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Nurses seeking to advance their credentials and potentially qualify for more responsibility and higher pay may choose to enroll in an online nurse practitioner (NP) program. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP July 2016), there are over 222,000 NPs in the United States, and this figure is expected to rise significantly in coming years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) predicts that openings for nurse practitioners in the U.S. will swell 35 percent between 2014 and 2024, much more robust growth than the average projected for all occupations during that time period (7 percent).

To prepare for this career in demand, online programs can be ideal for people who work full-time, take care of family, or have other commitments which necessitate flexibility in scheduling. These options may also be desirable for nurses who want to work with a specific patient population, such as children, adults, or the elderly. While most online nurse practitioner programs are designed for licensed registered nurses (RNs) with an undergraduate nursing degree, some so-called accelerated programs are available to RNs who have a bachelor’s degree in another field, but these programs may require the completion of additional prerequisite courses.

So Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) estimates that nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary of $101,260, much higher than the mean annual salary for all occupations in the U.S. at $48,320 (BLS May 2015). As mentioned above, the BLS (May 2015) also reports that nursing is a career on the rise, predicting a 35 percent increase in job openings for NPs between 2014 to 2024, leading to the creation of 44,700 new jobs nationwide. Finally, there are a multitude of opportunities available online from the master’s to the doctoral level.

Students can find a variety of online master’s of science in nursing (MSN) programs which allow them to compete the requisite coursework to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), a classification that comprises NPs, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and clinical nurse specialists. There are also post-master’s graduate certificates available online, providing specialized learning to practicing NPs looking to advance their skills in fields such as pediatrics, gerontology, or women’s health. Candidates are advised to examine all their options for a graduate education, particularly the doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) states that the DNP designation is “a vision for the future of specialty nursing education,” recommending that the new bar for advanced practice nursing be set at the DNP by 2015. For aspiring nurse practitioners seeking a terminal degree which is more practice-centered than the research-focused PhD programs, pursuing an online DNP nurse practitioner program can be an appropriate investment in one’s future. It’s important to note that there are both generalist and specialized DNP programs, and that only the latter may include an NP specialization (e.g., adult-gerontological, pediatric, women’s health, etc).

Students should be aware that clinical hours and practicums are still part of these online programs, meaning that while much of the coursework can be completed online, the supervised clinical hours need to be completed at a healthcare service site. That said, there’s often flexibility in arranging the location for these hours and programs can often approve preceptorships located conveniently close to students’ homes.

How Do Online NP Programs Work?

Online and hybrid programs can be ideal for working registered nurses (RNs) and other nursing professionals looking to expand their knowledge of a particular area. With more advanced credentials, not only can aspiring advanced NPs have the skills necessary to work with more complex cases and help people, but they may also qualify for higher pay and more leadership responsibilities.

Online nursing programs have a variety of instructional formats:

Synchronous learning is one example of online learning. This is a form of live communication where people log in from different locations at the same time. One example of this typically web-based format is a “fixed time online course” where students are required to log in at a set time for assignments, lectures, meetings, and other course requirements.

Asynchronous learning is even more flexible as students are given weekly or monthly deadlines to complete coursework. They need not be online at a specific time, but must complete assignments within a given timeframe. One example of this type of learning is the “open schedule online course”.

Hybrid programs combine traditional on-campus or in-clinic learning with online learning. The online learning component may be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of the two, which is also true of fully online programs.

While online NP programs may offer some synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences, many also require an on-campus orientation or a limited number of campus visits, and all of them require a clinical preceptorship for hands-on training that must be completed on-site, typically at a facility convenient for the student (please confirm preceptorship and campus visitation requirements with the school prior to enrolling).

Please note that when pursuing any online program, it’s important to check that there aren’t enrollment or preceptorship restrictions based on location. States have different rules governing their regional commissions on higher education. Excluded states are generally listed on program websites under “state authorization” tabs. Otherwise, it’s advisable to reach out to program coordinators to fully understand restrictions for a particular state of residence.

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Nurse Practitioner Program Requirements

Requirements to be admitted into an NP online program in a specialization will vary, but students typically need to have a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), or in some cases an associate degree in nursing (ADN), with some experience. Some schools, such as Drexel University Online, may allow registered nurses (RNs) with a bachelor’s degree in another area to be admitted, but they review these applications on an individual basis. Other online post-master’s NP certificate programs such as the one at John Hopkins University require applicants to have completed a master of science in (MSN) nursing degree prior to enrollment. Also, applicants typically must have at least one-to-two years of work experience in a relevant clinical setting.

Other requirements for admission into a specialized online nurse practitioner school may include:

  • Resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Sealed official transcripts
  • A 1-2 page personal statement about the student’s goals in pursuing the selected specialty track
  • Letters of reference, typically from a clinical supervisor, a professor, and/or a mentoring advanced practice nurse (APRN)
  • Interview or video-essay
  • Proof of U.S. registered nurse (RN) licensure
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores, particularly for MSN program applicants
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores for non-native speakers of English
  • Application fee

Please note that Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores are not always required, although some schools such as Georgetown University advise students to contact the admissions department if they believe the scores would strengthen their applications. Other schools such as Brandman University do require GRE scores and place a special emphasis on the Analytical Writing Section, calling for a score of at least 4.0. And still other schools such as Loyola University in Chicago waive the GRE requirement for applicants with a GPA of at least 2.7.

The length of these programs will depend on the educational attainment of the applicant (e.g., AA, BSN, MSN) and the degree desired (e.g., MSN, DNP).

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Accreditation of Online NP Programs

Prior to enrollment in a program, aspiring nurse practitioners (NPs) are advised to check the accreditation status of their programs. This process can hold nursing programs accountable and ensure quality control in curricula, faculty, student outcomes, and other measures of career readiness for all graduates. Please note that the programs discussed in this guide have all been accredited by one of the agencies listed here.

The two most common organizations for NP program accreditation include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). Approval from one of these agencies is generally the most important type of accreditation to seek in a program, although some schools may boast institutional accreditation as well.

Institutional accreditation applies to the university as a whole, and is generally bestowed by one of six regional organizations: the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC-NCA), the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), or the Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

This program approval can be given by state-specific bodies as well, such as those bestowed by the Colorado Commission of Higher Education (CCHE) or the Arizona State Board of Nursing (AZBN).

For example, Indiana State University’s online MSN program for family NPs is accredited by both programmatic and institutional bodies: the ACEN and the HLC-NCA. Benedictine University’s online MSN program, by contrast, is accredited by both the CCNE and the HLC-NCA.

Overall, it’s wise to ensure that a program is accredited by at least the CCNE or the ACEN prior to enrollment. Graduating from a properly accredited program may be a prerequisite to further education, specialty certification, or employment.

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How Much Does an Online NP Program Cost?

There are many factors which influence the cost of an online NP program at any level (e.g., MSN, post-master’s certificate, DNP). These variables include:

  • State of student’s residency
  • Intended NP specialty
  • Method of delivery (online or hybrid)
  • Student’s enrollment status (full-time or part-time)

10 Most Affordable Online MSN-NP Programs

SCHOOLPROGRAMSPECIALIZATIONS100% ONLINE?DEGREE REQUIRED?TUITION
(IN-STATE)
TUITION
(OUT-OF-STATE)
1) East Carolina University
Greenville, NC
MSN Neonatal Nurse PractitionerAG-PCNP, FNP, NNPNoBSN$ 9,576$ 36,120
2) Angelo State University
San Angelo, TX
MSN - Family Nurse PractitionerFNPNoBSN$ 10,290$ 30,292
3) Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX
MSN Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse PractitionerAG-ACNP, FNP, PNP-PC, PMHNP, PNPNoBSN$ 11,520$ 31,104
4) Columbus State University
Columbus, GA
MSN - Family Nurse PractitionerFNPYesBSN$ 16,940$ 16,940
5) University of Texas - El Paso
El Paso, TX
Nurse Practitioner (MSN) Adult-Gerontological Acute Care FocusAG-ACNP, FNP, PNP-AC, PNP-PCNoBSN$ 17,493$ 34,300
6) Clayton State University
Morrow, GA
MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner (2nd Master's)FNPNoMSN$ 17,710$ 17,710
7) Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi, TX
MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner ProgramFNPYesBSN$ 18,228$ 38,220
8) Indiana University, Purdue University, Fort Wayne (IPFW)
Fort Wayne, IN
MSN - Family Nurse PractitionerAG-PCNP, FNPNoBSN$ 18,260$ 16,868
9) Ball State University
Muncie, IN
Family Nurse Practitioner Track - BSN to MSNFNPYesBSN$ 18,518$ 27,730
10) University of Southern Indiana
Evansville, IN
MSN - Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse PractitionerAG-ACNP, AG-PCNP, FNP, PMHNPYesBSN$ 18,984$ 33,306

Many schools disclose how much programs cost in their “Tuition & Fees” or “Gainful Employment Disclosure” sections. Distance-based nurse practitioner schools also have various ways of pricing programs. Some have interactive tables (Indiana University-Purdue University), and others have static charts (Ohio State University). Some list their prices per semester (Duke University online MSN programs), while others list their prices per credit (Drexel University) or for the entire program (Duke University online post-graduate certificates).

Please note that many tuition and fee overviews include additional expenses a student may incur such as student registration, books, background checks, drug testing, health insurance, test proctoring fees, student services, transportation to clinical rotations, lab kits, uniforms, technology fees, graduation fees, and other miscellaneous expenses. Additionally, some programs offer discounts to military personnel or school alumni.

Here is a comparative overview of pricing among popular online nurse practitioner programs listed with prices for the 2016-2017 school year:

Price of Online MSN Programs for Aspiring Nurse Practitioners

Price of Online Post-Master’s NP Certificate Programs

Price of Online DNP Programs in NP Specialties

How to Pay for an Online NP Program?

In addition to applying for the national Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students are encouraged to consult their school’s web-based financial aid resources. For example, Duke University provides a DUSON Graduate Financial Aid Application and various merit- and need-based scholarships.  There are also various national organizations which provide grants and scholarships to qualifying online NP students:

To learn more about how to fund an online nurse practitioner program, please check out the NP scholarship page.

10 Most Affordable Online DNP-NP Programs

SCHOOLPROGRAMSPECIALIZATIONS100% ONLINE?DEGREE REQUIRED?TUITION
(IN-STATE)
TUITION
(OUT-OF-STATE)
1) University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
MSN to DNP - Advanced Family Nurse Practitioner trackFNPNoMSN$ 8,184$ 17,174
2) Montana State University - Bozeman
Bozeman, MT
DNP - Nurse Practitioner, Family/IndividualFNP, PMHNPNoBSN$ 15,600$ 48,600
3) University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Fayetteville, AR
Adult-Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner - MSN to DNPAG-ACNP, FNPNoMSN$ 15,990$ 15,990
4) East Carolina University
Greenville, NC
BSN to DNP - Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse PractitionerAG-PCNP, FNP, NNPNoBSN$ 16,644$ 62,780
5) Troy University
Troy, AL
DNP - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Post-MSN trackFNPNoMSN$ 17,290$ 34,580
6) University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC
Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner - MSN to DNPAG-ACNP, FNP, PMHNPNoMSN$ 17,550$ 32,160
7) New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM
DNP - Adult/Gerontological Nurse PractitionerAGNP, FNP, PMHNPNoBSN$ 19,180$ 58,751
8) Delta State University
Cleveland, MS
DNP - Family Nurse Practitioner - Post Master'sFNPNoMSN$ 23,650$ 23,650
9) Anderson University
Anderson, SC
DNP - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner - MSN to DNPFNP, PMHNPNoMSN$ 26,325$ 26,325
10) Georgia Southern University
Statesboro, GA
Post-BSN to DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse PractitionerFNP, PMHNPNoBSN$ 29,876$ 96,173
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Specializations

Specialized nurse practitioner programs afford you the flexibility to study partially or primarily online in order to complete an advanced nursing degree at the master's or doctoral level. Clinical hours do require an on-site component, but the bulk of the work can be completed or delivered through a high-speed Internet connection.

Adult-Gerontology NP Online Programs (1.25 – 2 years)

Online adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) programs typically take from one to four years to complete, depending on the student’s degree status (e.g., RN, BSN, ASN, MSN) and whether it’s a degree-granting or certificate program, the latter typically being of shorter duration and generally offered to holders of more advanced degrees. For those with a BSN, one of the most common starting points, these programs typically take two years to complete. There are two sub-specialties of adult gerontological care: adult gerontological primary care nurse practitioner, and adult gerontological acute care nurse practitioner.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP Online Programs (2 years)

For working registered nurses (RNs) with a passion for promoting the health and preventative care of adult patients, enrolling in an adult-gerontological primary care nurse practitioner (AG-PCNP) program can be a way to advance one’s knowledge and qualifications. These specialists work in a variety of settings, including community health clinics, hospitals, and public health organizations. Some may choose to further specialize in care for HIV/AIDS patients.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP July 2016), 16.8 percent of NPs work in adult care and 4 percent specialize in adult-gerontology primary care.

After completing an accredited program, prospective AG-PCNPs may be eligible for certification exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Some typical courses in an accredited online AG-PCNP program include:

  • Philosophical, Theoretical, and Ethical Basis for Nursing
  • Statistical Literacy and Reasoning in Nursing Research
  • Diagnosis, Symptom, and Illness Management
  • Human Development Throughout the Lifespan

Here are five featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the AG-PCNP specialization:

  • Kent State University offers a flexible, online master of science in nursing (MSN) program with an AG-PCNP focus. Through a combination of world-class faculty mentoring, comprehensive online coursework, and supervised clinical experiences, this school has boasted an impressive 99 percent passing rate for its graduates on the AANP examination since 1997.
  • Boise State has an online master’s in nursing (MN) program which includes three 7-10 day on-campus summer intensives and access to a full-time clinical placement coordinator. With both degree-granting and certificate options available in adult-gerontology primary (or acute) care, this program has a state-of-the-art simulation center to expose students to a gamut of hands-on clinical experiences to best prepare them for real-life medical challenges.
  • Spring Arbor University, a school “deeply invested in transforming [their] students into becoming people of wisdom,” takes a holistic approach to its fully CCNE-accredited online MSN program. It assigns Student Success Advisors to assist with students’ personal and professional development throughout the course of this two-year, online AG-PCNP program which begins in the fall.
  • George Washington University (GWU) offers a dynamic online MSN program requiring a total of only three campus visits. With student-selected clinical preceptorships and didactic coursework in areas such as nursing leadership, population health, and advanced physiology, students are prepared to treat their adult patients, paying thought to physical, psychosocial, and spiritual considerations.
  • The University of North Dakota (UND) has a unique, online MSN program with part- and full-time curricula tailored to the needs of the working RN. This program’s stated focus is to “improve the quality of life for rural adults and the elderly” through both online and traditional coursework, clinical examinations, and simulation experiences. Please note that this program requires students to visit the campus four times in two years.

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Online Programs (1.25 – 2 years)

Online acute care adult-gerontology nurse practitioner programs help nurses to advance their assessment, physiological, and pharmacological knowledge while also becoming more skilled in treating patients who have acute, chronic, or critical conditions.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP July 2016), 7.7 percent of NPs work in acute care, including those who specialize in pediatric care. Registered nurses with acute care experience may be interested in advancing their skills. These programs are designed to prepare RNs for the advanced care of adults in specific areas, including cardiovascular, oncological, and other types of specialized assistance.

One possible path is to become an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP), an option achieved with a variety of online programs. The coursework and clinical components typically take two years to complete and are designed to prepare students for the Adult-Gerontology ACNP exam for board certification offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Additionally, students can become eligible for credentialing from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).

Please note that some programs require students to have their advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) certification prior to admission.

Some of the typical courses of the AG-ACNP programs may include:

  • Adult Gerontology
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • Research Evidence & Best Practices in Healthcare
  • Advanced Concepts in Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment

Here are five featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the AG-ACNP specialization:

  • Georgetown University offers a 40-credit AG-ACNP program to RNs interested in advancing their skills in complex care settings. It typically takes 23-months to complete and requires only three on-campus intensives (OCIs). In addition to live online classes, students must complete 600 clinical hours prior to graduation.
  • Drexel University offers an online, CCNE-accredited MSN program featuring 57 credits of coursework in areas such as advanced pathophysiology, physiology, and confronting issues in contemporary healthcare environments. It typically takes two years to complete and most conveniently, Drexel provides seasonal terms which begin every three months.
  • Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing was ranked #11 by U.S. News & World Report (2015) for graduate schools in nursing. Vanderbilt’s AG-ACNP program has a hybrid course format, offering some traditional classroom experiences in addition to interactive online lectures, simulated clinical experiences, and computer-based activities. One standout feature of this school is the ability to further specialize in a variety of areas, including cardiology, oncology, pulmonology, and more, as well as tracks in hospitalist and intensivist training.
  • John Hopkins School of Nursing offers an online post-master’s AG-ACNP certificate which begins in September of each year. This program is open to people with an MSN and can be completed in as little as 15 months. Please note that candidates must have Maryland State Nursing Licensure to qualify and therefore clinical requirements must be completed in that region.
  • The University of South Alabama (USA) features an online MSN program. In addition to the AG-ACNP requirements, some students complete extra coursework to pursue a dual role specialty as a family NP (FNP). Most conveniently, USA offers program options to RNs holding BA or BS degrees in non-nursing disciplines, as well as three enrollment periods: spring, summer, and fall.

Lastly, explore the various distance-based schools and pathways to joining the adult-gerontology NP specialty on the online AGNP programs page.

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Family NP Online Programs (2 – 3 years)

For those interested in providing comprehensive, family-focused primary care, an online family NP program can help to advance one’s skills and earning potential. According to the AANP (July 2016), 55.1 percent of NPs work in family care. There are a variety of online family NP programs accommodating different points of academic entry. Some of these programs grant a master of nursing (MSN) degree, and others may culminate in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Upon graduation, students may be eligible to sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (FNP-BC) examination offered by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

In these programs, students can expect to take courses such as:

  • Advanced Nursing Practice Role
  • Healthcare Perspectives
  • Informatics and Application Systems in Healthcare
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Population-focused Health Promotion Framework for a Primary Care Setting

Here are four featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the FNP specialization:

  • The Chamberlain College of Nursing has a 100 percent online MSN program which can be completed in less than three years with six convenient starting dates annually. It requires only one on-campus visit for an “immersion weekend,” an opportunity to meet professors and fellow students face-to-face during the advanced physical assessment course. Chamberlain boasts a number of asynchronous web classes and specializes in working around the schedules of full-time professionals. This college of nursing was rated among the top programs in the U.S. News and World Report’s (2015) rankings, offering classes such as healthcare policy, population health, and fundamentals of nursing informatics.
  • Indiana State University offers a 48-51 credit MSN program which typically takes two years to complete. All courses are online in conjunction with clinical work at a pre-approved facility close to the student’s home. The ACEN-accredited program features an emphasis in areas such as the practitioner-patient relationship and cultural competence. Part-time study options are available, although the program must be completed within five years.
  • Nicholls State University of Louisiana provides an online FNP program in conjunction with other members of the Intercollegiate Consortium for a Master of Science in Nursing (ICMSN): McNeese State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This competitive FNP program has web-based courses such as applied statistics for health sciences, generating evidence in nursing practice, population-based primary care, and family health. Additionally, the curriculum gives students a chance to produce original research in the field through a focused scholarly project or a thesis.
  • Georgetown University’s FNP program can be completed in two-and-a-half years. It requires 44 credits of courses such as primary care of the family and healthcare ethics, in addition to 650 supervised clinical hours. Although most of the work can be completed remotely or in clinics close to a student’s home, Georgetown requires two on-campus intensives (OCIs) prior to graduation. Lastly, this school boasts “outstanding first-time pass rates” on FNP exams, including those offered by the ANCC and the AANP.

To learn more about the array of schools in the family health specialization which provide distance-based coursework, visit the online FNP programs page.

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Neonatal NP Online Programs (1 – 3 years)

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) work in hospital intensive care units for newborns and help safeguard life from the very beginning. According to the AANP (July 2016), only 1.7 percent of NPs work in neonatal care, but they typically have more years of practice than many other NP professionals—an average of 16 years—indicating that there’s higher job retention and perhaps job satisfaction within this subspecialty. These nurse specialists are typically certified through the National Certification Corporation (NCC) after successfully passing an exam.

In these programs, aspiring NNPs can expect to have coursework in:

  • Population Health in a Global Survey
  • Advanced Practice Nursing in Neonatal Patients
  • Advanced Physiology Across the Lifespan

Please note that in addition to normal program requirements, applicants to online neonatal NP programs typically need to have certification through the Neonatal Resuscitation Program or an equivalent credential, as well as a commitment to complete their clinical requirements in level II or level III neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

Here are four featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the NNP specialization:

  • The University of Missouri in Kansas City (UMKC) has a two-year, CCNE-accredited, NNP master’s program with courses such as advanced neonatal assessment, pharmacology and pathophysiology. UMKC requires “minimal campus visits” and offers in-state tuition to all students regardless of residency, combining both synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning.
  • Duke University provides both an MSN and post-master’s certificate program with convenient fall or spring enrollment periods. This distance program combines rigorous coursework and clinical components to prepare students to work with high-risk neonates and their families. Prior to graduation, aspiring NNPs must complete 43 credits including 616 clinical hours.
  • Northeastern University offers an accelerated NNP program that can be completed in as little as one year of full-time study. It boasts an engaging, online format focusing on disease management and advanced therapeutics. Applicants must have at least two years of NICU experience prior to enrollment.
  • The University of Illinois in Chicago has an innovative online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program for aspiring NNPs seeking more advanced training than typical MSN programs. The coursework helps students explore the research, ethics, and policy within neonatal healthcare and is designed to prepare NNPs for hands-on, culturally competent, and family-focused healthcare delivery. The length of the program depends on the educational attainment of the student.

For an overview of the various web-based schools and points of academic entry for neonatal NPs, please visit the online NNP programs page.

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Pediatric NP Online Programs (2 years)

Online pediatric nurse practitioner programs can take from one to four years to complete, depending on the student’s highest degree attained (e.g., RN, BSN, ASN, MSN). Completion times also depend on whether it’s a degree-granting or certificate program—many schools offer both options—the latter typically being shorter and offered to holders of more advanced degrees looking for training in a specific area. For those who have BSNs, a common prerequisite to admission, these programs typically take two years. Other common admission criteria include at least one year of experience working in pediatrics and the Pediatrics Life Support (PALS) certificate.

There are two sub-specialties of pediatric NP programs: pediatric primary care nurse practitioner and pediatric acute care nurse practitioner.

Pediatric Primary Care NP Online Programs (2 years)

For aspiring advanced practice nurses with a passion for promoting the health of infants and children, enrolling in a pediatric nurse practitioner primary care (PNP-PC) program can prepare them for the range of delicate situations and conditions during this vulnerable stage of life.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP July 2016), 6.4 percent of NPs work in pediatric primary care, with a further 1.7 percent specializing in working with neonates.

Upon graduating from an accredited PNP-PC program, candidates may be eligible to sit for certification examinations given by Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Some typical courses in a PNP-PC program may include:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Children with Chronic Illnesses and Special Needs
  • Pediatric Pharmatherapeutics
  • Theory of Advanced Pediatric Nursing Practice
  • Care of the Child and the Adolescent

Here are five featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the PNP-PC specialization:

  • Maryville University reports that its online MSN program with a pediatric primary care focus may help to meet the needs of the approximately 5,700 geographic areas in the U.S. with shortages of PC professionals. In as few as 27 months, Maryville helps students learn how to conduct developmental health screenings, prescribe medication, and identify various conditions affecting young patients’ physical and mental health.
  • The University of Arizona offers a one-year online certificate program to master’s degree holders seeking to advance their skills in child and infant healthcare. This 26-credit program focuses on both primary and acute care conditions, providing graduates with a broad foundation of knowledge for advanced pediatric nursing. It includes classes such as chronic conditions in children and requires 540 clinical hours.
  • Seton Hall University has a two-year, 43-credit online MSN program for aspiring pediatric nurse practitioners. In challenging web-provided coursework and supervised clinical practicums at local preceptor clinics, students develop to make medical judgements both independently and cooperatively with other healthcare professionals.
  • Saint Louis University offers a flexible, four-year, online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program with an emphasis in pediatric primary care to students who are seeking terminal nursing degrees. With convenient fall, spring, and summer semester enrollment periods, students can complete their degree while working full-time. This post-baccalaureate program requires only two visits: an initial five-day orientation for skill assessment and a final one to two day visit to present capstone projects.

Pediatric Acute Care NP Online Programs (2 years)

For nurse practitioners with experience giving complex, acute, or emergency treatment to infants and children, pursuing an advanced credential in pediatric acute care may be advisable to advance one’s skills. Graduates of these pediatric acute care nurse practitioner (PNP-AC) programs may be eligible for certifications from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).

In these programs, candidates can expect courses such as:

  • Infant, Child, and Adolescent Health
  • Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology
  • Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan
  • Scientific and Analytic Approaches for Advanced Practice

Here are five featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the PNP-AC specialization:

  • Vanderbilt University was one of the first nursing schools in the country to develop an PNP-AC program. This innovative course format combines on-campus classes with a modified distance learning approach so working professionals don’t need to take time off their jobs. It offers a two-year program to those with BSN or ASN degrees and a part-time, two-semester certificate program to those with their MSN. Applicants must have at least two years of nursing experience to qualify.
  • Brandman University features a BSN-to-DNP program focusing in pediatric acute care. In addition to courses such as genetics across the lifespan, embryology, and complex chronic problems in pediatric acute care, this school combines web-enhanced lectures with rich, hands-on clinical practicums. Please note that this program is also available as a post-doctoral certificate and Brandman may require a three-to-five day immersion experience in California for some courses.
  • Duke University hosts the only PNP-AC program in the state of North Carolina. This comprehensive, seven-semester, online MSN combines 43 credit hours of coursework with 616 supervised clinical hours which can be completed in pediatric intensive care units, inpatient units, and other contexts conveniently located close to a student’s home. Duke boasts the Center for Nursing Discovery, an innovative simulation center designed to throw aspiring pediatrics specialists into real-life emergencies. This program is also offered as a post-master’s certificate.
  • Drexel University provides a CCNE-accredited, online MSN program with coursework focused on the chronic, complex, or acute illnesses of infants and children. Students can complete their clinical hours in approved preceptor sites while completing a majority of the coursework online with experienced, board-certified faculty. Please note that students are required to attend school in Philadelphia for a minimum two-day on-campus intensive (OCI) for each clinical course.
  • Rutgers University has a four-year, post-baccalaureate doctor of nurse practice program (DNP) for students looking to go the distance. Aspiring advanced pediatric NPs can start in the fall or spring terms. In addition to classes such as social determinants of health and advanced pediatric pathophysiology, students complete 540 clinical hours and 500 mentored hours to truly develop his or her skills.

Finally, be sure to reference the detailed guide to distance-based pediatric NP programs (both acute and primary care) on the online PNP programs page.

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Psychiatric NP Online Programs (2 – 3 years)

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) provide holistic care to patients suffering disorders of the body and mind. These specialists diagnose diseases, prescribe medications, and provide therapy paying thought to both the physiological and psychological underpinnings of problems.

According to the AANP (July 2016), 4.2 percent of NPs work in the psychiatric subspecialty of nursing. Following completion of these programs, students may be eligible for PMHNP certification through the ANCC.

In an online psychiatric NP program, students can expect to take a number of classes such as:

  • Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Practice Nurses
  • Adult Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Statistical Analysis in Evidence-based Practice

Here are six featured online (and hybrid) MSN nurse practitioner programs with the PMHNP specialization:

  • Drexel University has an online master of science in nursing (MSN) program for aspiring PMH-NPs. It requires only four on-site visits for residencies or healthcare simulation experiences. Drexel boasts a “state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary patient simulation lab” to give students exposure to a wide range of case studies. This comprehensive, 52-credit curriculum takes approximately two years to complete.
  • Eastern Kentucky University’s program, founded in 2004, offers an online, three-year MSN degree with a focus in bio-psychosocial solutions to disorders. In courses such as principles of epidemiology, research in rural nursing, and applied psychopharmacology, students become well-versed in the lifespan approach to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
  • Idaho State University has a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree program with a focus in psychiatric and mental health. This three-year program requires 672 clinical hours in addition to coursework that can be completed online. The School of Nursing also awards $42,000 in scholarships annually which can provide financial support to qualified students.
  • The University of South Alabama (USA) provides a wealth of online options to hopeful PMH-NPs based on their academic attainment. Offering BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP tracks, these rigorous programs prepare students for careers in advanced psychiatric (family) care. USA provides classes such as translating evidence into practice systems, healthcare policy and finance, and clinical prevention/population health. Typically ranging in length from two-to-four years for full-time students, these programs are offered conveniently during both fall and spring enrollment periods.
  • The University of Colorado at Denver boasts an MSN and post-master’s certificate program for prospective PMH-NPs. The curriculum includes 43-52 semester hours, and typically takes two to three years to complete. One advantage of this program is that two-thirds of the classes are offered both online and on-campus by alternating semesters, meaning that students can develop the program to meet their learning preferences. Please note that this program is hybrid and therefore requires more campus visits than online programs.
  • McNeese University boasts a CCNE-accredited, online MSN program developed in conjunction with three other universities in Louisiana. This consortium exposes students to a variety of complex mental health situations through didactic instruction in pharmacotherapeutics, theoretic foundations in advanced nursing, and a focused scholarly project.

To discover the broad range of distance-based schools in the psychiatric NP specialty, check out the online PMHNP programs page.

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Women’s Health NP Online Programs (2 – 3 years)

Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) deliver primary healthcare to women throughout their lifespan. From adolescence to the childbearing years and beyond, these specialists can provide assistance with family planning, uro-gynecology, and fertility management, among other services. There’s a wide array of online WHNP schools to train these valuable specialists and meet the healthcare needs of women across the country.

According to the AANP (July 2016), 5.8 percent of NPs work in the women’s health subspecialty of nursing. Upon graduation from a qualifying program, candidates may be eligible for certification through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

Aspiring WHNPs can expect to take courses such as:

  • Integrated Healthcare of Women
  • Introduction to Reproductive Healthcare of Women
  • Care of the Family in Crisis
  • Ambulatory Primary Care of Women

Here are five featured online MSN nurse practitioner programs with the WHNP specialization:

  • Georgetown offers a six-semester master of science in nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in women’s health. This program takes two-to-three years to complete the 44 credits and 720 clinical hours involved. It can prepare prospective WHNPs for a career in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.
  • Frontier Nursing University has a flexible, two-year MSN program which also gives students the option to complete a DNP with further training and clinical experience. Terms begin every 11 weeks punctuated by two-week breaks in between. All of the coursework is offered conveniently online and students are required to attend only two on-site sessions in Kentucky while completing their clinical practicums in their home communities.
  • The University of South Alabama (USA) offers a CCNE-accredited online WHNP program. This program is open to applicants not only with BSNs, but also to those who are practicing RNs with associate degrees in nursing or bachelor’s degrees in another discipline. USA requires only one on-campus visit: a three-day orientation during the fall semester of the first practicum course.
  • Ohio State University’s MSN program provides a women’s health specialty track with flexible online coursework. The curriculum proudly meets the guidelines of the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF). One additional advantage of this program is that it admits students with non-BSN bachelor’s degrees, although it may take up to an additional year of schooling and more on-campus requirements.
  • The University of Indianapolis’s MSN program—which can be completed in two-and-a-half years—comprises 49 credit hours of coursework (16 classes), much of which can be completed online. Through the classes and 630 supervised clinical hours, students are prepared to provide primary care to women, collaborate with other medical professionals, and conduct clinical research for evidence-based care. At $692 per credit hour, this is also one of the more economical online options.

Check out the variety of distance-based schools with accredited NP programs in women’s health on the online WHNP programs page.

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Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) NP Programs

In order to enroll in an online master of science in nursing (MSN) program, students typically must be registered nurses (RNs) with one-to-two years of clinical experience. Many programs require that candidates have completed their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, but other related college degrees may qualify with extra coursework.

Schools typically require their applicants to submit the following:

  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from professors, supervising nurses, and/or others who can testify to an applicant’s eligibility
  • Completion of undergraduate prerequisite courses (e.g., statistics, chemistry, biology)
  • Personal statement about one’s goals in pursuing a MSN
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores
  • TOEFL or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores for students whose primary language isn’t English

Please note that Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores may required for applications, particularly for students who think the scores would enhance their qualifications or for those who haven’t achieved a minimum GPA (e.g., 3.0).

In online MSN programs, students can expect to take courses such as the following:

  • Healthcare Policy and Advocacy
  • Evidence-based Nursing Practice
  • Quality Improvement and Safety in Healthcare Systems

Upon graduation from a qualifying program, candidates may be eligible to pursue certification, a process which normally involves an exam and application. There are a variety of certifications available depending on one’s specialization or MSN program track. The most common certifying agencies for MSN graduates include:

RN-to-MSN Online NP Programs (3 years)

These online programs, also known as “bridge” or “blend” programs, may award both BSN and MSN degrees upon completion. These programs are designed for RNs with associate’s degrees looking for an accelerated route to higher credentials. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provides a comprehensive list of RN-to-MSN program options, including on-campus (i.e., traditional), hybrid, and online learning formats.

Some of the featured online RN-to-MSN programs include:

  • Frontier Nursing University provides a “bridge option” for ADN graduates interested in completing their MSN online. With two nurse practitioner specializations available—family or midwifery—students are expected to complete 12 months of preparatory coursework before pursuing the MSN. Also, while these candidates are not awarded BSN degrees en route to the master’s, they have the option to complete a companion DNP with extra didactic instruction and supervised clinical hours.
  • Walden University has an online RN-to-MSN program which allows students to also earn their BSN concurrently “in less time and at a lower cost” than pursuing each separately. This CCNE-accredited program offers family NP and adult-gerontology NP specializations with the opportunity to complete an undergraduate minor as well. Students may transfer up to 135 credits, but must complete at least 45 credit hours at Walden to graduate.
  • The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has a number of nurse practitioner tracks for aspiring RN-to-MSN candidates, including adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, family, and psychiatric mental health. Please note that applicants must complete 58 credit hours of general education prior to admission and have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.85.
  • George Washington University features several online RN-to-MSN nurse practitioner programs. Students can choose from three specializations: adult-gerontology primary care, family, or nurse midwifery. Most impressively, GW’s online nursing program was ranked #9 among U.S. News & World Report’s Best Nursing Programs(2015), putting it into the top 11 percent of programs nationwide.
  • South University hosts two CCNE-accredited online RN-to-MSN nurse practitioner options—adult-gerontology primary care and family—which award both BSN and MSN degrees upon completion. This school, established in 1899, also offers unique military and veteran education benefits including tuition assistance and various scholarships.

BSN-to-MSN Online NP Programs (2 years)

A majority of online MSN programs require applicants to have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and an unencumbered RN license prior to applying. BSN programs provide both a strong foundation of didactic coursework and clinical hours to prepare students for the rigors of an online graduate nurse practitioner program. In addition to the advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) specializations (e.g., AGNP, PNP, WHNP)—the focus of this article—there are also BSN-to-MSN programs which focus on administration or education. Please note that a majority of the specialized online NP programs profiled above are BSN-to-MSN.

Here are four additional online BSN-to-MSN programs for aspiring NPs with various specializations:

These online NP programs are open to RNs who hold bachelor’s degrees in a non-nursing discipline. Although many online programs call for candidates to have a BSN prior to enrollment, some accept non-BSN bachelor degree holders who are willing to take extra qualifying coursework. Other programs require non-BSN candidates to submit a clinical practice portfolio to demonstrate nursing experience and competencies.

Here are four additional online BSN-to-MSN programs for aspiring NPs with various specializations:

  • The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) provides an online MSN program with few campus visits required. Involving two years of full-time or three years of part-time study, MUSC offers three distinct foci in its nationally renowned MSN program: adult, family, or pediatrics. With a curriculum based on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Essentials of Master’s Education, this school integrates cross-disciplinary scientific findings into courses such as advanced pathophysiology, scientific underpinnings for practice, and applied epidemiology & biostatistics. Most notably, this program ranked second among U.S. News & World Report’s (2016) list of best online graduate nursing programs.
  • The University of Nevada—Las Vegas (UNLV) provides an online BSN-to-MSN program in the FNP specialty. Requiring minimal campus visits, this 46-credit MSN degree involves classes such as diagnostic reasoning & clinical decision-making, advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology & genetics, health & public policy for APRNs, and geriatric & chronic illness. Impressively, this UNLV ranked thirteenth in the aforementioned U.S. News & World Report’s (2016) list of online nursing programs.
  • Felician College provides online BSN-to-MSN degrees in both the adult-gerontology and family specialties. The AGNP program involves 600 clinical hours and 43 credits of courses, and the FNP program requires 780 hours and 46 credits. Felician’s courses focus on patient-centered and population-focused care, and the faculty integrates findings across several disciplines, including nursing, biology, sociology, and psychology.
  • The University of Cincinnati (UC) has an online MSN program for aspiring nurse practitioners with four distinct tracks: family, adult-gerontology primary care, nurse midwifery, and women’s health. All tracks include foundational classes in biostatistics for evidence-based practice, advanced physiology & pathophysiology, healthcare policy, theoretical basis for clinical reasoning, advanced health assessment, and pharmacology for advanced practice nursing. Each program is designed to meet the needs for professional credentialing through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), National Certification Corporation (NCC), or the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

Accelerated Online MSN NP Programs for RNs with Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degrees (2 years)

These online NP programs are open to RNs who hold bachelor’s degrees in a non-nursing discipline. Although many online programs call for candidates to have a BSN prior to enrollment, some have options for non-BSN bachelor degree holders who are willing to take extra qualifying coursework. Other programs require non-BSN candidates to submit a clinical practice portfolio to demonstrate nursing experience and competencies.

Some of the featured online MSN-NP programs for non-BSN bachelor’s graduates include:

  • The University of South Alabama (USA) offers an online RN-to-BSN/MSN pathway for those with associate’s degrees or non-nursing bachelor’s degrees. USA has a wealth of nurse practitioner specialization tracks to choose from including adult-gerontology acute care; adult-gerontology primary care; family; dual role (family/adult-gerontology acute care); family psychiatric; neonatal; pediatric acute care; pediatric primary care; and women’s health. Please note that students are expected to complete 19 hours of undergraduate BSN prerequisites prior to enrollment.
  • Ball State University allows working RNs to pursue their MSN as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) remotely. In courses such as issues in nursing, community health, and assessment for nurse practitioners, students have up to six years to complete the program part-time or with only three years of full-time study.
  • The Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing provides an ACEN-accredited, “accelerated pathway” MSN program in the following specializations: adult gerontology CNS, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner. Ideal for applicants with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and an RN license, Saint Francis requires its graduates to complete 59 credit hours in pre-nursing courses.
  • Allen College of Iowa offers an online MSN program with a self-described “holistic” education for its students, an approach paying thought to their uniqueness and varied learning styles. Allen accepts applicants with BSN degrees or those with non-BSN bachelor’s degrees as well as an associate degree in nursing. There are four NP specializations: adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, family, and family psychiatric mental health. Also, the FNP and AGNP-PC tracks can be combined with a focus on community/public health nursing.
  • Stony Brook University in New York’s online MSN program is open to students with non-BSN bachelor’s degrees as long as they submit a clinical practice portfolio to demonstrate their baccalaureate-level competencies. This school has an abundance of specializations including adult-gerontological, family, women/perinatal, midwifery, neonatal, pediatrics, and psychiatric/mental health.
  • Ohio State University’s (OSU) online MSN program offers family, neonatal, and psychiatric mental health specializations online. OSU’s programs admit students for the autumn semester with courses such as quality information and informatics, evidence-based nursing scholarship, and nursing in the American healthcare system.
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Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) NP Programs

Nurses with either an ADN, BSN, or MSN degree will find doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs specifically designed to bridge the gap between their current level of education and that required to earn a DNP. There are both generalist DNP programs, and others which deepen a student’s understanding of a particular NP specialization (e.g., women’s health).

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) called for the adoption of the DNP as the highest, terminal nursing degree for NPs by 2015. For full-time RNs who are committed to the field and want to take their careers to ultimate heights in training, evidence-based research, and experience, an online DNP program may be the right option.

Following completion of a DNP program with an NP specialization, graduates will be qualified to sit for their NP certification exam, as they would be upon graduating from an MSN-NP program. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), while the DNP credential has been recommended as the terminal credential for nurse practitioners, it is still not mandated to qualify for certification exams as of September 2015.

Finally, DNP program graduates may choose to pursue additional NP specializations via post-master’s certificate programs and can, upon completion, apply for certification in their new areas of expertise. Certifying organizations will vary by specialization and geographic area, but the most common national certification agencies include:

DNP Program Prerequisites

In order to enroll in an online DNP program, prospective students typically have completed at least a bachelor’s degree—preferably a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)—although there are exceptions. For example, at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, founded by Massachusetts General Hospital, the RN-to-DNP program admits students with various levels of college experience. According to its web page, “RNs with other bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees in nursing, or nursing diplomas, as well as nurse educators who are not advanced practice nurses, are welcome to apply to this program as well.” These students generally have to complete additional course requirements, some of which may not be available online.

Other admission requirements for an online DNP programs might include:

  • At least a 3.0 GPA on a cumulative 4.0 scale
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions
  • A minimum of at least one year of experience as an registered nurse (RN) and proof of unrestricted licensure
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from faculty, nursing colleagues, and/or others who can support an applicant’s eligibility
  • Interviews with nursing faculty
  • Personal statement about one’s goals in pursuing a DNP
  • Undergraduate completion of specific courses (e.g., statistics, health assessment, microbiology, chemistry, community nursing, anatomy, and/or pathophysiology)
  • TOEFL or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test scores for ESL students

In DNP programs, students typically take courses such as:

  • Nursing Research and Evidence-based Practice
  • Health Systems, Informatics & Research
  • Population-based Healthcare
  • Biostatistics
  • Capstone, thesis, or “translational project” (i.e., a mentored, research-based final project in an approved specialization)

Depending on a student’s level of educational attainment, the program length and structure will vary.

RN-to-DNP Online NP Programs (4 – 5 years)

For full-time registered nurses (RNs) who want to take their career to new heights, enrolling in an online RN-to-DNP program may be the perfect option. Many of these programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of experience as an RN, but there are exceptions at some schools if candidates are willing to complete extra coursework. Please note that some early program requirements for RN-to-DNP options may have to be completed in a more traditional classroom or clinical setting.

Some of the featured online RN-to-DNP programs include:

  • The MGH Health Institute has a hybrid RN-to-DNP program that typically takes ten semesters to complete. The first four semesters are offered on-campus to complete the MSN and the final six semesters can be taken online. There are a number of nurse practitioner specialty options including family, pediatrics, and women’s health, and the program is designed to help students successfully pass national certification exams. It’s open to applicants working as RNs with non-BSN bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees of nursing (ADN), or nursing certificates. Some extra coursework may be necessary to fulfill all program requirements.
  • Frontier University provides an online ADN “bridge option” for RNs to complete an MSN with a companion DNP degree. On top of the MSN requirements (675 clinical hours and 82-85 credits, dependent on the specialty), DNP candidates must fulfill an additional 360 clinical hours and 17 credit hours of didactic instruction. After one “bridge year” of rigorous coursework—including traditional face-to-face instruction—students are only required to attend sessions on campus three times during the graduate portion of their studies.
  • Delta State University offers a hybrid RN-to-DNP program to working RNs with at least an associate degree or diploma in nursing. This school may be ideal for aspiring family nurse practitioners (FNP) seeking to advance their skills to the highest professional level. Additionally, for students with an entry-level education in nursing, it awards both a BSN and an MSN en route to completion of the full DNP program. Finally, this school boasts seamless entry points for students of varying educational levels (e.g., BSN, MSN, etc).

BSN-to-DNP Online NP Programs (3 – 4 years)

Online BSN-to-DNP programs provide students with the opportunity to pursue an advanced nursing degree while completing clinical hours at an approved site through a preceptorship located close to their homes. Students entering these programs must have achieved at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree with one year of on-the-job experience to apply.

Some of the featured online BSN-to-DNP programs include:

  • The University of Arizona allows students to complete their DNP in a variety of specializations including adult-gerontology acute care, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health, and nurse anesthesia. This program requires at least 1,000 practice immersion hours and a mentored research-based DNP project. Please note that each student must attend the resident intensive summer experience (RISE) upon enrollment, and is required to travel to Tucson a few days each year for clinical skill intensives.
  • Nebraska Methodist College (NMC) offers an accelerated, three-year online BSN-to-DNP program. Of the total 75 credit hours required, 57 of them can be completed through synchronous and asynchronous online learning. The final 18 credit hours represent the 1,080 contact hours of clinical experience required through a preceptorship. All programs have February application deadlines and begin in August.
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has two online DNP program tracks: nursing (direct) and nursing administration (indirect). Each of these provides students with synchronous and asynchronous online coursework, in addition to a unique “translational project,” an in-depth, evidence-based research paper on a mentor-approved topic. Application deadlines for this school are June 1 and each program begins in the spring semester of the following year. Prospective students may be required to travel for on-campus interviews and if admitted, once more for orientation.
  • Saint Louis University provides online DNP programs in five unique specialties: adult/gerontological acute care, adult/gerontological primary care, family nursing, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric mental health, all of which can be completed predominantly online. Students are required to visit the campus twice—initially for a five-day residency and finally for a couple of days to present capstone projects.
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs offers an accredited 100% online post-baccalaureate DNP program for aspiring primary care nurse practitioners which doesn’t require any campus visits. According to the U.S. News & World Report (2015), this is one of the top online graduate programs in nursing, with courses such as philosophical foundations of advanced nursing, inferential statistics, and geriatric clinical syndromes. Please note that all terms begin in the summer session.

MSN-to-DNP Online NP Programs (1.5 – 2 years)

For working RNs who have already completed their master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees, an online DNP program can help advance one’s specialized knowledge and research experience. These programs are shorter in length than the RN- or BSN-to-DNP options since candidates with MSNs already have completed substantial graduate coursework. These candidates are generally required to have advanced education or certification in a clinical specialty (e.g., NP, APRN, etc).

Please note that many of the DNP programs listed above may have accelerated curriculum options for students with MSNs as well.

Some of the featured online MSN-to-DNP programs include:

  • The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), ranked the #1 online graduate nursing program by U.S. News & World Report (2015), offers an online DNP program that may be ideal for those interested in advanced training in primary care (e.g, pediatric, family, or adult-gerontological). In addition to rigorous coursework, MUSC provides synchronous, online office hours through teleconferencing with their faculty.
  • The University of Virginia has an online 21-month DNP program which specializes in individual attention with it’s “world-class faculty.” Prospective graduates complete courses such as managing information technology and nursing ethics for advanced practice. Additionally, students are required to complete an original, scholarly research project which may be eligible for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or book.
  • The University of Toledo’s program, established in 2007 in collaboration with Wright State University (WSU), trains advanced practice nurses to evaluate policies based on existing research in order to provide optimal outcomes for patients. Please note this program begins in the fall and all students, regardless of state of residency, pay in-state tuition rates.
  • Chamberlain University offers a practice-focused, 100 percent online DNP curriculum for aspiring leaders in advanced specialties. This program requires 30 credit hours and 500 clinical practice hours. In addition to a capstone project, candidates complete courses such as health policy, concepts in population health outcomes, and application of analytic methods. Please note that Chamberlain also offers a track for APRNs in health systems leadership.
  • New Mexico State University (NMSU) provides an online MSN-to-DNP program which requires a one-week, on-campus orientation per year. Through DNP coursework and completion of a research-based scholarly project, the school states that its primary mission is “to promote health and improve the quality of life…through nursing education, research, practice, and public service.” NMSU offers a comprehensive PDF of their DNP program (2014).
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Online Post-Master’s NP Certificate Programs

For generalist nurse practitioners or specialized NPs seeking to become certified in a new subfield, pursuing an online post-master’s NP certificate can be a convenient educational option. Most qualifying NPs have already completed core coursework in prior MSN or DNP programs, and many applicants are working NPs. To complete these programs, candidates typically complete didactic coursework online and fulfill clinical hour requirements at approved local preceptor sites.

The specialized post-master’s certificates generally involve less credits and clinical hours than traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs. Therefore, they can usually be completed in one to two years, depending on whether the student attends part-time or full-time. It’s important to note that the majority of the online MSN programs with NP specialties (profiled above) accommodate varying points of academic entry, and can be completed as post-master’s certificates. For example, Vanderbilt University offers online post-master’s certificates across all of its MSN nurse practitioner specialties, including adult-gerontology acute care (AG-ACNP), adult-gerontology primary care (AG-PCNP), family (FNP), neonatal (NNP), pediatric acute care (PNP-AC), pediatric primary care (PNP-PC), psychiatric mental health (PMHNP), and women’s health (WHNP). Particularly for working NPs or those with other time commitments, the flexibility of these online programs can be ideal.

In order to qualify for an online post-master’s NP certificate program, candidates must typically submit the following:

  • Official transcript(s) from all postsecondary institutions (often including an accredited MSN or DNP program)
  • Proof of having completed prerequisite courses (e.g., pathophysiology, pharmacology, advanced health assessment, nursing theory, measurement & data analysis)
  • An unencumbered RN and/or NP license
  • One to two years of nursing experience, particularly in one’s intended NP specialty
  • A resume
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from professors, nurse managers, or supervising physicians
  • Personal statement
  • Proof of CPR certification from the American Heart Association
  • TOEFL or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores for non-native speakers of English

Some programs may have additional requirements such as criminal background checks, entrance exams, or interviews (in-person or video). It’s important to note that while most post-master’s NP certificate programs require candidates to have at least an MSN degree, others may accept other types of master’s degrees. For example, the online post-master’s NP certificate programs at Duke University are also open to people with non-MSN master’s degrees in “a discipline acceptable to the specialty faculty.”

Here are six featured online post-master’s NP certificate programs across various specializations:

  • Duke University provides online post-master’s certificate programs in all of its NP specializations: AG-ACNP, AG-PCNP, FNP, NNP, PNP-AC, PNP-PC, and WHNP. They typically take 16 to 20 months to complete, and Duke offers additional subspecialties which can be pursued if approved by a program advisor. These subfields include cardiology, endocrinology, HIV-AIDS, oncology, orthopedics, and veterans’ healthcare. With both fall and spring enrollment, these part-time post-graduate certificates involve varying numbers of credits and clinical hours, depending on the specialty. For example, the NNP post-master’s certificate requires 616 clinical hours and 43 credit-hours of online courses such as physical assessment & diagnostic reasoning across the lifespan. Candidates for the NNP certificate must have two years of experience working as an RN with infants in a critical care setting.
  • The Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI) offers online post-master’s certificates in all of its MSN tracks: AG-ACNP, AG-PCNP, FNP, PMHNP, and PNP-PC. All involve at least 12 credits of coursework, depending on which courses the student has completed during his or her MSN program. For example, the PNP-PC track involves 525 clinical hours and 20 credit hours of specialized classes such as stress & coping, child & family health assessment, collaborative clinical practice in pediatric primary healthcare, and health maintenance of the pediatric client.
  • Ohio State University (OSU) also has online post-master’s NP programs in all of its MSN specializations: AG-ACNP, AGNP, FNP, NNP, PMHNP, and PNP-AC, PNP. With a fall-start only, courses in OSU’s FNP post-master’s certificate program include theories, concepts & issues in advanced family nursing. Please note that OSU clinical hours are typically completed at preceptor sites throughout Ohio.
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania offers an online post-master’s FNP certificate with 600 clinical practice hours and 45 semester hours of web-based coursework. Designed for aspiring NPs who want to work with underserved populations (particularly in Western Pennsylvania), the FNP concentration features 600 clinical hours and classes such as family & community perspectives, clinical decision-making, and advanced physical assessment.
  • East Carolina University (ECU) has three online post-MSN certificates in the following nurse practitioner specializations: AGNP, FNP, and NNP. The distance-based AGNP certificate involves 10-33 semester hours of courses depending on a student’s prior education.  Please note that candidates must be RNs in North Carolina or one of the twenty-five NCSBN compact states.
  • George Washington University (GWU) provides a variety of online post-master’s NP certificates (e.g., FNP, palliative care for NPs, AG-PCNP). In its online AG-PCNP certificate program, students complete 625 clinical hours and take 30 credit hours of online courses such as advanced pharmacology for nursing, advanced physiology & pathophysiology, and three adult gerontology classes. This certificate is designed to be completed full-time in one year with fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students must also come to campus during their program for three occasions: the new student orientation, an April test in advanced health assessment & diagnostic reasoning, and a final skills assessment.

To learn more about online post-master’s NP certificates, please visit the online post-master’s NP certificate page.

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Online NP Programs by Pathway

*Also requires a non-nursing bachelor's degree; please see the "Online Accelerated MSN - NP" programs page for more details.