Best Online Master’s in Nursing

Timelines, Schools and Programs for Nursing Students

Find a Program for You

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.

Basic Search
Tuition
School Type
Advanced Search +
Student Population
Compare key info for up to 4 schools

Please remove a school if you would like to compare a new one

results

Show:

School Tuition
Tuition for in-state undergrads at the campus location
Acceptance Rate Student Population School Type Online Nursing Programs

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.

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.