25 Best Online MSN Nursing Degrees for 2020
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Best Online Nursing Masters

One of the amazing things about the nursing industry is that there is simply no time to stand still. Obviously, nurses are known for being in one of those professions that are always on their feet, and don’t really sit down until they take a break or leave for the day (or night as those 12 hour shifts often spit you out past the bedtime of many other professions). Well, staying put as far as your credentials are speaking is another thing many nurses choose not to do. As you probably know by now, there are many tiers of nursing degrees and subsequent career outcomes, and the higher you go with your education, the more likely you are to land the job in the exact nursing field you want and have the most opportunities to make the salary you want also. So, why not go beyond the BSN program? There are many ways a masters degree in nursing will expand your options. 

RN to MSN Online Programs Options

If you decide you want to go the route of achieving your masters degree in a field you have already invested in, there are many ways to do so that are flexible and can be worked into your already busy life. We have done some of the work for you to source some of the best online msn programs out there. Certainly, you may be looking for a specialization that is not covered by some of the programs below, so keep reading. We tried to find something for everyone in your position on this list. Take your time and find the perfect fit. See below for the top RN to MSN programs that we found for 2020. 

How We Ranked the Best Online MSN Nursing Degrees

The College Consensus Top 25 Best Online MSN Nursing Degrees ranking specifically looks at schools that are reputable and regionally accredited. We were specifically interested in looking at three points that were evenly weighted:

  • Cost (current IPEDS data)
  • Reputation (Niche data)
  • Success (Payscale data)

With these three factors in mind, our team ranks colleges according to their ROI. These are the Master of Science in Nursing programs that show the best combination of educational excellence, job marketability, and rewarding salary.


Texas A&M University-Texarkana
Texarkana, TX

Texas A&M University at Texarkana has an Online Masters of Science in Nursing Administration. This is the perfect fit for a bachelor’s degree holding nurse who is interested in the administrative side of nursing. There are two courses on Evidence Based Practice that build on the student’s previous work experience and knowledge acquired from working in the field. Other classes include Healthcare Informatics, Healthcare Populations/ Health Policy, Quality Improvement and Safety, Healthcare Economics and Finance, and Healthcare Law, Ethics and Policy. Each student will participate in a Capstone Project where they will have the opportunity to create and implement a clinical proposal. The entire degree program requires the completion of 33 credit hours. This includes three electives that need to be approved by at least one of the two faculty members in the program. To participate in the program, prospective students must first pass a comprehensive background check. 

Affordability Score: 74.00 
Reputation Score: 92.00 
Success Score: 100


The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL

The MSN program at the University of Alabama is a competitive program, as they believe in training the most driven and competent nurses to be the best in the field. It is important to note that the criteria for admission is consistent with the criteria for getting accepted into the graduate school. Applicants should have a minimum of a 3.0 from their last 60 credit hours of academic coursework. All of the courses are offered online, so while it is a flexible program, it is designed for self directed students. They are interested in working with students who are aiming for leadership careers in nursing. In fact, they have some specializations including the concentration in Nursing Case Management. Case Managers are in demand in the field of nursing, as they must be skilled problem solvers that can weigh a myriad of possibilities to ensure a patient is receiving the best care and plan of action  possible. 

Affordability Score: 90.00 
Reputation Score:88.00 
Success Score: 83.00 


University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
Cincinnati, OH

The College of Nursing at The University of Cincinnati offers a comprehensive online Master of Science in Nursing Program. This course of study was particularly designed to support nurses to gain the skills for roles that are considered advanced practice. They also train students to be prepared to work in a wide variety of health care sites and settings. It was expressly designed for nurses who are interested in having more responsibility in the healthcare management of a variety of patients. There are six different MSN specialized degree programs that students can achieve online including: Women’s Health, Occupational Health, Nursing Administration, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Adult Gerontology Primary Care. Programs can be accomplished on a full-time or part-time basis, depending on the needs of the student. Participants are given five years to complete the degree path that they choose. It is important to look at the specialty area of your choice to determine if an additional certificate is needed to practice in your field following graduation.

Affordability Score: 76.00
Reputation Score: 95.00 
Success Score: 83.00


Ohio State University-Main Campus
Columbus, OH

The College of Nursing at the Ohio State University offers a myriad of relevant Masters degree programs in the healthcare field including the Online Master of Science in Nursing Program. This program can be completed entirely online. Students in the program will be provided with a wide range of relevant coursework as well as clinical experience that ties into evidence based practice to gain a wide range of advanced nursing practice skills. Students will learn the underpinnings of the skills required to work in various clinical settings which may include clinics, private practices, schools, businesses, government agencies and managed care organizations (among many others). When students graduate from this program, they will then have the credentials to sit for certifications in the specialty for which they focused. One of the special aspects of participating in this particular program is the access students will have to Ohio State University Medical Center’s renowned teaching hospital. They will also have opportunities to work in community based settings amongst their own faculty members. 

Affordability Score: 56.00 
Reputation Score: 98.00 
Success Score: 100


University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Amherst, MA

The College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers a Master of Science in Nursing Program that is delivered primarily online. Students will learn how to excel in leadership positions in a variety of diverse healthcare settings. This program offers three unique concentrations, including the: Clinical Nurse Leader Track which trains nurses to provide exceptional care throughout the lifespan of a patient, including within families and communities; The Nursing Education Track which gives students the skills to create and refine curricula directed at nursing students; and the Concentration in Nursing Science, which is actually directed towards graduates of an MSN program interested in achieving a PhD. Most students in these programs will be placed in graduate clinical assignments which may align with the work the student is currently doing. The program supports students to work within the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to prepare them to successfully achieve a masters education in the field. 

Affordability Score: 70.00 
Reputation Score: 83.00 
Success Score: 83.00  


University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ

The University of Arizona’s College of Nursing offers a Masters of Science degree in Nursing that has a focus on Clinical Systems Leadership. The entire program can be completed within 15 months. The core courses include: Healing Environments and Practices, Healthcare Business Dynamics, Population Health, Foundations of Systems Leadership, Health Promotion and Risk Reduction, Healthcare Environments and Care Coordination, and a culminating practicum in Clinical Systems Leadership. All of the faculty members are highly ranked professionals in the field. The program has three start dates annually and an enrollment of under 250 students. One hundred percent of the the students are already employed full time prior to enrolling. All of the lectures are pre recorded, so students can access them as their schedule allows, making this a popular program for busy adult professional learners. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. 

Affordability Score: 74.00 
Reputation Score: 77.00
Success Score: 83.00


University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
Denver, CO

The University of Colorado at Denver offers a Master’s of Science in Nursing that specializes in Healthcare Informatics, through the Anschutz Medical Campus. This program is made up of six core courses in informatics. This is an innovative nursing niche that relies on an interdisciplinary infusion of subjects including the information sciences, computer skills, organizational theory, cognitive sciences and management. This program can be completed within two years if students work at a full time pace. Those that want to complete the program on a part time basis can graduate within three or four years of study. As a student in this program, you have many options of working with faculty from around the world, as a result of the online format. The entire program consists of 34 credit hours. The competencies gained from the program around digital health tools will set graduates apart, and give them a myriad of employment opportunities, including within the software field. 

Affordability Score: 76.00 
Reputation Score: 88.00 
Success Score: 67.00


University of Central Florida
Orlando, FL

The University of Central Florida offers three Masters in Nursing degrees, which include: an MSN in Healthcare Simulation, and MSN in Nurse Education, and an MSN in Leadership and Management. All of these programs are fully accredited and offered entirely online. There are, however, some opportunities to use the facilities on campus. Each program has two application dates and two start dates per year. They are known for having exceptional faculty members and offering affordable programming. They also offer full time and part time options, depending on the student’s time frame. Applicants are not required to take the GRE. All of the programs embed a foundation in ethical, political, cultural, social and economic influences that relate to the field of nursing. Students utilize critical thinking skills to evaluate and put into place healthcare plans and strategies, in preparation for a range of leadership roles.  Many students will choose to continue on to doctoral study. 

Affordability Score: 67.00
Reputation Score: 77.00
Success Score: 67.00


Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY

The School of Nursing at Stony Brook University (SUNY) offers a primarily online Master of Science in Nursing Leadership program. Though most of the coursework is delivered online, they have a few immersion sessions that are delivered on campus. The program utilizes that cohort model, so students will be working closely with their peers in the program as they move through each step. The curriculum trains nurses to learn the ins and outs of leadership in a field for which they are already familiar. Some of the coursework looks at the future of nursing and builds on the necessary critical thinking skills that are imperative for the application of research and evidence based nursing practice. Applicants must have at least one year of  relevant experience and a GPA of at least a 3.0 in their previous coursework. If a prospective student is applying with a non nursing bachelor’s degree, they must submit a Clinical Practice Portfolio. 

Affordability Score: 57.00
Reputation Score: 95.00
Success Score: 67.00


Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Lubbock, TX

The Health Sciences Center at Texas Tech University offers several Master’s of Science in Nursing Programs with specific specializations. The various focal points include: informatics, administration, education, advanced practice nursing. They also have population focus practice tracks that include family, nurse midwifery. Acute care, adult gerontology, pediatric acute care and pediatrics. All of coursework for these programs is offered online with the addition of clinical learning experiences that are preceptor guided. The clinical’s are designed to be accessible to the student, and therefore, can be completed in their home community. All of these programs support students to learn the complex skills necessary to be leaders in the field of nursing. There is a specific program in Nursing Administration that gives students the skills to shape their practice around evidence based leadership in the field. Integrity and professionalism are stressed in every aspect of their program. 

Affordability Score: 74.00 
Reputation Score: 77.00 
Success Score: 67.00 


The University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL

The University of Alabama offers a Masters of Science in Nursing with a Concentration in Nurse Administration. This program is offered through Bama by Distance, and therefore is entirely online. The program consists of the completion of 33-39 credit hours. There is the requirement of a practicum that can be accomplished in the home region of the student. Students will learn the ins and outs of leadership in the field of nursing, as well as the skills to provide mentorship to other nurses. Students will also learn about operation and policy. As part of the coursework, students will have contact with leaders in healthcare, as they learn to develop programs that can have a lasting impact on the field of nursing. Many of the faculty members in the program are well known leaders in the field who have great passion for passing on their skills to future leaders. 

Affordability Score: 89.00
Reputation Score: 61.00
Success Score: 67.00


University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers a Master of Science in Nursing Degree program. The program is delivered online, however, students are required to attend a two day orientation that is conducted on campus. There is a family nurse practitioner track that works with students to: support a variety of populations in a range of healthcare settings, understand the complexity of diagnostic tests, come up with treatment plans and prescribe medication accordingly, use evidence based practices to manage complex health scenarios, and conduct physical exams using best practices while collecting health histories. Students can choose to enroll on either a full time or part time basis. There are two additional tracks including the psychiatric mental health nurse educator track and the family nurse practitioner track. Students in all tracks are required to take the same core courses with specialized courses that correspond to the Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to remain in good standing in the program. 

Affordability Score:  89.00
Reputation Score: 92.00
Success Score: 33.00


University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS

The University of Kansas has a Master of Science in Nursing program that is specifically geared towards leadership in the field of nursing. They actually offer several specializations including: public health nursing, organizational leadership, nursing informatics, and clinical research management. The University of Kansas Medical Center offers three schools which includes the School of Nursing. They also offer students the option for a dual masters degree that combines that masters of science in nursing (with a specialization in organizational leadership) with a masters of health services administration. Some of the coursework can be combined for these two degree paths and ultimately it will take less time then accomplishing the two degrees independently. Each of the classes that correspond with a specialization require students to gain practical experience in the given field in order to apply the information to a real life scenario. 

Affordability Score: 90.00
Reputation Score: 58.00 
Success Score: 67.00 


Ball State University
Muncie, IN

The School of Nursing at Ball State University offers a Masters in Nursing Program that is delivered entirely online. There are three specializations that students can choose from including: Nurse Educator, Nurse Administrator, and Family Nurse Practitioner.  The online format is extremely flexible, but still demanding. Some courses can be accomplished asynchronously while others meet at specific times each with mandatory attendance. The family nurse practitioner track is the most time consuming and consists of 47 credit hours, while the others are within the range of 33-36. The reason being that graduates will be eligible to write medication prescriptions and understand the proper dosing and frequency, interpret and also order diagnostic tests, educate patients about their health options and treatment plans of action. Upon graduation from the family nurse practitioner track, students will have to apply to take the FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) Certification Exam. 

Affordability Score: 76.00
Reputation Score: 88.00
Success Score: 50.00 


Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD

The School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University offers a comprehensive Master of Science in Nursing degree program. One of the exciting offerings associated with this degree path is that students can choose to simultaneously achieve an MSN Public Health/ MPH, which is in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Another unique offering is the full time entry into the Nursing program MSN, which is designed for prospective students who hold bachelor’s degrees in other fields, and is therefore offered on a full time basis. Two other entirely online options include the Master of Science in Nursing Health Sciences Management Track and the dual degree program that combines Health Sciences Management with the Masters in Business Management. The dual degree program requires completion of 65 credit hours, all of which can be accomplished online, and an addition of 376 credit hours. 

Affordability Score: 13.00
Reputation Score: 98.00
Success Score: 100


University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus
Pittsburgh, PA

The School of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh offers a Master of Nursing program that can be completed entirely online, with the option of studying on-site. Students have the option of specializing in this program and the specialty tracks include: Nursing Informatics, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Nursing Administration. Nursing Informatics is a newer field that brings many aspects of STEM to nursing, including computer science, cognitive science, and information science. Students can choose to study on a full time or part time basis, depending on the time commitment they are interested in participating in. Students will have to pass a variety of background checks in order to pursue certification and certain aspects of the degree program. This program utilizes an innovative learning platform that is interactive, engages discussion amongst students and faculty members, community building, research and critical thinking skills. 

Affordability Score: 47.00
Reputation Score: 81.00
Success Score: 83.00


University of South Carolina-Columbia
Columbia, SC

The University of South Carolina offers a Masters Program in Nursing through their College of Nursing. All of the offerings within this program can be accomplished entirely online with the addition of few on-site immersions. The immersion aspects of the program are used for community building and collaborative team work opportunities. One of the offerings include a Masters Entry to Nursing, which is designed for students who hold bachelor’s degrees in fields other than nursing. The other specialized offerings include: masters programming in: Adult Gerontology, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Informatics, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Nursing Administration. All of the coursework is able to be completed entirely online, however some of the specializations require rotations on campus. The most is two times per semester. Because the program is so intensive they suggest students try not to work more than part-time. Applicants are encouraged to find preceptors to work with clinically six months prior to starting the program. 

Affordability Score: 28.00
Reputation Score: 99.00
Success Score: 83.00


George Washington University
Washington, DC

George Washington University offers one of the top online RN to MSN programs in the country. The program was designed to support students to have a flexible online learning experience while giving them some of the best and most current skills in the healthcare industry. Students can tailor their education to support their personal career goals. There are several specializations offered including: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwifery (which is in collaboration with Shenandoah University), Health Care Quality, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, and Family Nurse Practitioner. It is easy to move from any of these programs into a DNP plan. In fact they have the following tracks that are expressly for post MSN students including: Advanced Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, and Health Care Quality. The application requires a detailed essay that explores the goals and intentions of the applicant’s nursing career. 

Affordability Score: 30.00
Reputation Score: 96.00
Success Score: 83.00


University of Missouri-Kansas City
Kansas City, MO

The Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri Health offers a Master of Science in Nursing program. All of the coursework is accomplished online giving students the flexibility to still have agency over their personal and professional lives. Students can study at their own pace through the online platform while maintaining full time employment. Participants can determine whether full time or part time status in the program is a better fit for them. All of the teaching faculty for this program are leaders in the field. Most of the specialties have no on-site requirements, however the nurse educator position has one on campus visit requirement. There are many opportunities for financial aid for this program, including scholarships. Military members get an automatic 10% off tuition. The entire program requires completion of 33-41 credit hours. The Leadership in Nursing and Healthcare Systems trains students to manage complex clinical endeavors across a wide range of healthcare settings. 

Affordability Score: 79.00 
Reputation Score: 81.00
Success Score: 50.00


Troy University
Troy, AL

Troy University offers one of the best RN to MSN online programs that can be completed entirely online. This offering is designed to give nurses who hold bachelor’s degrees opportunities for career advancement without having to quit their jobs or alter their lives too much in the process. The program works with students to learn advanced skills in the practice of nursing that prepares the next generation to be leaders in the healthcare field. Some of the skills that are featured in this course of study include the subjects: nurse leadership, healthcare informatics, and family nurse practitioners. There is a specialized nurse practitioner certificate that those who have accomplished the program. Students can take the program on a part time or full time basis. There are three application deadlines per year, and three subsequent start dates. There is a required clinical component to this program. There are select states from which residents are ineligible to participate, so it is important prior to applying that prospective students ensure they live in a region that is accepted. 

Affordability Score: 85.00
Reputation Score: 90.00
Success Score: 33.00


Fort Hays State University
Hays, KS

Fort Hays State University offers a fully online Master’s in Nursing Education Program. This is the perfect program for a practicing nurse who is interested in continuing to work full time while completing the course of study. Some of the classes include: Advanced Statistics 3, Developing Nursing Theories, Healthcare: Policy/ Politics/ Organization. The coursework is designed to give students the skills to be leaders in nursing education. The online classes offer an intimate community feel, as there are many opportunities for discussion and collaborative work. For students who are interested, there is a post master certificate option that focuses on administration or education, depending on the student’s interests. The entire program is made up of 36 credit hours 8 foundational courses and 7 nurse educator track courses. Two applications are required to apply for the program, as you must first apply for the graduate school. 

Affordability Score: 98.00
Reputation Score: 77.00 
Success Score: 33.00


Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

The College of Nursing at Michigan State University offers a Master of Science in Nursing Program that is designed to bring already working nurses into leadership roles in a variety of specialized areas. The program coursework for the program is delivered in an entirely online format, however there is the requirement of one on-site orientation. The online classes are geared towards busy adult professional students, and therefore make it possible to continue working full time. The specializations that the program delves into include: adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (acute and primary care), and adult primary care nurse practitioner. The application process is fairly competitive, and is highly weighted on the interview process. There is no GRE required for this program. Students from out of state are eligible to apply. The College of Nursing website lays out the potential scholarship opportunities

Affordability Score: 65.00
Reputation Score: 56.00 
Success Score: 87.00


Georgia College & State University
Milledgeville, GA

Georgia College & State University offers a variety of Masters of Science in Nursing degree specialization programs, many of which can be achieved entirely online. The mission of Georgia College emphasizes the disciplines of liberal arts which they infuse into their School of Nursing vision of creating leaders in the field. They believe in passing on an ideology of evidence-based research and practice, civic engagement, and health information. Clinical reasoning and professional and ethical engagement in the field are stressed throughout all of the offered classes. If students choose to participate in the program on a part time basis, it can be completed in nine semesters, and six semesters on a full time basis. There are additional fees associated with the online coursework, all of which are detailed on their website. A 3.0 is required by all students in order to remain in good standing in the program. 

Affordability Score: 93.00
Reputation Score: 79.00 
Success Score: 33.00


University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Lafayette, LA

The Graduate School at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette offers a Masters degree program in Nursing. The goal of the students who apply for this particular program should include improving the overall health of diverse populations throughout their lifespan. Though most of the coursework is offered online, students will work extensively with faculty members to participate in various applicable practicum experiences. The coursework is designed to be extremely flexible to offer more space for hands-on learning. There are two specializations that the program offers including Nursing Education and Family Nurse Practitioner. Out of state students receive an in state tuition incentive. Students can apply for admission year round for the program with multiple start dates. However, prospective students must hold an unencumbered Louisiana RN license and a current resume that details all of their nursing experience. They must also fulfill all of the clinical requirements in the state. 

Affordability Score: 86.00 
Reputation Score: 66.00
Success Score: 50.00


University of Southern Indiana
Evansville, IN

The University of Southern Indiana offers a Master of Science in Nursing as part of their Nursing Program. It is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The entire course of study is offered completely online, though only residents of certain states are eligible to apply. The list is available on the website. There are additional on campus requirements for students in the program, including a two day orientation and two residencies throughout the program. There are a variety of specializations offered within this degree program including the following: Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP, Nursing Education NED, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMH), Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGNR), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist. All of the specializations come together with some common core courses that support disease prevention, best practices in healthcare, and health promotion. The programs range from requiring 42 credit hours to 44. 

Affordability Score: 91.00
Reputation Score: 77.00
Success Score: 33.00

What Are the Advantages of an Online MSN Program?

Many people who are seeking a Masters of Science in Nursing are already working in the field as full time nurses. As you probably know if you are reading this, nursing is a job with very little downtime at work, not to mention most schedules include 12 hour shifts. With the demands that any full time career can present, let alone nursing, on top of all of the responsibilities that many adult professionals have at home, flexibility is often the key ingredient that makes pursuing an additional degree possible. Flexibility can be anything from having the ability to study in your home, as opposed to having to get to campus, or some nurses are looking specifically for a program that offers even more wiggle room with asynchronous classes. Asynchronous means that there are no set times when you have to report to a session. This means you can literally structure lectures and coursework around your other life commitments. Online MSN programs are generally designed while taking all of these factors into account, as they are expressly geared towards professional adult learners. When prospective students are shopping for online BSN to MSN programs some of the aspects of an online program they look for include the ability to work at their own pace, affordability, and the flexibility to fit the coursework into their already established commitments. The list of schools we explored here have taken into account many of these elements. There are variations on the online programs that are offered, and many factors that we have discussed are explored in the online MSN programs online that we profiled. 

Will Employers Trust an Online MSN?

This is definitely an important question to ask with any degree program, and this answer here is yes. Employers will take your degree seriously because online MSN programs are actually just as trustworthy as a traditional on-site program. This is with the stipulation that the program is fully accredited. Nursing School Accreditation is a critical element to look for when seeking a program that will be respected in the field of nursing. This might take you down it’s own path, where you will find yourself googling CCNE vs ACEN. It is worthwhile to learn about the different accreditations. When it comes to nursing school accreditation, what to look for can vary. CCNE accreditation standards generally fit the bill for a program that is going to give you all of the professional, hands-on, and academic skills that will prepare you for the next step in your nursing career. 

Do I Have to Have a Bachelor’s to Get an MSN?

This is another question that gets asked often when prospective students are on the search for the perfect program. There are many RN to MSN online bridge programs for students who are interested in surpassing the step of achieving simply a BSN. These specific programs account for students who want to move from their associate’s straight into a masters program. Some students go this route also if they have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are interested in catching up in order to achieve an advanced degree in a nursing specialization. There are several accelerated programs that surpass some of the general education classes that were probably achieved with previous coursework. Also, work experience is often granted credit in some of the programs on the list, including bridge programs. 

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