The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Master’s Programs

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To help individuals qualify for this in-demand profession, many schools offer on-campus and online nurse practitioner programs. Learners researching the most affordable online nurse practitioner master’s degrees should also consider each program’s accreditation and specialization options. Use this guide to explore the most affordable nursing schools and to find the program that best fits your budget and professional goals.

This guide to online nurse practitioner programs includes detailed descriptions of potential coursework, specializations, career paths, financial aid resources, and links to professional organizations.

Top 10 Online Nurse Practitioner Master’s Programs

Rank School Location
1 Maryville University Saint Louis, MO
2 Morningside College Sioux City, IA
3 Saint Joseph's College of Maine Standish, ME
4 Rivier University Nashua, NH
5 Georgia College and State University Milledgeville, GA
6 Spring Arbor University Spring Arbor, MI
7 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
8 American International College Springfield, MA
9 Walsh University North Canton, OH
10 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
Advertisement AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Accredited Online College Programs

What are the Best Online Nurse Practitioner Master’s Programs?

Identifying programs that offer pertinent coursework and skill development opportunities remains a challenge for students. The list below includes some of the best online nurse practitioner programs that have been vetted through the the U.S. Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Factors considered for these rankings include admission policies; graduation and retention rates; tuition costs; and financial and educational resources for distance learners. The ranking process also includes university publications and materials. All universities listed below are accredited.

  1. Maryville University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1872, Maryville University offers online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in 10 areas of study. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner master's online need 47 credits to graduate. The family nurse practitioner program includes core classes on topics like leadership and quality, adult-gerontology healthcare, and professional role development. In addition to coursework, students complete 745 clinical hours. Learners can begin on one of six start dates per year. Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a personal statement and official college transcripts. Maryville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  2. Morningside College
    Location

    Sioux City, IA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Sioux City, Iowa, Morningside College is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and enrolls around 1,300 full-time undergraduate and graduate students each year. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner degree online must complete 47 credits. The family nurse practitioner program requires 600 clinical hours and three on-site residencies. Core classes cover topics like quality, safety, and informatics; advanced role development; and statistics in advanced practice. The online nurse practitioner program prepares students to sit for national certification exams through the American Nurse Credentialing Center and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Applicants need an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA and valid RN, as well as basic cardiac life support licenses. They must also submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Morningside College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  3. Saint Joseph's College of Maine
    Location

    Standish, ME

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located two hours north of Boston, Saint Joseph's College of Maine enrolls around 2,500 students each year. The school's online master of science in nursing requires 48 credit hours. Students can choose from two nurse practitioner concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse Practitioner/Individual Across the Lifespan Nurse Practitioner. Full-time learners can graduate in just over two years. Prospective students must hold a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited postsecondary institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an unencumbered RN license. They must also submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement. Saint Joseph's College of Maine is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  4. Rivier University
    Location

    Nashua, NH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Nashua, New Hampshire, Rivier University is a Catholic institution that enrolls over 2,000 students each year, including around 770 graduate students. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner degree online take 36-49 credit hours. Core courses include advanced pathophysiology, biostatistics for health sciences, and quality healthcare improvement. The online family nurse practitioner program also requires around 600 clinical hours, three on-site practicums, and a research capstone project. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an unencumbered RN license. They must also submit a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and a resume. Rivier University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Accreditation Commission of Education in Nursing (ACEN).

  5. Georgia College and State University
    Location

    Milledgeville, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Milledgeville, Georgia College and State University is a public liberal arts institution that offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate programs. The online master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner concentration requires 40 credit hours. Online learners take courses on topics like advanced nursing assessment, primary care of adults, and healthcare research and statistics analysis. They also complete two practicums. Students can transfer up to nine graduate credits toward the degree. Prospective students need an accredited bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 2.75 GPA and a current RN license. They must also submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement. Georgia College and State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  6. Spring Arbor University
    Location

    Spring Arbor, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Michigan, Spring Arbor University offers over 70 undergraduate and graduate programs, including several online options. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner degree online can choose from two concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner or Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Regardless of their concentration, all students take core courses like moral and ethical decision-making, theoretical perspectives for advanced practice, and role development and leadership. This program prepares graduates to sit for national certification exams from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited program with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an unencumbered RN license. They must also submit official transcripts. Spring Arbor University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  7. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, including many online options. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner master's online must complete 56 credit hours to graduate. The family nurse practitioner program includes classes on topics like confronting issues in contemporary healthcare environments, ethical decision-making in healthcare, and quality and safety in healthcare. The mostly online program requires two on-campus intensive courses. The program also requires a family practice practicum. Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited program with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an RN license. Drexel prefers candidates with 1-2 years of nursing experience. Prospective students must submit official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume. Drexel University is accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  8. American International College
    Location

    Springfield, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Springfield, Massachusetts, American International College enrolls almost 3,500 students each year, including 2,000 graduate students. The school's 46-credit online master of science in nursing offers a family nurse practitioner track that includes a supervised practicum. Classes cover topics like the art and science of advanced nursing, advanced concepts of pathophysiology, and primary care clinical management. Students culminate the degree with an advanced practice capstone project. The fully online program takes two years of full-time study to complete. AIC offers rolling admissions. Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and an active RN license.They must also submit official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. American International College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  9. Walsh University
    Location

    North Canton, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Canton, Ohio, Walsh University enrolls more than 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner master's online benefit from small class sizes. The family nurse practitioner program includes classes on topics like care of women, clinical pharmacology, and advanced health assessment. Students also complete 650 clinical hours. Walsh's placement coordinator helps students find appropriate clinical sites. Online learners culminate the degree with a capstone project. Walsh charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and submit official postsecondary transcripts. Walsh University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  10. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University hosts students from 47 states and 73 countries. The school offers a variety of online undergraduate and graduate programs, including an online master of science in nursing that requires 42-43 credit hours. Students pursuing the nurse practitioner master's online choose from the following concentrations: Clinical Nurse Specialist: Adult Gerontology (43 credits), Clinical Nurse Specialist: Neonatal (43 credits), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (42 credits), and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (not specified). Applicants need a bachelor's in nursing from an accredited university with a minimum 2.7 GPA and an RN license. They must also submit official transcripts and a personal statement. Some applicants may need to submit GRE scores. East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The master of science in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

What Can I Learn in an Online Nurse Practitioner Master’s Program?

Many students pursue online courses or programs because of the increased flexibility and convenience. Many schools charge all online learners the same tuition rate, regardless of residency, which can lead to substantial savings for out-of-state students.

Admission requirements for nurse practitioner programs vary by school. However, applicants must typically have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, along with a valid RN license. Some programs set a minimum GPA requirement.

Online nurse practitioner programs typically take 2-4 years to complete. Degree-completion time depends on students’ academic background and whether they study full or part time. Full-time students with a bachelor’s in nursing and a registered nurse license can often earn their master’s degree in two years. Part-time learners and students who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field may take longer to graduate.

Nurse practitioner students prepare to perform physical exams and health assessments and manage patient information. They also learn to create treatment plans and communicate treatment options to patients and other medical professionals.

What Courses Are Available in a Nurse Practitioner Master’s Program?

The curricula of nurse practitioner programs vary by institution, with each program requiring different courses. However, many colleges and universities offer similar foundation courses that prepare students for advanced coursework and clinical practice. The courses below are common to many of the best and most affordable online master’s programs in nursing.Pharmacology

Students in this class develop an understanding of the major pharmacological drug classes that often influence therapeutic decision-making. Coursework examines topics such as pharmacodynamics, drug metabolism, dose-response correlations, and pharmacokinetics. Degree-seekers explore the applications of pharmacological principles to advanced nursing practice.Advanced Assessment and Diagnostic

Students learn how to collect, interpret, and synthesize patient information. Learners prepare to formulate holistic treatment protocols based on each patient’s genetics, biological factors, medical history, and psychosocial and physical data. Professionals also apply these skills to create plans for disease prevention and the promotion of patient health.Pathophysiology

Students in this course explore physiological factors and disease processes that impact diagnosis and patient care. Degree-seekers learn to synthesize information to assess each patient’s health, develop reliable and accurate diagnoses, and create comprehensive treatment plans.Healthcare Policy

In this course, students learn about the financing and delivery of healthcare services in the United States. Learners also examine healthcare-related advocacy issues, industry regulations, and public policy. Coursework covers the history and future directions of healthcare reform, and students analyze key factors including patient access, cost-containment strategies, and health disparities.Clinical Practicum

While completing a clinical practicum, students gain hands-on experience in their specialty area. Students practice working with patients and collaborating with other medical professionals involved in patient care. Learners also become familiar with diagnostic equipment and workplace processes. Most schools allow online students to fulfill practicum requirements in their community, with approval from the program head.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Nurse practitioner programs typically include a culminating experience. Many programs require a capstone project or a comprehensive examination, while other schools require students to complete a master’s thesis. Learners typically focus their culminating project on a specific area of the field.

Graduates often sit for a certification exam, depending on their career goals. For example, master’s degree-holders who aspire to a nurse anesthetist position can pursue the certified registered nurse anesthetist credential. After obtaining certification, graduates typically apply for licensure from the state in which they plan to practice.

What Specializations are Available in an Online Nurse Practitioner Program?

Nurse practitioners can specialize in an area such as mental health, gerontology, pediatrics, neonatology, or women’s health. Learners pursuing a specialization area gain in-depth knowledge about a specific patient population or medical practice arena. Specializing can position graduates for leadership roles with advanced responsibilities.

Many nurse practitioner programs offer several specialization options. Below are three specializations commonly available to students in accredited nurse practitioner programs.Acute Care

This specialization focuses on treatment options for patients who are severely ill. Students also learn to treat chronic pain caused by an ongoing medical condition or a serious injury. Nurse practitioners who specialize in acute care often treat newborns, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. Some acute-care nurse practitioners specialize further and work with patients in a specific age group.Gerontology

This specialization focuses on the physical, mental, social, and emotional effects of aging. Professionals in this area use treatment plans and therapeutic interventions, such as strengthening exercises. Nurse practitioners in the field work to improve patients’ physical condition, socialization opportunities, and daily living assistance. These nurse practitioners often work in nursing homes or treat patients in their own homes.Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists help patients manage pain after major medical procedures, such as surgeries. Nurse anesthetists oversee each patient’s recovery and help stabilize their medical condition. These professionals may prescribe pain medication or therapeutic interventions.

What Can I Do With a Nurse Practitioner Master’s Degree?

The BLS projects jobs for nurse practitioners to grow 26% from 2018 to 2028. Depending on their specialization, nurse practitioners can work in hospitals, private doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and rehabilitation clinics. Nursing professionals choose from a variety of specializations, focused on different patient populations. In addition to licensure, some states require individuals to hold certification to practice in certain specialization areas.Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners who choose this specialization area often work with elderly patients who have age-related physical or medical conditions. These nurse practitioners also coordinate with patients’ family members and caregivers to ensure patients receive proper care. They also prescribe medication and therapeutic services. In some states, gerontological nurse practitioners can set up a private practice.Midwife Nurse Practitioner

Nurse midwives often serve as primary maternity care providers. They perform gynecological exams and provide family planning services, prenatal care, and postnatal care. Nurse midwives help women during childbirth and can assist doctors during cesarean births. They also advise patients on reproductive health issues and educate them on disease prevention and proper nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy.Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists ensure patient safety prior to, during, and after a major procedure. They take each patient’s complete medical history, including medications and previous illnesses, to prevent any adverse effects from anesthesia. They also monitor the patient’s vital signs during the procedure and adjust anesthesia levels as needed. Finally, nurse anesthetists prescribe pain medication to help patients recover.Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners sometimes work under a doctor’s supervision. However, these highly trained professionals can maintain a private practice in some states. These nurse practitioners provide primary care services for patients of all ages. They often conduct health exams, diagnose patients, prescribe medication, and dispense health education. Family nurse practitioners can work in hospitals, private clinics, nursing homes, and addiction centers.

Professional Organizations

Many professional associations help members connect through regional and national conferences. Large international organizations often provide global connections that allow members to share research findings and recent developments in their field. Below are several U.S. nursing organizations that provide opportunities for aspiring and professional nurses.American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

AANP members can access services including continuing education courses, state and federal advocacy resources, and research opportunities. The organization also publishes scholarly journals and newsletters with current information on topics such as licensure requirements and scholarship opportunities for nursing students.American Nurses Association

In addition to continuing education opportunities, ANA provides certification preparation courses, online workshops, and webinars on trending nursing topics. The association offers a scholarship program for nursing students, and members can find professional opportunities through the active online career center.American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

AACN provides services for critical-care nurses, including certification tools and handbooks, scholarship opportunities, and continuing education courses. Through the organization’s online practice resource network, members can find answers to specific clinical questions regarding critical-care nursing practice.Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH)

NPWH maintains an online learning portal that provides study materials and continuing education activities. The organization also publishes a journal for nurse practitioners who specialize in women’s health. The journal explores recent developments in certification regulations, clinical research findings, and local and national policies that impact the nursing profession.

How Much Can I Make as a Nurse Practitioner?

Pursuing a master’s degree in any field requires significant time and financial investments. However, BLS data demonstrates the correlation between education levels and salary potential. Higher levels of educational attainment tend to lead to higher earning potential. According to the BLS, professionals with higher levels of education also enjoy lower unemployment rates.

Data from the nursing field reflects this trend. The BLS reports that nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $115,800 in 2019. These positions require at least a master’s degree. On the other hand, registered nurses need less education but earned a median salary of $73,300 in 2019.

Research from the Journal of Nursing Regulation projects that about one million nursing professionals will retire by 2030. This will likely create openings in the field and contribute to the above-average demand for nurse practitioners.

The table below shows the median salaries for nurse practitioners in various disciplines, along with each position’s projected growth. The data illustrates the benefits nurse practitioners receive from their advanced education and the current nursing shortage.

JOB TITLEMEDIAN ANNUAL SALARYJOB GROWTH 2016-2026
Gerontology Nurse Practitioner$109,82028%
Midwife Nurse Practitioner$105,03016%
Nurse Anesthetists$174,79017%
Family Nurse Practitioner$109,82028%

Source: BLS

Online Nurse Practitioner Master’s Program Accreditation

To earn accreditation, higher education institutions undergo a voluntary review process to ensure their educational offerings meet set standards. Accreditation demonstrates the quality of an institution’s programs to stakeholders, including students, parents, and academic partners.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) oversee accrediting agencies in the United States. CHEA and ED recognize regional and national accrediting agencies. Regional accrediting agencies typically focus on degree-granting nonprofit institutions, while national accrediting bodies often accredit career-oriented, trade, and sectarian schools.

In addition to institutional accreditation, learners can look for programmatic accreditation. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing evaluate programs in the nursing field. Earning a degree from an accredited nursing school or program ensures that employers will recognize your degree. Additionally, many federal grants and scholarships are only available to students at accredited schools.

How to Pay for an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree

Students can expect to make a substantial financial investment in an online nurse practitioner program. While they should consider government financial aid, they should also explore other options. Many organizations set aside funds for students returning to school by offering fellowships, scholarships, and grants. The list below includes four possible sources.

  • Federal Financial AidBecause many parts of the country are experiencing a shortage of healthcare professionals, nurses often qualify for a variety of federal assistance options. Many nursing students pursue federal loan forgiveness programs, which require recipients to work in a medically underserved area or a health professional shortage area after graduation.
  • Scholarships and GrantsUnlike loans, scholarships and grants do not require repayment. Many scholarships are available from private associations and colleges and universities. Some institutions secure funds for scholarships through fundraisers or special endowment programs. Grants typically come from state and federal agencies, which disburse funds through accredited schools.
  • Tuition ReimbursementSome teaching hospitals offer tuition reimbursement programs to nursing students. Recipients must typically work for the hospital for a specific amount of time after graduation. Often, graduates commit to working for the hospital for the same amount of time that they benefited from the tuition reimbursement program.

Also Consider These Other Nursing Options…

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