20 Best Online Master’s in Nursing – Best Schools and Info Guide

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: March 8, 2024, Reading time: 28 minutes

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Nursing is one of the most rewarding and meaningful careers for those who are committed to providing a focused and highly personalized career.

Practicing nurses are understandably busy with their careers, making it hard for them to pursue an advanced degree. Fortunately, many nursing programs are now offered fully online. This includes online MSN programs.

With an online master’s in nursing, you will be able to advance your career in a specialty area. Some specializations include:

In general, a Master’s in Nursing degree program is a graduate-level program designed to provide advanced education and training to nurses who are seeking to advance their careers. It offers specialized knowledge and skills to prepare nurses for leadership roles in the healthcare industry and to improve patient care outcomes.

Quick audio summary:

The Lowdown
If you are pursuing an advanced nursing education, an online master in nursing can be a good choice. Earning an online master’s in nursing will be integral to the advancement of your career.

Statistics say that nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners can earn a median pay of $125,900 per year.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.


Online Master’s in Nursing programs serve as the vehicle for advancing the practice. We developed a list of the country’s popular graduate degrees that prove to be the best options because of these features:

Check out our Methodology for a closer look at our program evaluation and school ranking process.

20 Best Online MSN Programs

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh
Master of Nursing Program – Clinical Nurse Leader

Under its School of Nursing, the University of Pittsburgh provides students with a solid foundation that will help them conduct evidence-based practice and translate what they learned into improving healthcare delivery.

One such program is the Master of Nursing with the Clinical Nurse Leader concentration. This program assumes accountability across the range of care given within a variety of healthcare settings.

Standout features of the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

This master’s degree curriculum is intended to reduce the duplication between the master’s and doctoral programs. Graduates become qualified to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification examination that is administered by the Commission on Nurse Certification itself.

University of South Carolina

University of South Carolina - Hospitality Management
MSN: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Practitioner

The University of South Carolina’s Master’s in Nursing with a concentration in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program is aimed to prepare you when it comes to providing direct patient management in acute and complex care settings.

You will be equipped with highly in-demand skills relevant to the care of the growing elderly population.

Standout features of the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

Upon completing the master’s program, you will be able to sit for the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner exam. It is administered by the American Nurse Credentialing Center or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University - Logo
Master of Science in Nursing Leadership & Management

A private, nonprofit university, Western Governors University’s online programs include the Master of Nursing program with a concentration on Nursing Leadership and Management.

This master’s degree is most suitable for those who are ready to take on new managerial challenges in nurse leadership, allowing you to prepare for roles in nursing management and administration.

This online program makes use of competency-based models designed to help working adults earn an advanced nursing degree.

Clinical practice experiences for this online MSN program are provided through real-time simulation with the use of immersive virtual reality training.

You will be equipped with relevant knowledge of the complexities of healthcare, access, quality, and costs for diverse populations.

Standout features of Western Governors University’s Master of Science in Nursing program: 

On top of the master’s degree, you will be able to earn the National Association for Healthcare Quality HQ Principles certificate when you complete the program.

You will also get to earn another important industry certification, which is the CPHQ (NAHQ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality) to help boost your resume. 

University of Nevada – Las Vegas

University of Nevada – Las Vegas
Online Master of Science in Nursing 

Founded in 1957, the University of Nevada – Las Vegas has become a thriving urban research institution. One of the many online programs they offer is the Master of Science in Nursing under the School of Nursing.

This online MSN program is designed to equip you with knowledge, skills, and abilities to safely, effectively, and efficiently practice advanced nursing.

Standout features of the University of Nevada – Las Vegas’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

While the program is mostly online, you will need to attend on-campus sessions for each track, usually taking around seven visits each semester. These visits may be used for orientation, skills lab, Inter-Professional Education workshop, and final skills pass-off, among others.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota
Master of Science in Nursing

The University of Dakota has evolved into an internationally recognized research institution since its establishment more than 130 years ago.

They offer an online Master of Science in Nursing with two specializations that allow you to focus on your expertise and address patient needs with confidence. The options are Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. 

Standout features of UND’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

The program curriculum is designed to demonstrate advanced practice nursing skills that are consistent with AACN and NONPF’s Scope and Standards of Practice. It is also known to meet the educational requirements for licensure in many U.S. states. 

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida
Master of Science in Nursing

The University of Central Florida is known to be a leading metropolitan research university in the state. Its online Master of Science in Nursing is integral to the development of leadership, management, and teaching strategies for an improved quality of care within your institution.  

Standout features of the University of Central Florida’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

The program makes use of research, evidence-based practices, and critical thinking skills that will allow you to influence health and public policy, positively impacting more lives in the process.

The U.S. News & World Report recognizes it, in one of its school rankings, as one of the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs.

Aspen University

Aspen University
Master of Science in Nursing

With accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), Aspen University ensures that the online academic programs they offer are of high quality.

One of them is the Master of Science in Nursing, designed for registered nurses who wish to pursue a master’s degree while in practice.

Standout features of Aspen University’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

This master’s degree offers five specializations, including Forensic Nursing, Informatics, Nursing Administration and Management, Nursing Education, and Public Health. You are allowed to customize the program by choosing a specialization.

Capella University

Capella University
Master of Science in Nursing

Committed to high-quality education, Capella University extends its academic offerings online. One of the available online programs is the Master of Science in Nursing. This master’s degree allows you to hone your expertise in a way that fits your personal and professional goals.

Standout features of Capella University’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

Capella also offers its four specializations as RN-to-MSN options. This means that if you’re an RN with an associate degree, you can get a streamlined path to an MSN while taking the specialization of your choice.

You get the choice of earning your degree with Capella University in either their FlexPath or GuidedPath formats.

Troy University

Troy University
Master of Science in Nursing

Troy University offers its online MSN with two possible specializations that prepare you to take specialized information-driven roles, leadership roles, or be a highly sought-after Family Nurse Practitioner.

Standout features of Troy University’s online MSN program:

Healthcare Informatics is one of the highlight focus areas of Troy University’s MSN. Informatics is an ever-crucial discipline in today’s highly data-driven healthcare systems, and the skills and theories you will learn will apply to a variety of decision-making and system-wide roles and settings.

Purdue University

Purdue University
Master of Science in Nursing

Purdue University offers an MS in Nursing program that expands your nursing education & experience with skills for advanced practice and lays the groundwork if you want to pursue doctoral education.

Choose from the degree program’s six population focus areas and concentrations that go towards your chosen advanced nursing role and specialty.

Purdue’s MSN program has the following population focus areas/concentrations:

The program has 30 core credits and can have up to 90, depending on your chosen focus area/concentration. The degree program has multiple start dates and can be completed in around two years.

Clinical Experience time is required. Each specialty adds slight variations to its specifics.

Purdue also offers an Online MSN-MBA Dual Degree if you want to add business expertise to your career.

This program is accredited by the CCNE or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Standout features of Purdue University’s Online MS in Nursing degree program:

Purdue’s Nursing faculty members have logged over 36,000 hours total Professional development hours, which reflects directly on teaching quality.

Duke University

Master of Science in Nursing

Duke University’s Online MSN is an expansive degree program offering 11 possible specializations/majors (eight advanced practice RNs, three non-clinical majors) and eight possible Specialty add-ons, giving you a wide range of options to advance your skills in your current practice.

Duke’s MSN program offers the following Majors:

Likewise, the degree program has the following specialties that you can choose to take, including Cardiology, Endocrinology, Orthopedics, and Palliative Care, among others.

Standout features of Duke University’s online MSN program:

If you are an RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, you are eligible to apply for Duke’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Program (BSN-to-DNP), where you will be awarded both MSN and DNP degrees.

Duquesne University

Duquesne University-School of Nursing
Master of Science in Nursing

Duquesne University’s online MSN Program has a rigorous but practical curriculum that is focused on leadership, management, ethics, and evidence-based practice.

What’s more, the program stands out as one of the few in the US to offer Forensic Nursing, a golden opportunity for you to level up your career and make a difference.

Standout features of Duquesne University’s MSN program:

Duquesne offers the Forensic Nursing program as one of its MSN focus areas and is one of the few institutions to offer such. This is a niche but fast-growing area and presents a unique opportunity for you to make a difference by being an advocate for victims of crime.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University
Master of Science in Nursing

Offering flexible academic programs is one of Ohio University’s strong points. It is a good choice for those who want to prepare for a demanding evidence-based practice in a variety of clinical settings:

Standout features of Ohio State University’s Master of Science in Nursing program:

This MSN program offers four specializations in the online format, including Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner, and Clinical Nurse Leader.

Saint Xavier University

Saint Xavier University
Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Saint Xavier University’s online MSN program is entirely focused on preparing students to be competent and skilled Family Nurse Practitioners.

Family Nurses are a sought-after and indispensable pillar of the healthcare system, providing services that cover prevention, acute care, and continuing health support for patients.

Standout features of Saint Xavier University’s MSN: FNP online degree program:

Saint Xavier University is known for its quality education. It is one of about 80 institutions in the United States to receive the Center of Excellence in Nursing Education, an honor awarded by the National League for Nursing (NLN), and one of only eight schools to be re-designated four times.

Maryville University of St. Louis

Maryville University
Master of Science in Nursing

Maryville University offers its online MSN Program with a choice of 5 concentration areas that equip you for advancing into a nursing career path of your choice. Perhaps one of the most rewarding and impactful specializations on offer is the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner specialization.

Maryville University is a CCNE-accredited institution. 

Standout features of Maryville University’s online MSN program:

The graduate program’s various concentration areas range from 41-50 credit hours. Clinical experience placements will be done in local sites of your choosing.

Baker University

Baker University
Online Master of Science in Nursing

Many of the country’s nurse educators and hospital administrators will retire within the next five years, and a workforce shortage in these key areas is anticipated.

Baker University offers an online MSN program that gets you ready to advance your career toward taking these frontline roles.

Standout features of Baker University’s online MSN program:

Baker University’s program focus on developing two key roles in the nursing profession: administrators and educator. With a curriculum anchored on advanced nursing theory with evidence-based practice, Baker University equips you to become a competent nurse practitioner leader.

Florida A&M University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Florida A&M offers an online degree program that is focused on one specialized track: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, which is a specialization expected to increase in demand as a significant part of the country’s population (the boomer generation) starts to age.

Standout features of FAMU’s online MSN degree program:

FAMU’s course design is oriented towards national licensure preparation, and they have a consistently high certification passing rate.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst
MS in Nursing Education

The University of Massachusetts–Amherst offers a degree program that focuses on developing nursing educators. This degree program introduces you to advanced nursing practice and teaching theories.

Standout features of UMass Amherst’s online MS in Nursing Education program:

This master’s program is accredited by the CCNE, while the University of Massachusetts Amherst is New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)-recognized.

Simmons University

Simmons University
Master of Science in Nursing: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

Simmons University offers an online MSN with a focus on Psychiatric Mental Health Practice.

Standout features of Simmons University’s MSN: PMHNP online degree program:

Once you graduate, you become eligible to sit for the ANCC PMHNP board certification. You will then be able to pursue licensure in the state of your choice upon gaining certification.

Southern New Hampshire University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

SNHU’s online MSN offers specialized tracks that tackle a wide range of fields, from clinical practice to safety advocacy and executive leadership to big-picture healthcare.

Standout features of SNHU’s Online MSN degree program:

A unique highlight of the degree program is the Population Healthcare track. The need for skills related to this track was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lessons we took mean that this specialization is likely to grow in importance over the next few years.

Online Master's in Nursing - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualities do the best Nurses have that employers and universities look for?

Top nurses are good speakers and good listeners; a large part of their work relies on clear communication. The best nurses also have good critical thinking skills, which are especially useful in fast-paced critical care and emergency situations.

The field of healthcare is also constantly evolving, and good nurses are also willing to keep learning and keep their skillsets up to date.

Last but not least, the best nurses are compassionate. Healthcare has a human connection factor, and this is best delivered by nurses who genuinely care about their patients and are highly perceptive to their needs. 

What careers are there for me after my MS in Nursing degree?

Nurses aren’t just in hospitals. Nursing is a specialized but wide-ranging discipline that finds roles in many other settings, such as care homes, beauty clinics, construction sites, factories, and schools and universities.

A wide range of roles awaits the capable. Here are some of them:

Do I have to be a Registered Nurse to be considered for an MS in Nursing degree?

Yes; more importantly, you should also be a current practicing nurse for most universities to consider your application.

It is also necessary by course design. An MS Nursing degree builds on your existing bank of theoretical knowledge and skills, as well as experience obtained by actual clinical practice.

MSN programs assume that you have significant clinical time under your belt and are looking for advanced skills and new opportunities to level up your career. 

How will earning a Master’s degree in Nursing advance my career in the nursing field?

Earning a Master’s degree in Nursing can advance your career in several ways:

Is a Doctorate in Nursing necessary?

A Doctorate in Nursing, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD), is not necessary for every nursing career. However, it can open up additional opportunities for advanced practice, research, and leadership roles.

For nurses who want to work in an advanced practice role, a DNP is becoming increasingly important. Many states now require a DNP for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other advanced practice specialties.

Additionally, a DNP can provide further specialization and advanced clinical training in a specific area of practice. A PhD in Nursing, on the other hand, is more focused on research and academia.

If you are interested in conducting research, teaching in a university setting, or advancing the science of nursing through scholarship, a PhD may be beneficial. It can also open up opportunities to serve in leadership positions in healthcare organizations and influence policy and practice.

Overall, while a Doctorate may not be necessary for all nursing careers, it can provide additional expertise and opportunities for advancement in your career. It is important to consider your long-term career goals and the requirements of the position you are interested in before deciding if a Doctorate is necessary for you.

Summary Points

In an increasingly digital world, it is now possible to earn your master’s degree in nursing online. Before you do, you need to conduct a school search to find the best learning institution that offers quality nursing programs. Earning your advanced nursing education can set you up for success in your chosen field.

While a bachelor’s degree can be your ticket to an entry-level career as a nurse, a Master’s in Nursing paves the way for advanced positions.

You can qualify for advanced practice registered nurses’ jobs, including nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists.

Additional Resources:

The role of the Nurse Practitioner: