Best Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Programs Online 2021
| NursePractitionerSchools.com Staff
Nurse practitioners (NPs) belong to a broader group of healthcare professionals known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). RNs seeking to advance their careers can consider becoming NPs.
NPs hold graduate degrees along with national and state-level certifications. They bridge the gap between registered nurses (RNs) and doctors. For example, nurse practitioners can prescribe medications, diagnose conditions, order tests, and perform other duties typically associated with physicians.
The U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a sharp 45% increase in the number of NP jobs from 2019-2029. Salary data from May 2020 indicates that NPs enjoy median annual earnings of $117,670 per year.
Accelerated online nursing programs offer a flexible pathway to qualified candidates. These programs provide established nurses an efficient way to earn the credentials needed for advanced practice licensure.
What to Expect From an Online Accelerated NP Program
Nurse practitioner positions require a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Accelerated NP programs enable RNs with a history of strong academic achievement to earn these credentials on faster timelines.
Degree-seekers in accelerated programs engage with the same topics and skills as those in traditional programs. The key difference lies in the program’s structure. Accelerated NP programs deliver coursework in intensive, concentrated formats, allowing students to complete their degree requirements more quickly.
How Is an Online Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Degree Different From a Traditional Degree?
Accelerated nursing programs facilitate faster graduation in several ways. Since these programs assume proficiency with fundamental topics, it minimizes time spent on foundational prerequisites. The curriculum also moves at a faster pace, allowing students to earn their credit requirements more quickly.
Admission standards vary. However, accelerated nurse practitioner programs usually maintain more demanding admission requirements. For example, applicants often need valid, unencumbered RN licensure and a nursing degree.
Accelerated DNP programs are usually available only to RNs with MSN degrees. Accelerated MSN programs are typically open exclusively to RNs with bachelor’s degrees. In contrast, traditional nursing programs sometimes admit degree-seekers without an RN license.
Accelerated programs typically favor applicants with proven histories of strong academic achievement. For example, GPA cutoffs usually start in the 3.0 range (on the 4.0 scale). Programs that include prerequisite courses may also stipulate that students earn a certain minimum grade (such as a B or C) in all preliminary classes to qualify for admission.
Delivery Formats for Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Degrees
Accelerated nursing programs use multiple delivery formats. Examples include accelerated online nursing programs, bridge programs, and direct entry programs.
Online programs sometimes use hybrid formats that blend the virtual and traditional classrooms, allowing students to complete some coursework online and some on campus. The structure of online and in-person components varies by program, so prospective candidates should understand their campus attendance requirements before applying.
Schools also offer 100% online programs that do not require on-campus presence. Online courses follow asynchronous or synchronous models. Asynchronous delivery means lectures are pre-recorded. Students can self-schedule and engage with coursework when convenient.
In contrast, synchronous online classes occur live, in real-time sessions. These courses follow set schedules, and virtual learners must log in at the specified time.
Bridge programs allow students with prior nursing education to earn academic credentials more efficiently. Its name derives from the fact that the program “bridges” gaps between the student’s current knowledge and the knowledge associated with the culminating degree.
Bridge programs usually require existing RN licensure, which facilitates faster completion by reducing or eliminating introductory material.
Direct entry nurse practitioner programs offer degree-seekers with non-nursing academic backgrounds the opportunity to earn a graduate nursing degree. Direct entry programs typically follow an accelerated format and leverage students’ existing knowledge to guide them through intensive foundational course sequences.
Students become eligible for RN licensure after completing their prerequisites. After obtaining licensure, they proceed to complete their MSN degrees and become NPs.
How Much Will Getting an Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Degree Online Cost?
Tuition rates vary widely among institutions. Multiple factors impact total costs. Students in accelerated RN to NP programs pay more per semester than learners in regular nursing programs. Yet, a fast-tracked program enables students to earn more credits each semester and graduate faster.
The intensive nature of accelerated nurse practitioner programs may make it difficult for students to work while they study. By contrast, regular programs allow degree-seekers more flexibility to hold jobs as they attend school, especially if they follow asynchronous online formats. This also affects financial outcomes for students. Degree-seekers who continue earning an income while in school have a clearer path to graduating with less debt.
Nursing professions pay well, and students typically enjoy favorable returns on their educational investments. Even so, many need help meeting the upfront costs of their schooling. Learners who need financial aid should consider nonrepayable sources like grants, fellowships, and scholarships before federal or private loans.
Accelerated programs offer a faster path to NP licensure. Yet this shorter timeline comes with a trade-off. Students take more courses per semester and must sustain more effort to maintain their academic performance. Learners often dedicate themselves to their accelerated studies full time, foregoing work and an income.
Asynchronous online accelerated nursing programs offer a measure of relief, as the format offers scheduling flexibility. Generally, committed degree-seekers with confidence in their academic abilities tend to make the best match for the unique demands of accelerated learning.
The following chart summarizes the major pros and cons of earning an accelerated nurse practitioner degree:
Accelerated degrees take less time to complete, allowing students to reenter the workforce with advanced credentials more quickly.
Intensive programs demand immersive learning, driving higher levels of engagement with course material.
Accelerated programs offer an efficient path to higher-paying nursing careers.
Learners do not spend time and money reviewing foundational material.
Accelerated nursing programs are challenging and place major demands on students’ time.
Up-front costs can be higher than traditional programs.
Students may have trouble balancing accelerated learning schedules with employment commitments.
Admission standards are usually more selective and competitive.
Selecting Your Accelerated Online Nurse Practitioner Program
The fastest online NP program is not necessarily the best one for a given student. Candidates considering accelerated nurse practitioner programs should evaluate factors beyond their delivery formats. Examples of other important considerations include:
The program’s practicum and clinical experience components
Graduate success rates on nurse practitioner licensing examinations
The school’s reputation among employers
Career services for students and alumni
Program flexibility and course delivery formats (asynchronous and/or synchronous)
Accelerated nurse practitioner programs and BSN-MSN bridge programs both offer faster routes to an MSN degree. Their structures, course loads, and entry requirements differ. Prospective students should make comparisons of available study opportunities to determine which format best meets their objectives.
Are there accelerated nursing programs online?
Until fairly recently, accelerated nursing programs were mostly campus-based. Schools now offer learners the opportunity to earn all or most of their academic credits online. However, nurse practitioner programs include clinical training and experiential learning components, which students must complete in person.
How hard is it to get into an accelerated nursing program?
Admission standards typically differ from one school to the next. However, accelerated nursing degrees generally hold applicants to higher standards than their regularly paced counterparts. Students with a history of strong academic performance stand the best chance of acceptance.
What is the typical nurse practitioner program length?
Typical MSN programs usually demand the equivalent of 2-3 academic years of full-time study. Accelerated programs usually compress this timeline by one semester or academic year. Full-time DNP programs typically require 1-3 academic years to complete, depending on their pace and structure, and whether the student entered with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Top Five Online Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs of 2021
Five schools earned distinction as the top-ranked accelerated online nurse practitioner programs of 2021. Each program features an accelerated structure that saves students time relative to standard programs. Additionally, all featured schools hold institutional accreditation from a national or regional agency. Some also have optional programmatic endorsements from specialized bodies.
The accrediting bodies that recognize the academic excellence of the top NP programs for 2021 include:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN)
Learn more by exploring the links to each of the five programs that made the 2021 list.
Located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California serves roughly 46,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Its online MSN program prepares registered nurses with at least one year of clinical experience to serve patients as primary care providers.
Coursework is built on an evidence-based curriculum designed for aspiring family nurse practitioners (FNPs). The program trains FNPs to offer integrative care for patients of all ages.
Coursework covers pathophysiology, pharmacology, community-based research, and more. All coursework may be completed online, but students are also required to complete two on-campus intensives in Los Angeles during the program.
Students enrolled full time take roughly 21 months to finish the program, while part-time students complete the program in 33 months. If enrolled full-time, this program is one of the fastest online nurse practitioner programs in the U.S.
Applicants need a BSN from an accredited college or university and a 3.0 GPA. Transcripts also need to show a completed 3-credit course in statistics with a C grade or better.
Based in Pensacola, Florida, UWF offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide variety of disciplines. UWF's accelerated nurse practitioner program offers an online MSN for FNPs that prepares students for a national certification exam to receive a license as an advanced practice nurse.
This MSN program is taught by nurse educators with direct experience in the field. With an accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), this program prepares students for an advanced career in primary care. Candidates must have a BSN from an accredited college or university.
Coursework covers topics that range from diagnosing and evaluating a patient's health in a safe and cost-effective manner to the use of evidence-based theories to improve the general practice of nursing. FNPs graduate with the ability to effectively provide and improve current care to patients of all ages.
The program typically lasts 27-30 months and consists of 45 credits, as well as a 600-hour practicum.
A Catholic university, Sacred Heart University offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 9,000 students in Fairfield, Connecticut.
SHU offers an online MSN-FNP degree program for registered nurses seeking to become advanced practitioners. Students learn how to diagnose various diseases and injuries, treat common illnesses, and conduct physical examinations. Coursework also includes providing health care guidance to a diverse set of patients.
Students typically complete the 42 credit program in three years. Students can continue working while enrolling in the program either full or part-time.
The program prepares students for national certification exams through both the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The FNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Only students with a BSN degree may apply.
Coursework consists of online meetings, occasional on-campus meetings, and 576 clinical hours in an outpatient setting. The program requires 48 credits taken over 3-4 years. Students can enroll full or part time, but CSUDH notes RNs working full-time may have difficulty completing coursework.
Only registered nurses with at least two years of experience providing direct clinical care to patients will be considered for admission. Transcripts need to show a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the last 60 semester units enrolled in a BSN.
CSUDH's NP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).
Students typically complete the 44-48 required credits in 5 or 6 semesters. Classes meet online once per week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students must also complete 630 hours of monitored clinical hours, which must be separate from a student's regular paid working hours.
The program also requires two on-campus intensive sessions lasting up to three days. Students are advised to avoid working full-time during the last semester due to clinical hours.
Candidates with a bachelor's degree from a NLN or AACN-CCNE accredited program with a minimum GPA of 2.75 or higher may apply. Applicants must also have an active RN license with two years of clinical practice as an RN. For NNP applications, experience in a level III or level IV NICU is preferred.
Located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, DeSales provides a private Catholic education to just over 3,000 students.
DeSales offers an online MSN in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) degree to prepare BSN holders for treating diseases and managing chronic health issues in adults and older adults. The CCNE-accredited coursework will cover how to provide adequate healthcare advice to patients and to treat and prevent illnesses.
Students can complete courses completely online or in a hybrid format. Hybrid courses meet, at most, one night a week. Students may enroll in either full- or part-time study, with full-time and part-time students completing the program in two and three years respectively.
To graduate, students must complete 50 credits, 75 clinical laboratory hours, and 675 clinical practicum hours. Clinical requirements are completed through the university's network of approved clinical facilities in the Leigh Valley.
All applicants must have a current BSN and an active RN license in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Based in Bourbonnais, Illinois, Olivet Nazarene University offers a Christian education to over 4,900 students.
ONU's online MSN-FNP program prepares registered nurses for advanced practitioner roles. Coursework covers how to properly administer healthcare to individuals and families of all ages and demographics.
FNP graduates work in clinics, community-based settings, hospitals, and more. Upon completion of the program, students that wish to teach nursing have the option of continuing on to a post-master's nursing education certificate.
The 52 credit program also requires the completion of 720 practicum hours. Students typically complete the program in two years.
Interested candidates must be registered nurses with a BSN and demonstrate proof of 2,000 hours of RN work experience.
Located in Dallas-Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington teaches more than 60,000 students in over 180 degree programs.
UTA's MSN-FNP program is an online nurse practitioner program for registered nurses with a BSN in the state of Texas. Coursework covers diagnostics, health assessment, pharmacology, and more. Students must complete 720 clinical hours, intensive training in evidence-based primary care, and be mentored by a licensed nurse practitioner.
The MSN-FNP program caters to students who must balance their education with a job, parenting, and other responsibilities by offering multiple start dates throughout the year. All coursework can be completed online, making it a good fit for working nurses with frequent overnight or on-call shifts. Most students complete the 46-credit program in 31-36 months.
Applicants must submit official transcripts and possess an active RN license.
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Simmons University enrolls 6,000 students in over 60 different majors and programs.
Simmons' online MSN for working RNs offers registered nurses the opportunity to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) even if they do not hold a BSN. Coursework involves extensive clinical experience, with over 800 hours required with clinical connections in Boston and across the country. Students can choose part-time, full-time, or extended enrollment options.
All students must complete 68 credits to receive an MSN. The accelerated curriculum is typically finished in as little as 32 months.
Applicants must hold an active RN license and an associate degree or nursing diploma. The degree also offers a partnership with a placement specialist upon graduation.
Located in Mequon, Concordia University Wisconsin provides a Lutheran education to over 8,000 students yearly.
CUW's master of science in nursing program for nurse practitioners offers online courses for RNs looking to advance their careers as primary care providers. Accredited by the CCNE, coursework focuses on health policy, advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology, and more. Students may specialize as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or an adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP).
Students may enroll on either a full-time or part-time basis and typically complete the 41-credit program in 3-4.5 years.
Applicants must hold a current nursing license and CPR certification as well as a BSN with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. CUW does not accept students from certain states into the MSN program.
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
A private, non-profit college focused on providing education in healthcare, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences offers classes across three campuses in the Boston area.
The MSN for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners program teaches registered nurses to diagnose and manage conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric illnesses. Coursework also covers understanding interactions with pharmacological agents.
Students enroll in the program on a part-time basis and typically complete the program in 24 months. Coursework takes place entirely online, but students must complete 630 clinical hours in their community and participate in three brief residencies at the Worcester campus. Graduates may sit for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification.
Applicants must hold a BSN and a current license to participate in and complete their clinical hours. MCPHS restricts students from some states from being admitted to the program.
With a student population of 5,600, the University of Indianapolis boasts the largest programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and nursing in Indiana.
UIndy offers an online master of science in nursing with two nurse practitioner tracks — family nurse practitioners (FNPs) and adult/gerontological nurse practitioners (AGNP). The program prepares RNs to provide healthcare to patients of all ages in underserved communities.
Students take hybrid classes on a part-time basis, with classes meeting on campus once a week. Students can complete the program in about three years, but may take as long as six if needed. To graduate, students must earn 48 credits and complete 720 hours of clinical experience.
All applicants must hold a BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also demonstrate two years of full-time work experience as an RN.
A part of the public University of Texas system, the University of Texas at Tyler enrolls more than 10,000 students.
UT Tyler offers an online master of science in nursing which leads to certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Students learn how to diagnose mental disorders, study psychotherapeutic theories, and explore integrated mental health care. The program also covers brain architecture in mental health to better understand patient diagnosis.
To graduate, students must complete 49 credits and 500 clinical hours on either a full- or part-time basis. Coursework takes place mostly online, but students must also attend one or two on-campus clinicals scheduled at the start of the semester. Graduates are also prepared for the national certification exam.
Applicants must hold a BSN with a GPA of 3.0 for their last 60 semester credits. Applicants must also hold an active RN license in the state where clinical hours will take place and may need to demonstrate work experience.
Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Morningside College offers a private liberal arts education with a United Methodist influence.
Morningside's MSN degree with an FNP track trains RNs for work as advanced practice nurses. The online program prepares students to treat patients of all ages in a primary care setting. Coursework focuses on conducting physical exams, administering treatments, managing patient's care, and diagnosing illnesses and injuries.
To graduate, students must complete 47 credits and 600 clinical hours, as well as three on-site residencies. Students can expect to complete their degree in about three years. Graduates may obtain official certification through the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and an active RN license.
The second-oldest institution in the University of Texas system, the University of Texas at El Paso offers 170 degree programs to nearly 25,000 students.
UTEP offers an online master of science in nursing with five nurse practitioner tracks: adult/gerontology acute care, pediatrics primary care, pediatrics acute care, psychiatric mental health, and family primary care. Courses take place in a seven-week format to allow maximum flexibility for working nurses.
To graduate, students must complete 46-49 credits and 675-775 clinical hours. Some courses may also require students to participate in simulation lab experiences on the UTEP campus for evaluation and education purposes.
Applicants must hold a BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also show proof of relevant work experience for their chosen concentration.
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN Dr. Cynthia Cobb is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health, aesthetics and cosmetics, and skin care. She graduated from Chatham University in 2009. Dr. Cobb is a faculty member at Walden University and is also the founder and owner of the medical spa Allure Enhancement Center. She […]