Nurses are an essential part of the medical field and crucial to the health and well-being of our communities. Due to their vital role, the need for nurses is growing rapidly and shows no sign of slowing. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, they will invariably experience health issues that require medical care by experienced doctors and nurses in a variety of settings. And as medical professionals leave the field to seek different occupations or retire, the next generation of nurses must be ready to step in and fill the gap.
Pursuing your Master of Science in Nursing can help you be a part of this expanding field, and thanks to an ever-growing number of schools that offer an online MSN program, earning your advanced degree has never been easier. Of course, with so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which is the best fit for your situation.
Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of schools and programs that can help you achieve your goals.
|1||Georgetown University||Washington, D.C., United States|
|2||University of South Carolina||Columbia, South Carolina|
|3||Western Governors University||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|4||Liberty University||Lynchburg, Virginia|
|5||Duke University||Durham, North Carolina|
Why Should I Get My MSN Online?
The primary benefit for most people who choose the online path is flexibility: you can complete your coursework from anywhere with a computer and an Internet connection. You can also complete class materials at any time, eliminating the need to choose between family and work obligations or furthering your education and career. This makes it a great option for parents or those who are caregivers for older relatives, as well as those who do not live within easy commuting distance of a program. The online format and web conferencing also allow professors greater flexibility in meeting with students outside of traditional “office hours.”
This is not to say an online MSN program doesn’t require any in-person coursework. Many programs require some kind of clinical placement or residency program, even if it’s just for a weekend. After all, you may study for your degree online, but you’ll still need in-person experience with patients. So when searching for a program, it is important to consider schools that have a campus within reasonable commuting distance.
But why should people pursue online master’s degrees in Nursing now? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1, “overall employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 45 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
Benefits of Attending an Online Master in Nursing Program
- Career Advancement – This is most often code for “a higher salary,” but pursuing your online master’s degree in Nursing could also give you the opportunity to take on more responsibility in your current role or expand into something more specialized. In many cases, senior-level positions can also offer more traditional work hours.
- Expand Your Network – The best master’s nursing online programs can foster a real sense of community between classmates, with classroom relationships becoming true friendships. Some professors might also be willing to connect students to others in their own network of contacts or help them find a clinical placement.
- Develop Your Skills – To succeed in an online MSN program, you’ll need to excel in a broad array of skills, including communication, listening, and critical thinking – not to mention computers and technology. A successful MSN will also further develop their compassion, their ability to be detail-oriented, strong interpersonal and leadership skills, and resourcefulness.
What Can I Do With an MSN?
Online master’s degrees in nursing allow graduates to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), which opens up many specialized career tracks:
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
- Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Manager
- Forensic Nurse Consultant
- Nursing Informatics
- Research Nurse
- Nurse Ethicist
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1, the largest employers of APRNs are as follows:
- Offices of physicians
- Hospitals; state, local, and private
- Outpatient care centers
- Educational services; state, local, and private
- Offices of other health practitioners
Many people who complete their Master of Science in Nursing degree also choose to become nursing educators. As a faculty member at a teaching hospital or nursing school, you’ll have the opportunity to train the next generation of nurses. Of course, you’ll still need to continue working as a practicing nurse in parallel in order to stay informed on current practices, methods, and technology for you to bring back into the classroom.
Careers + Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1 offers annual median wage data for several types of APRN roles:
- Nurse anesthetists – About $195,600
- Nurse practitioners – About $120,700
- Nurse midwives – About $112,800
Average MSN Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1, the median annual wage across several types of MSN-related careers was $123,780 in May 2021. Payscale.com pins the median annual MSN salary at about $98,000.
Online Master’s in Nursing Program Requirements
Requirements will vary across programs, but you can generally expect schools to require a BSN degree from an accredited institution as well as an active RN license. Others may require:
- A minimum cumulative GPA
- Letters of recommendation
- A personal statement
How Long Will It Take to Earn an Online MSN Degree?
The time it takes to reach a degree varies between master’s nursing online programs. Some take as little as two years, while others could take three years or more.
Best MSN Online Programs
University School of Nursing & Health Studies. At Georgetown University, the nursing program lives by the mission “to improve the health and well-being of all people.” Georgetown offers MSN degrees in several different programs including; Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, and Nursing Education. Georgetown allows students to receive an MSN without having to relocate and gives access to all of the coursework online from anywhere, anytime, as either a part or full-time student. Students are also able to participate in clinical experiences arranged in partnership with faculty.
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina offers a 100% online MSN degree in Organizational Leadership that is designed to prepare nurses to manage the delivery of nursing and healthcare services across the spectrum of healthcare. The program focuses on facilitative processes for organizational leadership, financing health care, and research methods for nursing. Students learn the conceptual basis for family and community health nursing, organizational and management theories emphasizing budgeting, strategic planning, organizational development, and receive preparation for national certification in nursing administration.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University is a competency-based, student-focused, nonprofit online university. Programs are designed with the students in mind and developed to benefit those who are busy and working. WGU offers MSN degrees (masters of nursing education), leadership and management, and integrated healthcare management. WGU also offers MSN options for those who are RNs and do not have a formal undergraduate degree. The programs let students go to school on their time and is a flexible program. Students choose when and where they complete their coursework. Because WGU is competency-based, once students demonstrate their competency in a subject, they can move onto the next course.
Liberty University was founded in 1985 and is an online Christian school. Liberty offers MSN degrees in nursing education and nursing administration. The programs at Liberty integrate research and scholarship with advanced practices. Students will learn to employ the nursing process to perform; strategic planning, fiscal and resources management, evaluation of outcomes, and make ethical decisions in advanced nursing practices. Most courses are offered in an eight-week format and there are no residency requirements.
Duke University is known as a world-class university. Duke offers many of the courses required for the MSN online, but all students will have required on-campus activities for a few of their courses. Students will be required to come to the Duke School of Nursing at least once every semester for two- to five-day intensives and participate in face-to-face interactions, simulations, and hands-on activities. Duke offers several different focuses in the MSN program: Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (Acute or Primary Care), Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute or Primary Care), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. Students are also able to specialize in cardiology, HIV/AIDS, oncology, orthopedics, veterans healthcare concentration, health informatics, nursing and healthcare leadership, or nursing education. The programs at Duke require students to complete 11 credit hours of clinical core courses as well as a final clinical residency under the mentorship of an experienced clinician.
Kaplan University designed an online MSN for nurses who desire to advance to the next level in their careers and take advantage of opportunities in management and advanced practice positions. The program at Kaplan offers courses in Organizational Theory, Health Care Finance, Health Policy, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Health Care Systems. They also offer faculty and preceptor-guided practicum or clinical experiences in the community and require an evidence-based project. The MSN at Kaplan also offers four different tracks: Executive Leader or Informatics, Nurse Educator, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner.
Vanderbilt offers many different options for completing an MSN degree. There are three different learning options; distance, modified block, and online. Distance learning includes periods of time where the student is required on campus, depending on the program. Modified block courses are offered in concentrated blocks of time on campus. Vanderbilt offers students wanting to complete an MSN the option of an MSN in Healthcare Leadership, which can be completed online. In the Healthcare Leadership program, students learn the skills and management knowledge needed to assume leadership positions in healthcare delivery organizations.
John Hopkins University
John Hopkins University offers a high quality and comprehensive education for those interested in learning more and taking their career to the next level. John Hopkins offers several different tracks in their MSN program: Nurse Practitioner Specialty, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Health Systems Management Specialty, and Public Health Nursing Specialty. Specifically, they offer online clinical nurse specialist programs and health systems management programs.
Loyola University New Orleans
Loyola University’s School of Nursing was formally established in 1979, in 2010 the MSN program was brought to a completely online format. Students are involved in an interactive online environment with peer-to-peer interactions, discussion boards, and multimedia learning tools. The online MSN program at Loyola prepares students with the skills and knowledge needed in a variety of nursing leadership positions. The program focuses on preparing nurses for positions as Care Coordinators, Case Managers, Nurse Consultants, Nurse Executives, Nurse Managers, Outcomes Managers, and Product Line Managers.
University of Texas – Tyler
The University of Texas-Tyler is known for high student engagement and is a respected public institution. The online program has been designed around working professionals and is ideal for students that need to fit in their studies around busy schedules. UT Tyler offers five different tracks in the MSN program; Online Nursing Administration, Online Nursing Education, Web-Enhanced Nurse Practitioner, RN-MSN, and MSN-MBA. Through the program, students complete their master’s degree in nursing entirely online and get to interact with faculty through Instant Messenger, Web-based meetings, and other interactive programs. They also gain hands-on experience working with leading healthcare executives.
South University provides students interested in nursing, the knowledge, clinical proficiency, technical skill, and confidence that is required for a position in healthcare. South University also offers many different tracks and specializations within the online MSN program; Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Education, Nurse Administrator, and Nursing Informatics.
Saint Xavier University
Saint Xavier University has been ranked among some of the best online schools for MSNs. SXU offers two different tracks to earn an MSN degree; the Clinical Leadership track or Executive Leadership track. The CL track focuses on giving students the advanced clinical knowledge and leadership tools needed to take a leading role in assessing, improving, implementing, and evaluating patient care. The EL track focuses more on the impact of patient outcomes at an organizational level. Students learn about budgeting, project management, and strategic planning.
Drexel University is dedicated to developing students that are highly competent in technology, evidence-based practice, customization of care, leadership, and outcomes and risk assessment. Drexel offers a wide variety of specialization for MSN students; Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner (Individual Across the Lifespan), Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary/Pediatric Acute Nurse Practitioner Dual Program, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Women’s Health/Gender Related Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Leader, Clinical Trials Research, Nurse Education and Faculty Role, Nursing Innovation Concentration, Nursing Leadership and Health Systems Management, and Nurse Anesthesia.