Master of Science in Nursing Degrees
A master of science in nursing (MSN) degree helps nurses move into leadership roles. By choosing an affordable online MSN program, nurses can increase their salary without going into debt.
Earning a master’s degree helps nurses increase their earning potential. Nurses with an MSN degree make $95,150 per year, on average, while registered nurses (RNs) without an MSN earn around $65,000 per year. Advanced practice roles, such as nurse practitioner (NP), offer even higher earning potential. Advanced practice RNs earn a median salary of $115,800 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Nurses with an MSN degree also benefit from strong job growth. The BLS projects demand for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and NPs to grow 45% from 2019 to 2029.
Our ranking lists the most affordable online MSN programs to help nurses find the programs that best fit their budget and career goals. This article also introduces scholarship opportunities for MSN students.
Featured Online MSN Programs
What Can I Do With an MSN Degree?
MSN programs train RNs for advanced practice roles, including NP. NPs diagnose patients, prescribe medication, and create care plans. Many specialize in working with specific populations, such as family nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, and mental health nurse practitioners. Other advanced practice nursing roles include nurse midwife and nurse anesthetist.
In addition, an online MSN program can prepare graduates for roles like nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse administrator. In these roles, nurses train healthcare professionals, conduct research, and set policies for their division.
During an MSN program, nursing students take courses on topics like advanced health assessment, nursing leadership, and evidence-based practice. They also take specialized classes in their focus area. MSN programs incorporate clinical hours through practicum requirements, which let nursing students apply their classroom training in healthcare settings.
Nursing Students Questions about MSN Programs
Earning an MSN degree can take just one year, depending on the program. However, some MSN specializations take at least 2-3 years.
An MSN degree prepares nurses for advanced practice roles like working as an NP. MSN programs also train nurse educators, nurse midwives, nurse administrators, and clinical nurse specialists.
NPs with an MSN degree can prescribe medication for patients. Other nurses with an MSN do not prescribe medication.
What Are the Requirements for an MSN Program?
Each MSN program sets its own admission requirements. Many programs require applicants to hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and possess experience as an RN. Some programs offer an RN-to-MSN track for nurses without a BSN degree. Programs may also set a minimum GPA, and some require a certain number of years of clinical experience as a nurse.
After gaining admission to the program, MSN students complete coursework and practicum requirements. The number of clinical hours required varies depending on the specialization.
Courses in an MSN Program
During an online MSN program, nursing students strengthen their patient care and leadership skills through courses on topics like evidence-based practice, advanced health assessment, and nursing leadership. MSN programs also typically include training in health promotion, community nursing, and healthcare policy.
This section introduces courses commonly found in MSN programs. In addition to the following core courses, many programs include specialized training for NPs, nurse midwives, nurse educators, and nurse administrators.
Advanced Nursing Practice
Many MSN programs incorporate courses on advanced nursing practice. The class trains nurses to apply evidence-based practices, develop new practices based on nursing research, and evaluate patient care policies. Students also learn about nursing theories that apply to patient care and healthcare organizations.
The course prepares nurses to develop and lead nursing practices. Learners also study current research in the field to prepare for advanced coursework in their MSN program.
Advanced Health Assessment
Enrollees strengthen their patient care and assessment skills. The course teaches students to conduct health assessments that cover health history, psychological changes, and physical assessments. Nurses also learn how to use health assessments to determine health risks, create health promotion plans, and prioritize care. During health assessment courses, students typically complete clinical requirements to practice their skills. They may also learn about health assessment in different healthcare settings.
This course covers the healthcare system and healthcare policy. Learners study healthcare policy at the organizational and national level, including the roles of laws and regulations in healthcare policy. They also learn how to evaluate policies and develop new ones. The course may also cover healthcare finance, including the insurance industry. The class prepares graduates for leadership roles in healthcare organizations.
Leadership in Nursing
Courses on nursing leadership train graduate students to oversee teams of healthcare professionals and take on leadership roles in healthcare organizations. Students learn to evaluate quality improvement initiatives, implement plans to improve patient safety, and measure the effectiveness of plans. They also study leadership principles in a healthcare setting, budgeting and management, and strategy development. Nurses can apply their leadership training in positions such as lead nurse, nurse director, and nurse administrator.
In this course, MSN students learn about health promotion at the local and national levels, including program planning, risk assessment, and targeted needs assessment. Nurses learn how to develop and implement health promotion plans. The course also trains nurses to evaluate programs, conduct health screenings, and improve programs. The course prepares students for careers as nurse educators, health and wellness managers, and nurse leaders.
Top Ranked MSN Programs
#10- McNeese State University
Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Nurse Executive Concentration
Led by Dr. Peggy Wolfe in Hardtner Hall, the College of Nursing & Health Professions at McNeese State University was tied for America’s 118th best online nursing education on the U.S. News & World Report that attracts 180 RNs into CCNE-accredited cohorts of 20. The 38-credit Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) requires one year of experience with four concentrations: Nurse Executive, Nurse Educator, Family NP, or Psychiatric/Mental Health NP. Don’t miss the May 1st deadline to begin six terms of Moodle courses like Workforce Management and internships.
Annual Tuition: $5,703
#9- Southwestern Oklahoma State University
BSN to MSN in Administration Online
Acclaimed for America’s 117th highest paid health administrative services grads on College Factual for a 20-year net ROI of $246,000, Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s ACEN-accredited School of Nursing has grown since 1976 with financial aid like the Evelyn Huebert Shephard Scholarship. The BSN to MSN Online has Administration, Informatics, and Education concentrations directed by Dr. Juli Bell for fast advancement on Canvas. Finishing the 33-credit, non-thesis degree takes 12 months with eight-week courses like Performance Standards and practicum assignments, making this one of the more accelerated options for MSN degrees online.
Annual Tuition: $5,616
#8- University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Online Master of Science in Nursing Administration
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Forbes’ 221st top public college, opened the CCNE-accredited School of Nursing in June 2013 with the Pi Omicron STTI Chapter to help close minority gaps in health professions with a 90 percent financial aid rate. Overseen by Dr. Eloisa Taméz, the Online Master of Science in Nursing confers Administration and Education specializations in quick 12-month schedules. BSN graduates enroll quarterly to finish the 36-credit degree on Blackboard with seven-week courses like Holistic Approaches to Chronic Disorders and a practice intervention project.
Annual Tuition: $5,550
#7- University of Texas at Tyler
Nursing Administration MSN Degree Online
Deemed America’s 119th top nursing college on Niche, the School of Nursing is a Daisy Award partner located in Braithwaite Hall that’s directed by Dr. Barbara Haas and CCNE accredited to train University of Texas at Tyler Patriots for a 95.1 percent licensure pass rate. On Blackboard, RNs could pursue the Nursing Administration MSN Degree or Nursing Coordinated MSN-MBA Online for organizational leadership. The main 36-credit, theory-based curriculum injects 112 clinical hours into courses like Translational Science and Delivery of Care before a scholarly project.
Annual Tuition: $5,220
#6- Kennesaw State University
Online Leadership in Nursing MSN
Founded 45 years ago with Kennestone Regional Medical Center, the WellStar School of Nursing at Kennesaw State University connects RNs to nursing jobs via LiquidCompass, funds like the Julia Perkins Scholarship, and America’s 118th best online courses on the U.S. News & World Report. The Online Leadership in Nursing MSN coordinated by Dr. Yvonne Eaves has two tracks for Nursing Education Leadership in a Digital World or Nursing Administration and Transformational Leadership. Finishing the 12-course, CCNE-accredited curriculum takes 15 months with 315 practicum hours.
Annual Tuition: $4,851
#5- Texas Woman’s University
MS in Nursing Health Systems Management Online
The CCNE-accredited College of Nursing at Texas Woman’s University was ranked America’s 87th best master’s school on the U.S. News & World Report for teaching 796 Owls with 108 full-time faculty supervised by Dr. Anita Hufft, one of 2017’s “DFW Great 100 Nurses.” The MS in Nursing Health Systems Management Online accepts $50 applications until May 1st or September 15th from RNs with GPAs above 3.0. Canvas helps complete the 42-credit degree’s courses like Fiscal Assessment and Health Promotion Policy with three 90-hour practica.
Annual Tuition: $4,672
#4- University of Texas at El Paso
Online Nurse Systems Management MSN
Aligned to the APRN Regulation Consensus Model, the University of Texas at El Paso’s School of Nursing, placed146th nationally by the U.S. News & World Report, welcomed its largest graduate class of 147 in January 2017 for culturally-rich, innovative training. The Online MSN arranged by Dr. Lisa Hennessy has full-time, 24-month completion tracks for Nursing Education, Nurse Systems Management, or Nurse Practitioner on Blackboard. Rolling admission helps BSN grads finish courses like Managing Health Outcomes for this 33-credit, practicum-embedded degree.
Annual Tuition: $4,665
#3- University of West Georgia
Online Master’s in Nursing – Health Systems Leadership
Marking its 40th anniversary, the Tanner Health System School of Nursing at the University of West Georgia is a CCNE-accredited, globally-engaged division ranked 31st nationally by the U.S. News & World Report for online class sizes averaging 12 with virtual mentoring. On Blackboard, the Master of Science in Nursing headed by Dr. Sally Richter confers two role options for Health Systems Leadership or Education. Fall cohorts undertake the 36-credit, four-semester curriculum with practicum and courses typical of the best MSN degrees online like Business of Healthcare for CNL credentialing.
Annual Tuition: $4,086
#2- Grantham University
Online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Management & Organizational Leadership Specialization
Extended ACEN accreditation candidacy in 2018, Grantham University’s College of Nursing & Allied Health was named America’s 129th most focused health administration school on College Factual that’s “Military Friendly,” cheap with $4,500 Textbook & Software Grants, and welcoming with 100 percent admission. Directed by Dr. Cheryl Rules, the Master of Science in Nursing Online has tracks for Case Management, Education, Informatics, or Management & Organizational Leadership. Offering an RN to MSN Bridge, the 37-credit, 24-month curriculum integrates 90 practicum hours.
Annual Tuition: $3,900
#1- Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Nursing Administration MSN Online
Charging our list’s lowest price of $3,744, the CCNE-accredited College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi enrolls over 2,000 Islanders in high-tech, high-touch education that was ranked 66th nationally by the U.S. News & World Report. Open for admission until April 15th, the MSN Online utilizes WebEx and Skype for Nursing Administration, Nurse Educator, or Family Nurse Practitioner concentrations. RNs arrange their own preceptorships while completing the 37-credit, non-thesis program’s courses like Diverse Care Environments and Outcomes Management.
Annual Tuition: $3,744
Pursuing an MSN online at top nursing schools helps post-grads advance beyond the median registered nurse salary of $62,007 posted on PayScale. Stepping into the nurse manager specialty comes with nursing salary jumps of $73,710 to $172,240 per year. Salary.com also pinpoints six-figure income averages of $104,443 for head nurses, $109,692 for nursing home administrators, $121,357 for nursing education directors, and $220,276 for Chief Nursing Officers. Generate the biggest potential ROI in senior-level nursing jobs with impactful leadership authority by choosing from these 50 affordable online nursing administration degree options in 2018.
Accreditation for an MSN Program
Prospective nursing students should always choose an accredited online MSN program. Accredited programs meet the highest standards for training nurses. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education grant accreditation to nursing programs. Both organizations provide databases of accredited MSN programs, including online programs.
Only accredited nursing programs meet the requirements for advanced practice nursing licenses and professional certifications. Choosing an accredited program will thus shape a nurse’s career opportunities after graduation. As a result, applicants should carefully research a program’s accreditation status before applying.
In addition to an accredited program, applicants should look for an accredited university. Regionally accredited universities follow the best practices for educating students. Additionally, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. The U.S. Department of Education database lists accredited programs and schools.
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