Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

by Doug Wintemute

Updated September 26, 2022

reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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Nurse Practitioner Master's Programs

Registered nurses looking to advance their careers can pursue a nurse practitioner career with a master's degree. Online master of science in nursing (MSN) programs, sometimes referred to as online nurse practitioner (NP) programs, prepare graduates for certification, licensure, and employment as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Along with NPs, APRNs include nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists. While the professional scope of an APRN varies by state, they typically provide advanced nursing services and are well-paid for their work.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data projects that employment for NPs will increase by 52% from 2019-2029. This projected growth rate exceeds the national average by 1,200%. Nures practitioners also earn a median annual wage that nearly quadruples the median annual salary for all occupations.

Advanced Practice Nursing in a Pandemic

The World Health Organization declared 2020 the year of the nurse and midwife — a fitting recognition for a profession that spent most of the year combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. That public health crisis has altered NP responsibilities. As hospitals across the country became overloaded with patients, NPs took on new care roles requiring less physician supervision.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, all APRNs received infection control education and must wear full personal protective equipment in response to the virus. The coronavirus highlighted a nationwide shortage of nurses, and that demand will not subside after the pandemic.

Selected Nurse Practitioner Programs

The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

#1

The University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Southern California, located in Los Angeles, offers a flexible online master's program for family nurse practitioners. Graduates prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous master of science in nursing program. With a master's degree, candidates also pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum explores family nurse practitioner research and methodologies. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in a family nurse practitioner position before applying to the program.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. Graduate students also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

The University of Southern California at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 11%

Total Online Master's Programs: 55

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $46,272

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $46,272

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#2

Texas A&M University

School Information
Location College Station, Texas
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in family nurse practitioner degree at Texas A&M University, located in College Station, Texas, prioritizes flexibility. The master of science in nursing-family nurse practitioner program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. After earning a master's degree, candidates also pursue careers in new industries.

The master's curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in the family nurse practitioner field. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. Applicants with previous family nurse practitioner experience typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. Internships and other networking events help graduate students expand their professional network.

Texas A&M University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 58%

Total Online Master's Programs: 38

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,677

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,700

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#3

Clarkson College

School Information
Location Omaha, Nebraska
Admission Rate 46%
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in a family nurse practitioner master's can earn their degree from Clarkson College, located in Omaha, Nebraska. The master of science in nursing (RN-to-MSN) program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. A master's degree can also prepare candidates for opportunities in new fields.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in the family nurse practitioner field. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The program recommends that applicants bring experience from being a family nurse practitioner or a similar position.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional connections by attending virtual networking events.

Clarkson College at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 46%

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,178

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,178

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#4

George Washington University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online family nurse practitioner program. The master of science in nursing program strengthens specialized skills, preparing graduates for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. A master's degree helps candidates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum examines advanced theories and practices for family nurse practitioners. Learners often choose a specialized concentration, which can help them stand out in a competitive job market. The program recommends that applicants bring experience from being a family nurse practitioner or a similar position.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Internships and other networking events help graduate students expand their professional network.

George Washington University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 41%

Total Online Master's Programs: 50

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $31,770

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $31,770

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#5

Georgia College & State University

School Information
Location Milledgeville, Georgia
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 64%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in family nurse practitioner degree at Georgia College & State University, located in Milledgeville, uses a flexible distance learning format. The master of science in nursing builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. With a master's degree, candidates advance their current career or more into new career paths.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. The master's program recommends a family nurse practitioner background to apply to the program.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. The program encourages graduate students to participate in hands-on experiences and networking events to grow their professional connections.

Georgia College & State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 80%

Total Online Master's Programs: 18

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,292

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,846

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#6

Samford University

School Information
Location Birmingham, Alabama
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 76%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's degree in family nurse practice at Samford University, located in Birmingham, Alabama, offers high academic quality. Graduates train for leadership roles in the field while earning their degree from the master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner program. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in the family nurse practitioner field. Learners choose electives or a specialization to stand out in a competitive job market. The program encourages applicants to gain family nurse practitioner experience before applying to the program.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Samford University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 8

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $17,754

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $17,754

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#7

Duquesne University

School Information
Location Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Duquesne University, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers a flexible online master's in family nurse practice. The master of science in nursing program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the field. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. The master's program builds on prior family nurse practitioner experience during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

Duquesne University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 74%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $23,580

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $23,580

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#8

Olivet Nazarene University

School Information
Location Bourbonnais, Illinois
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 64%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 58% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Bourbonnais, Illinois, Olivet Nazarene University enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online family nurse practitioner program. The master of science in nursing: family nurse practitioner program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can help candidates advance in their current career or pursue a new career path entirely.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. Applicants who majored in family nurse practitioner or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

Olivet Nazarene University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 58%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $13,420

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,420

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#9

Sacred Heart University

School Information
Location Fairfield, Connecticut
Admission Rate 64%
Graduation Rate 73%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Fairfield, Connecticut, Sacred Heart University hosts a top-ranked family nurse practitioner master's program. The master of science in nursing: family nurse practitioner builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. After earning a master's degree, candidates also pursue careers in new industries.

The master's curriculum explores family nurse practice research and methodologies. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. The master's program builds on prior family nurse practitioner experience during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees gain real-world experience through internships offered in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

Sacred Heart University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 64%

Total Online Master's Programs: 4

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $30,427

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $30,427

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#10

Angelo State University

School Information
Location San Angelo, Texas
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 40%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in San Angelo, Texas, Angelo State University hosts a top-rated online family nurse practitioner master's. The master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner program helps graduates increase their salary potential and take on more professional responsibilities. A master's degree helps candidates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on Family Nurse Practitioner. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. The master's program builds on prior family nurse practitioner experience during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Internships and other networking events help graduate students expand their professional network.

Angelo State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 77%

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,059

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,655

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#11

The University of Texas at Arlington

School Information
Location Arlington, Texas
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 51%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Texas at Arlington offers an online family nurse practitioner master's. The registered nurse to master of science in nursing – family nurse practitioner program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. Earning a master's degree can help candidates advance in their current career or pursue a new career path entirely.

The master's curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to family nurse practice. Learners individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. The master's program recommends that applicants bring a registered nurse background for this bridge program.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

The University of Texas at Arlington at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Program Name: Registered Nurse to Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,474

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $21,206

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#12

Concordia University Wisconsin

School Information
Location Mequon, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 64%
Graduation Rate 64%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's degree in family nurse practice at Concordia University Wisconsin, located in Mequon, offers high academic quality. The master of science in nursing - primary care nurse practitioner builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. With a master's degree, candidates also pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of family nurse practice. Learners take specialized courses to stand out in a competitive job market. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in family nurse practice.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with internship opportunities in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

Concordia University Wisconsin at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 64%

Total Online Master's Programs: 25

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing - Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,052

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,052

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#13

The University of Texas at Tyler

School Information
Location Tyler, Texas
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 42%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 62% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in nursing program at The University of Texas at Tyler offers a flexible online format. The master of science in nursing–psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. A master's degree can also lead candidates to new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes current research in psychiatric mental health nursing. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The admission requirements include a background in nursing or a related field.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional connections by attending virtual networking events.

The University of Texas at Tyler at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing–Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,850

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $14,328

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#14

Maryville University

School Information
Location Saint Louis, Missouri
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 71%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Saint Louis, Missouri, Maryville University hosts a top-rated online master's in nursing. The master of science in nursing program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. A master's degree can also train candidates for roles in new industries.

The master's curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to nursing. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The master's program builds on prior nursing experience during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Maryville University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 15

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $14,346

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $14,346

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#15

DeSales University

School Information
Location Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, DeSales University offers an online family nurse practitioner master's. The master of science in nursing and nurse practitioner program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the field. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in nursing. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. Applicants with a family nurse practitioner background typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

DeSales University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 79%

Total Online Master's Programs: 17

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing and Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $20,520

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $20,520

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#16

Regis University

School Information
Location Denver, Colorado
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 64%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Regis University, located in Denver, Colorado, enrolls master's students in its online family nurse practitioner program. Graduates train for leadership roles in the field while earning their degree from the master of science in nursing: family nurse practitioner program. After completing a master's degree, candidates advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in nursing. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. The master's program recommends a background in family nurse practice or a related field when applying.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Graduate students expand their professional connections by attending virtual networking events.

Regis University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 71%

Total Online Master's Programs: 26

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $14,441

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $14,441

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#17

Misericordia University

School Information
Location Dallas, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students seeking an online family nurse practitioner degree can enroll in the master's program at Misericordia University, located in Dallas, Pennsylvania. The master of science in nursing program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for decision-making responsibilities. With a master's degree, candidates also pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in nursing. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. Applicants without a background in nursing may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. Internships and other networking events help graduate students expand their professional network.

Misericordia University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 86%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $34,530

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $34,530

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#18

Bradley University

School Information
Location Peoria, Illinois
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online family nurse practitioner master's degree at Bradley University, located in Peoria, Illinois, offers high academic quality. The master of science in nursing – family nurse practitioner program builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. With a master's degree, candidates advance their current career or more into new career paths.

The master's curriculum explores theoretical and practical perspectives in the field. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. Applicants without a background in nursing may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. The program encourages graduate students to participate in hands-on experiences and networking events to grow their professional connections.

Bradley University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 70%

Total Online Master's Programs: 4

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $16,380

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,380

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#19

The University of Central Missouri

School Information
Location Warrensburg, Missouri
Admission Rate 65%
Graduation Rate 51%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Warrensburg, the University of Central Missouri hosts a top-rated online master's in family nurse practice. Graduates prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner program. A master's degree also helps candidates pursue new career paths.

The master's curriculum explores advanced methodologies and research in family nurse practice. Learners individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. The program encourages applicants to gain family nurse practitioner experience before applying to the program.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to attend networking events to expand their professional connections.

The University of Central Missouri at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 65%

Total Online Master's Programs: 14

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,524

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $15,048

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#20

Cox College

School Information
Location Springfield, Missouri
Admission Rate 39%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The family nurse practitioner master's degree at Cox College, located in Springfield, Missouri, uses a flexible distance learning format. The master of science in nursing program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the field. Earning a master's degree can help candidates advance in their current career or pursue a new career path entirely.

The master's curriculum explores nursing research and methodologies. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The admission requirements include a background in nursing or a related field.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

Cox College at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 39%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,800

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $10,800

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Online Master's in Nurse Practitioner

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

NPs are APRNS who can provide primary care, often without a physician's supervision. They conduct physical assessments, diagnose medical conditions, and — depending on the state — prescribe medication for their patients.

Within the field, NPs usually specialize in areas like pediatrics, family practice, or mental health. They work with patients of all ages, with specialists who provide neonatal care to babies and palliative care to the elderly.

During an online nurse practitioner program, students train in advanced health assessment, evidence-based practice, and primary care. They also complete specialization courses. Online programs also incorporate clinical hours to build practical experience during the master's degree.

Each NP must hold a master's degree to earn state licensure and qualify for board certification. Only accredited online nurse practitioner programs meet licensure and certification requirements.

Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

In addition to NP programs, registered nurses (RNs) can pursue other graduate-level degrees to advance their careers. Nurses considering master's degrees can also enroll in healthcare administration, nursing administration, healthcare management, and healthcare informatics programs. These degrees prepare nurses for leadership roles throughout the healthcare industry.

Attending an online nurse practitioner program is a flexible, accessible way for RNs to advance their careers. During an online program, nursing students engage in a virtual classroom experience, using discussion groups and other online learning technologies to complete their coursework. They also take online exams. However, most online programs still require practicums to help nurses develop medical experience through physical assessment simulations.

Depending on the program, students may meet for classes at set times or complete coursework on their own schedule. Regardless of the format, online programs offer greater flexibility than most on-campus programs. Since online students can arrange their coursework around work responsibilities, these programs are ideal for nursing professionals who intend to continue their careers while pursuing education.

Students in an online nurse practitioner program also gain valuable clinical experience as part of their training. Most programs incorporate a minimum number of clinical hours, which students often arrange locally. Online NP students may also complete on-campus residencies during their degrees to test their clinical skills.

An online learning format also appeals to nurses seeking specialization in a high-demand concentration that local universities may not offer, such as neonatal or psychiatric mental health nursing. Prospective students should note that earning an online degree requires nurses to be highly self-motivated and disciplined.

Choosing an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Evaluating online nurse practitioner programs requires students to consider factors like delivery method, program option, and state licensure requirements. Start by finding programs that offer the appropriate specialization for your career goals and satisfy the licensure requirements for your intended state of practice. Many online MSN programs have practicum or on-campus components that require travel, so that's another important factor to consider.

Finally, consider program lengths, admission requirements, and tuition prices for nonresidents if you plan to study out of state.

For more details on individual schools, nursing candidates should check out our rankings of the best online colleges.

Accreditation for Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees

Prospective students should only attention accredited online nurse practitioner programs — especially those that hold regional accreditation. An accredited college or university has undergone a regular, systematic review of its student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and faculty qualifications. The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain current lists of accredited institutions.

Some schools also hold program-specific accreditation from leading organizations in the field. Nursing programs that follow best practices for educating NPs typically receive accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

An NP must attend an accredited program to earn a license, qualify for board certification, or receive federal financial assistance. Similarly, many employers only hire nurses with accredited degrees. Prospective nursing students should always check for ACEN or CCNE accreditation when researching potential NP master's programs.

What Can I Expect in Pursuing a Nurse Practitioner Degree Online?

Online MSN programs provide training in advanced nursing practices, nursing leadership, and population health. Most programs also offer concentration options, such as pediatrics, family care, and adult-gerontology. These programs also prepare graduates to take certification and licensure exams in their respective specializations.

Common Courses in Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Required coursework in online nurse practitioner programs varies by school and specialization. For instance, the curriculum for a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) program differs from the courses required for a concentration in women's health. Below are a few example courses commonly found in online NP programs.

Nurse Practitioner Concentrations

Concentrations such as family nurse practitioner (FNP), neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP), or psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) prepare advanced practice nurses for specific career paths after graduation. Nursing students must also complete clinical hours in their concentration areas to gain certification.

Family Nurse Practitioner

FNPs are one of the most popular nurse practitioner concentrations. They provide primary care for families. FNP specialists complete coursework in pediatrics and adult care, focusing on health maintenance, preventative care, and acute care. FNPs commonly work in family practice and can often work independently, depending on the state.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

An NNP concentration prepares students to care for newborn babies, often in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In this concentration, nursing students learn common medical conditions, illnesses, and challenges that affect premature newborns, including low birth weight and heart abnormalities. They also study conditions that necessitate a NICU stay after birth.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The PMHNP concentration trains students to assess a patient's mental health needs. Coursework focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders through medication or psychotherapy. PMHNPs can also train to work with groups or communities.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

PNPs work with children from birth through young adulthood. Their training covers health assessment for young patients, well-child exams, and developmental screenings. Coursework also covers treating acute illnesses, disease prevention, health promotion, and educating families on health and wellness.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) concentration prepares learners to care for patients from young adulthood through old age. Students complete coursework on health assessment for adult and elderly patients, common illnesses and diseases, and palliative care. AGNP students may also specialize in subfields, like diabetes care, HIV/AIDS, or cancer.

Licenses and Certifications

After completing an online MSN program, graduates qualify to take a national certification exam through a nurse practitioner certification board. Each organization offers specialization options, such as neonatal, acute care, women's health, and emergency nurse practitioner certifications. Eligibility requirements vary by board and certification, but candidates typically need a valid RN license, an accredited MSN degree, and 500 supervised clinical hours.

Applicants also need relevant training to qualify for a specific specialized certification, along with courses in pharmacology, pathophysiology, and physical assessment. Test details vary by specialization. For example, certified PNP exams have 175 questions and take up to three hours, whereas adult-gerontology acute care exams take slightly longer.

After passing one of the national certification exams, NP candidates must pursue licensure to practice. While the major requirements remain the same, each state has its own minor requirements for licensure. For instance, some states require additional background checks or character references.

Some states also require APRNs to complete collaboration or supervision components before they can run an independent practice. For example, Connecticut requires 3 years or 2,000 hours. Though states do not yet have APRN licensure reciprocity agreements, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) developed an APRN compact model in 2020 to allow multi-state licenses in the future.

Nurse Practitioner Career Info

Completing an online nurse practitioner program equips graduates to enter one of the most in-demand careers in the country. In general, the training leads to many healthcare careers, including those in the list below.

Learners can customize their training and pursue specific career interests through specializations. They should pay close attention to state licensure requirements for each concentration, as they may differ. Readers should also note that salaries vary by specialization and location.

Nurse Practitioner Salary and Job Growth

Median Annual Salary (2019)

Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)

45%

Nurse Practitioner

NPs provide care and health education to patients. Their duties vary by state and specialization, but NPs usually offer patient check-ups, run tests, and design treatment plans. These professionals often need compassion, leadership skills, and strong communication abilities.

An NP needs a valid RN nursing license, a graduate nursing degree, and 500 hours of supervised clinical work to qualify for certification exams. After passing this test, certified candidates can apply for APRN state licensure. Some states may also require an NP to have a collaboration agreement in place with a physician.

Family Nurse Practitioner

FNPs work with families and individuals, evaluating patient health, providing treatment options, and suggesting healthy living strategies. Depending on the state, these professionals may prescribe medication and work independently from physicians. Successful FNPs usually have compassion and excellent interpersonal and critical thinking skills.

To qualify for the FNP national certification exam, candidates need a valid RN nursing license, a graduate degree with an FNP specialization, and 500 supervised clinical practice hours. After passing the exam, candidates can apply for state licensure and begin working with families.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

PMHNPs support patients with mental health challenges, such as behavioral, anxiety, and eating disorders. These specialized NPs conduct regular check-ups, perform and order tests, and administer treatment plans. In this discipline, NPs need patience and resourcefulness.

To practice in this field, NPs first need the PMHNP certification. To qualify for the test, applicants need an active RN license, a graduate nursing degree with a mental health specialization, and a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours. Once they receive certification, candidates can apply for state licensure, which may feature additional requirements.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

PNPs support the health outcomes of children and young adults. They may work in primary care, performing check-ups and providing health maintenance suggestions, or they can work in acute care, providing care for illnesses and injuries. Both fields require professionals with compassion, patience, and problem-solving skills.

Practice in this discipline requires an acute care or primary care PNP certification, such as CPNP-AC or CPNP-PC. Both certifications require candidates to have a valid RN license, a graduate nursing degree with a pediatrics specialization, and at least 500 supervised clinical hours. Once certified, they can apply for state licensure.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

NNPs work with infants, mothers, and families with newborns. They diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries, and complications in children, providing families with support and helpful information. NNPs typically need critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal skills.

NNPs can pursue two major certifications to practice in this field: the NNP certification and a women's health nurse practitioner certification. Both credentials require an active RN license, a graduate degree with a neonatal or women's health specialization, and a minimum of 500 clinical hours to apply. Individuals who successfully pass the certification exam can apply for licensure within their state.

Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

Is an MSN a Nurse Practitioner?

An MSN is a master of science in nursing degree — the minimum education required to become an NP. Once a graduate completes the degree, they must pass an APRN certification exam and apply for state licensure to become an NP.

How Long Does It Take To Go From MSN to NP?

Typically, online MSN programs run for 2-3 years, though some schools offer accelerated or part-time schedules. Graduates then take certification exams, which may require several months of studying. In most cases, candidates can move from online MSN programs into NP careers in 2-4 years.

What Is the Difference Between a Doctor and Nurse Practitioner?

Doctors and NPs have several major differences. Doctors need an average of 11 years of education, compared to 4-8 years for NPs. Doctors can prescribe medications in every state, whereas NPs are limited in some states. Doctors can also pursue more specializations, practice in more settings, and don't require supervision.

Should I Get My MSN or DNP?

Students should consider their career goals when choosing between online MSN programs and DNP degrees. Both online nurse practitioner programs can lead to the same certifications and careers, though DNP graduates tend to pursue leadership positions while MSN graduates often find employment in clinical professions. DNP programs usually run longer and require full-time study schedules.

How Many Years Does It Take To Be a Nurse Practitioner?

After high school, an NP needs to complete a four-year bachelor's degree, a two-year MSN program, certification, and licensure. Most students complete this process in 6-8 years.

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