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Explore Top Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in PA

Explore top online NP programs in PA, the features that make them stand out, and the many nurse practitioner jobs they prepare you for.

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Author: Ivy Locke
Editor: Kari Scare

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Panoramic view of pittsburgh at dusk, featuring the downtown skyline with tall buildings and the distinctive yellow fort duquesne bridge spanning the allegheny river.

Are you considering becoming a nurse practitioner in Pennsylvania? If so, you’re not alone. Nurse Practitioners Care for PA indicates there has been substantial growth in the field in recent years with an approximate 22% growth in the NP workforce since 2017. The recent pandemic contributed to nursing shortages nationwide, further increasing the demand for nurses of all skill levels — but especially those with advanced skills.

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires advanced education, but not all nursing programs are created equal and your options will depend heavily on your own unique financial, geographic, professional, and personal constraints. Luckily, given the uptick in online programs, there are now more programs to choose from than ever before. Whether you want to prioritize schools with strong financial aid and scholarship offerings or accelerated courses of study, this guide is a great place to start. Keep reading for an overview of some of the top online NP programs in PA, degree options, and more.

A Closer Look at Online NP Programs in Pennsylvania

Are you ready to find the perfect nursing school for you? If so, you’ll need to compare variables like curriculum details, admissions requirements, cost, learning outcomes, and more. We’ve spotlighted three top schools to help you get a feel for these features and more so you can find the best online NP program in PA for you. Explore their profiles below.

Penn State

Penn State is an excellent choice for online NP programs in PA. It offers an online Doctor of Nursing NP Program designed to create doctoral-prepared nurse practitioners. This 65–78-credit program costs just $1,017 per credit hour, making it affordable for students from all walks of life. However, it’s only offered to nurses practicing exclusively in the state of Pennsylvania.

The program requires 1,125 hours of post–BS practicum and can be completed through various courses in the program that require practicum hours as part of the coursework. The hours are developed by consulting with faculty members and with the approval of the faculty advisor.

Required courses include:

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner option courses (31 credits)
  • Family/Individual Across the Lifespan Nurse Practitioner option courses (23 credits)
  • Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner option courses (20 credits)
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner option courses (21 credits)

Penn State is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Joseph’s University is another fantastic option for online NP programs in PA. It offers a Master of Science in Nursing—Nurse Practitioner (MSN) program exclusively for Pennsylvania residents. Applicants must have a minimum of 3.0 GPA from a regionally accredited institution. They must also have two years’ experience and 3,000 hours of clinical experience as a nurse; those who do not yet have 3,000 hours of clinical experience may apply, but the hours must be completed before enrolling.

Students can choose from two specialty tracks.

  • Adult/Gerontology Acute Care
  • Family/Individual Across the Lifespan

This highly flexible program enables students to gain extensive experience since it requires 720 clinical hours at a premier healthcare facility. Additionally, Saint Joseph’s University has a 100% pass rate on the AACN/ANCC Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) and ANCC/AANP Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) exams, making it an ideal institution for preparing to become a nurse practitioner.

Saint Joseph’s University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Wilkes University

Wilkes University is an excellent choice for online NP programs in PA. It offers a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program with several credential options. These 16-course programs take approximately 2.3 years to complete and cost roughly $20,000 to just under $40,000.

Those entering with an associate degree in nursing must provide evidence of that degree and give proof of a 3.0 GPA, an unencumbered RN license, at least one year of clinical experience, and a work history. Those entering with a bachelor’s degree must provide proof of the degree and the other requirements listed. Those with an advanced degree must provide proof of their MSN, DNP, or BSN-DNP degrees and the other listed requirements outside of the one year of clinical experience.

The program’s overall goal is to provide students with the critical thinking skills required to make sound decisions in clinical settings and hone their diagnostic reasoning skills to provide more positive patient outcomes.

Wilkes University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Features of Top PA Nurse Practitioner Programs

Pennsylvania offers a wide array of cutting-edge nurse practitioner programs. Although deciding on the right program is a highly personal decision, there are some features that are universally important in setting top online NP programs in PA apart from the crowd.

Accreditation

Accreditation is paramount when choosing an NP program. Attending unaccredited schools can prevent you from finding gainful employment or even transferring your credits if you choose to further your education beyond an NP program. Ensure your nursing school is fully accredited by an organization like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Affordable Tuition & Fees

Another vital component of a nurse practitioner program is affordability. If you have the money, you can essentially afford any program you want. This is not usually the case, though, and most students rely heavily on financial aid, scholarships, and student loans. If the latter applies to you, shop around and compare prices before enrolling. Otherwise, you may end up in an overpriced program that is inferior to a more cost-effective one.

Certification Exam Pass Rates

Another important element of a top NP program is its graduates’ pass rates on national certification exams like the FNP-BC. Although it’s up to each student to do their best to prepare and pass their exam(s), some programs provide students with more tools and resources to prepare for making a difference than others. Checking the program’s pass rates gives you a better idea of how much emphasis the school places on practical preparation for certification and the workforce.

Comprehensive Curriculum & Clinical Options

You should also make sure you enroll in a program with a comprehensive curriculum because there are many moving parts involved in becoming a nurse practitioner. If you enroll in a program that isn’t comprehensive, you may discover that other requirements must be met before you can begin your career. Specifically, options to complete the clinical hours should be included in the curriculum; otherwise, you may be left rushing to complete them to get certified.

Flexibility in Format & Enrollment

Becoming a nursing student doesn’t negate your existing responsibilities, so there may be times when your studies are not your top priority. This is why flexibility in format and enrollment is essential. Finding flexible programs gives you the leeway often required of busy students with the stress of jobs, families, etc. For instance, if you have an ill child, it’s far easier to keep up or catch up if you’re in an online program than if you have to attend class in person. It also helps if you enroll in programs that allow you to switch from full-time to part-time and vice versa if necessary.

Specialization Options

Lastly, find out about specialization options since they directly impact the types of jobs you can pursue once you graduate. If you prefer to work with children, for instance, search for NP programs with pediatric specializations like Penn Nursing’s Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program. Discover the specializations available in all your prospective schools, so you can better decide which schools and programs align with your educational and professional goals.

Exploring Different NP Degree Options in PA

Becoming a nurse of any kind is not straightforward. Rather, it’s often a choose-your-own-adventure mission that includes various pivots and reroutes before reaching your destination. For instance, there are a few different programs to choose from when you are on a direct path to becoming an NP. Here is an overview of each of those programs.

MSN

MSN programs prepare students for advanced nursing roles in practice, research, education, and leadership. They develop a keen ability to serve as leaders and change agents in healthcare and healthcare-adjacent facilities. These programs also prepare them to become exemplary leaders in communication, collaboration, and scholarship. With the help of honed critical thinking skills, students become better capable of uncovering and assessing organizational issues while also providing the most straightforward, diplomatic solutions. The intended result is someone who can create and supervise highly collaborative teams.

Featured Programs:

York College of Pennsylvania: Online MSN

Indiana University of Pennsylvania: Online MS in Nursing

Certificate

Nurse practitioner certificate programs are non-degree programs that enable nurses with master’s degrees to earn NP certifications. These programs require students to complete a mandatory number of clinical hours before receiving their certifications. Students can choose to complete them before enrolling, or they can complete them under the supervision of an instructor while in the program. The number of hours students must complete is determined on a case-by-case basis. Either way, enrolling in these programs enables students to earn their certifications and choose specializations that allow them to practice as nurse practitioners officially.

Featured Programs:

Immaculata University: Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate

Drexel University: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Post-Graduate Certificate

DNP

A Doctor of Nursing Practice program results in a post-master’s degree, also known as a terminal degree. These degrees prepare students for roles in healthcare leadership and advanced clinical practice. DNPs are like a PhD in nursing, but a DNP allows graduates to apply their knowledge to practice in the field rather than to research. A DNP holder can take positions in clinical education, high-level leadership, and healthcare policy, so earning a DNP allows students to pursue upper-level opportunities in healthcare.

Featured Programs:

West Chester University: Doctor of Nursing Practice

Bloomsburg Commonwealth University: Doctor of Nursing Practice

Career and Salary Prospects for Pennsylvania Nurse Practitioners

Becoming a nurse practitioner in Pennsylvania can be fruitful for nurses of all skill levels. The Pennsylvania job growth rate for NPs is 32.7%, far higher than in other areas.

The median salary for NPs in PA is $116,980, not far from the national average of $121,610. However, your income can fluctuate depending on where you work. For instance, the median income rises to $120,990 annually in Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington offers the highest median income for NPs in the state at $124,020 per year. Reading, PA lies between the two with a median income of $122,920 per year.

On the flip side, Altoona has the lowest median income for nurses in the state at $100,690 annually. Williamsport is just a step above this at $101,240 per year. Johnstown, PA, offers NPs $102,090 per year. Lebanon and Gettysburg are also on the lower side in terms of income for NPs in PA with median incomes of $103,350 and $103,600, respectively.

AreaEmployment
(2020)
New Jobs
(2020-2030)
Job Growth RateAvg. Annual Openings
(’20-’30)
Pennsylvania6,2102,03032.7%580
US220,300114,90052.2%26,000

Source: Projections Central

Location10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
United States$87,340$121,610$165,240
Pennsylvania$93,230$116,980$158,130
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ$98,970$120,990$138,270
Altoona, PA$78,130$100,690$145,140
Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA$95,680$106,970$134,460
Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA$78,090$105,290$146,620
East Stroudsburg, PA$94,270$106,530$169,770
Erie, PA$86,740$108,930$148,550
Gettysburg, PA$86,160$103,600$156,050
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA$96,790$118,530$159,710
Johnstown, PA$81,990$102,090$138,720
Lancaster, PA$93,360$109,090$136,140
Lebanon, PA$77,500$103,350$145,600
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA$101,060$124,020$154,390
Pittsburgh, PA$79,580$109,520$203,530
Reading, PA$100,510$122,920$159,080
Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA$94,600$107,740$137,460
State College, PA$86,060$108,630$153,310
Williamsport, PA$76,180$101,240$129,200
York-Hanover, PA$85,770$105,090$146,040

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics