or Human Resources department to see if there’s any financial help for your advanced studies.
Do I Have to Have a Bachelor’s to Get an MSN?
Again, due to the nursing shortage, colleges and universities have developed graduate nursing programs that are available to a larger student population and don’t require you have a BSN or even a nursing degree at all. These are known as bridge programs.
You can find online MSN programs if you hold an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or an RN diploma. Depending on your previous education, you may be required to complete prerequisite coursework for the bridge program.
These bridge programs can offer specialty nursing options such as adult/gerontology acute care, family nurse practitioner, neonatal care, etc. Depending on the program, you may be able to choose a concentration in, for example, oncology, research, and more.
What is the Difference Between an NP and a DNP?
Perhaps the easy answer is that it’s a matter of degrees.
The MSN-Nurse Practitioner degree is an advanced but not a terminal degree, while a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree. But what does that mean? Both are clinical degrees in nursing and can treat patients. Both require licensure and certification.
DNPs hold MSN degrees (which can also be earned through the occasional bridge program (RN/ADN-MSN-DNP programs). There’s a significant difference in salary as well. NPs earn approximately $98k annually, and DNPs can draw down about $107k yearly (PayScale).
DNP-prepared nurses apply evidence-based practices to patient care and enhance nursing leadership in academic or clinical settings. There are core concerns for the DNP: ethical considerations, policy formation, development and evaluation of patient care, and scientific and academic research.
There can be a difference in work environments. NPs work in hospitals, community clinics, educational services, long-term care facilities, etc. DNPs can work in the same places but also teach at universities, specialty practices, healthcare administration areas, and healthcare policy organizations.
The DNP is relatively new and is slowly gaining acceptance with employers seeking those with this particular degree and skill set. If you’re unsure that you want to earn a DNP, enrollment in an MSN-NP program can help you explore a bit and decide if you wish to pursue the degree.