With the aging American population, the demand for qualified healthcare providers—including nurse practitioners—is growing each year. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2016) reports that there are over 222,000 NPs licensed in the United States, and an estimated 20,000 new NPs completed their academic programs in the 2014-2015 school year. Furthermore, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) shows that the number of NP jobs nationwide will increase 35 percent between 2014 and 2024, resulting in the addition of 44,700 fresh openings in this field. Notably, this is much more robust than the average growth anticipated across all occupations during that time (7 percent).
Of course, along with the promise of a growing industry, many registered nurses (RNs) pursue a career as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) for salary reasons as well; the AANP found that the mean, full-time base wage for an NP was $102,526, well over the national average; by comparison, the BLS (May 2015) found that the mean annual wage for all workers nationwide was $48,320.
Ultimately, as the population continues to grow, more FNPs will be needed to fulfill the increasing demand for healthcare services. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (Jan. 2015) highlighted the need for nurse practitioners over the coming years to meet primary care shortages found nationwide. Also, River University Online (June 2015) cited an American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) study which found that that there will likely be a US shortage of between 46,100 and 90,400 physicians by 2025, and that NPs will be needed to help fill the gap. RNs and other individuals interested in a career in advanced practice nursing should consider taking the steps needed to work in this field. And while traditional school is an option, many aspiring FNPs are choosing to pursue online graduate degrees in nursing to help them achieve their career goals.
Naturally, many people associate a graduate degree with high tuition and fees. In reality, a handful of online NP programs do exist that offer high-quality education at an affordable cost. Here are the 20 most affordable online FNP programs—15 MSNs and five DNPs—which can deliver a solid education without breaking the bank.
Before examining the list, it’s important to understand the methodology behind this study information. NursePractitionerSchools.com gathered information from over 600 online NP programs nationwide at the MSN, post-master’s certificate, and DNP levels. To qualify as online, the school had to require nine campus visits or less for the duration of the program. These programs are ranked by total out-of-state tuition, although additional fees may apply. Please note that NP program tuition typically changes annually. These figures were gathered between 2015 and 2017 and the most recent tuition estimates are available on program websites. Anyone with additional questions is encouraged to reach out to program coordinators directly. Each online FNP program discussed includes its overall cost, its cost-per-credit, and a brief description of expected coursework.
Finally, due to differing regulations regarding distance-based education, it’s imperative to verify a school’s “state authorization” status prior to submitting an application. In other words, online FNP programs may not be able to enroll students from certain states. For example, Texas A&M, Corpus Christi provides a list of all states from which it is authorized to enroll distance-based students. Again, if the information isn’t readily available on program websites, please reach out to administrators directly to ensure eligibility.
At Delta State University, located in Cleveland, online MSN students pay $12,596 for the entire program ($257 per credit hour), and take courses on differential diagnosis in primary care, advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, and family nurse practice, among others. Courses are delivered online with a few strategically scheduled campus seminars throughout the program.
Distance-based FNP students at IPFW can expect to take courses on health promotion in special populations, clinical applications in pharmacotherapeutics, health promotion for advanced practice in nursing, and primary care of the young family. The entire program costs $16,868 ($366 per credit), and only one campus visit is required.
The online MSN-FNP program at Indiana State University, located in Terre Haute, costs $19,800 ($396 per credit), and does not require any campus visits. Courses in this program include health assessment & health promotion for advanced practice nursing, the role of the family nurse practitioner, theoretical foundations for family healthcare nursing, and a diagnostic lab for family nurse practitioners.
At the University of Southern Mississippi of Hattiesburg, online MSN-FNP students take courses on family nurse practitioner diagnosis & management, FNP diagnosis & management of women & children, health promotion & disease prevention, and advanced pharmacotherapeutics. Two campus visits are required in the first semester and the program costs $20,075 ($446 per credit hour).
The online MSN-FNP program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham costs $22,950 ($510 per credit hour), and includes courses on translating evidence into practice, pharmacology & therapeutics, and assessment & diagnostic reasoning for advanced nursing practice. Four campus visits are required to complete this program.
At Rivier University, located in Nashua, NH, online FNP students take courses on advanced pathophysiology, advanced family nursing theory, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology. Only three campus visits are required throughout this program, which costs a total of $23,435 ($545 per credit hour).
The online MSN-FNP program at the University of North Dakota, located in Grand Forks, includes courses on family nursing, maternal & child health in primary care, essentials in epidemiology, and advanced health assessment. The cost of the program is $23,607 ($400 per credit hour), and requires one weeklong visit each semester, for a total of four campus visits overall.
Students at the University of South Alabama in Mobile are only required to visit the campus twice for basic skills workshops, simulation labs, and clinical exams. The cost of this program is $24,615 ($547 per credit hour), and required courses include health promotion & disease prevention, the physiopathological basis of advanced nursing, advanced nursing assessment, and healthcare policy & finance.
At Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio, online MSN-FNP students take courses on advanced concepts & practice in the care of older adults, advanced concepts & practice in the care of women, and principles of evidence-based practice. The classes can be completed entirely online, although three classes do have on-campus intensives. The program costs $24,840 altogether ($552 per credit hour).
The online MSN-FNP program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, requires three campus visits and costs $25,800 ($516 per credit hour). Students in this program take courses on ethical concepts & issues in advanced practice, pharmacology for advanced practice nursing, health promotion & maintenance, and primary care approaches for children.
11. Clarkson College
At Clarkson College, located in Omaha, Nebraska, online MSN-FNP students take courses on the primary care of the geriatric client, advanced physical assessment, primary health care, and pharmacology for practitioners. The program requires three campus visits and costs $26,132 altogether ($556 per credit).
Online MSN-FNP students at Middle Tennessee State University, located in Murfreesboro, are not required to visit the campus throughout the duration of the program, which is operated through the Regents Online Campus Collaborative. It costs $26,588 ($578 per credit) and includes courses on women’s health, adult health, pediatric health, and advanced pharmacology.
The online MSN-FNP program at Husson University in Bangor, Maine, costs $27,696 ($577 per credit), and covers courses on family health and pediatrics, adult health, women’s health, and advanced pharmacotherapeutics. Students are required to visit the campus one week per year for summer intensives.
At Briar Cliff University, located in Sioux City, Iowa, online MSN-FNP students take courses on evidence based practice, primary care in pediatrics, advanced pharmacology, and advanced human pathophysiology. The program costs $25,425 ($498 per credit hour), and can be completed entirely online without any visits to the campus.
Online MSN-FNP students are Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana are not required to visit the campus throughout the duration of the program, and take courses on primary care of adults, advanced clinical pharmacology, and pathophysiology & nursing practice. The program costs $27,730 ($590 per credit hour).
In addition to offering the most affordable online MSN-FNP program, Delta State University also provides an affordable DNP-FNP degree, as well, which costs $15,745 ($507 per credit hour). Students in this program will take courses on advanced theory & ethical issues in advanced nursing practice, advanced statistics for clinical practice, and business management & quality care in clinical practice. They may be required to visit the campus between one and three times per semester, for a total of no more than six overall.
Students in the DNP-FNP program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville are only required to visit the campus once in August for the program orientation. They can expect to take classes on healthcare informatics, epidemiology, healthcare statistics & data processing, and healthcare economics & finance. The cost of the program is $15,897 altogether ($407 per credit).
At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, online DNP-FNP students will take classes on strategies for management of healthcare systems & performance improvement, business management for nurse practitioners, population health, and health & public policy. They are required to visit the campus a total of three times. The program costs $17,189.50 ($554.50 per credit hour).
The online DNP-FNP program at Anderson University, located in Anderson, South Carolina, costs $26,325 ($675 per credit hour), and covers courses on scientific underpinnings for nursing practice, advocacy in healthcare policy, interprofessional collaboration for improving health outcomes, and applied informatics & change systems. Students must visit the campus once per semester for a total of four visits.
At Loyola University New Orleans, online DNP-FNP students must only visit the campus twice, and take courses on epidemiology, biostatistics, leadership of systems change & innovation, and informatics & finance. The cost of the program is $31,902 ($818 per credit hour).