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MSN Online Degree Programs: The Top Programs Available

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Masters of Science in Nursing, or MSN, enjoys great popularity across the globe because of the ever-increasing demand for nursing professionals. This profession needs people who want to help others and find rewarding and fulfilling work. Let’s learn more about becoming an experienced nurse, the education required, and the top accredited MSN programs.

What is a MSN Online Degree Program?

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is an educational degree that allows Registered Nurses (RNs) or undergraduates to further their careers via advanced practical and theoretical knowledge. Students of this program specialize in several areas to advance their professional skills through intense practical and educational courses.

Most MSN programs take one to two years to complete, but some may take up to three years, depending on the educational requirements and course outline. Students can also undertake this program part-time or put the first academic year to use to introduce themselves to the general concepts of nursing. However, those intending to pursue doctorate studies in nursing need to attain an MSN degree first.

Accredited MSN programs offer students a wide range of specializations and versatile career paths. Although these specializations share a similar curriculum, they all have a career-specific approach when helping students develop professional skills.

Popular MSN Degree Specializations:

  • Mental Health specialization offers practical courses on how to provide medical care and emotional support to individuals suffering from various mental health complications. This specialization is one of the most common nowadays due to the increasing need for mental health professionals.
  • Disability Studies equip students with the necessary skills to support and provide services to differently-abled adults and children.
  • Nurse Midwife studies help women with family planning, prenatal care, medical checkups, and giving birth safely.
  • Nursing Education/Educator programs allow students to become better nurses through mentorship, assignments, evaluation, and lesson plans.
  • Nurse Anesthesia is a wide-ranging specialization that allows dentists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals to prepare and administer anesthesia.
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners care and treat adults from later adulthood to end of life.
  • Nurse Administrators’ primary role is to manage a team of nurses. In any given healthcare setting, they are integral management team members.
  • Nursing Informatics integrates nursing with information and analytical sciences. It is used to identify, define, manage, and communicate knowledge, data, and information in nursing.
  • A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing. They can assess, diagnose, and treat patients. Because of their advanced education, they often are in healthcare management or research.
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners treat patients with mental health challenges. They educate patients and families about their diagnosis and treatment plans.
  • Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP) provide continuing and comprehensive healthcare for individuals and the whole family regardless of age, gender, or medical issue.
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) provide care to those suffering from an acute or sudden injury or illness. They also care for patients with chronic diseases that experience a sudden change in their condition.

How Credible is a MSN Online Degree Program?

There was a social stigma surrounding online degrees, but that is no longer the case in today’s digital world. Online degrees are becoming mainstream, and both licensing bodies and employers widely accept them.

Hence, accredited online Master’s in Nursing degrees are highly credible and have become quite common across the United States. As long as your degree has accreditation from one of the regulatory bodies like CCNE, it meets the highest standards among nursing schools around the US.

Online MSN degrees are as flexible as they are credible. They offer flexible scheduling, the freedom to learn at the desired pace, can be undertaken by working nurses, and are considerably cheaper than on-campus programs.

Moreover, students can opt for synchronous or asynchronous classes, depending on whichever delivery format suits their schedule and learning style.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a MSN Online Degree Program?

A standard MSN program usually consists of 36-42 credits hours, which takes about two years to complete for students who undertake it full-time.

Applicants should have a competitive GPA and at least one year of work experience as a registered nurse. However, an MSN degree usually takes different amounts of time depending upon your prior education, work experience, or area of specialization.

Most commonly, students intending to attain an MSN degree are those with a BSN degree. It usually takes them one to two years to complete this program. In contrast, Registered Nurses (RN) looking to attain an MSN degree require about three years for degree completion.

However, some RN to MSN courses only accept students with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). Students with a bachelor’s degree unrelated to nursing opt for the regular bachelor’s to an MSN program, which takes about one to two years for completion. But, students might need to take extra credits to cover Nursing Fundamentals.

Many universities also offer an accelerated MSN program. It is the right fit for students looking to attain a BSN and MSN degree in a limited amount of time. These programs take about 12-36 months to complete and are also available online/off-campus.

Nursing Career Outlook and Expected Salary

With the baby boomers reaching 65 years of age by 2030, demand for jobs requiring a Master’s in nursing should undergo substantial growth. Presently, 85% of older adults suffer from at least one chronic health condition, and about 60% suffer from two such diseases.

Research predicts that the demand for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists will increase by 45% between 2020 and 2030, translating to about 121,400 new jobs. This growth rate is much higher than the projected average growth rate for all US occupations, which comes up to about 8%.

In addition, the demand for nurse practitioners individually is expected to increase about 52%, and that of Registered Nurses about 9%. The increasing market for nurse practitioners also owes to the shortage of physicians across the United States.

The salary and compensation of nurses depend significantly on:

  • The professional work settings
  • Educational background
  • Years of experience
  • Areas of specialization

Nurses working in outpatient care centers typically have higher salaries than those working in educational services or physician offices.

Registered nurses who become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) earn a handsome annual salary of about $117,670, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) statistics from May 2020.

The BLS also predicts APRNs to undergo an exponential job growth of 45% between 2020 and 2030. In contrast, graduates of two-year associate programs can earn an annual salary of $71,000, making it one of the highest-paid associate degrees. Those with a BSN degree have an average yearly salary of $87,000, according to PayScale statistics from September 2021. Attaining an MSN degree opens new professional avenues and paves the way for higher-paying jobs.

Related Resource: 13 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs

How To Choose An Online Nursing Program – 7 Things To Consider

1. Accreditation

Choosing an accredited online program holds immense significance. Accredited online programs have a curriculum evaluated, screened, and approved by a third party, which provides students with peace of mind and satisfies the admission requirements of licensing and advanced degrees.

Regional accreditation is the most critical accreditation at institutional levels. Most schools do not approve credit transfers from regionally accredited schools. In addition, all licensure and certification exams have the prerequisite of graduation from an accredited school. Therefore, you can opt for online Nursing programs with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accreditation.

Related Resource: Online Nursing Schools with ACEN Accreditation: The Top 60

2. Certification Exam Pass Rates

Before enrolling, it is pivotal to look into an institution’s certification exam pass rates. It gives you an idea of a program’s licensure exam preparation efficiency. Pass rates for the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN exams are available on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website.

Even if you already hold an RN license, choosing a program with high NCLEX-RN pass rates may better prepare you for the workplace environment.

3. Tuition Cost

Tuition cost per credit is one of the most crucial aspects to consider before choosing an online Nursing program. Public colleges and universities typically cost less than private schools. Similarly, in-state tuition rates are considerably lower than out-of-state rates. However, some institutions charge the same in-state tuition rates to all online students.

4. Program Format

When choosing an online Nursing program, it is significant to look into whether it offers asynchronous or synchronous classes. Synchronous programs have pre-decided class timings, whereas asynchronous programs provide greater flexibility, allowing students to take courses according to their schedules. It is also vital to decide if you want to undertake a part-time or full-time program.

5. Location of School

Most nursing programs necessitate some in-person practical courses or assignments. Therefore, choosing a school closer to where you live can conveniently fulfill such requirements. Location can also affect your transportation and tuition costs.

6. Clinical Experience

When taking an online MSN program, look into the clinical requirements and determine if you can complete any requirements locally before enrolling. This step is crucial if you reside far away from your school, and overlooking it can have negative consequences in the future. Some online nursing programs do not aid students in finding clinical placements depending upon their specialty and area of residence.

7. Student Support

Many schools offer support services such as advising, tutoring, internships, mentorship opportunities, and career services in the same way to online students as offered to on-campus students.

A school with an active alumni network and responsive support services is a great choice, as it gives you more control over your academic goals.

Best CCNE-Accredited Online MSN Programs

Appalachian State University

Tuition per credit: $304 in state and $1,138 out of state
Graduation Requirement: 39 credits

Appalachian State University has an online MSN degree that prepares students for leadership, education, and research roles. Appalachian State University is a SACSCOC accredited school, and the Commission accredits its MSN program on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students can finish this program in 24 months, and the NCLEX-RN Pass Rate for this institution is 100%.

In addition, students can undertake part-time courses, which focus on methodology-based nursing practice via simulation training. Admission requirements for this program include; specialized nursing accredited BSN degree or a diploma or associate degree in nursing along with any other undergraduate degree.

Other requirements include:

  • 3.5 GPA or more
  • 12 months or more of nursing experience
  • An unencumbered RN license.
  • Completion of a statistics prerequisite course
View More about Appalachian State University

Florida Atlantic University (FAU)

Tuition per credit: $372 in-state and $1,027 out of state.
Graduation Requirements: 33 credits

The Florida Atlantic University is a SACSCOC accredited school that offers an online MSN program with hybrid learning options and flexibility in enrollment. Students must complete 33 credits to graduate. Moreover, FAU’s MSN program is CCNE accredited, and the NCLEX-RN pass rate for this institution is 92%.

Students can choose from seven concentrations: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric- mental health nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nursing administration and financial leadership, advanced holistic nursing, adult/gerontological nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse leader.

Admission requirements for this program include:

  • A regionally and programmatically accredited BSN degree,
  • 3.0 or more GPA over the final 60 baccalaureate credits, statistics, and nursing research prerequisites.
View More about Florida Atlantic University

California State University (CSUDH) – Dominguez Hills

Tuition per credit: Variable based on program
Graduation Requirements: 30-48 credits

The California State University is a WSCUC accredited public school that offers an online MSN program with CCNE accreditation. This program offers six concentrations: family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse administrator, clinical nurse specialist-neonatal, clinical nurse specialist-pediatric, and clinical nurse specialist-adult/gerontology.

Admission requirements include:

  • A BSN degree with specialized nursing accreditation from a regionally accredited institution
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Statistics and research prerequisites
  • Unencumbered RN license in the United States
  • Recent nursing experience
View More about California State University - Dominguez Hills

New Mexico State University – Main Campus

Tuition per credit: $412
Graduation Requirements: 32 credits

New Mexico State University offers a CCNE accredited online MSN program at their main campus. It enables students to prosper in careers related to leadership and nursing administration. In addition, there are part-time and full-time options available, and 32 credits are required to graduate. Coursework for this program focuses on health policy, advanced leadership in healthcare, and evidence-based practice for healthcare leaders, along with a fieldwork component. NMS U’s NCLEX-RN pass rate comes up to 81.9%. Students can graduate within 24-36 months.

Admission requirements include:

  • A BSN degree
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Unencumbered RN license in the United States
  • An undergraduate or graduate-level statistics prerequisite course
View More about New Mexico State University

University of Central Florida (UCF)

Tuition: $327 in-state and $1,152 out of state
Graduation Requirements: 31-36 credits

The University of Central Florida is a SACSCOC accredited school with a 97% NCLEX-RN pass rate. It offers a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredited online MSN program with the choice of three tracks: nursing and healthcare simulation, nursing leadership and management, and nurse educator.

The curriculum focused on evidence-based practice, nursing education and research, and critical thinking. Applicants to this program should have; an RN license, a BSN degree or a diploma or an associate degree in nursing, and an undergraduate degree.

View More about University of Central Florida

McNeese State University

Graduation Requirement: 35-46 credits

The McNeese State University is a SACSCOC accredited school. It offers an online Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredited MSN degree with three concentrations: nursing education, psychiatric- mental health nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner. The psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program is only available online.

Admission requirements for this program include a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree, minimum 2.0 GPA for all undergraduate coursework, minimum 2.75 GPA for all upper-division coursework, and a good reputation in the last-attended institution.

Plus, they can choose between a focused scholarly project or a thesis. The school does not have any on-campus requirements.

View More about McNeese State University

Indiana University – Purdue University

Tuition per credit: $616 in-state and $1,632 out of state
Graduation Requirement: 42-43 credits

IUPUI’s MSN program (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredited) is offered online and hybrid course options and nine tracks. Students have the choice to opt for anyone from those related to nursing leadership, family practice, psychiatric-mental health clinical specialties, pediatric, adult-gerontological, or nursing education. NCLEX-RN rate for this HLC accredited school is 93.4%.

Admission requirements for this program include:

  • Specialized nursing accredited BSN degree
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • An active and unencumbered RN license
  • RN experience for those applying to a clinical MSN track

Utah Valley University (UVU)

Tuition per credit: $301 in-state and $909 out of state
Graduation Requirement: 34-37 credits

Utah Valley University is an NWCCU accredited school that offers an online MSN program with a nursing education focus. This program provides part-time and full-time enrollment options that take four semesters to complete. Each semester culminates in a project or thesis. Coursework focuses on several areas, including curriculum design and development, advanced nursing theory, and leadership development. UVU has a 95.89% NCLEX-RN pass rate and no on-campus requirements.

This program is ACEN accredited and includes a teaching practicum requirement. Admission requirements may include:

  • Specialized nursing accredited Bachelor’s degree in Nursing
  • Minimum 3.2 undergraduate GPA
  • Active RN license or RN eligibility in Utah
  • Descriptive and inferential statistics prerequisites
View More about Utah Valley University

The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM)

Tuition per credit: $500
Graduation Requirement: 38-40

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a SACSCOC accredited school. It offers an online Master’s of Science in Nursing (certified by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) through the College of Health Sciences and the Kitty DeGree School of Nursing. The program offers gerontological clinical nurse leader concentrations, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.

Admission requirements include:

  • Specialized nursing accredited Bachelor’s degree
  • GPA of at least 2.8
  • Unencumbered RN license
  • Minimum of two years of RN experience

Conditional admission consideration is available for students with GPAs below 2.8, provided they take the GRE. Students opting for practitioner concentration must reside and hold an RN licensure in Louisiana.

View More about The University of Louisiana at Monroe

Georgetown University

Tuition per credit: $2,278
Graduation Requirement: 40-49 credits

Georgetown University is a private, MSCHE accredited school that offers online MSN programs (accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) in four nursing specialties. These specialties include nurse-midwifery women’s health nurse practitioner, women’s health nurse practitioner, adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.

Each of these concentrations includes online and hybrid options, along with a clinical field experience. The program length is about 23-27 months.

Admission requirements include:

  • US citizenship or permanent residency
  • An RN license
  • Specialized nursing accredited BSN degree
  • A minimum 3.0 GPA

Applicants must also satisfy prerequisite coursework in statistics, and some specialties also necessitate specific RN experience for admission.

View More about Georgetown University

Benefits of a MSN Online Degree Program

Being a nurse can be an excellent career option for people who want to serve the community. And there are nursing programs at many universities across the United States. You can take these programs as online, on-campus, or hybrid programs. In addition, nursing students benefit from several ways to pay for nursing school. Several organizations offer many nursing scholarships and grant money. Many hospitals also have tuition remission programs, especially for staff intending to go back to school.

This career also offers incredible benefits, such as:

  • Paid family leave, holidays and vacation, and sick leave
  • Subsidized health
  • Childcare
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement benefits
  • Bonuses for extra shifts or shifts when understaffed
  • Numerous wellness programs

Final Thoughts – Best MSN Online Degree Programs in 2022

Attaining an MSN degree is an incredible way to advance your nursing education and upgrade to a better-paying job with flexible hours. An online MSN program can be completed while working, an essential factor to consider for employed nurses.

Many reputed universities with over 95% NCLEX-RN pass rate offer this program online, and you can choose one as per your convenience, area of residence, and financial situation.

If you have a passion for serving people, have good communication skills and patience, and are looking for a rewarding career, a nursing career is an excellent fit for you! For more information, head over to and start searching for your online MSN today!

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Question: What does MSN stand for?
Answer: MSN stands for Master’s of Science in Nursing.

Question: Can I get an MSN fully online?
Answer: Yes, many universities offer fully online MSN programs. Since some online programs also have some on-campus requirements, it is essential to check with the school beforehand to avoid confusion.

Question: Is nursing a rewarding profession?
Answer: Nursing is both an emotionally and financially rewarding profession. Nurses help people emotionally and physically taxing times and earn high salaries and professional respect.

Question: Can I become a nurse practitioner with an MSN degree?
Answer: All individuals with an MSN degree are not nurse practitioners. The nurse practitioner is instead an MSN specialty. You need to complete an MSN program with a nurse practitioner concentration to become one.