Best Online Master’s in Nursing

Timelines, Schools and Programs for Nursing Students

Online master’s degree programs in nursing prepare students for a number of advanced positions in research, teaching, administration or specialized patient care. Earning a master’s is the most appropriate path for nurses keen on advancing their career, or for bachelor’s degree graduates interested in adopting a specialized role within the healthcare industry. Aspiring grad students can learn how to streamline the school search, successfully navigate admissions and understand more about how a typical online master’s program in nursing will progress right here.

Best Online Master’s in Nursing: 2017

Those interested in studying a career in nursing, but are not able to attend traditional on-campus courses may consider enrolling in an online nursing master’s program. In this highly competitive marketplace, an online master’s degree in nursing can set students apart and help them gain the area-specific knowledge needed to succeed in the field. To help students find the best online nursing program for them, we have ranked schools across the country based on factors such as institutional financial aid, cost of enrollment and graduation rates. Explore the top online master’s in nursing programs for 2017 below.

RankSchool Title Net Price Financial Aid Total Programs Student-Teacher ratioGrad RateRanking ScoreSchool DescriptionAdditional Benefits: Placement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1Vanderbilt University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
64%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
30
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
92%
Ranking SCORE 99.84
Read more

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) offers several options for students with nursing and non-nursing undergraduate degrees to complete their master’s degrees in nursing. VUSN has an ASN to MSN program, and for those without a degree in nursing, an accelerated, PreSpecialty entry program is available, which provides the foundation courses seen in a BSN degree program. Online courses, part-time or full-time enrollment and clinical placements close to home are options for students needing maximum flexibility. Also available are Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs and dual MSN degrees programs in partnership with Vanderbilt Divinity school.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
2University of Iowa Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
59%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
32
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
70%
Ranking SCORE 99.21
Read more

For students holding a current RN license, The College of Nursing at the University of Iowa offers a Master of Science in Nursing-Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) degree. This program is mostly online, with one campus visit required prior to the start of the program to meet with advisors, faculty and cohorts, and once during the last semester to present a capstone project. The curriculum also contains practicum and clinical field work in addition to online courses. Certification isn't required for the CNL professional, but the exam is offered on-campus during the last semester of the program for students planning to obtain CNL certification.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
3Drexel University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
30
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
65%
Ranking SCORE 98.88
Read more

Students planning to pursue a master’s degree in nursing through the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University have a large selection of degree options. Students can earn an MSN degree in advanced role nursing with concentrations in clinical nurse leader, clinical trials research, nursing education, nursing innovation, leadership in health and systems management. Also offered are MSN degrees in nurse practitioner concentrations and nurse anesthesia, along with an RN to MSN bridge program. MSN graduates can continue their work in the field of nursing and are also prepared for further education, such as a DNP or PhD in nursing through Drexel.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
4University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
47%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
30
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
91%
Ranking SCORE 98.74
Read more

All of the many MSN programs at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, as well as the school's post-baccalaureate DNP program, follow the advanced clinical path format. There are several specializations available in both the midwifery and acute, primary and family care areas of focus. No matter which program they choose, students will be immersed in coursework that emphasizes the judgment, skills and knowledge required to thrive in a variety of care settings. Advisors will work closely with students to help them choose classes that they need to graduate on time, and instruction is delivered by faculty with real-world experience.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
5University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
54%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
32
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
73%
Ranking SCORE 98.68
Read more

Bachelor-degree holders without any previous nursing education can enroll in the University of Minnesota’s Master of Nursing program. The program is built to encompass both undergraduate and graduate levels of nursing sciences, providing fundamental and advanced learning in a grueling 16-month program. The MN program requires a full-time commitment and classes are held weekly on campus. Additionally, students must complete 500 practicum hours off-campus at one of UM’s 250 partnered health centers. Due to the program’s demanding schedule, working while attending school is discouraged. Eighteen credits completed at the graduate level are applicable toward UM’s Doctor in Nursing Practice program.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
6University of Toledo Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
85%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
27
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
46%
Ranking SCORE 98.26
Read more

The University of Toledo’s College of Nursing has graduate programs available for established RNs to specialize and advance their education and a program for undergraduate degree students to become RNs. While the Master of Science in Nursing programs differentiate depending on their focuses, most require two years for completion. The family and pediatric nurse practitioner, as well as the nurse educator, programs offer the most flexibility for students, with the option to study part or full-time in a blended format. UT has six MSN programs available, with an average requirement of 55 credit hours needed for graduation.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
7Loyola University Chicago Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
93%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
28
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
70%
Ranking SCORE 98.17
Read more

The Loyola University Chicago has graduate options available in nursing to match the educational background of a broad number of students. Students interested in achieving their MSN through a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist program must have an Illinois RN license and have logged a minimum of 2,000 relevant nursing hours before admittance. These programs are offered in a combination of online and on-campus courses. Two specializations are designed exclusively for web classes. For RNs with an AA degree, the accelerated RN-MSN program allows students to advance in their careers quickly and requires the completion of a professional portfolio for admittance.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
8New York University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
52%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
29
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
83%
Ranking SCORE 98.15
Read more

Graduate nursing programs at NYU begin three times per year and prepare students for futures working in multifaceted aspects of health care, from administration and education to careers as specialized nurse practitioners. Currently nine master’s degree programs are available with diversified major options. All programs feature a 12-credit nursing core, supported by research and real-life application practicums. Total clinical hours vary based upon the program. Focuses in nursing education and administration require at least 300 hours while nurse practitioner programs require double that amount. NYU also offers graduate “specialty sequences” in addiction disorders, holistic nursing, palliative care and herbs and supplements.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
9University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
54%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
28
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
62%
Ranking SCORE 97.88
Read more

The master of science in nursing from the University of Cincinnati-Main Campus comes with the option of a variety of specialties, which vary depending on whether the student wants to pursue the degree on site or online. All programs combine evidence-based practice, scholarship and research from nursing and related fields in pursuit of a holistic care philosophy. All programs stress quality and safety in every aspect of patient care. Students will learn to design and maintain a variety of services for both individuals and communities, while understanding sensitive cultural and historical nuances.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
10University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
45%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
24
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
89%
Ranking SCORE 97.45
Read more

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first school in the state to offer a nursing master’s degree in 1955. The MSN program allows students to choose among healthcare systems and advanced practice specialties. There are four nurse-practitioner tracks and five healthcare system tracks available to entering MSN students. Admission for RNs into the program requires their completion of 51 credits of undergraduate and pre-nursing coursework. The RN to MSN program requires entering students to complete three prerequisite courses in public health and nursing practice prior to undertaking the graduate curriculum. After completing the prerequisites, students are awarded 35 advanced-placement credits by UNC.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
11University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
N/A
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
29
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
N/A
Ranking SCORE 97.33
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
12University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
38%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
25
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
79%
Ranking SCORE 97.05
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
13University of Southern California Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
59%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
23
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
90%
Ranking SCORE 96.72
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
14Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
41%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
25
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
38%
Ranking SCORE 96.51
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
15Harvard University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
56%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
14
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
97%
Ranking SCORE 96.03
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
16University of Illinois at Chicago Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
64%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
21
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
58%
Ranking SCORE 95.80
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
17Loma Linda University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
N/A
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
31
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
N/A
Ranking SCORE 95.70
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
18Rutgers University-New Brunswick Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
47%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
21
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
79%
Ranking SCORE 95.60
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
19Barry University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
96%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
15
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
41%
Ranking SCORE 95.58
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
20University of Alabama at Birmingham Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
66%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
16
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
48%
Ranking SCORE 95.53
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
21University of Kansas Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
60%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
18
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
64%
Ranking SCORE 95.37
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
22University of Detroit Mercy Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
13
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
57%
Ranking SCORE 95.21
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
23Tulane University of Louisiana Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
70%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
15
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
75%
Ranking SCORE 94.91
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
24Stony Brook University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
67%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
16
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
70%
Ranking SCORE 94.89
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
25East Carolina University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
17
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
58%
Ranking SCORE 94.83
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
26The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
N/A
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
22
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
N/A
Ranking SCORE 94.73
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
27Texas A & M University-College Station Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
54%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
17
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
80%
Ranking SCORE 94.72
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
28Virginia Commonwealth University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
41%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
18
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
56%
Ranking SCORE 94.69
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
29Nova Southeastern University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
94%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
17
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
42%
Ranking SCORE 94.67
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
30University of Kentucky Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
59%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
14
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
58%
Ranking SCORE 94.63
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
31Eastern Michigan University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
90%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
12
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
37%
Ranking SCORE 94.60
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
32Seton Hall University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
14
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
67%
Ranking SCORE 94.60
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
33Michigan State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
44%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
16
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
79%
Ranking SCORE 94.51
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
34The College of Saint Scholastica Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
11
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
65%
Ranking SCORE 94.44
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
35University of South Carolina-Columbia Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
47%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
17
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
72%
Ranking SCORE 94.41
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
36Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
37%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
16
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
86%
Ranking SCORE 94.40
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
37Saint Xavier University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
11
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
54%
Ranking SCORE 94.39
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
38University of Arizona Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
77%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
13
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
61%
Ranking SCORE 94.25
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
39Wright State University-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
67%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
15
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
40%
Ranking SCORE 94.24
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
40University of Missouri-Columbia Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
62%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
14
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
71%
Ranking SCORE 94.05
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
41Duquesne University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
10
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
74%
Ranking SCORE 94.05
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
42The Sage Colleges Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
7
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
52%
Ranking SCORE 93.96
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
43George Mason University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
20%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
14
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
66%
Ranking SCORE 93.93
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
44Midwestern State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
65%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
11
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
40%
Ranking SCORE 93.88
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
45Concordia University-Wisconsin Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
8
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
59%
Ranking SCORE 93.81
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
46University of Vermont Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
91%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
8
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
76%
Ranking SCORE 93.77
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
47Oakland University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
76%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
12
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
43%
Ranking SCORE 93.70
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
48University of South Florida-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
73%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
13
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
57%
Ranking SCORE 93.70
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
49Maryville University of Saint Louis Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
7
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
70%
Ranking SCORE 93.69
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
50The University of Texas at El Paso Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
35%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
18
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
38%
Ranking SCORE 93.67
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo

Search for Online Master’s in Nursing Programs

There are many more options for master’s nursing programs beyond the list above, and aspiring grad students should have access to information on all the program possibilities. The most highly regarded master’s programs in nursing are offered by accredited facilities that provide students with courses taught by experts in the field, and this search tool provides details on these programs specifically.

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Online Degree Timeline: Master’s in Nursing

An online master’s degree in nursing can prepare students for advanced roles in the health care field, including nursing education, clinical care, research and administration. Master’s degrees typically require a period of study ranging from 18 months to 3 years. Programs train all students, regardless of their academic or professional backgrounds, in advanced nursing theory, research methods and leadership. Check out the timeline below, designed to help doctoral nursing students stay on track from application to graduation.

Application Process

Most students pursuing an online master’s degree in nursing have completed a bachelor’s degree first, and are typically currently working in the field. A popular variant is the accelerated, pre-licensure master’s degree, which can be a great option to fast-track education, and is even an option for aspiring nurses who have degrees in other fields. As students begin the application process, consider these variables, as well as the items below.

Bachelor’s degree and official transcripts

Some nursing master’s programs have ‘bridge’ programs that help students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a field outside nursing. Others require all applicants to have a completed bachelor’s in nursing and meet minimum GPA requirements. Schools will ask for transcripts to be sent from all previous higher education institutions.

RN license

Depending on the program, applicants may be required to provide their registered nursing license and show that there are no restrictions on their practice.

Resume and work experience

Programs may ask applicants for documentation of their previous work experience as registered nurses, or a formal resume. Work experience requirements vary depending on the program and the area of nursing a master’s applicant wants to study.

Health examinations and immunization records

Because clinical nurses and hospital personnel come into contact with many different people in various stages of health, doctoral nursing programs will ask for an applicant’s immunization and health records.

Interview

Some programs may ask nursing applicants to schedule an interview. Before the interview, applicants should consider their professional and educational goals and how a master’s degree in nursing would help achieve them. They should also note questions or concerns they want to discuss with admissions.

Technology requirements

Online programs teach students using technology and virtual learning strategies, meaning students should be prepared to use hardware, software and the internet to participate in a program.

Year One Milestones

General master’s nursing courses include healthcare policy and ethics, management, advanced practice nursing and advanced biochemistry and pharmacology. Students pursuing specialized degrees take courses related to their area of interest, whether it be neonatal nursing, gerontology, pediatric care or another concentration in the first year.

Complete core classes

Many online programs have required classes establishing basic standards for research, writing and clinical practice so all nursing master’s students begin at the same level, regardless of their background. Students holding a bachelor’s degree in a field outside nursing who have no previous nursing experience may have to complete nursing intensive classes before joining their program.

Choose an area of focus

Students will choose an area of focus for their advance role either as a nurse educator, a nurse practitioner, an administrator, working in the field of informatics or another master’s program-specific specialization.

Find local practicum locations

Some online master’s programs, particularly if a student chooses to focus in a clinical area of nursing, will require students to fulfill clinical or practicum experience. Students should find preceptors willing to help provide knowledge and mentoring in their specific area of interest.

Year 2 Milestones

The second year of an online master’s nursing programs cover basic topics needed for specialization, with clinical tracks placing strong emphasis on practical learning in clinical settings. Students pursuing a clinically-oriented master’s may specialize in one of four areas: nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist or certified nurse midwife. However, there are other possible degree specializations for students to consider within the field of nursing, including leadership roles and medical information technology.

Hone in on concentration

As students complete the core required nursing courses needed to graduate from their master’s program, they take electives or concentration courses that explore their chosen specialization more deeply.

Gathering experience

Clinical nursing specializations will require students to gain clinical experience as part of graduation and certification requirements. Registered nurses may not have to fulfill additional clinical hours if they have been or are currently working as nurses.

Prepare for certification exams

For many specializations, master’s program graduates will also need to take certification exams through an outside certifying body to prove their knowledge and experience and begin practicing in their field. Online programs prepare students to take these exams in the state where they will work, as some programs have state-specific curricula.

Graduation Requirements

Graduates from online nursing master’s programs can use their degree as a springboard to advanced careers, but also as an introduction into a doctoral level nursing program that focuses on in-depth, evidence-based practice, as well as quality improvement, education, research and nursing leadership. For those who want to use their degree in the field, specializations are key. Here are some things to look for as master’s nursing students wrap up and ready for graduation.

Complete clinical requirements

For clinical master’s degrees in nursing, students may have certain hourly clinical experience requirements that they must complete before they can graduate.

Completed coursework and tests

Online nursing master’s programs may have weekly, monthly or end-of-course requirements that can range from participation points to essays. Students must complete all coursework to their professor’s satisfaction to graduate.

Maintain GPA

Since online degree programs are self-motivated and students work around their individual schedules, nursing grads should make sure that they prove their commitment to pursuing a graduate nursing degree throughout the program by meeting or exceeding grade point average minimum standards.

Certification exams

In addition to the registered nursing exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, students wishing to practice in a particular state may need to fulfil other state requirements. Those wishing to specialize in other areas must take other exams; The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers tests in areas like informatics, nurse practitioner certification and adult-gerontology primary care, while the National League for Nursing provides educator certifications.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Nursing?

An online master’s degree in nursing can give graduates a larger breadth and depth of career opportunities. As students gain more experience and knowledge than undergraduate degree holders, they may be able to take on increasingly higher levels of responsibility in their field or specialization within nursing. Below are some examples of career opportunities available to those who earn a master’s in nursing.

Browse Master’s in Nursing Careers
Registered Nurse

Registered nurses develop skills to effectively handle patients and their family members, and identify and meet individual patient needs. They must take national licensing exams. Some specialize in areas such as addiction treatment, and registered nurses may work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools, or hospice.

Mean Annual Wage

$67,490

Growth Potential

16%

Medical Information Systems Manager

These professionals plan, coordinate, direct, and maintain the confidentiality of hospital records systems. They must stay up to date with evolving information technology, current or proposed laws about health information systems and trends in managing large amounts of complex data as they ensure health information’s quality, accuracy, accessibility and security in both paper files and electronic systems.

Mean Annual Wage

$131,600

Growth Potential

15%

Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators, also called healthcare administrators, plan, direct and coordinate medical and health services. They may manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area, department or medical practice for a group of physicians. These professionals adapt to changes in healthcare laws, regulations and technology as they manage staff, admissions, finances and building care.

Mean Annual Wage

$94,500

Growth Potential

17%

Nurse Midwife

Nurse midwives coordinate patient care for pregnant women. They often work in collaboration with physicians and while the scope of their practice varies by state, they can usually prescribe medications, order medical tests and diagnose health problems. They specialize in patient-centered care, which means understanding a patient’s concerns and lifestyle before choosing a course of action.

Mean Annual Wage

$104,740

Growth Potential

31%

What Students Learn in an Online Nursing Master’s Program

Master’s in Nursing

  • Combine research and practice

    Master’s level nursing graduates learn to assimilate up-to-date healthcare research with evidence-based nursing practice. They also apply evidence-based practice into healthcare promotion, disease prevention and disease management as they explain health and nutrition practices to their patients or students.

  • Laws and ethics

    Online master’s programs teach nursing students to interpret and integrate current health care policy and regulations and apply professional ethics and legal standards. Nurses and healthcare professionals in general need to maintain integrity and establish clear boundaries in their practices with their patients.

  • Management and leadership

    Master’s students learn to integrate concepts of management and leadership in professional nursing practice. Master’s programs prepare them for greater responsibilities and more leadership positions as they work to apply appropriate healthcare practices within diverse populations.

  • Technology integration

    Online degree programs help students incorporate advanced knowledge, technology and theories from nursing and related disciplines into their practice. Master’s program graduates are able to communicate effectively in multiple formats using appropriate information systems and technology.

2016’s Best Online Master’s Degree Programs in Nursing

Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate
1 Southwestern Oklahoma State University 99.80 75% 2 18:1 35%

Located in the rural town of Weatherford, Southwestern Oklahoma State University is a small school that offers a fully-online BSN-to-MSN program for nurses with BSNs who are looking to further their careers: the average base salary for someone with a BSN is roughly $42,000; for an MSN it is $62,000. The program offers maximum flexibility to working nurses: enrolled students do not even have to live in Oklahoma, and they can start classes in any term: Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. Students can choose one of three tracks: administration, a leadership-based program; informatics, a technology-based program; or education, an academically-focused program.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth14
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate85%
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2 Missouri Southern State University 99.56 73% 3 18:1 33%

Missouri Southern State University's master's in nursing is an intensive Family Nurse Practitioner program. MSSU partnered with Southeast Missouri State University to create a rigorous, five-semester program with classes offered online and on both campuses. Due to the comprehensive and intense nature of the program, students may only complete the degree as full-time students, averaging anywhere from 7 to 10 credit hours per semester. MSSU estimates that students will spend roughly 765 hours in clinical settings, but the design of the program is not for nothing: FNPs make an average base salary of $85,000.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth12
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate96%
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3 Arkansas Tech University 99.45 74% 5 20:1 41%

This medium-sized public university offers one of the most affordable graduate nursing programs in the country, a Master's in nursing administration and emergency management. The program plays a dual role in students' education: preparing them to take on leadership roles in administrative and clinical settings, and teaching them the principles of emergency management. Students must take 39 credits in everything from epidemiology to research methods to nursing administration and complete a thesis before graduation. Online classes are required, and students can complete the degree either full-time or part-time. Graduate assistantships with tuition reimbursement are also available for qualified students.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth17
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate86%
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4 East Tennessee State University 99.21 76% 14 18:1 41%

The online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at East Tennessee State University is part of a collaborative plan of the Tennessee Board of Regents system to fill leadership roles at healthcare organizations in the Volunteer State. Specializations in the nursing master's degree include three pathways: nursing administration, nursing education, and practice as a family nurse practitioner. The programs are delivered through the TN eCampus online system. In addition, ETSU's College of Nursing offers a Post-Master's graduate certificate in the same three pathways for students seeking professional credentials and national nursing exam eligibility.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth20
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate92%
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5 Western Carolina University 99.20 66% 7 16:1 48%

Western Carolina University's Master of Science (M.S.) in Nursing program offers specialized degrees with designations in Nurse Anesthesia, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Leadership, and Nurse Educator. The Nurse Anesthesia Program requires 66 course credits and clinical rotations, and may be completed in 28 months. The Master of Science degree in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner specialization is a two-year program of 51 to 52 semester hours along with clinical rotations. The Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Nursing - Nurse Leadership program is a wholly online 2-year program consisting of 40-41 semester hours. For online majors, rotations are arranged at locations convenient to the student.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth14
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate43%
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6 University of Central Florida 99.16 72% 19 31:1 65%

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at the University of Central Florida is designed to build advanced skills and credentials for nurses moving into fields of management, education, and practice as nurse practitioners. Programs range from 36-46 credit hours of coursework, including clinical rotations and a public presentation of a final project. Requirements include Leadership and Management (NLM), 36 credit hours; Nurse Educator (NEd), 41 credit hours; Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP), 42 credit hours; Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), 46 credit hours; and Clinical Nurse Specialist Adult/Gerontology (CNS A/G), 45 credit hours.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth15
  • # Online Programs10
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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7 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale 99.10 85% 6 12:1 60%

Since it opened its doors in 1977, Keiser University has expanded to 18 campuses in Florida. Part of more than 100 degree programs at the school, the master of science in nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner and the master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees at Keiser University are career focused programs. Areas emphasized in the family nurse practitioner program are advanced practical clinical skills, health promotion and managing acute illnesses. The MSN program emphasizes expanding technologies, health challenges impacting the global community and the connection between nursing and overall healthcare. Both programs are robust. Students should be prepared to be challenged.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth19
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate49%
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8 Ferris State University 99.09 72% 2 16:1 53%

At Ferris State University, the path from registered nurse with a bachelor's degree to a nurse with an advanced degree happens on a fast track. Earning the accelerated Master of Science in Nursing degree is possible because 16 nursing and general education credits required to graduate with the master's degree are built into the university's bachelor nursing degree program. Students must keep a 3.0 GPA or higher in the bachelor of nursing program to qualify for the 37 credit accelerated master's degree. There's an option to complete both undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees fully online. Nurses looking to step into leadership roles, pursue nursing administration, advance their acute care experience and explore nursing education are a good fit for the master of science in nursing degree.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth24
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate78%
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9 Davenport University 98.99 85% 3 14:1 40%

An academic calendar, academic catalog, admissions counselor discussions and program search capabilities are online planning tools at Davenport University for adults who seek to expand their nursing education. The Master of Science in Nursing is taught within the College of Health Professions division. Adults who specialize in family practice can select the 46 credit family nurse practitioner track. Nurses who want a broader career base may find the 37 credit generalist track a better option. Program outcomes include synthesizing concepts, integrating evidence based care, using leadership strategies to realize the best patient care outcomes and gaining competency in advanced nursing roles.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth14
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate93%
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10 University of Southern Indiana 98.98 74% 7 17:1 36%

Nursing students of the master of science program at the University of Southern Indiana are able to compete for jobs in the post graduate market place or advance their current career. In the program, students can choose from seven different nursing specialty areas to further hone their studies to achieve their professional goals. These specialties include areas such as gerontology care, family nurse practitioner, and nursing education. Clinical experience is a critical component of the college's educational approach and the university assists students in setting up contracts and communicating with preceptors. The graduate program can be completed online with no required campus visits.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth13
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate71%
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11 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 98.97 75% 16 15:1 40%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth10
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate49%
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12 Albany State University 98.94 80% 2 16:1 39%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate47%
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13 University of Wyoming 98.94 70% 9 15:1 54%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth13
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate98%
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14 Youngstown State University 98.63 72% 20 15:1 32%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth27
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate83%
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15 University of Central Missouri 98.63 70% 7 18:1 49%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth12
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate78%
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16 Texas A & M University-Texarkana 98.62 83% 4 15:1 N/A

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate48%
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17 Allen College 98.60 93% 14 9:1 82%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth15
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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18 University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne 98.59 88% 12 12:1 50%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth18
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate97%
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19 University of St Francis 98.57 86% 8 11:1 56%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth15
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate51%
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20 South Dakota State University 98.56 59% 11 17:1 56%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth17
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate92%
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21 University of Kentucky 98.53 84% 27 18:1 58%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth33
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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22 Georgia College and State University 98.43 77% 7 18:1 57%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth11
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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23 McNeese State University 98.43 70% 3 21:1 38%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth10
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate75%
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24 Duquesne University 98.43 95% 25 13:1 74%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth21
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate73%
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25 Idaho State University 98.41 56% 33 16:1 31%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth26
  • # Online Programs10
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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26 Graceland University-Lamoni 98.40 84% 6 13:1 50%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth13
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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27 Concordia University-Wisconsin 98.40 72% 15 13:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth21
  • # Online Programs12
  • Acceptance Rate75%
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28 West Virginia University 98.39 63% 21 21:1 56%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth24
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate86%
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29 Georgia Southwestern State University 98.35 67% 2 16:1 29%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate70%
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30 Columbus State University 98.22 69% 3 17:1 34%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate55%
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31 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus 98.20 61% 49 18:1 62%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth46
  • # Online Programs18
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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32 Creighton University 98.19 96% 18 11:1 75%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth20
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate73%
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33 Lewis University 98.16 80% 3 13:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth16
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate62%
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34 Roberts Wesleyan College 98.14 97% 8 13:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth8
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate69%
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35 University of Memphis 98.11 76% 11 14:1 40%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth10
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate47%
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36 The University of Texas at Brownsville (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) 98.03 55% 8 24:1 23%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth13
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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37 Saint Xavier University 97.95 93% 24 13:1 54%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth19
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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38 Maryville University of Saint Louis 97.92 75% 14 13:1 70%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth20
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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39 University of Alabama at Birmingham 97.92 56% 27 18:1 48%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth36
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate86%
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40 American International College 97.89 96% 12 13:1 39%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth12
  • # Online Programs6
  • Acceptance Rate68%
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41 University of Toledo 97.89 71% 46 20:1 46%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth43
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate95%
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Additional Resources

After completing an online master’s degree program in nursing, there are many specialized career paths to pursue. The following are only a few of the accredited organizations that have information on possible further education or certifications that graduates can explore.

American College of Nurse-Midwives

Though it is not a certification body, this professional association represents certified nurse-midwives and midwives in the United States, setting standards for excellence in midwifery education and practice.

American Nurses Association

This group provides resources to help maintain high standards of nursing, continuing education, and safe and ethical work environments. They also advocate on state and governmental levels for healthcare issues and policies.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

As a vehicle through which state boards of nursing act and council together, this organization’s members come from the boards of nursing in all of the United States. The website lists the states’ Boards of Nursing and has information about the Consensus Model, and it is the body that administers the registered certified nursing exam.