As demand for care begins to outstrip the availability of caretakers, the United States will need more nurse practitioners (NPs) in a wide range of specialties, mainly in primary, family, and geriatric care. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2016 and 2026, openings for NPs will swell 36 percent, more than five times faster than average job growth across the nation.
Online NP programs can provide working RNs with the capacity to level up to these advanced practice provider roles without ceasing employment. They can also provide current graduate students with the ability to add or change specialties. Nurses looking for NP programs that begin in the fall will find that the majority of programs offer a start date between August and November.
RNs with an active license looking to earn advanced practice credentials and specializations have many options in the online and on-campus arenas. With the understanding that many RNs cannot (or do not wish to) cease practice to go back to school, many high-quality, accredited programs have designed programming to fit within the busy life of a practicing RN.
Online NP programs tackle flexibility in a range of ways, and nurses looking to level up their skills can choose which strategy works best for them. Some NP programs address flexibility by offering programming solely on a part-time basis, where students take only one or two courses per term. Other programs offer an entirely online curriculum so that students can fit the work into their schedules.
Many online NP programs recognize the importance of some in-person instruction to best prepare students for practice and do require residencies or practicums. Some online NP programs meet this need by requiring students travel to campus for short periods of time, while others let students organize an internship near where they live or in the healthcare setting in which they already work. Post-master’s certificate programs enable those who already have an MSN to add or change specializations in a way that recognizes their previous educational attainments.
Read on to learn more about online NP programs with fall start dates, including information about professors, curriculum, and tuition..
Ball State University offers a part-time online MSN degree program with concentrations that prepare students to become family nurse practitioners (FNP), nurse educators, and nurse administrators. The FNP concentration at Ball State prepares students to work with patients of all ages in a family practice setting and to sit for the FNP certification exam. Ball State also offers prospective students the ability to combine interests through an FNP certificate that can be earned while pursuing the nurse educator or nurse administrator degree.
The FNP program is 47 credits, while the nurse educator and nurse administrator programs with an FNP certificate are each 60 credits. Ball State also offers an RN-to-MSN track, where RNs with associate’s degrees complete an additional 16 credits of upper-division courses at the baccalaureate level before beginning MSN coursework. Examples of coursework in the FNP program are primary care of the adult, advanced health assessment, primary care of women, and advanced practice nursing and role theory.
While Ball State’s MSN programs are all online, students are required to travel to campus for a one-day orientation. When classes have clinical components, students are also required to arrange supervised experiences with a specialist in their geographic region without assistance from the nursing school. No clinical experience or GRE scores are required to apply to the program.
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) offers an online master’s of science in nursing that prepares students to function in the role of a primary care provider and to sit for national certification tests. The program is part-time for the first three or four semesters. UTEP offers three different concentrations, which include family with primary care focus (FNP), pediatrics with primary care focus (PNP-PC), and adult and gerontological nurse practitioner with acute care focus (AGACNP). Prospective students who already have an earned MSN can enroll in a post-master’s certificate in one of these concentrations.
Each MSN concentration requires the completion of 49 credits, and the post-master’s certificates require the completion of 31 credits. Coursework in UTEP’s MSN and certificate programs include advanced pathophysiology, adult and geriatric health, childbearing and childrearing, and advanced pharmacotherapeutics.
While coursework at UTEP is offered online, on-campus presence may be required for specialty courses up to three times per semester. Students interested in acute care must work at an ACNP approved clinical site for two weeks, which may require travel. No GRE scores are required for admission; however, UTEP does require a minimum threshold of clinical experience for each concentration. The FNP program requires two years of medical-surgical care, AGANCP requires two to three years of ICU/CCU (ER excluded), and the PNP-PC requires one year of nursing experience (pediatric preferred).
Florida A&M University (FAMU) offers an online master of science in nursing with an emphasis on adult-gerontology primary care (AGPCNP). Because so many graduates come from minority backgrounds, this MSN program is particularly well-suited for those looking for a program that operates with additional cultural sensitivity. The program also maintains a faculty to student ratio of 1:6, and students will receive personalized instruction to prepare them to practice in primary care, serving adults of all ages. A post-master’s certificate is also available for MSN holders.
Coursework in the 42-credit program includes professional role development, research methods and evidence-based practice, the role of APN in health promotion and disease prevention, and particular issues across the adult lifespan.
Students in FAMU’s MSN program are required to participate in two on-campus residencies to complete the program. GRE scores of 300 or higher are required for those who do not meet the minimum GPA standard of 3.0 in the previous 60 semester-hours of study.
The College of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) offers an online MSN degree that prepares graduates to thrive in their nursing careers. Emphasizing care in the professional and personal realms, the aim of USI’s MSN program is to guide graduates towards professional leadership and cultivate a research-focused nursing practice. To this end, USI offers seven specialty areas including adult-gerontology primary care, adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), nursing education, and nursing management and leadership. USI offers post-master’s certificates in all seven specialty areas as well.
All MSN programs are 42 credits, except the PMH program, which requires 44 credits. The post-master’s certificate programs are all 24 credits except for the PMH program, which requires 26 credit-hours to complete. Coursework in the FNP MSN and post-master’s certificate programs include evidence-based practice for advanced nursing, primary care nursing of families, clinical pharmacology for advanced nursing practice, and nursing leadership in health systems.
USI’s program is administered mostly online, but students are required to attend a two-day orientation session and two-day on-campus sessions for up to three classes. Students will also need to set up practical clinical hours with a preceptor in their geographic region with assistance from USI. No GRE is required to apply to the program. Clinical experience of one year is recommended, but not obligatory.
The MSN at East Carolina University (ECU) prepares students for a wide range of roles in advanced practice nursing, nursing advocacy, and nursing education. At the end of the program, students can sit for the licensure exam in the North Carolina. Students can concentrate in one of seven fields, including nursing leadership, adult-gerontology nurse specialist, neonatal clinical nurse specialist, neonatal nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, and nursing education. An on-campus nurse anesthesia program is available as well. Post-master’s certificates are also available in one of these concentrations.
Each concentration requires a different number of credits for completion—between 37 and 69 for the MSN and 13 to 54 for the certificate. For example, the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner MSN can be completed in 43 credits, while the nurse-midwifery MSN takes 53 credits. The on-campus nurse anesthesia program has the heaviest course load with 69 credits for the MSN and 54 credits for the certificate. Coursework across all MSN programs includes theory for the practice of advanced nursing, healthcare finance and economics, human physiology and pathophysiology for advanced nursing practice, and concepts of health promotion and disease prevention.
Except for the midwifery and anesthesia programs, there are no on-campus requirements for ECU’s MSN programs. The midwifery program requires on-campus attendance for two or three days at the beginning of each clinical course. GRE scores are required for all programs, although some programs will accept MAT scores instead. All programs require one to two years of clinical experience prior to admission, and an earned “C” grade or higher in a statistics course.