Inside the Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Ready to take your nursing career to the next level? Review top schools, compare program cost, and learn how you can start your journey to an advanced career as a nurse practitioner.

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last updated

Last Updated: 09/22/2021
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Nurse practitioners (NPs), also called Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, are some of the most experienced nurses in medical and health settings. They perform many of the tasks that physicians do, including ordering and interpreting medical tests, diagnosing ailments, and collaborating with others on patient care. Nurse practitioners work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare facilities and in both primary and urgent care.

In addition to some of the most experienced medical professionals, NPs are also some of the highest paid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $111,680 in May of 2020. Those in the top 10% of the profession earned $156,160. Due to increased demand of their services, the BLS estimates a 45% growth in NP job openings between 2019 and 2029, one of the fastest rates for all U.S. occupations.

Most nurse practitioners have either a master’s degree (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). An MSN can take 2 years to complete, with a DNP taking another 3-4 years after that. For students who need flexibility, online nurse practitioner programs are a great option. Many online NP programs allow nurses to study advanced practice online and tackle any necessary patient-facing elements on-the-job or on-campus.

Online NP programs offer a convenient way to continue your nursing education. That said, no one should spend their time, money, and energy on an online program without learning how they work and, more importantly, how they can take your nursing career exactly where you want to go. The following page gives you the inside scoop on the best programs, the different specialties available, and what you’ll face when you apply, enroll, and graduate.

Top 10 Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

  1. Northwestern State University of Louisiana – Natchitoches, LA
  2. University of Buffalo – Buffalo, NY
  3. Florida International University – Miami, FL
  4. University of Toledo – Toledo, OH
  5. University of Nevada-Reno – Reno, NV
  6. Upstate Medical University – Syracuse, NY
  7. University of Southern Indiana – Evansville, IN
  8. University of Missouri-Kansas City – Kansas City, MO
  9. New Mexico State University-Main Campus – Las Cruces, NM
  10. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio – San Antonio, TX

To see the details of each online program and review the rest of this year’s top schools, skip down to the full list of 2021’s Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs.

Profiling Online NP Programs

With dozens of online nurse practitioner programs out there, it can be hard to find the right one for you. How much can you afford? Will the ones in your price range have quality instruction and online flexibility? What about career placement? The best way to get answers is to dive into the details of some of today’s most popular nurse practitioner programs online. We’ve researched and reviewed a pair of solid programs to get you started.

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

Georgetown-University

Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies provides a family nurse practitioner program for individuals who want to offer primary care services across the lifespan. Designed for registered nurses who already possess a bachelor of science in nursing, this program consists of 44 credits and requires at least 650 clinical hours to graduate.

Full-time graduates finish in 19 months while part-time students spend 27 months moving from start to finish. Regardless of chosen path, both require two on-campus intensives. Upon completing all requirements, newly minted graduates qualify to seek board certification and credentialing through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). They can also sit for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners’ Certification Program (AACNP). As of 2017, the school maintained a 100% pass rate for the ANCC and a 97.8% pass rate for the AACNP.

After completing all curricular requirements, NPs in training move on to clinical requirements. Program administrators are on hand to help students find approved sites in their area. Georgetown’s program maintains accreditation via the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Online NP Program Specializations

Interested in a more specialized online nurse practitioner program? 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 important they possess the knowledge and skills to discern how to handle a wide range of medical issues. Most registered nurses begin their careers by completing either an associate or bachelor’s degree. Because online 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 people to work as RNs, they’ll need to complete a bridge program before they can start an online NP program. 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.

Best Online NP Programs in 2021

Colleges and universities across the U.S. continue to develop online nurse practitioner programs that cater to working professionals and students who just need flexibility. While many aren’t 100% online, they combine extensive online coursework with the right amount of hands-on elements and patient work. These online NP programs have given thousands of nurses the chance to advance their career in an affordable and convenient learning environment. But which schools have the accreditation, cost structure, and online learning you need to get your degree and advance your career?

Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and from the colleges themselves, EduMed.org has researched and analyzed dozens of online nurse practitioner programs to see which ones stand out in 2021. Review and compare the top schools below.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Northwestern State University of LouisianaNatchitoches, LA Public $$ 3

The College of Nursing at Northwestern State University of Louisiana offers a plethora of specialties for anyone looking to become a nurse practitioner. Those with a master’s degree can enter one of three post-graduate certificate program concentrations: family, psychiatric mental health, or adult gerontology acute care. Incoming students with only a bachelor’s degree would be more suited for the MSN program where they can choose from the same three concentrations as those in the post-graduate master’s certificate program but also have the options of primary care pediatric, women’s health, and adult gerontology primary care. Regardless of which academic track a student chooses, they graduate prepared to take their respective national certification exams.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $2,590.00/semester (in-state); $7,984.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-Master’s Certificate

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $2,590.00/semester (in-state); $7,984.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
2 University at BuffaloBuffalo, NY Public $$ 3

Nursing students at the University of Buffalo who want to become family nurse practitioners need to earn the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree by completing the Post-BS to DNP Program. Coursework is offered in a hybrid learning format at a part-time or full-time pace. Part-time students take about seven years to graduate, while full-time students can graduate in just three years. At the end of their programs, students complete a DNP Project. This is their opportunity to demonstrate their newly acquired knowledge by applying it to real-world nursing environments.

Program Highlights:

DNP - Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Credits: 97
  • Length: 3 to 5 years
  • Cost: $5,655.00/semester (in-state); $6,785.00/semester (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
3 Florida International UniversityMiami, FL Public $ 2

Florida International University’s premier online nursing program is its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This program offers several clinical focus areas, including Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. The classroom portion of the curriculum can be completed fully online. In addition to traditional coursework, students also complete a capstone project and a clinical residency. As a way to enhance the learning process, there are ample opportunities for DNP students to collaborate with the FIU Academic Health Center. To make the application process as easy as possible, applicants are not required to take the GRE. However, interested students need to have a master’s degree or post-graduate certificate in an advanced practice nursing specialty.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 6 semesters
  • Cost: $621.72/credit (in-state); $1,017.16/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
76%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
4 University of ToledoToledo, OH Public $$ 3

Aspiring nurse practitioners have a multitude of options at the University of Toledo. At the master’s level, there’s the Master of Science in Nursing Program that offers two online hybrid nurse practitioner programs: family and pediatric primary care. At the doctoral level, students choose from either the MSN to DNP track or the BSN to DNP track. Both programs offer hybrid curriculums that combine online coursework and clinical training. They also both provide the same five nurse practitioner concentrations: adult gerontology acute care, adult gerontology primary care, family, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric mental health.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $614.91/credit (in-state); $1,079.05/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $754.35/credit (in-state); $1,218.49/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
92%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
5 University of Nevada-RenoReno, NV Public $$ 3

Prospective nurse practitioners have three academic credentials to consider when attending the University of Nevada - Reno. Those looking to earn an MSN degree can select among the following nurse practitioner specializations: adult gerontology acute care, adult gerontology primary care, family, pediatric acute care, and psychiatric mental health. Students already possessing an MSN degree might find it quicker to enroll in an Advanced Graduate Certificate program. It offers the same nurse practitioner concentration as the MSN program except for adult gerontology primary care. Finally, there’s the BSN to DNP program. This program has the same opportunities for nurse practitioner specialization as the MSN program. When it comes to the online curriculum for all of these programs, most of the classes are online, but some may have the occasional on-campus visit, and most have in-person clinical requirements.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $233.00/credit (in-state); $488.75/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CCNE (program)

Advanced Graduate Certificate

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $233.00/credit (in-state); $488.75/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CCNE (program)

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

  • Credits: Varies
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $233.00/credit (in-state); $488.75/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
44%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
6 Upstate Medical UniversitySyracuse, NY Public $$ 3 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
7 University of Southern IndianaEvansville, IN Public $$ 3 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
8 University of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas City, MO Public $$ 3 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
71%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
9 New Mexico State University-Main CampusLas Cruces, NM Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
10 The University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan Antonio, TX Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
11 Stony Brook UniversityStony Brook, NY Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
70%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
12 University of IowaIowa City, IA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
76%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
13 University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorage, AK Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
30%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
14 Southeastern Louisiana UniversityHammond, LA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
56%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
15 Texas Tech University Health Sciences CenterLubbock, TX Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
16 University of North DakotaGrand Forks, ND Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
17 Indiana University-Purdue University-IndianapolisIndianapolis, IN Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
57%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
18 Georgia State UniversityAtlanta, GA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
25%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
19 University of Southern MississippiHattiesburg, MS Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
20 University of ArizonaTucson, AZ Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
21 Augusta UniversityAugusta, GA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
13%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
22 South Dakota State UniversityBrookings, SD Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
53%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
23 East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City, TN Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
37%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
24 Georgia Southern UniversityStatesboro, GA Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
15%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
25 University of Cincinnati-Main CampusCincinnati, OH Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
54%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
26 Texas State UniversitySan Marcos, TX Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
12%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
27 Kent State University at KentKent, OH Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
79%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
28 Winona State UniversityWinona, MN Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
49%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
29 Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca Raton, FL Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
30 Purdue University-Main CampusWest Lafayette, IN Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
43%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
31 University of Maryland, BaltimoreBaltimore, MD Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
32 Washington State UniversityPullman, WA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
76%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
33 Radford UniversityRadford, VA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
21%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
34 Eastern Kentucky UniversityRichmond, KY Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
60%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
35 Georgia College & State UniversityMilledgeville, GA Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
10%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
36 The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxville, TN Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
48%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
37 University of South Carolina-ColumbiaColumbia, SC Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
38 University of California-IrvineIrvine, CA Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
51%
Accreditation#N/A
39 Wayne State UniversityDetroit, MI Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
90%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
40 Weber State UniversityOgden, UT Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
41 Angelo State UniversitySan Angelo, TX Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
60%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
42 University of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmington, NC Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
39%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
43 The University of Texas Rio Grande ValleyEdinburg, TX Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
45%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
44 Texas A & M International UniversityLaredo, TX Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
37%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
45 Texas Woman’s UniversityDenton, TX Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
44%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
46 Francis Marion UniversityFlorence, SC Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
27%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
47 Wilmington UniversityNew Castle, DE Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
16%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
48 Midwestern State UniversityWichita Falls, TX Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
69%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
49 University of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayette, LA Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
57%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

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 online NP 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 NP Program Options

Synchronous programs

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 programs

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 online 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 programs

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 programs available, potential students can easily narrow their options when considering program components. For starters, only apply to 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. Explore over 15 of the top scholarships for nurse practitioner students and see if you qualify.
  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 an online NP 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.

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.