The Top 15 Online Master’s Degrees in Nursing

If you want to advance your nursing career, you may need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing. These days many executive, teaching, and leadership jobs in nursing require graduate degrees. A master’s program in nursing provides you with professional skills to succeed in different positions. You can take specializations in clinical nurse leadership, management, education, and informatics.

To help you make the best decision for your degree, we researched online schools and picked the best online nursing master’s degree programs. We looked at a couple factors including tuition cost, accreditation, special features, and reputation.

Each of the degrees we picked is regionally accredited. Regional accreditation is the most legitimate form of accreditation in the United States. Some colleges hold national accreditation instead of regional accreditation because they are unwilling or unable to meet the rigorous standards of regional accreditation.

Also, we examined the nursing accreditation of the schools. There are two main accrediting agencies for nursing programs, National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). There is some debate as to which agency is superior. We believe both are acceptable and neither is better than the other. Both agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA is the only nongovernmental organization to evaluate and certify accrediting organizations in the United States.

Nursing accreditation is important because the institutions which have received accreditation from NLNAC or CCNE have undertaken additional evaluation and scrutiny to make sure their nursing programs meet high standards.

Here are our top online master’s degrees in nursing:


MSN – Nursing Administration (Norwich University)

Regional Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Nurses play a critical role in patient care and need to be motivated, monitored, trained and effectively managed. The MSN program in Nursing Administration from Norwich University helps you learn the skills to be an effective manager.

You will be qualified to move into nurse leadership and management positions as defined by the ANA and AACN. The curriculum includes training for collaborating between nurses, doctors, and hospital administrators.

Classes are structured as cohorts with no more than 16 students each. You stay with your cohort throughout the entire program. The cohort concept increases student interaction and adds value as you participate in discussions and other learning activities with the same students for over a year.

The degree can be completed in as little as 18 months and there is no thesis requirement for graduation.

Norwich is a tier one school according to US News & World Report.

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MSN – Contemporary Nursing Faculty (Drexel University)

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE and NLNAC

Drexel University’s Master of Science in Nursing in Contemporary Nursing Faculty is an online program designed for part-time students who wish to pursue careers as faculty, educators, or professors in nursing programs.

You will learn relevant skills including curriculum design, course evaluation, clinical and classroom instruction, and critical reasoning. Also, you will learn effective methods for teaching working adults. You will even gain knowledge about online teaching and different technologies to teach nursing in creative ways.

The program features two practicum teaching experiences so you will have opportunities to practice what you learn. The curriculum prepares you to pass the Certified Nursing Educator examination. Online courses are taught by the on-campus faculty and you receive the same degree as the on-campus graduates.

Drexel offers flexible scheduling with clinicals. Special tuition discounts are available for health care organizations that have partnered with the school.

Drexel’s graduate nursing program is among the ten largest in the United States and US News & World Report ranked Drexel as a tier one institution.

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Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator (Liberty University)

Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

With over 48,000 online students, Liberty University is a popular institution for distance learners. Also, the school made the top ten in Online Education Database’s last two online school rankings.

Liberty’s MSN degree with a concentration in Nurse Education prepares you to fill the role of Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in a variety of health care environments.

Typically, the program is completed in two years. There are no residency requirements.

The clinicals are designed to meet your interests and learning needs. The Liberty nursing faculty and approved preceptors will help you develop useful clinical goals based on their areas of expertise.

Liberty has a 71% retention rate. This rate is the percentage of students that return to the school each year to continue their degree program.

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M.S. in Nursing – Education With RN to MSN Option (Western Governors University)

Regional Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Western Governors University’s MSN degree in Education is one of the best bargains in online education.

Western Governors does not use the tradition education model of enrolling in classes. Instead, the school uses a competency-based approach.

In this model, you complete various assignments and exams to demonstrate your knowledge in a topic area. If you have expertise in an area already, you can finish those credits quickly and complete your degree faster.

Also, you save money because you’re paying a flat rate per term instead of paying per course or credit. You can strive for as many credits as you can handle each term at no additional charge.

Western Governors was created by a coalition of governors from 19 states. It is supported by AT&T, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dell, and over 20 other major corporations and foundations.

[Request more information about this degree from Western Governors University


MS in Nursing – Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (Grand Canyon University)

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Grand Canyon University provides much value with its MSN degree in Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems. This low cost program features graduate nursing classes as well as leadership courses from the Master of Science in Leadership degree.

The nursing classes teach you the values, skills, and knowledge needed to succeed as an advanced generalist in the health care field. From the leadership curriculum, you will learn about leadership styles, organizational processes, and the communication skills required to build effective relationships in the workplace.

You have the option of studying part time or full time and class size does not exceed 20 students. Grand Canyon ranked 7th among online colleges according to Online Education Database in 2009.

The school is regularly featured in the Student Guide to America’s 100 Best College Buys.

[Request more information about this degree from Grand Canyon University]


MSN Bridge Program (Loyola University New Orleans)

Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: NLNAC

Loyola University New Orleans’ BLEND program is an online MSN bridge program for registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees from non-nursing programs. BLEND stands for Bridge to Leadership Education for Nurses at a Distance.

It is a unique semester long program that will prepare you to succeed as a nursing grad student. You will take two 3-credit courses that are eight weeks long. The courses cover topics that are prerequisites for the MSN program. Topics include Professional Development, Community, Health Promotion and Leadership.

In U.S. News & World Report’s 2011 school rankings, Loyola received tier one classification and ranked 7th in its category (Regional Universities in the South). Also, Loyola’s nursing program is among the best in the nation. The school was included in the list of top 100 nursing graduate schools.

Other respected publications have recognized Loyola’s excellence. For example, The Princeton Review included Loyola in its Best 373 Colleges list.


RN to MSN (Gonzaga University)

Regional Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Gonzaga University offers an online RN to MSN program that can qualify you for senior level management and specialized nursing positions. This program is accelerated so you can earn your master’s degree faster than the typical time frame for completing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

Gonzaga is a top university with high ratings from Forbes Magazine, The Princeton Review, and U.S. News & World Report.

The program uses an ongoing admissions calendar to give you the flexibility to enroll at your convenience. There are multiple enrollment periods during the year.

The coursework gives you a thorough understanding of research methods, patient management, and systemic approaches to improving health care. Also, it is continually updated to keep up with industry best practices.


Master of Science in Nursing – Health Systems Management (Vanderbilt University)

Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: NLNAC

Vanderbilt University’s MSN degree in Health Systems Management prepares you to become an influential leader in a variety of health care settings. For example, you could become a supervisor in a hospital, lead a nursing team, or oversee financial and policy decisions at the executive level.

The program helps you understand the common problems in health care companies today. You will gain skills to help organizations improve their processes and services and learn how to evaluate new strategies.

The curriculum is not dated but reflects the current management and nursing trends. The coursework deals with practical issues so you can apply what you learn at your workplace right away.

The program takes two years to complete and is designed for part time students.

Vanderbilt is a tier one institution according to US News & World Report. Also, it placed in the top 20 graduate nursing schools.


Master of Science in Nursing (Cleveland State University)

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Cleveland State University’s MSN program focuses on population health care, which examines the health impact on demographic groups based on age, disease, environment, ethnicity, gender, geography, lifestyle, and socioeconomic and political conditions.

As a student, you will learn useful practical skills in epidemiology, population assessment and management, interpersonal communication, financial and information management, and leadership.

There are four tracks you can specialize in:

  • Clinical Nurse Leader: Learn how to design, implement, coordinate, delegate and supervise client care and nursing teams.
  • Forensic Nursing: Understand the nuances of nursing care in criminal, civil and legal matters and for victims and perpetrators.
  • Nursing Education: Gain skills in curriculum design, instruction, student interaction and management.
  • Specialized Population: Provide effective care to a specific group of people.

Courses are structured sequentially so you can earn the degree part-time in two and a half years.


MSN – Nursing Education (Lewis University)

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

If you want a rewarding career in nursing education, consider enrolling in Lewis University’s Master of Science in Nursing program. This online program offers a nursing specialization where you can learn relevant skills such as teaching methods, educational research, and curriculum design.

The program is offered four times each academic year and new classes start every eight weeks. Course highlights include Teaching Methodology and Delivery Systems, Curriculum Development and Evaluation, and Educational Theory and the Scholarship of Teaching.

You will be prepared to fill positions like teacher in staff development or continuing education programs and educator in local government or private organizations.

Lewis University is tier one school according to U.S. News & World Report. The school was recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the top universities in the Midwest.


Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration (Fort Hays State University)

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Fort Hays State University offers one of the least expensive online master’s degrees in nursing. The tuition for its MSN in Nursing Administration is only $7,803.

This 34-credit program covers relevant topics including nursing staff management, administration, and organizational leadership. Also, you will learn valuable information by completing a research study. The classes are small to maximize your learning experience.

The nursing administration track prepares you for leadership and management roles in hospitals and other health care organizations. Also, you will gain knowledge by interacting and networking with other nurse administrators in the U.S. and around the world.

Fort Hays’ teaching staff is nationally certified in advanced nursing administration. They also have valuable nursing and clinical experiences to share. Online and on-campus programs share the same qualified faculty.

Fort Hays was recognized by GI Jobs magazine in 2010 as a Military Friendly School.


Master of Science in Nursing – Clinical Leadership (Saint Xavier University)

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

If you aspire to be an effective clinical nurse leader, consider enrolling in the Clinical Leadership track of Saint Xavier University’s MSN program.

Saint Xavier is a well-respected school with a tier one ranking from US News & World Report. It is one of the 15 schools in the nation to be designated by NLNAC as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.

The school maintains its excellence with a highly selective admissions process. Saint Xavier only admits the most promising students for the role of clinical nurse leader.

The skills you learn from the program are flexible and can be applied in many different settings such as doctor’s office, hospital, rehabilitation center, and hospice.

You will learn how to use new technology, tested methods, patient input, assessment, and collaboration with other workers to create and implement high quality health care services.


Master of Science in Nursing – Clinical Nurse Leader (University of Pittsburgh)

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is an excellent place to earn your online MSN degree in Clinical Nurse Leadership. Pitt was granted tier one status and ranked 7th in the graduate nursing school rankings by US News & World Report.

The online program offers the same high quality education as the successful program at the Pittsburgh campus. You will learn from the campus faculty who have been recognized nationally and globally. The Pitt faculty have a wide range of knowledge and understand the latest nursing trends. They are also familiar with the new advances in educational technology.

The Clinical Nurse Leader track prepares you to become an leader in a variety of work settings. You will be exposed to many different nursing topics in the interactive virtual classroom. You will have many opportunities for problem solving, discussions, debating, research, critical thinking, community building, and networking.

The program combines online classroom learning with 420 hours of clinicals. In most cases, you can arrange the clinicals in your community. A few face-to-face sessions may be required.


RN to Master of Science in Nursing – Clinical Nurse Leader (Sacred Heart University)

Regional Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Nursing Accreditation: CCNE

Sacred Heart University’s online MSN degree program is geared for working registered nurses (RNs) who want to advance into management or leadership positions. The program focuses on personal interaction between other students and faculty. The faculty is trained to teach in the online environment and is familiar with up-to-date educational technology.

The Clinical Nurse Leader specialization emphasizes the skills needed to fill the clinical nurse leader position. You will learn how to evaluate patient outcomes, assess risk, and work with other healthcare professionals.

The curriculum prepares you to pass the American Association of Colleges of Nursing CNL Certificate Exam. If you are not interested in this exam, you can still benefit from the integrated knowledge offered in the specialization.

Sacred Heart is a tier one school according to US News and World Report. In 2010, the magazine ranked the school 30th in its rankings for graduate schools in the North.

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