The Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Today

Ready to take your nursing career to the next level? Compare program cost, reputation, and learn how you can start your journey to an advanced medical career as a nurse practitioner.

2019’s Top Accredited Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

With so many online nurse practitioner programs available, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to picking one to meet your needs. To help, EduMed’s “Best in Class” initiative spotlights some of today’s best schools and programs. We pull together the most affordable and comprehensive accredited programs with the flexiblity you need to balance work, school, and family responsibilities. See which online nurse practitioner programs are making a huge difference in 2019.

Simmons University

Simmons-University

From its home base in Boston, Simmons University provides women-centered degrees that prepare graduates to make meaningful contributions in their field. The online family nurse practitioner program maintains accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and allows learners to choose from part- and full-time plans of study.

Simmons focuses on providing individualized education and does that by ensuring class sizes stay small so professors can interact with each student separately. Most classes have 15 or fewer learners. The program requires 48 credits and at least 672 clinical hours to graduate. Some of the topics covered include advanced pharmacology across the lifespan, clinical decision-making, global perspectives in health promotion, and scholarly inquiry.

Simmons’ program uses a cohort model, meaning learners enter as a group and progress through coursework together. The school offers four different start dates each academic year. Regardless of where they live, all students pay the same tuition rate of $1,385 per credit. The department offers several scholarships to help offset these costs. Students can rest assured knowing Simmons adequately prepares learners for careers after graduating. In 2017, the school maintained a board pass rate of 94.2%, as compared to the national pass rate of 81.5%.

Georgetown University

George Washington University

Online NP Program Specializations

Interested in a more specialized nurse practitioner program online? Nurse practitioners have a wide range of education and career tracks from which to choose. Get the details on these popular specializations, or read on to learn how today’s online nurse practitioner programs work.

Program Levels for Nurse Practitioners

Because nurse practitioners must perform many advanced medical services, it’s imperative that they possess the knowledge and skills to discern how to handle a wide array of medical issues. Most registered nurses begin their careers by completing either an associate or bachelor’s degree. Because NP programs require applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree when applying, those who pursued an associate degree may need to complete a bridge program before enrolling. The following section takes a look at the different levels of nursing degrees and how each contributes to becoming a nurse practitioner.  

Undergraduate Nursing Degrees

  • ASN/ADN:
    The Associate of Science in Nursing allows you to begin work as RNs after graduating and passing all licensing exams. Because this degree only requires two years of full-time study, it appeals to individuals who think they want to pursue this field but do not feel fully confident embarking on a full bachelor’s program until they test the waters. Since this program exists as an introductory degree, most schools do not require prerequisites. While an ASN does allow individuals to work as RNs, they’ll need to complete a bridge program before they can start an MSN degree. Read more about campus and online associate degrees in nursing.
  • BSN:
    Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees appeal to those who know they want to work in the nursing field and already possess aspirations to progress their careers in years to come. These four-year programs, like an ASN, allow individuals to work as RNs, but also allow them to move immediately into MSN programs. Common prerequisites include chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, biology, and statistics.
  • LPN-to-BSN:
    Licensed Practical Nurses gain their qualifications after completing a year-long educational program. While this allows them to work in a supervised support role, salaries tend to be far lower than those commanded by RNs. After working as an LPN for a while, some decide they want to take their careers to the next level by completing an LPN-to-BSN bridge program. These programs typically take four semesters of full-time study. Applicants must possess an unencumbered LPN license, have at least one year of employment history, and credits in statistics, chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology. Check out campus, hybrid, and online LPN to BSN programs.
  • RN-to-BSN:
    RN-to-BSN programs serve as the most common option for individuals who completed an ASN but now want to upgrade their degree. These programs admit registered nurses and typically take 18-24 months to complete. Applicants must already possess an ASN degree with courses in chemistry, English, biology, anatomy, and microbiology.

Graduate NP Degrees

  • MSN: 
    To become a nurse practitioner (or nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife), individuals must possess at minimum a Master of Science in Nursing. These programs take approximately three years to complete and require students to undertake coursework alongside an extensive clinical internship (usually totaling between 600-800 hours, depending on the state). Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree at minimum, although it does not always need to be in nursing. Students should have multiple credits in areas of human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology, biology, behavioral sciences, and statistics. These programs tend to cost more per credit than undergraduate degrees, but also lead to higher annual wages.
  • DNP:
    Completing a Doctor of Nursing Practice takes between three and four years of full-time study, including approximately 80 credits and 1,000 clinical practicum hours. These programs allow nurse practitioners to move into the upper echelons of the field and prepare them for clinical, research, and teaching roles. Learners who decide to undertake DNPs usually want to specialize their knowledge in a particular area or move into an academic position. Options exist for those with BSNs or MSNs, with prerequisites depending on the highest level of education already completed.

How Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Work

As online learning continues to expand and options become more sophisticated, potential virtual learners can choose from several different learning styles and find one that best suits their individual needs. Given that nurse practitioner programs require time spent in clinical rotations, it’s impossible for all learning to take place from the comfort of home. Many programs also require learners to visit campus to take part in intensives lasting a few days to a week. But degree seekers do have some control over how and when the learning takes place, making it important for them to understand the differences of each option.

Online Program Options

Synchronous learning

Nurse practitioner classes taught through synchronous learning most closely mimic brick-and-mortar classrooms. Nursing students must log-in at specific times to take part in live, face-to-face learning sessions. Most use videoconferences, telephones, and webcasts to connect peers and professors in real time. This method can increase student engagement and make it easier for learners who need more of a hands-on approach to feel involved and connected. They also make it easier to stay on track with learning, as classes happen at the same time each week.

Asynchronous leaning

Asynchronous learning appeals to nursing students with busy schedules who possess the discipline needed to complete readings, assignments, and responses on their own timeline. While professors in your NP program still set overarching deadlines for when work must be turned in, NP students can watch lectures, respond to peers, and study for exams at times that fit their schedule. Students who choose this option must know how to remain focused and on task without the weekly requirement of face-to-face interactions.

Hybrid

Hybrid learning includes both classroom and online learning, making it possible for nurse practitioner students to enjoy the benefits of both over the course of their degree. This appeals to those enrolled in schools near their home who feel they might miss out on a traditional experience if they do online only, but also do not possess the time or resources to visit campus multiple times per week. On the flip side, students may feel too stretched or have trouble switching their brains between the two learning styles.

Signs of a Strong Online NP Program

Even with so many online nurse practitioner degrees available, potential students can easily narrow their options when considering program components. For starters, only attend programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, as this better ensures your chance of receiving licensure and competing for jobs. Also make sure the program offers a concentration in your area of focus, such as gerontology, family, or pediatric care. Program delivery also matters, so check whether the program exists in a synchronous or asynchronous format. Lastly, look for faculty with experience.

Nurse Practitioner Courses Online

While many nurse practitioner online programs offer similar courses, it’s important to remember that all are not created equally. Students should carefully examine curricula, look for alumni reviews, and ask probing questions about the level of rigor involved. They should also make sure that a program covers both basic and advanced topics, with electives that help them build population-specific skills. Check out a few popular courses below.

Population-Health

Population Health: Students in this course examine population-specific health issues across the lifespan and how evidence-based practice informs treatment decisions. Learners also cover topics related to epidemiology, statistics, and the use of biostatistics when caring for patients.

Roles-of-APNs

Roles of APNs: This class familiarizes advanced practice nurses with common responsibilities, legal and regulatory requirements, and ethical standards. The course introduces case studies to help students understand how to respond to myriad scenarios throughout the course of their careers.

Advanced-Pharmacology

Advanced Pharmacology: In this course, learners cover various therapeutic modalities, the diagnosis and ongoing management of health issues, common treatment plans, and the role of clinical pharmacology within primary healthcare.

Health-and-Illness-Across-the-Lifespan

Health and Illness Across the Lifespan: Primarily designed for individuals pursuing family nurse practitioner positions, this class takes a look at each developmental stage of human life and how to both assess and provide care at each level. Learners also discover how things like genetics affect treatment plans.

Informatics

Informatics: This class helps learners better understand existing and emerging health information technologies and how they can inform patient care. Students pay close attention to the use of technologies in evidence-based practice and how these can be used to create safe care environments.

How Much Do Online NP Programs Cost?

Online nurse practitioner programs, like any other degree, range in cost depending on the institution, number of credits required, and whether the student plans to transfer any existing hours when they matriculate. The following list gives prospective degree seekers a sense of what to expect, but they should check with individual schools to get exact numbers. In general, online degrees tend to cost less, both in terms of per-credit fees and savings on transportation, housing, and other costs related to studying on campus.

1 1. Mount Carmel College of Nursing,
Family Nurse Practitioner
$27,340 total
2 2. Duke University,
Doctor of Nursing Practice
$1,769 per credit
3 3. Simmons University,
Family Nurse Practitioner
$1,385 per credit

Tackling the Tuition of Your Online NP Program

The costs of online nurse practitioner programs vary. While some tuitions may seem initially prohibitive, it’s important to remember that plenty of funding options exist to help offset costs and help learners avoid student loan debt. Check out the options below, but also speak with admissions personnel at potential schools to learn if any other options exist, such as fellowships or teaching assistantships. Our guide to financial aid can help get you on the right path, too.

  1. Scholarships
    Scholarships have the broadest appeal as this type of funding does not need repayment so long as students meet all requirements. Learners should research scholarships originating from schools, academic departments, private foundations, nonprofits, and all levels of government. See 50 of today’s top scholarship opportunities for students of healthcare.
  2. Loans
    These can be both subsidized and unsubsidized. The federal government offers a number of subsidized (meaning interest does not accrue while enrolled) and unsubsidized loans at the graduate level. Students should exhaust all other funding options before taking out loans, and only take exactly what they need to pay for tuition and fees.
  3. Veterans benefits
    Students previously enrolled in a branch of the military can take advantage of educational assistance programs to cut costs. The Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon Program all provide financial support to qualified veterans.
  4. Employer tuition assistance
    Employers who choose to participate in these programs can provide learners with up to $5,250 in tax-free educational benefits per year. In exchange, most require the employee to study a particular topic and/or commit to working at the organization for a certain number of years.
  5. Payment plans
    Some schools allow students to make payments on their education while enrolled rather than taking out a loan. This option is usually open to those who don’t need a loan, but can’t pay the full balance up front. Schools usually charge a small administrative fee or low interest rate.

Nurse Practitioner Certification & Licensure

After finishing a master’s in nursing program, graduates are eligible to sit for exams from two nursing certification agencies. While not necessarily required, certifications can help newly minted nurse practitioners stand out from the competition and provide more options for individuals to network and continue building their specialized skills. Students looking to understand more about their options can read about the two credentialing agencies below.

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) Exam:

    The AANPCP offers certifications in areas of family NP, adult-gerontology NP, and emergency NP for individuals who want to demonstrate their competencies and clinical knowledge within each specialty area. Graduates must successfully pass the exam to receive certification and apply for recertification every five years to maintain good standing. To be eligible to sit for the AANPCP exam, applicants must have the following:

    • MSN, post-master’s certificate, or doctorate
    • Active RN license
    • At least 500 clinical hours supervised by a faculty member
    • Final transcript
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Exam:

    The ANCC provides certifications in several nurse practitioner focus areas, including family, psychiatric-mental health, adult-gerontology acute care, and adult-gerontology primary care. These cost $395 for non-members and $295 for members. After passing the initial exam, NPs must renew their certification every five years and demonstrate a history of continuing education from the time of their first certification. To sit for the ANCC examination, applicants must demonstrate the following:

    • Current RN license
    • A master’s degree, post-graduate, or doctoral degree in their specialization
    • At least 500 clinical hours supervised by a faculty member
    • Graduate courses in physiology, pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology
    • Graduate-level content in health promotion and maintenance, disease management, and differential diagnosis

Licensure

Given the importance of this profession and its position within medical support professions, all states require licensure. In order to obtain licensure as an advance practice registered nurse, you must first pass all RN licensure requirements. To gain this next level of licensure, individuals must successfully complete an MSN program or post-graduate nursing degree. If you are unsure about the specific mandates of your state, check with the state licensing board.

Nurse Practitioner Concentrations & Credentials

After deciding to pursue a nurse practitioner online program, students must then figure out which specialization speaks to their career ambitions. Because NPs work across a diverse spectrum of clinical areas, finding the right niche represents an important step in the educational process. Some may feel drawn to work with specific populations such as women or children, while others may derive more satisfaction from working with different types of individuals. Read up about common concentrations below to get a sense of popular sub-disciplines.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners in this line of work support patients facing sudden and/or extreme medical conditions or injuries, making it imperative for them to be able to make educated decisions quickly. They must also flourish in busy and/or stressful situations and demonstrate ample flexibility for whatever may come their way during a shift. Because acute medical conditions can occur across the lifespan, these nurse practitioners must possess ample education to recognize symptoms in both young and old patients. Students who want to pursue this path must find a school with an acute care specialization.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Adult-Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

Credentials

To work as a nurse practitioner, all students must attend an approved advanced practice nurse practitioner (APNP) program. They must also receive licensure in the state where they hope to practice. Individuals who want to receive certification can choose from numerous options that help differentiate their skills and bring recognition to their resumes. Depending on your area of interest, consider one of the credentials below:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNPC), from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist; Wellness through Acute Care (Adult-Gerontology, Pediatric & Neonatal) (ACCNS), from AACN
  • Executive Nursing Practice Credential, from American Organization of Nurse Executives Credentialing Center

Career Advancement & Outlook

Before taking the plunge and enrolling in an online nurse practitioner program, potential students want to ensure an ample return on investment and job security for the future. For nurse practitioners in training, the future looks extremely bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that roles for these professionals will grow by 31% (as compared to the national average of 8% for all occupations) by 2026. In total, approximately 65,000 new jobs will be added to the existing 204,000. This growth is due to a higher demand for medical services in general, but also more emphasis on gerontology services and preventative care.

While many jobs within medical support show higher than average growth, numbers for nurse practitioners are particularly strong. The majority (46%) find work in physicians’ offices, but they can also seek employment in hospitals, outpatient care centers, nursing education services, and offices of other health practitioners.

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make?

Given their advanced education and credentialing, nurse practitioners typically earn salaries far above the national average. While those receiving median wages earn approximately $110,000 each year, individuals in the highest echelons can make close to $200,000 annually. In terms of location, those working in hospitals earned the highest median wage at $117,850. Individuals working in educational services, conversely, earned the lowest at $101,600. Check out the table below to get a better sense of what to expect while remembering that factors like experience, location, and type of facility can all impact the final number.

Lowest 10% Median Highest 10%
$76,830 $110,930 $180,460

What Are the Career Advancement Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners who want to continue moving up the career ladder can elect to focus their skills in particular areas of the field, thereby increasing their specialized knowledge and positioning themselves to be in high demand. Some may decide to work in psychiatrics while others may feel more drawn to pediatric care.

Another option to for increasing income and career advancement opportunities is to move to a state seeing the most growth in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York, California, Texas, Florida, and Ohio possess the highest employment levels. California, Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York currently pay the highest annual mean wages.