Nurse practitioners are the new heroes of our medical system, and online nurse practitioner programs are making it easier than ever to get certified while you continue to work as an RN. It’s no secret that there is a shortage of doctors, especially in primary and acute care, and nurse practitioners are the highly trained nursing staff who can perform many direct patient care tasks to care for the sick and injured. With the US’s health care needs rising, you can be part of the solution by becoming a nurse practitioner. Read on to discover some of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs in the United States to progress your career without spending more than you need to.
Popular Online NP Degrees
- Grand Canyon University Master of Science in Nursing / Acute Care Nurse Practitioner / Adult Gerontology
- Purdue University Global Master of Science in Nursing / Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Frostburg State University Master of Science in Nursing / Family Nurse Practitioner
Who Becomes a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are the backbone of our current healthcare system. Skyrocketing demand and great pay are fueling interest in the the nurse practitioner (NP) field, especially in rural areas. As an NP, you’ll work with patients all day long. You’ll assess their health statuses, develop a treatment plan for unwell patients, and follow up to ensure the treatment is working. You may work with other medical professionals if your patient’s treatment requires it.
Most people who embark on the training to become a nurse practitioner (NP) are already registered nurses (RNs) who want to be able to provide more skilled care. Not only are NPs in high demand, with employment in the field expected to surge 26% between 2018-2028, but the median pay for this job category is very healthy, at $103,930 per year. Becoming a nurse practitioner is a terrific way to help your community and enjoy a great career with a high salary.
Online Nurse Practitioner Programs: Choosing the Right Program
The pathway to becoming an NP is much shorter than that of a physician, with only about six years of education required to sit for the licensure exam. Most NPs get a Master of Science in Nursing in one of the specialties of the NP field, which typically takes two years of full time study beyond the bachelor’s degree. With the rise of online nurse practitioner programs, it has become much easier for RNs to upgrade their education while continuing to work in nursing. For those who are licensed RNs with an associate’s degree or nursing diploma, there are bridge programs to help transition their education to meet the nurse practitioner school requirements. For RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject, there may be a need to complete a few prerequisites before starting on the nurse practitioner curriculum, but many schools will accept RNs who don’t hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Another option is to become a nurse practitioner by getting a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, which takes a bit longer than getting an MSN. There is currently little difference in salaries or duties between NPs who hold an MSN and those who have the DNP, but there is a trend toward higher educational requirements for many in the healthcare field. If you want to get to work as a nurse practitioner in the quickest way possible, it makes sense to go ahead and get the MSN and consider upgrading to the DPN later if it is required. However, if you want to get the whole training done and have the highest level of education for this profession, you may want to go ahead and check out the best DNP programs here.
There are so many online NP programs that it can seem difficult to choose the right one. Generally, there are four major considerations when you are choosing an online nurse practitioner program: length of the program, cost, on-campus visits required, and meeting licensure requirements for your state.
How Long is an Online Nurse Practitioner Program?
Nurse practitioners are considered Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) because they require an advanced clinical education, knowledge, skills, and scope of practice. In order to validate these advanced skills and knowledge to employers, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement before students pursue their specialized certifications.
After completing a bachelor’s degree, you may have to work as a nurse in a hospital or doctor’s office for a year or two before entering a formal online nurse practitioner master’s program. You may also need a specialty online certificate at the graduate level if you wish to work in a certain field, like pediatrics or geriatrics.
In some states, nurse practitioners do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor, as a physician assistant would have to do. As such, you could work in a hospital or in an outpatient setting, doing many of the same tasks that a doctor would. You could work for a doctor’s office or perform home visits in a rural community. You could also work for a school, nursing home, or care facility.
Many online nurse practitioner programs have the option to complete the degree in about two years if you can devote significant time to classes and practice hours. But many online NP programs also have the option to complete the degree more slowly so you can continue in your current job and attend to your family, with these programs taking typically about three years, although some will allow you to spread your courses over as long as six years. Another time consideration for your online np program can be whether you can do your studying at any time of day (asynchronous) or if you will need to log on at a certain time to attend class sessions with your peers (synchronous). Look for a program that will fit in with your life and your goals, whether the fast or slow route is best for your next career step.
How Much Does it Cost to be a Nurse Practitioner?
Costs for online NP programs can vary wildly, with some offering low tuition and the possibility to transfer some credits to make your education even less expensive. Other nurse practitioner online programs may have higher tuition costs, but other benefits such as exceptional faculty members and extremely high pass rates on the national exam needed to get your license. But there are also some great bargains out there for schools with excellent programs and low tuition costs.
The cheapest online nurse practitioner programs will offer a price of around $500 per credit, and with the normal program running between 44-51 credits, you can expect to spend around $24,000 if you factor in the other fees and expenses for your whole program. The most expensive programs are around $1,400 per credit, which could mean your degree could cost upwards of $65,000 when you consider all the factors.
Besides comparing tuition costs between the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs, there are other ways to reduce your costs, such as veteran and military benefits. Many schools offer a discounted tuition price and the option to use benefits provided by your branch of the service. You may also find scholarships or perhaps your employer will pay all or part of your schooling to get you prepared to take on more responsibilities. In addition, you may qualify for transfer credits from other educational, military, or work experience you have, which can lower both your costs and your time to complete your NP degree.
What is Going to an Online Nurse Practitioner School Like?
Many—but not all—NP programs online require some short on-campus learning experiences. While visiting the campus one or two times for a few days to get an immersion experience may not be that big a deal, it is another cost and scheduling consideration for you as you choose an online NP program. Some programs require one or more in-person intensives per semester, so it is important to factor the costs in time and money into your overall plan if you choose a school with high on-campus requirements. The average program will require between one and three brief campus visits over the course of the whole program, though some will have no in-person coursework. If traveling is simply not an option in your life, look for one of the programs that requires no campus visits.
You can expect that your nurse practitioner school requirements will be challenging, with intense coursework, required supervised practice hours, and then, to top it all off, you will need to pass the national exam to become licensed in your state. Make sure that the program you choose will meet the requirements for the state you want to practice in as an NP: you can get this information from your state board of nursing and sometimes from the online nurse practitioner program you are considering.
There are a few different organizations that offer national exams in different specialty areas for nurse practitioners which are recognized by state licensing boards. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) offers three exams: Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Adult-gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPC-NP). The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers numerous tests for NP specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-BC), Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (AGACNP-BC), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care (AGPCNP-BC), and Psychiatric-Mental Health (PMHNP-BC). The American Association of Critical Care Nurses offers four exams: Adult-Gerontology (ACCNS-AG), Pediatric (ACCNS-P), Neonatal (ACCNS-N), and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (ACNP-AG). The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers two exams: Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (CPNP-PC) and Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC). The National Certification Corporation offers two exams: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP-BC) and Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC).
How to Choose an Online NP Program Specialty
To become licensed as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), you must pass one of the exams and meet all the other licensure requirements for your state board of nursing. To do this, you have to choose which area you want to practice in and then, you have to pick from the best online np programs for that specialty. The most general NP practice concentration is the Family NP, which allows you to work with all ages and populations, across the lifespan. The Adult-Gerontology area—whether acute or primary care—works with people from the age of 12 all the way through elder years, so it is also a broad specialty. For those who want to specialize in working with children or babies, the Pediatric specialty—either acute or primary care—or the
Neonatal specialty would be for you. If you are interested in working in an emergency room or acute care setting, you might consider the newer Emergency Nurse Practitioner specialty. To work in women’s health, the specialty in Women’s Health Care would be the best choice. Finally, if you are thinking about working in mental health, which can include substance abuse, then the Psychiatric-Mental Health specialty is where you will want to focus.
Choosing your specialty, if you know exactly what type of online nurse practitioner programs you are looking for, can be simple. However, not everyone knows what they want to specialize in right at the start. In that case, the best idea may be to choose one of the more general NP areas of specialty, like Family or Adult-Gerontology. It is possible to later add on just a certification course in a more focused specialty area like mental health or pediatric after you have been practicing for a while.
24 Cheapest Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
Let’s look at your many great online NP program choices to set you on a terrific career track. Each of these programs is available at least 80% online (many 100% online!) and are some of the cheapest online nursing practitioner programs. Each program listed here costs no more than $49,000 and as little as $16,000.
1. Frostburg State University
In-state cost: $15,873
Frostburg State University cinches the number slot on our list of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs. For aspiring Nurse Practitioners, Frostburg State offers two online MSN tracks: Family or Psychiatric & Mental Health. The programs have an on-campus orientation required, then an average of two campus visits per semester, while 90-95% of the work is online. Clinical hours can be completed in the students home area, and rural RNs who will continue to work in their underserved communities are especially encouraged to apply. For the PMHNP program, one of those two years must be in a mental health setting. Entry is for fall only, and students can choose full time or part time enrollment, but all will need to attend classes in the fall, spring, and summer terms. FNP students can complete the program in 6 semesters full time, 10 part time. PMHNP students can complete in 7 semesters full time or 13 part time.
2. Indiana University – Purdue University – Fort Wayne
In-state / out-of-state cost: $17,105
Hurry to get a spot for the online MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner program from Indiana University College of Nursing—the application deadline for this program is Jan 15th for fall entrance. This 43-credit program can be completed in two years full time or three years part time, with the core classes online only, practice courses taught in a hybrid format, and just one distance live (synchronous) course required. Clinical hours will need to be performed in Indiana, and in-state tuition is a real bargain. Tuition for the surrounding Midwest consortium residents is a bit higher, while out of state students will pay almost triple the in-state rate. On-campus visits are required about two times per month. This is a great program for those in the Midwest or who may move to that area.
3. Columbus State University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $18,316
The 100% online and asynchronous MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner from Columbus State University requires no campus visits—it is completely flexible around your schedule. Students from most, but not all states, can enroll in this bargain-priced accredited program. With 44 credits of work in addition to practice hours, the program can be completed in two years. The program used to be offered as part of the Georgia Intercollegiate Consortium for Graduate Nursing Education, but though the program remains the same, it is reapplying for accreditation. While keeping the same program, students can be assured that this is a solid (and very affordable) online NP program.
4. Midwestern State University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $18,931
At Midwestern Stat University, there are two pathways for an online MSN in Nurse Practitioner: Family NP or Psychiatric Mental Health NP. The FNP program boasts 100% pass rates on the national exam for the last five years and admits students only for the fall term. Both programs require one or two campus visits per semester during clinical courses. The programs each have 48 credits of coursework mostly online. Admission requires an RN license in both the state the student will practice in and a Texas RN license. For those who already have an MSN, these programs are also offered as post-master’s certificate programs. Boasting a low tuition price for a solid program, Midwestern State is a great choice for those seeking to limit their costs while getting their NP MSN.
5. Clayton State University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $19,323
The online MSN in Family NP from Clayton Stat University requires a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, an undergraduate pharmacology course with a grade of “B” or higher, GRE scores, and a Georgia RN license for admittance. Students are admitted for a fall term start date and tuition is very affordable for this 100% online program. Each class will have some synchronous online portions so that students get to know faculty and peers in real time while retaining the flexibility of distance education. Full time students can complete in two years, but part time students may take up to six years if they choose. This program is a good choice for those who thrive on some real-time interaction to succeed but also want to make sure they are enrolling in one of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs in the US.
6. Indiana State University
In-state cost: $19,688
The online Family Nurse Practitioner MSN program from Indiana State University is 100% online with no required campus visits. The program is available to residents of most US states and territories and Canadian provinces, as well as military students with APO/FPO addresses, but not others residing internationally. Tuition for Indiana and Midwestern Consortium students is very affordable, with a somewhat higher tuition for other out-of-state students. Most students complete the program in a little less than three years part time, and there is a maximum of five years allowed. Indiana State only accepts students with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and they prefer, but do not require, extensive nursing work experience.
7. Troy University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $23,218
Students who want to attend Troy University’s 100% online MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner program full time can begin in the fall semester, while part time students can start in the fall, spring or summer terms. The online program is 47 credits, has 16-week semesters, and offers a very low tuition rate. The program is available as a post-master’s online certificate for those with an MSN. For a very affordable and flexible online program for the MSN, the Troy University FNP program is a winner. Check with the program coordinator to make sure that it is available in your state, as every state has its own approval process.
8. Northern Arizona University
In-state cost: $23,936
Designed to train nurses planning to practice in rural areas, the affordable online MSN in Family NP program at northern Arizona University admits practicing RNs with a BSN degree for summer or fall start dates. No exams are required for application, but undergraduate statistics and research courses are required. A minimum of three to five years of practice experience is preferred for admission. The program is 100% online and requires students to either hold or be eligible to apply for an Arizona nursing license. For those aspiring to practice primary care in a rural setting, this program is a great choice.
9. Frontier Nursing University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $26,260 – $28,520
It is easy to take your online MSN in Nursing Practice at Frontier Nursing University, and then, if you choose, take the option to add 19 credits on to get your DNP. Students can study full or part time, and only two short on-campus visits are required. The practice specialties offered are Family, Women’s Health Care, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. With a thoughtfully designed curriculum that integrates many of the requirements for the DNP, this program allows you a faster track, now or later, to the upgraded credential that is increasingly in demand. Frontier offers one of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs and start dates are four times per year.
10. Saint Joseph’s College of Maine
In-state / out-of-state cost: $28,779
If you want to get your online MSN in Nursing Practice at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, you can choose either Family or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care specialty areas. The FNP is 100% online, while the AGAC-NP will require just one short on-campus skills session. There is no application fee and students can take between two and five years to complete the degree, depending on their schedule. There are four possible start dates per year, with the year divided into 12-week terms. Both programs are 48 hours long, and students from most US states and internationally are eligible to apply to this school offering one of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs.
11. Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
In-state / out-of-state cost: $29,151
The program is both accelerated and one of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs. This program is ideal for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree . It’s is a great boon for nurses who wish to speed through to get the online MSN in Nurse Practitioner specialties at Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing. Practice areas are Family NP, Neonatal NP, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, and Psychiatric Mental Health NP. Courses are online with one campus visit required for each clinical course. Admission only requires a 2.8 undergraduate GPA, and one year of professional nursing is preferred, though the NNP requires two years of NICU work and the PMHNP require one year of work in a mental health setting. The programs require four years for completion, except for the NNP, which can be completed in three years.
12. Clarkson College
In-state / out-of-state cost: $29,375
Clarkson College’s online MSN in Nurse Practitioner offers part or full time study in either Family, Adult Gerontology Acute Care, or Psychiatric Mental Health NP specializations. Coursework is completely online, but a few short campus visits are required for the NP programs. With 47-51 credits in each specialty, full time students can finish in two-and-a-half years, and while the program allows part timers to take up to sever years to complete, most students finish in about three years. The programs boast national exam first time pass rates of 100% on the most recent year, with student scores averaging higher than the national average.
13. Sacred Heart University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $29,600
One of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs, this MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner from Sacred Heart University can be completed in two years full time, or three to six years part time, depending on a student’s schedule needs. This flexible program has six terms per year, 16-week long courses, and three start dates per year, but allows students to go at their own pace and skip a semester to attend to work or family responsibilities. Geared for working RNs, this program has completely asynchronous online courses, but students residing in New York State or Connecticut will need to travel to clinical placements outside those two states.
14. Spring Arbor University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $33,250
Spring Arbor University offers a Christ-centered philosophy in the online MSN in Nurse Practitioner. Available in the Family NP or Adult Gerontology Primary Care specialties, these programs allow RNs to continue working while balancing an online program with no set login times. Quick start times with no exam required for admission and 7-week classes with a one-week break between them offer a manageable and flexible program. Students can complete the program in as little as 24 months, and there is also a bridge program for RNs who do not have a BSN. Exam pass rates are 88% for first attempts, and 100% for those who retook the exam.
15. South University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $33,310
South University’s online MSN in Nurse Practitioner offers both a bridge program, for those with an RN but not a BSN, and a regular MSN for those who have their undergraduate nursing degree. Practice specialties include Family and Adult Gerontology Primary Care. Both programs offer 56 credits of coursework, as well as practice hours fulfilled in the student’s home area. Students will be required to take the Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA) 3P online exam to test competency in patient assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology before beginning their clinical hours. They will also take an APEA exam to measure patient management skills. The tuition is very affordable for this program, so a good bargain for those who want to get their online MSN to become an advanced practice nurse.
16. Maryville University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $35,221
There are five concentrations available for the online MSN in Nurse Practitioner at Maryville University: Family, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Psychiatric Mental Health, or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. This 100% online program has no required campus courses and no exams or statistics courses are required for admission. Students can complete the program in their chosen specialty in as little as 24 months fully online, which includes 580 hours of clinical practice. The program boasts experienced faculty, six entry points per year, flexible scheduling, and is a terrific choice for those who want to follow one of these paths to upgrade their healthcare practice capabilities.
17. Purdue University Global
In-state / out-of-state cost: $37,305
With all three of the most popular practice specialties offered online, Purdue University Global’s online MSN in Nurse Practitioner program offers Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, and Family Nurse Practitioner specialties. The program is a bargain with some of the lowest tuition pricing for this degree, and additional discounts for military members and their spouses, Indiana residents, and even a 25% discount for international students residing out of the country. Additionally, there are start dates available almost every month, short 10-week classes, and an accelerated track for students who want to complete their core courses more quickly. Note that not all these programs are available to residents of all states or international students, so check the website. Coursework is online, but most students will be required to come to campus for short in-person residency classes. Purdue allows for transfer credits for many types of educational or job experience. The most recent test scores show a 92% pass rate for students.
18. Boise State University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $37,500
With Adult Gerontology Acute Care or Primary Care specializations, the online MSN in Nurse Practitioner program at Boise State boasts 97% pass rates on the national exam. Out-of-state students pay no extra tuition or fees, and there are no preceptor fees. Travel to Boise for three summer intensives is required. The program operates on the cohort model, so students will all enter the program in January and continue through with the same set of peers. Admission requires one year of practice in a critical care environment for the Acute Care specialty, and prefers one year of direct patient practice for the Primary Care specialty.
19. University of Mobile
In-state / out-of-state cost: $37,745
The faith-based online MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner from University of Mobile offers students online courses with only one on-campus visit required each semester. Students must have a BSN and a prerequisite course in statistics to apply. Designed to be completed in just over a year of study including one summer semester, this can be a very affordable and quick path to the NP. International students are welcome, as long as they can obtain a nursing license to practice in the state where they will perform their clinical practice hours. The program is not open to students in New York, Colorado, or Louisiana.
20. Graceland University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $39,075
There are two tracks available for Graceland University’s affordable online MSN in Nursing Practice: Family or Adult Gerontology Acute Care. Geared towards working RNs, the program is mostly online with students able to perform their clinical hours in their home community in the US, the US Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico. A two-day on-campus focus session is required, but the rest of the degree is completely distance education. The program is offered in 16-week trimesters and runs on the cohort model, with full time students completing the program in eight trimesters, while part time students will finish in 12 trimesters. The program is great for those who work best with a group of peers to cheer them through their program.
21. Walden University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $39,160
Walden University’s online MSN offers four different areas for those who want to be Nurse Practitioners: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Walden has a path for those who need to go from RN-MSN or BSN-MSN, and all the Walden faculty have doctorates. The degree is 100% online with many convenient start-dates, the option to transfer in some credits, and there are practicum coordinators to help you arrange your practice requirements near your home. With a large nursing program, Walden has a chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, which can be a great way to network.
22. Seton Hall University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $40,088
Seton Hall University’s online MSN in Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner offers two tracks of specialization: acute care or primary care. The 48-credit program can be completed in three to four years, with three on-campus immersion experiences to work directly with faculty. This high-quality program boasts a 98% pass rate on the exam, and requires a 3.2 undergraduate GPA for admission to the Acute Care pathway, 3.0 for the Primary Care specialty. All online courses are asynchronous so students can complete assignments around work and family commitments. Tuition is a on the higher side, but the high exam pass rates attest to the quality of the program. Seton Hall also offers the online MSN in Pediatric Primary Care NP, but they are currently revamping the program in pediatric acute care.
23. Loyola University New Orleans
In-state / out-of-state cost: $45,347
Loyola University in New Orleans offers the online MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner is 100% online with no on-campus requirement, 48 credits and requires 780 practice hours. Students can complete the program in under three years, and have the option to strengthen their skills in statistics and data management or science writing with optional elective courses. There is no application fee and potential students in this program must have extensive recent direct patient care experience to apply. The program has separate educational pathways for applicants who have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or a nursing associates or diploma that allows them to catch up to their BSN peers.
24. Drexel University
In-state / out-of-state cost: $48,880
Drexel University’s online MSN in Nursing Practice offer a wide selection of specialty tracks: Family, Adult Gerontology Primary Care, Adult Gerontology Acute Care, Pediatric Acute Care, Pediatric Primary Care, Psychiatric Mental Health, Women’s Health/Gender, and the dual degree in Pediatric Primary/Pediatric Acute Care. All these programs require students to attend a live online 3-hour lesson each week of class for interaction with faculty and peers, and then to come to one to three short on-campus experiences during their training. Some of the programs recommend or require PA nurse licensure, and for students who reside in NY or Washington, there are some restrictions. Most also require some nursing practice prior to enrollment, but it varies in type and length. A fall start date, multiple specialty choices and high-quality education are all a part of the Drexel online MSN NP program.
Choosing the Best Online NP Program for Your Future
Now that you have a way to compare all of the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs, you can figure out what is the best online NP program for your career goals. The rewards of knowing that you are helping your community, and indeed the world, to have better health, is a wonderful feeling. And to top it all off, your hard work will earn you a very nice salary so you can take care of the financial health of your family. There is no time like the present to get yourself started on the path to becoming a highly-valued nurse practitioner by choosing from some of the best online nurse practitioner programs available.