10 Best Online MSN Programs Ranked For 2024

If you’re looking to take your career to the next level with an advanced degree, then these rankings of the best online MSN programs is a great place to start.

Online Master’s of Science in Nursing degrees are not only more flexible than traditional programs, but they also tend to be less expensive. They’re the most cost-effective way to earn your degree from wherever you’re most comfortable.

You can even choose from a huge range of specialities, including both nurse practitioner and non-APRN tracks.

So, in this article we ranked the top online MSN programs to help you find a school that aligns with your career goals. We focused only on schools that focus primarily on online education, because they have expertise in online learning, and they tend to be cheaper than more traditional universities. 

Finally, we share some tips for earning your online graduate degree, what you can expect from your program, and more.

What is the Best Online MSN Program?

Herzing University is the best online MSN program based on their composite quality score, which considers tuition cost, number of specializations, and alumni reviews.

However, it’s key to remember that just because a program is a good fit for some students, the best program for you may be different.

For example, one school may seem to be a good fit, but if they don’t offer the exact specialization you’d like to study, it’s probably best to seek a different program to help you achieve your career goals.

Keep reading to learn more about Herzing University and other online MSN programs.

10 Best Online MSN Programs Ranked

To discover the best online MSN programs, we first had to determine which schools were eligible for inclusion in the list. After all, there are tons of online Master’s Degree in Nursing programs.

So, even though many more traditional colleges and universities now offer online learning options, we restricted our list to schools that primarily offer and are known for online education. 

Not only are these programs specialists in online learning, but they also tend to be more affordable and flexible than more traditional universities.

In order to rank the best online MSN programs, we considered various criteria, including:

  • Tuition Costs
  • Number of specializations and pathways
  • Alumni Reviews

All of the tuition data and information we used came directly from the websites of the universities we looked at.

We also considered alumni reviews left on sites like OnlineU and GradReports. This way, we were able to consider the opinions of people who actually had first-hand experience in the programs.

FInally, we determined a composite score for each school, balancing educational quality with cost effectiveness. We created these scores by using a formula that assigns different weights to data related to the three categories above.

Tuition costs were standardized across programs to allow fair comparison, rewarding those with lower-than-average costs. The final ranking orders the programs from those with the highest composite scores to those with the lowest.

SchoolMinimum MSN Specialty TuitionMinimum RN to MSN TuitionMinimum NP TuitionNumber of SpecialtiesNumber of NP Specialties% Improved Career Prospects% Would RecommendComposite Score (Out of 10)
Herzing University$22,140$31,98085100%100%10
Capella University$14,250$17,000
Aspen University$14,875$23,000$35,8205090%90%9.4
Chamberlain University$20,020$31,275$31,95083100%75%9.38
Grand Canyon University$20,200$38,0007280%58%8.45
Western Governors University$15,000$26,9005272%61%8.36
Walden University$14,450$32,790$39,3309560%47%7.81
Purdue University Global$37,800$37,8005433%56%7.22
University of Phoenix$18,360$25,9205238%47%7.21
South University$38,2545243%36%7

1. Herzing University

Herzing University Online MSN Program

Herzing University earned the top spot in our ranking for several reasons. Firstly, 100% of graduates on OnlineU said this program both helped their career prospects and would recommend it to others.

They also provide lots of support to its students, especially when it comes to clinicals. Herzing even has a Clinical Placement Pledge, meaning if you can’t find a clinical placement on your own, they’ll step in and help you out.

Herzing also offers a multitude of specializations and degree pathways. You can choose from any of the following specialities:

  • Public Health
  • Nursing Leadership and Administration
  • Nursing Education (Nurse Educator)
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Not only can you go from BSN to MSN and RN/ADN to MSN, but you can also go from a non-nursing degree to an MSN through their Direct Entry Program.

The BSN to MSN non-NP specialties typically last 16 months, requiring 36 credits and 135 clinical hours to graduate. Each credit costs $615, making the total cost of tuition $22,140.

Meanwhile, the RN to MSN non-NP specialities usually last 28 months, requiring 52 credits and 180 clinical hours. Each credit still costs $615, making the total cost of this pathway $31,980.

BSN to MSN Nurse Practitioner tracks last 20 months and require 48 credits and 585 clinical hours. The NP credits are a little more expensive at $735, making the tuition about $35,280.

Finally, the RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner track lasts 24 months, requiring 64 credits and 630 clinical hours. At $735 per credit, the total cost of tuition for this pathway is around $47,040.

2. Capella University

Capella University Online MSN Program

The online MSN program at Capella University stands out for two reasons in particular.

Firstly, they offer a wide range of degree pathways and specializations, including:

  • Care Coordination (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)
  • Nursing Education (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)
  • Nursing Informatics (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)
  • Leadership and Administration (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner

The Nurse Practitioner tracks require at least 68 quarter credits and 750 practicum hours to graduate. Additionally, according to their website, the estimated tuition is $39,440.

On the other hand, the BSN to MSN pathways typically cost about $24,300, while the RN to MSN tracks usually cost about $29,700. 

You can also opt for the FlexPath learning format for these non-NP specializations, meaning you can work at your own pace. If you progress quickly, you can earn your degree for far less time and money. 

In fact, students going at a typical pace usually earn their BSN to MSN degree for $19,950. Meanwhile, those at an accelerated pace (the fastest 25% of students) can earn their degree for just $14,250.

For the FlexPath RN to MSN program, average-pace students earn their degree for $25,650, while accelerated-pace students can earn it for $17,100.

The other great thing about Capella University’s online MSN program is their strong employer partnerships. In fact, they partner with over 600 healthcare employers, from leading hospital systems to insurance providers.

Overall, these relationships can be vital when it comes time to complete your practicum. Working with this school could open you up a number of opportunities to get hands-on experience in exactly the setting you want to work in.

3. Aspen University

Aspen University Online MSN Program Review

Aspen University’s online MSN program is especially notable for two main reasons: the cost of tuition and the alumni recommendation rate.

Of all the online MSN programs that made our list, Aspen has one of the lowest average costs of tuition. According to their website, the total cost to earn your master’s degree in a BSN to MSN program is typically between $14,875 and $15,125.

Meanwhile, the total tuition for the RN to MSN tracks can fall anywhere between $23,001 and $23,199.

Additionally, it had the highest program recommendation rate of the schools we looked at. Of the 40 alumni who reviewed the program, 90% of them said they would recommend this MSN program to others.

90% of the surveyed alumni also claimed that the degree improved their career prospects. They offer the following specializations:

  • Forensic Nursing
  • Informatics
  • Nursing Administration and Management
  • Nursing Education
  • Public Health

The only downside to this school is that there are no nurse practitioner tracks available. If you’re hoping to earn your master’s degree to become an NP, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

4. Chamberlain University

Chamberlain University Online MSN Program

Chamberlain University is next in our rankings of the top online MSN programs, largely because of their expert faculty and large range of specializations. 

At this school, you can choose from the following specialties:

  • Healthcare Policy
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Executive
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Population Health
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner: Acute and Primary Care
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The total tuition for the non-NP MSN specialties is usually around $25,020. However, you can also opt for the accelerated MSN option which allows you to take more classes at once. The tuition for this approach typically costs $20,850.

If you don’t yet have your BSN, they also offer an Accelerated RN to MSN, which usually costs around $31,275.

Meanwhile, the tuition for the nurse practitioner tracks can vary based on the pathway, but typically falls between $31,950 and $34,080.

It’s also worth noting that 90% of students receive financial aid, which could make earning your degree more affordable.

Finally, perhaps the best thing about this online MSN program is that all of the teaching faculty hold a doctorate-level degree. This means you can learn from experts and receive a top-tier education, preparing you to take on new challenges as an advanced nurse.

5. Grand Canyon University

GCU Online MSN Program Review

Grand Canyon Univeristy’s online MSN program boasts a large range of different degree pathways you can pursue. Firstly, they offer several concentrations, including:

  • Health Care Quality & Patient Safety
  • Health Informatics
  • Leadership in Health Care Systems
  • Nursing Education
  • Public Health Nursing

The tuition for these degrees is $575 per credit. Given that the degree requires 36 credits to graduate, you can expect to pay about $20,700, in addition to other fees.

Secondly, they offer two NP tracks: Family Nurse Practitioner and Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (with an emphasis in Adult-Gerontology). Each credit in these tracks costs $725, and the program requires 53 credits to graduate. Overall, this equates to about $38,425 in tuition.

Finally, you can opt for a dual graduate-level, called the MBA and MSN: Nursing Leadership in Healthcare Systems. This pathway requires 74 credits, and each credit costs $640. This means tuition costs about $47,360 altogether.

The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to be in close contact with your degree advisor to ensure your program can be completed in the amount of time and budget that works for you. 

One OnlineU reviewer stated they were told incorrect information. While this appears to be an isolated incident, you should always pursue regular communication with advisors in whatever online MSN program you enroll in.

6. WGU

WGU Online MSN Program Review

WGU’s online MSN program is a great choice because of its affordability and “competency-based education.” The school offers several different mater’s-level tracks, including:

This program allows you to take a series of assessments and transfer existing graduate credits to help you graduate faster. Of course, the less time it takes you to get your degree, the less money you’ll have to spend in doing so.

If your BSN to MSN program takes a year and a half to complete, it would cost only $14,985. However, taking two years to finish would cost $19,980. So, the total cost of your degree depends upon how quickly you can complete course requirements.

While the Nurse Practitioner pathways are more expensive, typically costing about $26,900 and taking two years to complete, it’s still one of the most affordable NP programs we saw. 

Finally, the total cost of the RN to MSN track can vary, but you’ll be charged $4,685 for each six-month undergraduate term, and $4,795 for every six-month graduate term.

7. Walden University

Walden University Online MSN Program Review

Walden University’s online MSN program is one of the most flexible of any of the programs we looked at when assembling these rankings.

This school offers nine different degree pathways in two categories: Nurse Practitioner specializations and Speciality Practice specializations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NNP) – Primary Care
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education
  • Nurse Executive
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Public Health Nursing

Additionally, Walden provides both RN-to-MSN or BSN-to-MSN tracks. Uniquely, the school also offers online Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and PhD in Nursing degrees. In fact, if you already hold a BSN, you can enroll in a BSN-to-DNP program without even needing to enroll in an MSN program.

Walden University provides even more flexibility by allowing you to choose your learning approach. You can go with “Course-based learning,” which is the traditional education approach with set deadlines and class times.

Alternatively, you can choose “TEMPO Learning,” which allows you to learn at your own pace with no predetermined schedule. This approach is available for the nursing education, nurse executive, and nursing informatics specializations.

Overall, the BSN to MSN non-NP speciality tracks typically take 18 months to complete, with a tuition of $21,660. If you choose Tempo Learning, you can earn your degree in as little as 14 months, with a tuition of $14,450.

If you’re pursuing an RN to MSN non-NP speciality track, you can expect the tuition to cost $32,790.

Meanwhile, the BSN to MSN Nurse Practitioner pathways usually take 24 months to complete, with a tuition of $39,330. Meanwhile, the RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner track typically costs a total of $50,460.

8. Purdue University

Online MSN Program Review

Purdue University’s online MSN program features excellent certification exam pass rates after students graduate. In fact, the success rate for Nurse Practitioner students that graduated in 2021 and took a certification exam was 94.6%.

Clearly, Purdue University demonstrates that it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a program that will prepare you for a career as a Nurse Practitioner, because they have the results to back it up.

This school offers the following MSN degree tracks:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (Primary Care)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Leader

Better yet, this online MSN program offers an ExcelTrack option if you enroll in their Nurse Executive Leader pathway. This means you can take as many courses as you like over a 10-week term for a flat rate of $3,200. This could allow you to earn your degree much faster and at a lower cost.

Meanwhile, the non-ExcelTrack pathways typically take two years to complete and cost around $37,800.

The biggest downside we saw in this online MSN program is the lack of non-nurse practitioner tracks. Additionally, there are no RN to MSN options. So, if you want to enroll in Purdue’s MSN program, you’ll need to already have your BSN.

9. University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix Online MSN Program

The next best online MSN program is University of Phoenix, which can be an especially strong option for those with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and current RN license.

This school provides five different tracks for earning your Master’s of Science in Nursing degree:

  • Nurse Education
  • Informatics
  • Nurse Administration
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Health Nurse Practitioner

One of the unique things about UoP is that the cost per credit for all MSN specializations, including Nurse Practitioners, is the same at $540 per credit. Additionally, this tuition is fixed for the duration of your program.

While the Non-NP tracks require 34 credits, the NP pathways require 48 credits. This makes the costs of tuition for each about $18,360 and $25,920, respectively.

If you hold a non-nursing Bachelor’s degree but hold a current RN license, you’re also eligible for their Nursing Bridge Program. You can earn your graduate degree in as little as 21 months, and save money in your transition to advanced nursing.

Essentially, the Bridge Program works by having you take three upper-level BSN courses before moving into master’s-level coursework.

10. South University

South University Online MSN Program Review

Finally, South University’s online MSN program is heavily focused on providing positive outcomes for their students.

Unfortunately, the data and reviews for this school were sparse on OnlineU. However, it’s clear on their website that their graduates have done some impressive things.

For example, one former student went on to get their DNP and has since fought sex trafficking and influenced nursing policy. Another graduate became a charge nurse for a 36-bed med-surg unit within five months of graduating.

Like most of the schools on this list, there’s also a healthy number of specializations and degree pathways to choose from, including:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Administrator (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)
  • Nurse Educator (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)
  • Nursing Informatics (BSN to MSN; RN to MSN)

The nurse practitioner tracks require 62 credits and typically take two years to complete. Each credit costs $617, meaning the total cost of tuition is usually about $38,254. Additionally, you’ll need to complete 750 clinical hours in order to earn your degree.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear from their website how the cost varies from track to track. Non-NP specializations are typically not as expensive as NP programs, but South University doesn’t explicitly state how much each credit costs for other pathways.

Pros of Enrolling in an Online MSN Program

There are two main benefits to enrolling in an online MSN program: lower cost and greater flexibility. We discuss both of these advantages in greater detail below.

Online MSN Programs Are Cheaper

Pursuing an online Master of Science in Nursing degree is less expensive for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, the tuition for the online MSN we discussed in this article tends to be much cheaper than traditional universities. According to Fortune, many institutions charge upward of $70,000, with some costing as much as $100,000.

Meanwhile, the tuition for one of the online BSN to MSN programs we covered usually costs more in the range of $14,000 to $20,000.

Secondly, because you can take your courses at home, you don’t need to pay for expensive university housing and accommodation. You can also save by not having to commute to a physical campus.

Ultimately, a lot of different factors can impact how much you need to spend on your education, including:

  • Whether or not you pursue an NP track
  • Whether you are pursuing a BSN to MSN, RN to MSN, or Non-Nursing Bachelors to MSN
  • For schools that charge by semester rather than credit, the time it takes to complete your degree can impact the cost
  • For online programs through more traditional universities, in-state and out-of-state tuition can be different
  • Transfer credits

Online MSN Programs Are More Flexible

While most MSN programs still require that you complete in-person clinical hours, all the courses are delivered online. That means you can attend class from anywhere that’s convenient for you.

Additionally, some programs offer learning pathways that don’t have set class times. Instead, you can study using their online resources whenever you have the time. This can be super helpful for nurses trying to advance their education while continuing to work.

Finally, many programs also offer rolling start dates, allowing you to start learning virtually whenever you’re ready to enroll.

How To Get Your Online MSN Degree

Getting your online MSN degree basically requires the same process as a traditional program, only you can take all your classes online. Below we detail the four main steps to earning your MSN degree online.

Decide On Your Career Path

Before committing to any online MSN program, you should take some time to think about your career goals.

Namely, you need to select which nursing specialty you want to pursue. Ideally, it should be an area in which you’ve already gained experience as an RN. For those considering a non-nursing to MSN degree, think about your current qualifications and which specialization they may translate to the best.

Your Master of Science in Nursing degree will play a big part in shaping your career trajectory, so give careful thought to:

  • If you prefer a more non-clinical (eg, Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator, etc.) or clinical nursing role (eg, Nurse Practitioner)
  • What population you’d like to focus on (ie, Adult-Gerontology, Pediatrics, Psychiatric-Mental Health, Women’s Health, etc.)
  • What area of specialization you’d like to pursue (eg, Public Health Nursing, Nursing Administration and Leadership, Nursing Informatics, etc.)

Once you decide on your career goals, you should begin looking for a school that offers your specialization and aligns with your other needs.

Apply To MSN Programs

After shortlisting some potential schools, you’re ready to begin applying. Just be sure to look at the requirements to ensure you’re a good potential candidate. For example, consider things like:

  • Whether you need an active RN license
  • Whether you need a BSN, ADN, or other degree
  • Minimum GPA requirements
  • Prior clinical experience

Finally, be sure to look at class start dates. While some online Master of Science in Nursing degree programs use traditional terms, others accept new students on a rolling basis. This could allow you to get started virtually right away.

Select Your Core MSN Classes

Once you’re accepted into a university, they’ll assign you an advisor to help you transition into graduate school. This counselor will help you determine which core classes you’ll take for your nursing degree.

Most MSN degrees have similar core classes before breaking off into specialties. The content of these courses are typically focus heavily on:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing research
  • Nursing theory

Complete Your Speciality MSN Courses

After completing your MSN core classes, you’ll need to complete your specialty courses.

For example, if you’re in an online MSN program with an FNP focus, you’ll take courses like “Healthcare Across The Lifespan”. Meanwhile, in Nurse Educator programs, you’ll take courses like “Teaching/Learning Strategies” and “Curriculum Development and Evaluation”. 

Additionally, you’ll need to complete clinical hours in an area related to your speciality. Keep in mind that NPs usually require more clinical hours than other pathways.

Also sure to review the course offerings prior to enrolling in any program. This way, you’ll know you’ll get to take the classes that can really make a difference in advancing your career.

Finally, once you complete the required courses and clinical hours, you’ll earn your Master’s of Science in Nursing Degree.

Which Online MSN Program Should You Choose?

Choosing the right online MSN program can be a difficult decision. After all, there are so many different programs, and each one has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.

However, when selecting a program, you should give especially careful consideration to a few factors.

First, and most importantly, decide which MSN specialty you would like to pursue. Think about your long-term career goals and how a degree can help you achieve them. For example, if you’re passionate about teaching the next generation of nurses, consider a Nurse Educator degree. 

Meanwhile, if you want to help develop new electronic medical record documentation systems, consider the Nurse Administrator or Informatics tracks. Of course, if you prefer a more clinical and hands-on role, think about taking the Nurse Practitioner path.

Additionally, you’ll also need to consider things like:

  • Cost of tuition
  • Length of Program
  • Learning Format (eg, set class times and test dates vs flexible learning at your own pace)

Is An Online MSN Program Worth It?

Earning your Master’s of Science in Nursing degree is a fantastic way to advance your nursing career and make more money. Fortunately, with online MSN programs, there are affordable and flexible options for learning.

While you’ll need to make the initial investment in your education, it’s typically worth it due to the increased job opportunities and salary potential. 

However, it’s key that you think about your own personal circumstances. For example, if you’re not sure what you’re hoping to get out of your program, you should probably give a little more thought to your long-term goals.

On the other hand, if the degree can help you achieve your career goals, it may be the right choice for you. So, if you’re ready to get your online MSN degree, then find a program now!

Online MSN Programs FAQ

Are online MSN programs as reputable as traditional on-campus programs?

Both online and traditional MSN programs receive accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

So, no matter the format, it’s crucial to find a program with CCNE accreditation to guarantee that the institution adheres to the guidelines established by the commission.

Can I work full-time while pursuing an online MSN Program?

It is possible to pursue both work and education at the same time, be it full-time or part-time. 

Online MSN programs usually range from one to three years, depending on how well you balance work, school, and personal life. 

Are there any clinical requirements for online MSN programs?

Different RN to MSN programs have varying clinical hour requirements for graduation. 

Some programs only require completion of 135 clinical hours, while others could ask for 600 hours or even closer to 1,000 hours.

Keep in mind that Nurse Practitioner tracks tend to require a lot more clinical hours than other master’s-level pathways.

What specialties or concentrations are available in online MSN programs?

There’s a variety of MSN specialties available, including APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) and non-APRN tracks. APRN specialties include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Meanwhile, non-APRN specialties include roles like:

  • Nurse Informaticist
  • Nursing Executive
  • Nurse Educator
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Nursing Leadership and Administration

What is the typical cost of an online MSN program?

The typical cost of an online MSN program depends on a variety of factors, including your specialty track, transfer credits, learning format, and more.

Generally, most of the BSN to MSN non-APRN specialties tend to cost around $20,000. However, you can earn your degree for as little as about $14,000. For RN to MSN, you can probably expect to spend about $25,000, or as little as $17,000.

Meanwhile, online nurse practitioner programs typically cost at least $34,000, though you may be able to earn your degree for as little as $26,000.

Are there any prerequisites for entering an online MSN program?

To gain acceptance into an online MSN program, requirements differ depending on the school and degree you want to pursue. 

In general though, BSN to MSN tracks will require you hold a BSN, while RN to MSN tracks will require you hold your Associate’s Degree in Nursing. If you hold a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, some schools offer bridge programs to fast-track your transition to nursing.

Additionally, you’ll need to meet minimum GPA requirements, and you may need to prove that you’ve already taken specific college-level science courses. Most programs also require you to hold an active RN license.

Finally, while many top-tier programs require that you have previous experience in your speciality for admission, many online programs don’t have specific experience requirements.

How do online MSN classes work?

Online MSN classes can differ depending on the learning formats your program offers.

For example, many schools deliver curriculum in a similar way to in-person courses, with predetermined class times and periodic exams.

However, other schools offer flexible learning pathways, allowing you to learn at your own pace. The curriculum is delivered through pre-recorded content and you can take tests whenever you’re ready.

Some online MSN programs, like WGU, offer a flexible learning path where you can take as many courses as you want within a six-month tuition period. This can allow you to earn your degree in far less time and for a lot less money than traditional learning formats.

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