Best Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) work as advanced practice nurses, providing primary and specialty care to patients. NPs typically diagnose patients and prescribe medication. These professionals might choose a specialty, including working with adults or children.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NPs earned a median annual wage of $115,800 in 2019. The industry continues to grow much faster than average, with the BLS projecting the number of NPs to increase by 26% from 2018 to 2028.

The advanced responsibility of the role requires NPs to attain a higher-level degree, like a master of science in nursing (MSN). Traditional MSN programs typically take two years to complete, though the length of the degree depends on the student's prior experience and education.

RNs without a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can apply to RN-to-NP MSN programs, which typically take longer to complete. For those with an RN and a non-nursing bachelor's degree, schools offer accelerated MSN degrees.

In addition, some NPs decide to pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). DNPs typically take up to six years to complete, though timelines can vary based on a student's experience. You can find out more about RN-to-DNP programs with this resource, and more about BSN-to-DNP programs here.

This list provides an overview of the best online NP programs, including typical coursework and program structure.

Rank School Name Location
1 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
2 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
3 University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha, NE

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get a nurse practitioner degree online?

Yes. Many schools offer MSN programs and RN-to-NP programs online. These work much like traditional on-campus programs, except that students watch lectures, participate in class discussions, and turn in assignments using virtual tools. However, MSN candidates must still complete their required supervised clinical hours on location at a healthcare setting.

Can you go from an RN to an NP?

Yes. Many NPs go from working as an RN to nurse practitioner. In fact, many MSN programs require applicants to hold an RN license, and several expect incoming students to already possess one or two years of work as an RN. You can find several RN-to-MSN online degrees that function as "bridge" programs, allowing students to earn their master's degree without obtaining their BSN first.

How much does an NP program cost?

The cost of NP programs varies based on factors like program length and school. They usually cost tens of thousands of dollars, with some degrees costing upwards of $100,000 in tuition. Luckily, you can find several resources to help you pay for RN-to-MSN programs, including scholarships, grants, assistantships, and fellowships. If you take out student loans, consider government-sponsored student loan forgiveness programs.

How do online NP programs work?

Online NP programs typically offer the same curriculum as on-campus programs. Depending on the school, class sessions may be offered synchronously or asynchronously. While most coursework must be completed online, students need to complete the clinical components of their program at a healthcare facility. Occasionally schools require distance learners to attend campus for lab sessions or certain skills courses.

Admission Requirements

Admission to online BSN-to-MSN nurse practitioner programs varies by school but almost always includes:

  • An unencumbered RN license
  • A BSN from an accredited school of nursing
  • A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • A personal statement of the student's professional goals
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A successful in-person or telephone interview

Additionally, some schools require applicants to submit their Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores.

Clinical Specialty

Prior to admission, BSN-to-MSN students must declare their clinical specialty. Different schools offer different specialties; therefore, applicants should seek out schools that offer their desired clinical focus. Examples of clinical specialties for nurse practitioners include:

  • Psychiatry
  • Acute Care
  • Family
  • Adult Gerontology
  • Neonatology
  • Pediatrics
  • Women's Health

Some schools offer subspecialties. To practice in a subspecialty, students are required to take additional classes and complete extra clinical rotations. Nurse practitioner subspecialties include:

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology
  • Immunology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Neurology
  • Occupational Health
  • Orthopedics
  • Pulmonology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Urology

Best Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs

Vanderbilt University

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.

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Drexel University

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

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.

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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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SEARCH FOR SCHOOLS is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.