6 Best Online MSN Programs Ranked (Your Guide For 2023)

Best MSN Program Rankings
The best online MSN program is through Aspen University. Discover why and other top-rated online MSN programs here.

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Want to advance your education and career by enrolling in a Master of Science in Nursing program but feeling overwhelmed by all the options?

Then you’ve come to the right place!

We looked at reviews from real nursing students and took into consideration alumni ratings, tuition cost, program recommendation rate, and other factors to definitively rank the best online MSN programs.

In this post, you’ll discover the top-rated online MSN programs and learn a bit about each one. To see more detailed information about any of the programs, just follow the links to read our full, in-depth program reviews.

Finally, we’ll discuss some things to keep in mind as you determine if one of these programs may be a good fit for you.

What is the Best Online MSN Program?

Aspen University offers the best online MSN program. This is based on a number of factors reported by Gradreports.com, including real alumni reviews, cost of tuition, how often graduates would recommend the program to others, and more.

However, it’s key to remember that just because a program is a good fit for some students, it may be a different case for someone else.

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 Aspen University and other online MSN programs.

6 Best Online MSN Programs Ranked

The table below summarizes the top online MSN programs. You can read more about each program below the table.

All of the tuition data and information we used to rank the following programs was obtained from GradReports.com. This way, all of the following reporting comes from alumni who actually had first-hand experience in the programs.

The rankings were determined by multiple factors, including:

  • Tuition
  • Program flexibility
  • Alumni reviews
UniversityBetterNurse Aggregate Score (Max 5)
Aspen Univeristy4.83
Purdue Univeristy4.33
Grand Canyon Univeristy4.25
Walden Univeristy4.17
South University4.00

1. Aspen University

Aspen University Online MSN Program Review

Aspen University’s online MSN program earned the top spot in our rankings for two main reasons: the cost of tuition and the alumni recommendation rate.

Of all the online MSN programs that made our list, Aspen appears to have the lowest average annual cost of tuition according to GradReports.

Additionally, it had the highest program recommendation rate of the schools we looked at. Of the 40 alumni who reviewed the program, 88% of them said they would recommend this MSN program to others.

88% of the surveyed alumni also claimed that the degree improved their career prospects.

The only thing to be wary about with this program is to ensure you’re in a location where you’ll be able to easily find a preceptor if you’re enrolling in a clinically-focused program. However, you should do this before you commit to any online nursing degree program.

Flexibility ScoreTuition ScoreAlumni Review ScoreBetterNurse Aggregate Score

2. WGU

WGU Online MSN Program Review

WGU’s online MSN program is a great choice because of its affordability and “competency-based education.”

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.

Since the average cost of tuition is the second-lowest of the schools that made our top program list, you could end up saving a lot of money by enrolling with WGU.

While the cost to get your degree may be lower than most other online MSN programs, there is one thing keep in mind with this school. According to GradReports, the average post-graduation salary was lower for this school when compared to others.

Remember, however, that there could be confounding factors producing the lower-than-average post-graduation salary. Also, the post-graduation employment rate is 99%, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding a nursing position once you complete the program.

Flexibility ScoreTuition ScoreAlumni Review ScoreBetterNurse Aggregate Score

3. Purdue University

Online MSN Program Review

Purdue Univeristy’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 2020 and took a certification exam was 97.8%.

Clearly, Purdue Univeristy 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.

Another great thing about this online MSN program is that they offer an ExcelTrack option. If you enroll in either their Nurse Educator or Executive Leader pathway, you can take as many courses as you like over a 10-week term for a flat rate of $3,200.

If you’re a highly-motivated student and interested in one of those education pathways, this could be the perfect choice for you.

The biggest downside we saw in this online MSN program is that there doesn’t appear to be an RN-to-MSN option. Therefor, if you want to enroll in Purdue’s MSN program, you’ll need to already have your BSN.

Flexibility ScoreTuition ScoreAlumni Review ScoreBetterNurse Aggregate Score

4. 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.

For example, they offer five different MSN degrees with emphasis in areas like Health Informatics and Nursing Education. They also offer two different Nurse Practitioner pathways: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Adult-Gerontology) and Family Nurse Practitioner.

Uniquely, GCU also offers a dual degree called Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems. This particular pathway allows you to pursue your MSN and MBA simultaneously.

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 GradReports 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.

Flexibility ScoreTuition ScoreAlumni Review ScoreBetterNurse Aggregate Score

5. Walden University

Walden University Online MSN Program Review

Walden University’s online MSN program is likely 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.

Additionally, Walden offers 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 Univeristy 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.

There was a GradReports review which stated finding a preceptor for this program was a challenge. However, it could have been an isolated incident. Before enrolling in any online MSN program, be sure to contact the school and communicate about these things before you commit.

Flexibility ScoreTuition ScoreAlumni Review ScoreBetterNurse Aggregate Score

6. South University

South University Online MSN Program Review

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 GradReports. 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-surge 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.

Do keep in mind, however, that the lack of reviews make this school a little harder to compare and contrast with the others on this list.

Flexibility ScoreTuition ScoreAlumni Review ScoreBetterNurse Aggregate Score

Pros of Enrolling in an Online MSN Program

There are quite a few advantages to enrolling in an online MSN program as opposed to attending one in person.

Below are some of the key benefits of online MSN programs.

Online MSN Programs Are Cheaper

Online MSN programs are cheaper than in-person programs.

The total cost for an MSN degree varies. However, degrees typically range from $35,00 to $70,000. Some private institutions cost upwards of $100,000.

The average cost of an online MSN degree is $29,000.

The cost differs based on:

  • Credit costs
  • In-state vs out-of-state tuition
  • Program length

Online MSN Programs Are More Flexible

While clinically-focused MSN programs will still require that you complete a preceptorship in person, all of the didactic teaching will be completed online.

Depending on what online program you enroll in, you may be able to complete your classes on your own schedule, and not have to go to class at any predetermined time. This can be super helpful for working nurses trying to advance their education while still remaining employed.

Many programs also offer rolling start dates, allowing you to start learning virtually whenever you’re ready to commit to getting your MSN degree.

How To Get Your Online MSN Degree

Obtaining an MSN requires the same preparation as any graduate-level degree.

Decide On Your Career Path

First, you should decide on your career path.

You need to select which nursing specialty you would like to pursue. After all, the while point of getting your MSN is to learn more highly-specialized knowledge and advance your career in a specific area of nursing.

Apply To MSN Programs

Once you know what kind of nursing you want to do, you need to apply to MSN programs.

Some MSN programs require you to take a GRE test and achieve a particular score. This is similar to the SAT you take to enroll in undergraduate school.

Most programs will waive GRE scores if your undergraduate GPA is above average. They may also waive them if you provide letters of recommendations speaking highly of your current nursing practice.

Select Your Core MSN Classes

Once you are accepted into a university, you will be assigned a guidance counselor to help you transition into graduate school.

Your guidance counselor will help you determine which core classes you will take for your nursing degree.

Most MSN degrees have similar core classes before breaking off into specialties. These courses are typically heavy on:

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

Complete Your Speciality MSN Courses

Once MSN core classes are completed, you will complete your specialty courses.

For example, if you are in a MSN-NP program, you would complete clinical hours with a Medical Doctor or Nurse Practitioner.

Similarly, for the nursing education MSN capstone project, you follow a nurse educator. Other final projects could include a research thesis presented to your Dean of Nursing for approval.

Prior to attending, make sure to review:

  • The school’s reputation
  • Online reviews
  • Success rates
  • Acceptance rates
  • Tuition costs
  • Program lengths
  • Whether or not it is accredited by ACEN or CCNE

Which Online MSN Program Should You Choose?

When searching for your next degree, you should take into consideration:

  • Your long-term goals
  • Total cost of the program
  • Program length
  • Established accreditations

First, decide which MSN specialty you would like to acquire.

Are you passionate about teaching the next generation of nurses or helping develop the next electronic medical record documentation systems? Or, do you want a more clinical and hands-on role?

Once you decide your specialty, you can pursue your MSN degree.

If you want to advance your bedside practice and still work directly with patient care, becoming a Nurse Practitioner may be the option for you. Advanced Practice RNs are involved in bedside care but have multiple roles in providing healthcare.

You may find that information systems are intriguing and you want to focus on documentation solutions for healthcare systems. If so, Nursing Informatics may be the direction you go for an advanced degree.

If you want to teach the next generation of nurses either didactically or during clinical rotations, Nursing Education is the path you should take. This is a balance between patient care and administrative work, meaning you can choose how much you are involved with clinical rotations.


The need for nurses with an advanced education has never been greater than it is right now, and the demand is only projected to increase.

By enrolling in an online MSN program, you can gain the education and skills you need to advance your career, while having the flexibility to continue working and learn on a flexible schedule that fits your lifestyle.

If you’re looking to get your MSN and reap the benefits that come along with an advanced nursing degree, then find a program now!

Frequently Asked Questions (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?

It is feasible to pursue both work and education, be it full-time or part-time. These educational programs 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.

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 (non-advanced practice registered nurse). APRN specialties include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Non-APRN specialties include roles like 

  • Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)
  • Nursing Executive/Administrator
  • Nurse Educator

What is the typical cost of an online MSN program?

The annual cost of out-of-state tuition averages at approximately $27,023, but it may differ based on where you study, your area of specialization, and other related factors. 

Are there any technical requirements for attending an online MSN program?

Each institution has its specific technical requirements, so it’s recommended to review the program’s official website or contact the admissions or technical support team for detailed information. 

These requirements are in place to ensure that students have the necessary tools and resources to successfully participate in online coursework. Here are some typical technical requirements:

  • Computer Hardware and Software
  • Internet Connection
  • Webcam and Microphone
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Digital Literacy
  • Online Meetings and Collaboration

Are there any prerequisites for entering an online MSN program?

To be accepted into an MSN program, general requirements differ depending on the university and the additional degree you want to pursue. These requirements usually include having a BSN or an Associate’s Degree in Nursing/Nursing Diploma and a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Additionally, you must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0.

How do online MSN classes work?

Online MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) classes typically operate through a Learning Management System (LMS) where students can access course materials, submit assignments, and interact with instructors and peers. The coursework often includes readings, lecture videos, discussions, and nursing-specific tasks. Assignments might range from written papers to case studies relevant to advanced nursing practices.

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