Online MSN Programs

By Nikita Nath

Updated March 15, 2024

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

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Nursing is integral to the health care system. It encompasses the prevention of illness, care of those who are physically or mentally ill, and the promotion of health and well-being. The Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN online program, is generally one of the most popular degrees around the globe due to the growing demand for the nursing profession. Online MSN programs provide nurses with additional specialized knowledge and skills in nursing, healthcare, illness prevention, and patient care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that registered nurse employment will grow about 6% from 2021 to 2031, which is as fast as the average for other professions[1].


Find the Best Online
MSN Programs

Master of Science in Nursing or MSN Programs are built for working nurses and generally give options for many specializations reflecting the current demands of the field. Since this degree can open new doors in the future, students must select their schools carefully, evaluating critical factors, including the quality of faculty, specializations offered, tools and resources available, laboratories, field experiences, and more. Our team at FBD has evaluated several components using a unique ranking method and drawn up a list of the best online MSN programs: *

The Ohio State University (commonly called Ohio State or OSU) is a public land-grant research university founded in 1870 in Columbus, Ohio. Classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity”, the university offers degrees in several disciplines to over 61,500 students at its main campus.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Ohio State University-Main Campus 190 N. Oval Mall, Columbus, Ohio 43210 $11,560 88%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from an Online
MSN Degree

Most of those pursuing MSN programs online generally already have a bachelor’s in nursing or other fields. The MSN typically requires around 35 to 50 credits. However, this number also depends on whether the student has a BSN, a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, or transferable credits. The degree duration could be around one to three years, and additional factors like completion of clinical hours outside the regular class schedule could influence the program length. One of the crucial components of the MSN degree is the practicum or clinical requirement, which includes the elements of evaluation, practice, and research related to it. One can expect to work in advanced settings of practice where they learn about critical skills of diagnosis and usage of clinical management tools.

Curriculum and

The MSN program curriculum prepares registered nurses for their advanced clinical practice and builds on their knowledge of several subject areas, including microbiology, nutrition, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. Those enrolled in this program must complete classes in advanced nursing research, pharmacology, health assessment and measurement, health care ethics, health informatics, population health, nursing leadership, physiology, and pathophysiology. Most programs across colleges generally begin with five core courses:

Scholarly Inquiry and Evidence-Based Practice

This course helps students understand the critical components of evidence-based practice necessary for improvement in various healthcare settings. It teaches critical synthesis and analysis of evidence-based practice, evaluating clinical practice guidelines, and using scholarly inquiry.

Interprofessional Healthcare Leadership

In this course, students develop the skills of a professional working in several healthcare systems to promote a culture of quality and safety. They also understand how to take action proactively based on reliable and timely information, challenge different assumptions, and create solutions to varying needs. These needs arise across four care spheres: chronic disease care, regenerative care, prevention and promotion of well-being and health, and palliative or hospice care.

Global Diversity and Health

In this course, students explore the impact of healthcare delivery systems and different global challenges in healthcare. Study topics include social justice principles, multiple approaches to health advancement, determinants of health, and strategies for social justice advocacy. Students also gain an essential understanding of human rights principles and apply social justice to address wellness and global health challenges in different patient populations.

Biostatistical and Epidemiological Applications in Healthcare

This course focuses on the foundations and principles of biostatistics and epidemiology for healthcare applications. Students evaluate the basic concepts of study designs and disease transmission and learn to quantify disease progression and assess risk factors. They also gain application skills like data analysis, hypothesis testing of health data, and data collection to support disease prevention, clinical decision-making, and health promotion.

Role Development and Transforming MSN Nurses

In this course, students explore the roles that professional MSN nurses play, including the differentiation of an advanced nurse practitioner and developing a long-term career in this field. Students evaluate nurses’ influence on healthcare systems, trends, and policies in shaping professional practice. The course also helps them cultivate and form a professional nursing identity through their engagement, critique, and development of professional relationships.

Other courses one can find across MSN programs include:

  • Healthcare Safety and Quality
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Population Healthcare
  • Nurse Executive Leadership
  • Nurse Educator Clinical Practicum
  • Development and Evaluation of Nursing Curricula
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Nursing: Vulnerable Populations

Students enrolled in MSN degrees should also comply with the minimum requirements of their institutions like clinical practice experience in clinics, under supervision. They should note that these requirements include active and unencumbered verification of license(s), immunization records, criminal background checks, professional liability insurance, and more. Students must meet these requirements to finish the course of clinical practice experience.

Learning Outcomes and
Skills Gained

Completing a master’s will only add to the qualifications of a nurse and make them eligible to practice as advanced nurse practitioners, thereby providing patients with better preventative care. Additionally, students in the MSN program acquire a host of skills, in including the ability to:

  • foster patient care by assessing their needs like treating injuries and giving medication;
  • contribute as a team member fulfilling the nursing role and collaborating with other healthcare workers around them;
  • communicate with the patient calmly, even under pressure, with compassion and understanding;
  • understand critical risk protocols and implement appropriate safety measures in emergency citations;
  • help others understand different infection control measures for keeping both patients and healthcare workers safe;
  • document the health care provided to the patient using EMR to reference care plans and information of the patient;
  • communicate effectively with various stakeholders involved including families, patients, nurses, doctors, managers, or nursing aids;
  • deal with challenging situations daily and think rationally and effectively about problems; and
  • positively influence patient healthcare, develop innovations, and use one’s education to help other nurses learn.

Types of MSN Degrees Students
Can Obtain

Earning an online MSN degree is one of the best ways to advance one’s career options in nursing. There is typically one type of MSN degree that prospective students can find in colleges in the United States – a Master of Science Degree in Nursing or MS. However, various types of MSN specialties are available for one can choose from, including Nurse Administrator, Nurse Midwifery, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nursing Anesthesia, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Nursing informatics, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and more. Whatever the interest area, students can find an MSN specialty to match their personal and professional goals.

Areas of Specialization for
MSN Students

Specializations in a graduate program give students the skills to gain expertise in one area and explore it in-depth. MSN online programs offer many concentrations that help students direct their energy into exploring topics they may be interested in, some of which are:

Area of SpecializationDescriptionCareer Options
Clinical Trials ResearchIn this specialization, students understand the range of medical problems faced by today’s generation. They learn to maintain quality and honesty during clinical trials in private and public sectors, ensuring that they comply with state, federal, local, and international regulations.Clinical Research Nurse
Adult-GerontologyIn this specialization, students focus on the process of protection and aging, restoration, optimization of different health functions, prevention of injury, and alleviation of suffering through treatment. It includes aspects of advocating for the care of this population.Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric Mental HealthThis concentration prepares students for advanced practice in providing psychiatric-mental health services to patients across their lifespans and their families in different settings. Students learn about classic theories, biopsychosocial approaches, and research evidence to develop skills in clinical management.Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Oncology NursingIn this concentration, students learn the various aspects related to the detection and diagnosis of cancer, nursing practice issues, treatment and management of symptoms, and epidemiology and trends in cancer care.Oncology Nurse Practitioner
PediatricsIn this specialization, students learn about medical science related to addressing children’s emotional, social, and physical health throughout their developmental lifespan.Pediatric Nurse
NeonatalIn this concentration, students are trained to work with newborns with infections, cardiac irregularities, physical defects, or other issues requiring extra care for infants in neonatal intensive care units.Neonatal Care Nurse

Full-Time and Part-Time

MSN programs online are generally provided both part-time and full-time in most colleges. The program’s duration will depend on whether the student has completed a bachelor of science in nursing, has a non-nursing field bachelor, or even transferable credits. The length of MSN programs typically ranges from one to three years. If pursued full-time, it can be completed in two years; however, when completed part-time, it takes two years to four years (or more) to complete the degree. Additional factors like supervised clinical hours outside one’s traditional regular class schedules could affect the duration. When the degree is completed in an accelerated format or more courses are taken in one semester, one can finish this degree in less than two years.

Accelerated MSN

Accelerated online nursing MSN programs can help build on previous learning and allow students to quickly enter the healthcare field with an advanced degree. These programs are intensive because students must finish much of the course in less time. The RN to MSN online programs in an accelerated format often combine a BSN and MSN degree, completing the requirements of both in about four years and focusing on only nursing requirements. All such accelerated programs are academically equivalent to a regular traditional MSN, and one need not worry about the quality of such fast-track degrees. Some universities offering accelerated MSN degrees include Emory-Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing[3] and Drexel University[4].

Requirements for Getting into an
Online MSN Program

Universities consider many factors to reflect the applicant’s academic readiness, the potential for success, and contribution to the nursing field. Schools also use several measures to look at academic achievements, like grades or test scores, to shortlist candidates. Many nursing institutions have employed a holistic admission process to get the best program applicants. Some of the general admission requirements for online MSN programs include:

  • Admission fee and completed application form
  • Introductory statistics and general statistics with a general grade of C or more
  • Typically, two to three professional recommendations that can attest the applicant’s professional competency, personal character, and academic ability
  • A Personal Statement
  • A professional Résumé
  • Official GRE scores may be required depending on the college requirement
  • GPA of 3.0 is generally expected for preferential admission
  • A Bachelor of science in nursing or an associates degree in nursing with a bachelors degree in a non-nursing field
  • certified licensure as a registered nurse of a particular state

No GRE Online MSN

Many nursing programs do not require a GRE score for enrollment. Removal of this requirement helps many prospective students become eligible to apply for these degrees. Those from both non-nursing and nursing backgrounds can apply for no GRE MSN programs. Some universities offering no gre online MSN programs are Duke University School of Nursing[5] and Southern New Hampshire University[6].

How to Ensure an Online MSN Program
is Accredited

Accreditation is a process conducted by an independent, third-party agency that evaluates the quality of education of a college. Accredited colleges are recognized for maintaining suitable standards of nursing education for their students. It is necessary that the college one aspires to study in has proper programmatic, national, or regional accreditation. Online MSN programs are frequently accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing[7] and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing[8]. Additionally, universities may be regionally accredited by any one of six accrediting bodies in the U.S., which are:

  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)[9] and the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs[10] provides information on the accreditation status of an institution. Read the Guide to College Accreditation to understand more about accreditation.

Where to Find Free Online Courses
for MSN Students

Free nursing courses can increase students’ professional competence and develop skills that help them advance in the nursing field. They can also offer valuable insights into various nursing topics. Some free online nursing courses to explore are:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
The Concept of Infection Control[11]This course analyzes the basic ideas behind controlling infection and the control actions that one might need to take to keep everyone from getting ill. Students learn the fundamental goals of infection regulation and the role of being one of the first responders to control it.American Nursing Association
Cultural and Linguistic Competence[12]This course makes learners aware of various practical applications, including inclusivity, communication skills, working with interpreters, ensuring representation among clinicians, and identifying and handling the explicit and implicit bias in healthcare settings. It will help them formulate strategies for patients in a culturally competent way.Scientiacme
NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours[13]This course teaches the individual factors leading to differences in nurses’ ability to adjust to long hours. Students learn strategies to help them implement and reduce the risks of shift work.NIOSH

Ways to Pay for an Online
MSN Degree

While applying to MSN nursing online programs, students often discover that the tuition fees can be a stumbling block to pursuing their degrees. Even the country’s cheapest MSN nursing online program can cost around $15,000 (unconfirmed). Many look for ways and means to offset some of the steep educational costs, seeking financial assistance from various sources. A few frequently sought funding mechanisms to pay for college include:


Graduate school scholarships can help students partially or fully cover the cost of the degree. Students having meritorious academic records can apply for scholarships. Many national institutions, businesses, and industry-specific organizations provide them to eligible students.


Grants are given based on the specific education and research area of students or their financial background. Grant money can be used to pay for tuition or other educational expenses.

Graduate Assistantships

Students can build excellent contacts in their professions and fund their education through a graduate assistantship. Graduate assistants help faculty members or their departments or other departments in the institution develop programs, teach students, and perform other academic or research activities. In turn, their fees are discounted or waived.

Private Student Loans

Those who may not qualify for “free aid”, such as scholarships, grants, or federal funding, can consider taking out a loan. Banks and financial institutions give out student loans against the payment of interest.


FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an application form that students must fill out to determine whether they are eligible for federal aid.

Read the Financial Aid Guide to understand how to fund a graduate degree.

Scholarships for Online MSN
Degree Students

A scholarship is a form of monetary reward given to students for furthering their education. Many individuals and organizations offer scholarships to deserving students with excellent academic track records. Some MSN scholarships available to consider are:

Scholarship Description Amount/AwardApplication Deadline
Caroline E. Holt Nursing[14]The Daughters of the American Revolution awards this scholarship to three deserving students who need financial assistance and have been currently enrolled in an accredited nursing institution in the United States.$2,500January 31, 2024
R&D Systems Scholarship[15]The R&D Systems Scholarship supports students pursuing an associate, graduate, or undergraduate degree in nursing or related sciences. One only needs two personal statements explaining their professional and academic nursing intent.$1,500January 2024
Deborah E. Trautman Future Nurse Leader Scholarship[16]The American Association of Colleges of Nursing or AACN funds this scholarship. It recognizes the efforts of graduate nursing students who want to be in leadership positions and have academic interests. The scholarship covers educational expenses, and scholars also get one-on-one leadership development with Dr. Trautman.$3,500TBA

Career Opportunities and Salaries
After Graduating

Completing online MSN programs leads to diverse jobs in nursing in various healthcare and business settings. The job outlook for the nursing field is better than other professions, and according to the employment projections of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nurse’s occupation is one of the largest employment groups, projected to add roughly 439,300 jobs[2]. Here are a few common roles MSN students take after graduating from nursing school:

Occupation Job Description Skills RequiredMedian Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030)
Registered Nurse[17]Registered nurses usually work as part of the physician’s team. However, some could also work as nursing assistants, home health aides, and licensed practical nurses. They educate patients and their caregivers on how to manage illness and injuries and also explain how to aid the recovery process at home.Critical-thinking skills, communication skills, compassion, detail-oriented, emotional stability, physical stamina, organizational skills$77,6006% (as fast as average)
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners[18]Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses and have the same duties as registered nurses. They gather information about patients’ conditions and manage their health. The focus is on patient-centered care, which includes understanding patients’ concerns.Communication skills, critical-thinking skills, compassion, detail-oriented, leadership skills, interpersonal skills$123,78040% (much faster than average)
Physician Assistants[19]Physician assistants work with surgery and provide treatment like stitching wounds, immunizing patients, setting broken bones, and more. They monitor the progress that patients make and prescribe them medication based on the examination and diagnosis of the patient’s illness or injury.Problem-solving, emotional stability, interpersonal skills, detail-oriented, compassion, communication skills$121,53028% (much faster than average)
Legal Nurse Consultants[20]Legal Nurse Consultants analyze, understand and review health records that will help them instruct people about the standards of potential causes and risks in healthcare. They manage and oversee medical chronology and case analysis.Detailed-oriented, verbal skills, interpersonal skills, management skills$82,203NA
Nurse Educators[21]Nurse educators work with administrative and medical staff to recognize caregivers like nurses and incorporate them into different education programs at organizations in the capacity of trainers. They directly train such employees to ensure consistency and education is delivered smoothly.Interpersonal skills, verbal skills, writing skills, critical thinking skills$78,967NA
Hospice Nurses[22]Hospice nurses help discuss the prognosis and monitor the patient’s vitals. They check if the patient’s living space is optimal for care and well-being and create a plan for their caregivers to follow. They are also entrusted with supervising licensed nurse practitioners and certified home health aides.Critical-thinking skills, communication skills, compassion, detail-oriented, emotional stability, physical stamina, organizational skills$72,574NA

Certifications and Licensing for Online
MSN Students

Certifications help develop one’s professional bandwidth and explore other areas in the field. They are used for industry attestation of professionals, highlighting their skills and expertise. After completing MSN programs online, nurses can take up certifications to increase their knowledge and update how they provide care to their patients. Certifications will allow them to obtain workforce-ready skills that employers value. Some certifications in nursing include:

Family Nurse Practitioner[23]

In this certification, candidates are tested on their ability to prioritize differential diagnoses and formulate differential diagnoses. Those with this certification can provide counseling and education regarding the promotion of health strategies. They will be able to individualize a patient-centered plan that is evidence-based.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner[24]

This certification equips practitioners with the ability to prioritize different subjective and objective information that will help them recognize emergent and urgent conditions that patients have. They can use this information to perform, order, and interpret the client’s diagnosis.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner[25]

Through this certification, candidates learn to develop differential diagnoses based on the likeliness of occurrence of a disorder or illness. Practitioners will gain the skills to select reagent integrative therapy interventions and assess the potential complications of a patient.

Licensure is required to work as a nurse. One can obtain a license based on the state in which one intends to practice; each state has its own licensing requirements. In most states, nurses must take the National Council Licensure Examination[26] to obtain licensure. This exam help professionals understand specific roles and requirements of nurses needed in the workforce.

Additional Resources for
MSN Students

Students of MSN online programs must stay abreast with the latest in healthcare and medicine. Tapping into the various resources offered by professional organizations is an excellent way to access updates, learn about new developments, and network with others for better career prospects. Here are some professional organizations nurses can consider joining:

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners[27]This organization is led by a group of volunteers dedicated to the profession of nursing. They launch many collaborative projects, resources, and guides for managing illnesses to educate their members and patients.
American Academy of Nursing[28]This organization’s members, called fellows, are amongst the most accomplished leaders in practice, research, management, and education in nursing. Its members aim to work towards the advancement of healthy behaviors collaboratively.
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments[29]This organization aims to promote healthy living amongst people by educating them about healthy environments. It leads the nursing profession by incorporating evidence-based practice and advancing research in this occupation.
American Association for the History of Nursing[30]This organization aims to educate nurses and the general public about the heritage and history of nursing. It encourages and supports research in nursing and recognizes the scholarly achievements made throughout the history of nursing. It also aims to promote the inclusion of this history in curricula taught in nursing schools.
American Nursing Association[31]Through this organization, nurses can find a community that offers networking opportunities and career benefits and help them find like-minded peers. It helps them stay updated with nursing-related news and provides discounts on certifications, publications, and so on.

FAQs About Online MSN

Are online MSN programs respected?

Online MSN programs are respected as much as traditional MSN degrees. They are similar to in-person programs, offering identical coursework, and are accredited by the same accrediting body.

What is the best online RN to MSN program?

What are the learning outcomes of an online master’s nursing program?

What can you do with an online MSN degree?

Is an online MSN worth it?

Is it necessary to have some license to apply to an MSN program?

Is there any prerequisite course one needs to complete before pursuing an MSN online degree?

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Job Outlook Registered Nurses
  2. Employment projects of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Emory-Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
  4. Drexel University
  5. Duke University School of Nursing
  6. Southern New Hampshire University
  7. Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  8. American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  9. Council for Higher Education Accreditation
  10. Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
  11. American Nurses Association-How Do Viruses Cause Infection
  12. Scientiacme-Cultural and Linguistic Competence
  13. NIOSH-NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours
  14. Caroline E. Holt Nursing
  15. R&D Systems Scholarship
  16. Deborah E. Trautman Future Nurse Leader Scholarship
  17. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Occupational Outlook for Registered Nurse
  18. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Occupational Outlook for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
  19. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Occupational Outlook for Physician Assistants
  20. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Occupational Outlook for Legal Nurse Consultant
  21. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Occupational Outlook for Nurse Educator
  22. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics- Occupational Outlook for Hospice Nurse
  23. Family Nurse Practitioner
  24. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  25. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  26. National Council Licensure Examination
  27. National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  28. American Academy of Nursing
  29. Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
  30. American Association for the History of Nursing
  31. American Nursing Association
  32. NurseJournal
  33. University of Central Florida
  34. Johns Hopkins


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.