Nurse practitioners (NPs) work hectic schedules, seeing three or more patients an hour and writing up to 20 prescriptions a day. The job offers challenges but also rewards. NPs rank among the top earning nurses in the field. NPs make a median annual wage of $115,800 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The field also provides security with a continued demand for qualified NPs. The BLS projects that from 2019-2029 jobs for NPs could grow by 45%, with employers adding 110,700 NP positions.
RN-to-MSN online programs let working nurses find the time to go to school. Programs require about 2-3 years to complete — longer if students pursue a specialization or study part time. Concentrations in clinical nurse leadership, nursing education, and public health let students study toward their career interests.
Begin your journey to become an NP by reviewing this guide on how to apply for the best online nurse practitioner programs.
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Top Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs
Located in Nashville, Vanderbilt University operates as a private university of about 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Vanderbilt's School of Nursing offers a direct-entry MSN program for registered nurses who already hold a BSN.
The degree offers several specializations, with the number of required credits depending on the concentration. However, all students must complete a minimum of 40 credits. Specializations include adult-gerontology acute or primary care, neonatal, emergency, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, among several others.
The core curriculum for degree-seekers requires courses like advanced pathophysiology and health assessment. The rest of the curriculum also depends on a student's focus area. Distance learning consists of watching class lectures and contributing to discussion boards online. Students also log their clinical hours online.
To apply, interested individuals should submit their BSN transcripts showing at least a 3.0 GPA and a "C" or better in a statistics course. They must also possess an active RN license.
Philadelphia-based Drexel University enrolls over 24,000 students, making it one of the largest private universities in the United States. Among its many programs are its MSN degrees, which students can opt to complete through distance learning.
Available programs include:
- Adult gerontology acute care NP
- Adult gerontology primary care NP
- Family NP
- Pediatric acute care NP
- Pediatric primary care NP
- Pediatric primary/acute care NP dual program
- Psychiatric mental health NP
- Women's health/gender-related NP
Adult gerontology acute care NP Adult gerontology primary care NP Family NP Pediatric acute care NP Pediatric primary care NP Pediatric primary/acute care NP dual program Psychiatric mental health NP Women's health/gender-related NP
The number of required credits ranges from 52-57, although the dual program requires a total of 62 credits. Students complete core courses covering healthcare matters, support courses in physiology and pharmacology, and clinical courses within their specialty area.
The online study experience also varies. Most programs include synchronized didactic components, which means that distance learners must log on at a specific time for lectures. Several of these programs also require degree-seekers to travel to campus for orientation or simulation sessions.
All of these programs require prospective students to possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants should hold an active RN license. Many programs expect students to have one year of work experience. The adult gerontology acute care program, however, requires two years of work experience. The adult gerontology primary care, family, psychiatric mental health, and women's health all recommend one year of work experience, but do not require it.
University of Nebraska Medical Center
The University of Nebraska Medical Center operates independently, with 4,000 students enrolled across six colleges. The Omaha-based institution focuses on healthcare programs, including an MSN program for aspiring advanced practice nurses.
The program offers NP specialty areas in adult-gerontology primary or acute care, family care, pediatric primary or acute care, psychiatric mental health, or women's health. In addition, students can choose a nurse leader/executive concentration, or they can pursue an MSN-leadership/MBA dual degree.
The above programs require incoming students to possess a BSN. The university also offers a nurse/leader executive RN-to-MSN degree for nurses with an associate degree.
The different concentrations include anywhere from 41-60 credits of coursework. Degree seekers take advanced courses in health assessment, pharmacology, and healthcare systems. They must complete several hundred supervised clinical hours, which also varies depending on their specialization.
Prospective students can apply if they possess the appropriate undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They should also hold an active nursing license, and the university gives preference to applicants with at least one year of nursing work experience.
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Top Online Programs
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Applying to an Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Nurses arrive at online nurse practitioner programs at different points in their careers. Most prospective NPs hold a bachelor’s in nursing and 1-2 years of nursing experience when they apply for an RN-to-MSN online program.
Every school sets specific admission requirements, including a minimum GPA. Applicants typically need to hold a minimum 2.75-3.0 GPA and a valid RN license. Additionally, students must have graduated from programs accredited by the National League for Nursing or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredited programs.
When candidates submit their applications, they also need to include personal statements, official transcripts, resumes, and letters of recommendation. Sometimes schools want applicants to complete prerequisite courses, such as statistics, prior to beginning a program.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?
The entire process of becoming an NP takes up to eight years, including earning a four-year bachelor’s in nursing degree. BSN degree-holders work as nurses, earning 1-2 years of experience and spending the time to obtain a license before they take the last step to becoming an NP, which requires 2-4 years of graduate school.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
The CCNE and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredit online NP programs. For students, attending accredited online nurse practitioner programs ensures the quality of their education. Similarly, hospitals want recruits from accrediting online nurse practitioner programs to ensure that the NP has the skills to perform their job.
Is a nurse practitioner a good job?
Yes, NP positions offer good opportunities in terms of pay scale and rewards. NPs deliver nursing services in specialized areas, such as geriatrics and pediatrics. The highest earning nurse practitioners work in state, local, and private hospitals where they earn a median annual salary of $122,420.
What can I do as a nurse practitioner?
NPs enjoy relative independence in their working environments, whether they find jobs in mental health, pediatric health, or geriatric health. They can prescribe medications in all 50 states. In their jobs, NPs work alongside doctors and healthcare providers. Many — nearly 89.7% — hold certifications in a specialty area of primary care.