Online Masters Degree in Nursing

Accredited online master in nursing programs are generally designed to build on the knowledge and skills of registered nurses who possess a traditional or online bachelor’s degree in nursing. Online master’s degrees in nursing programs prepare nurses for management and other leadership positions in clinical and educational settings, including nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist and nurse educator. Nurses who prefer research over clinical practice typically pursue an online PhD in nursing. Most online masters degree nursing programs do not require theses or capstone projects, but they do require clinical work as part of an internship or supervised practice program.

How long does it take to earn a nursing master’s degree online?

Normally it takes two years to finish the best online masters degree programs in nursing. This is about 63 quarter-credit hours of coursework.

What are the admission requirements for an online master’s in nursing?

For admissions purposes, students who apply to top online master degree programs in nursing may be required to submit the following:

  • Application form
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Revised Graduate Records Exam scores (Revised GRE)
  • Personal statement or Essay
  • Letters of recommendation

Candidates for online masters nursing programs should normally have either a bachelor’s degree in nursing or in a related field, including the following fields:

  1. Healthcare Management
  2. Health Studies
  3. Public Health
  4. Biology
  5. Practical Nursing

What types of online master’s degrees in nursing can students pursue?

Accredited online masters in nursing schools offer a variety of health-related degrees. The following is a list of some of the types of masters degrees that students can pursue in the field of nursing:

  • Nursing Education: Students in this online nursing masters degree program will gain an understanding of how to design, deliver and evaluate nurse education programs. They will also explore advanced topics in instructional methods and nursing theory and practice.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner: In this program, students will study health promotion and disease prevention, and will train in the assessment and management of common acute and chronic illnesses. They will acquire advanced knowledge in improving the quality of care and outcomes for their patients and implementing restorative care interventions.
  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner:This online master’s degree nursing specialization teaches students to assess, diagnose, treat and manage a variety of health issues common to adults. Students will take an in-depth look at current health topics to learn how to develop strategies for improving health outcomes through effective communication and collaboration.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist: Students in this specialization will develop skills in theory-based and research-based clinical nursing practices. They will be trained to educate other nurses and healthcare professionals on how to improve healthcare delivery systems while controlling costs.
  • Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health:  The focus of this online master degree in nursing specialization is to prepare students to manage a woman’s normal obstetrical and gynecological needs and to promote the overall well-being of women and infants. Students will take advanced courses in pharmacology, health assessment and pathophysiology, the study of how the body responds to disease.

What can students expect to learn in an online nursing master’s degree program?

The best online master’s degree programs in nursing teach students fundamental skills such as critical thinking, diagnostic reasoning and active listening while improving their knowledge of healthcare systems and policies, technology integration, health promotion and patient education.

Popular classes taken by students enrolled in top online master programs in nursing include:

  1. Policy and Advocacy for Improving Public Health- This course examines healthcare reform and its impact on healthcare delivery, nursing practices and health outcomes in the population. Students evaluate the effects of legal and regulatory processes and discuss possible responses.
  2. Advanced Health Assessment- This course focuses on advanced knowledge in health assessment techniques. Students learn about the collection, interpretation and synthesis of relevant historical, genetic, biological, cultural, psychosocial and physical data for the development of a comprehensive and holistic health assessment.
  3. Advanced Pharmacology- This nursing masters degree online course provides a foundation in the concepts and principles of drug therapy across the lifespan of individuals. Students study advanced topics in receptor theory, receptor-effector coupling, dose-response relationships, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.

What careers can students pursue after graduating from nursing masters programs online?

There is a wide spectrum of career options that nursing master’s programs online graduates may consider, such as:

  1. Nurse Practitioner- Nurse practitioners provide a combination of nursing and primary or specialty care services to patients. The median average annual salary for nurse practitioners is $65,950. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is expected to grow by 26% between 2010 and 2020.
  2. Nursing Instructor- Nursing instructors teach patient care to nursing students in classroom and clinical settings. Nursing instructors either teach full-time or engage in a combination of teaching and research. The average annual salary for nursing instructors is $62,390. Employment of nursing instructors is expected to increase by 19% over the coming decade.
  3.  Nurse Anesthetist- Nurse anesthetists are registered nurses with specialized training in the administration of anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists can potentially earn an annual salary of $168,076. Expected growth in this field is 26%, which is nearly twice the employment growth expected for the economy as a whole.

As the American population begins to age, health care professionals are in higher demand than ever before. The options for educated nurses are nearly endless, offering career flexibility in terms of location, specialization, and more. While many nursing professionals choose to stop their education after just an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, a Master in Nursing is a ticket to the top in this profession. Most people who go on to get a Master in Nursing do so after working as a nurse for a number of years. There are a wide range of specializations to study while in graduate school and it’s beneficial for a professional to know exactly which nursing specialty they prefer before going back to graduate school. Most Master in Nursing programs take two years or less to complete and there are even online and part-time programs available for people who wish to continue working as they study. Here are the key elements of a high quality Master in Nursing program.


A Master in Nursing is all about specializing in a particular field of study and professional practice. Some specializations of the top nursing programs include adult-geriatric, family primary care, pediatric primary care, clinical nurse specialist, health systems management, public health nursing, nurse practitioner, and Master in Nursing to PhD. While many master’s programs set nurses up to return to working with the public, some programs branch into research, administration, or management. Nurses with specializations often have an easier time landing jobs and also are paid more. For example, staff nurse makes about $65,570/year while a certified nurse anesthetist (which requires a master’s) will make $156,226/year – a considerable raise.


An extensive research program is often a benchmark for top nursing programs. Nursing programs that focus on research are known for their innovation and making big discoveries that seriously change the field of health care for the better. By graduating with a diploma from a well-known research school, graduates can expect their resume to float to the top of the pile when applying for jobs and with good reason – they have a strong academic base along with experience and passion.

Graduate Success

The current outlook for the nursing profession is growing above average at 26%. Professionals with a Master in Nursing will not only enjoy a robust job market but also the flexibility their education and credentials offer them when starting their job search. By researching how long it takes the graduates of different Master in Nursing programs to land jobs after graduation, professionals will be better equipped to choose the best program for themselves.

Below are a ranking of the top Master in Nursing programs. The methodology used for ranking Master in Nursing programs includes interviews with Deans in the field, surveys of students, and more. Rigor of program, program reputation, and previous graduate successes play a large part in program ranking.

Marymount University

Marymount University offers a Master of Science degree in Nursing that has proven to be very popular with students. The degree offers a specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner, and is designed to assist students who wish to enter this specialty. Class work, labs and clinical practicums are combined to provide students with a well-rounded educational experience.

Ursuline College

Ursuline College offers a Master of Science degree in Nursing with three concentrations available to students. The Adult Nurse Practitioner program is 39 credits, while the Family Nurse Practitioner requires 43 credits. The third option is the Clinical Nurse Specialist, also requiring 39 credit hours and is designed to let graduates become Nurse Educators in a variety of health care settings.

Pacific Lutheran University

Pacific Lutheran University's Master of Science in Nursing offers students a 95% passing rate on all licensing and certification exams from its graduates, a testimony to the quality education received there. Students can choose from a traditional MSN degree, or from a list including Family Nurse Practitioner or Care and Outcomes Manager. All degrees are fully accredited by state and federal agencies.

University of North Florida

University of North Florida offers a Master's degree in Nursing and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. While both of these programs emphasize classroom instruction as vital to success, it is their use of technology that has gained them much positive attention over the years. Much time is spent in clinical settings or labs, using state-of-the-art technology to train nursing professionals in the latest techniques.

Gardner-Webb University

Gardner-Webb University offers several options for graduate study in Nursing. Students can obtain an RN to MSN degree, a Master of Science degree in Nursing, a Family Nurse Practitioner specialization, or an MSN/MBA dual degree. Many students prefer the dual degree option because it gives them the nursing knowledge while also training them in how to become administrators of health care facilities.

University of Massachusetts Boston

University of Massachusetts Boston has a Master of Science in Nursing degree that is considered one of the best in the Northeast. Students can specialize in a number of areas such as Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Specialist and Critical Care Specialist. A Doctoral degree in Nurse Practitioner is also available for those students who desire to conduct research and teach on the university level.

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania offers a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a concentration in Nursing and Healthcare Administration. The degree focuses on such topics as healthcare finance, project management and operations management. The program culminates with the student completing a practicum by working with a nursing administrator in a field of the student's choice.

Indiana University

Indiana University offers a Master of Science in Nursing for those nurses seeking career advancement and added responsibility on the job. The programs offers concentrations in nursing education and nursing administration. The degree requires completion of 39 credit hours, using a combination of classroom-based instruction and culminating with an independent study nursing project.

Saint Joseph's College of Maine

Saint Joseph's College of Maine offers a Master of Science degree in Nursing that is delivered online to students, making it convenient for those already employed as nurses. Several tracks of study are available, including Administration, Education, Nurse Practitioner, Mental Health and a dual MSN/MBA program that is becoming more popular with students.

University of Delaware

University of Delaware offers a Master of Science in Nursing and a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing to students. The degrees require 34-46 credit hours for completion, and students must complete core courses, a research project of either a thesis or independent study project, specialized courses and clinical practicums to graduate.

California State University Chico

California State University Chico offers a Master of Science degree in Nursing that can be completed completely online. Students can choose from concentrations in Nursing Education or Nursing Leadership. The course is designed to meet the needs of nurses who are working in rural areas, teaching them the necessary skills to educate residents of those areas about good health.

Oregon Health & Science University

Oregon Health and Science University is ranked as one of the best nursing schools in the country. Its Nursing Midwifery program was top-ranked as the best nursing graduate program in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report. The family nurse practitioner was ranked sixth, and the master's degree in nursing was seventh. The Master's degree in Nursing Education is now offered completely online to assist nurses already employed.

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University offers graduate degrees in Nursing at both the Master's and Doctoral levels. Students can earn a Master of Science in Nursing, an RN to MSN degree or a dual MSN/MBA degree. The dual degree is gaining popularity with students because it gives students both advanced nursing knowledge and business knowledge and experience.

University of Michigan

University of Michigan offers Master's degrees in Nursing covering a tremendous array of specialties. Students can get degrees in Acute and Critical Care, Health Promotion and Nursing Business and Health Systems. Within these areas are further specialties including Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Midwife, Family Nurse Practitioner and Business Health Systems. A dual degree in MSN/MBA is also offered to those wanting more specialized business knowledge.

University of Tennessee

University of Tennessee's College of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing degree with concentrations not readily available at other schools. Students in the program can specialize in Nursing of Women and Children, Global Disaster Nursing, Nursing Administration and Nursing Education plus other topics. The Global Disaster Nursing track is very popular, for it allows students the opportunity to travel abroad and use their skills in foreign nations while under very stressful conditions.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University offers students a Master of Science degree in Nursing with concentrations available in either Nursing Education or Nursing Leadership and Management. All degrees are delivered and completed online, and are fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The programs are designed for working professionals seeking career advancement.

University of San Francisco

University of San Francisco offers an on-campus Master of Science degree in Clinical Nurse Leadership, along with an online Master of Science in Nursing. The online program allows students to complete their coursework online and conduct an internship close to their home, making earning a degree as easy as possible. A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is also available on-campus, giving those who have finished their MSN the chance to continue their studies.

Blessing Rieman College of Nursing

Blessing Rieman College of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing that is designed to be completed on a part-time basis. Students take 6-7 credit hours per semester, with a total of 42-44 hours needed to graduate. The program is designed for those already working as nurses, and emphasizes group interaction among students.

Thomas Jefferson University

Thomas Jefferson University offers students graduate degrees in Nursing that come with real-world experience, low student-teacher ratios and fully accredited programs. Students can get a dual degree in Nursing and Public Health, a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctoral degree in Nursing Practice. Credit is given for prior experience, day or evening classes as well as online classes are offered, and programs are offered in an accelerated format.

Southeastern Louisiana University

Southeastern Louisiana University offers a Master's and Doctoral degree in Nursing. The Master of Science in Nursing is set up to make it easy for working professionals to continue their education, while the Doctoral of Nursing Practice is for those wanting to emphasize research and ultimately teach at the university level. Students get the chance to conduct independent research projects and gain further experience in real-world settings.

University of Rochester

University of Rochester makes available to students a Master of Science degree in Nursing along with a Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Philosophy degree. Those students really wanting to challenge themselves academically and professionally can opt for the dual degree program, which awards both an MSN and Ph.D. in Nursing.

Neumann University

Neumann University offers a Master of Science degree in Nursing that is consistent with the goals of Catholic education and professional nursing practices. The program emphasizes liberal studies, and attempts to prepare students to provide nursing care to a diverse patient population. Students can specialize in the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program, allowing them to serve the a population that is rapidly aging.

Minnesota State University Moorhead

Minnesota State University Moorhead offers a Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis on long-term care studies. Students can concentrate in Health Care Administration, preparing them to become administrators in long-term care facilities. The program is noted for its emphasis on current health care issues, and the ability to incorporate them into the curriculum.

Mount St. Mary's College

Mount St. Mary's College has a Master of Science degree in Nursing that has been ranked as one of the best graduate school values in the country. Students can specialize in Gerontology, Adult Acute Care, Health Care Leadership and Administration and Nurse Practitioner. The program is fully accredited, and is able to offer students the best possible training.

Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University offers two graduate degrees in Nursing, the Master of Science in Nursing and the Family Nurse Practitioner degree. The Master of Science in Nursing is a 38-hour program that must be completed within six years of initial enrollment, while the FNP program is a 44-hour program that also must be finished within six years.

Xavier University

Xavier University offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a variety of concentrations from which to choose. Students can specialize in Forensics, Health Care Law, School Nursing, Education, Administration and many others. Most degrees require completion of 36 credit hours, which includes classroom instruction, labs and clinical experiences.

Roberts Wesleyan College

Roberts Wesleyan College offers students graduate nursing degrees that can be completed in-person or online. Students have a choice of either the MSN in Nursing Education or Nursing Leadership and Administration. A minimum of 39 credit hours must be completed, and an internship and project are also required prior to graduation.

Bellin College

Bellin College is the place to be for nurses wanting to advance their careers with more education. The school offers a Master of Science in Nursing with two concentrations to choose from, the Family Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Educator track. The programs can be completed part-time, with students attending class only one day per week. The college's nursing program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Troy University

Troy University offers a Master of Science in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Students can complete the degree part-time, and are able to take all courses online. Students in the MSN program are trained to be clinical nurse specialists in hospitals and other settings.

Pace University

Pace University provides those working nurses who desire more education the chance to gain that new degree by offering a Master of Arts degree in Nursing or Nursing Education. To gain acceptance, students must prove they have been practicing for at least one year in a clinical setting. A total of 32 credit hours must be finished before the degree can be bestowed upon the student.

California State University, Los Angeles

California State University, Los Angeles provides a Master of Science in Nursing with numerous concentrations for students to pursue. Among the options are Nurse Practitioner programs in Pediatrics, Mental Health, Adult Care and Acute Care plus others. Other concentrations within the degree include Nursing Administration, School Health and Psychiatric Clinical Nursing Specialist.

University of South Alabama

University of South Alabama offers a Master of Science degree in Nursing to students. The program is designed to be completed in two years if done on a full-time basis. Students can choose from a list of 13 concentrations within nursing, including Executive Administration, Emergency Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist and many more. The degree is fully accredited, and all classes are offered online.

College of Saint Elizabeth

College of Saint Elizabeth offers a Master of Science in Nursing specifically designed for those who wish to teach nursing in high schools or colleges. With nursing educators in short supply, this degree is seeking to fill a much-needed void within health care. The program is in an accelerated format, and can be completed on a part-time basis.

University of Arizona

University of Arizona offers students online doctoral program in Nursing. These include the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Both of these degrees have been ranked in the top 6% of nursing schools throughout the country, according to U.S. News and World Report. Within the DNP degree, students can specialize in Pediatric, Family and Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.

University of Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island offers Master's and Doctoral degrees in Nursing. The Master of Science in Nursing can be strengthened by specializing in a field such as Administration, Nursing Education or Psychiatric Clinical Specialist. A Doctor of Nursing Practice or Doctor of Philosophy degree is also available, allowing students opportunities to gain valuable knowledge and experience.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester University of Pennsylvania offers a Master of Science in Nursing. Students can choose a specialty and apply it to community health issues while gaining experience through clinical practicums and independent projects.

Marquette University

Marquette University's Master of Science degree in Nursing is ranked as one of the best in the nation. U.S. News and World Report ranked it as the 44th best nursing school out of 442 possible schools, putting it in the top 10 percent of nursing schools. Students can specialize in midwifery, nurse practitioner and gerontology.

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University provides a wealth of opportunities for students to obtain graduate degrees in Nursing. Many Master of Science degrees are available, with a variety of concentrations. Among these are Clinical Nurse Leader, Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Administrator and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati offers four Master of Science degrees in Nursing for its students. The Adult Nurse Practitioner degree is offered online, while the Adult Acute Care and the Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner degrees are offered on the main campus. The school also offers an accelerated BSN/MSN degree program for those wishing to obtain two degrees in a shorter period of time.

Rivier University

Rivier University offers several options for nurses wanting advanced education. Master of Science in Nursing degrees are offered with specializations in Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education, Advanced Practice and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Most degrees require a minimum of 23 semester hours for completion, with students participating in internships and research projects.

University of Washington

University of Washington offers a Master of Science in Nursing as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Students in the Master's degree can specialize in community health systems, neonatal nursing, family nurse practitioner and other areas. The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree prepares students to specialize in rural area nursing, infectious diseases and other areas of interest.

Anderson University

Anderson University offers three unique paths of study within its Master of Science in Nursing program. Students can choose from concentrations in Nursing Administration, Nursing Education and a dual MSN-MBA program that awards the student two distinct degrees in Nursing and Business Administration.

Washburn University

Washburn University offers a Master of Science in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. The Master of Science allows students to specialize in Adult or Family Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Leader. The Doctor of Nursing Practice lets students focus on entrepreneurship while learning how to start their own practice.