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Your Guide to Top RN to Nurse Practitioner Online Programs

Take your first step down the path to becoming a nurse practitioner by browsing standout schools, specialization options, key features, and more.

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A woman in a white coat smiles at the camera in a room where several people in blue scrubs are engaged in discussion. The background is a modern, glass-walled space with natural light.

You love nursing. You love the work of improving patients’ lives, but you want bigger challenges and the rewards that come with them. Maybe you also hope to fill a leadership role, so putting in the necessary work to become a nurse practitioner (NP) seems a natural next step. But you don’t have the time to commit to a traditional, full-time program — making online programs an attractive option.

Because they’re typically taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses, online programs provide the same quality education that on-campus programs do — and they are often more affordable, too. RN to NP online programs are designed for working nurses with busy lives, offering you the flexibility to earn your nurse practitioner degree without putting your career on hold.

In the world of nursing, nurse practitioners are nurse leaders. They go beyond the duties of registered nurses to autonomously diagnose diseases, prescribe medications, and educate patients about health and lifestyle choices. As a nurse practitioner, you can work in hospitals, medical offices, clinics, and nursing homes. But first, you must earn an advanced degree.

At minimum, you’ll need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a nurse practitioner. This guide will highlight different degree pathways by spotlighting standout RN to NP online programs. We’ll also examine specialization options and potential earnings for nurse practitioners. Read this guide to discover more about RN to NP online programs and find the one that’s right for you.

Standout Online RN to Nurse Practitioner Programs

In the spotlights below, you’ll find high-quality RN to NP online programs you can use to kick-start your program search. Each of these schools is accredited and offers students distinct pathways toward becoming a licensed nurse practitioner. While these are not ranked, they’ll help you begin to see program differences that can help you decide the best school for you.

Chamberlain University

Chamberlain University has an RN to MSN program that can help nurses coming from a variety of educational backgrounds. You’ll also find different learning formats, including full-time and accelerated options. The school’s nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

The RN-BSN to MSN curriculum allows nurses to choose from nine specialty tracks, including four clinical tracks that are RN to NP online programs. Students attending full time and year-round can earn a degree in as little as eight semesters — but a unique facet of this program is that you can complete your coursework at your own pace. Minimum requirements for admission include a 2.0 GPA and an active RN license.

Or if you value expediency and earned a minimum 3.0 GPA in your previous education, Chamberlain has an accelerated RN-MSN program with a clinical nurse leadership option. You can complete your degree in about four semesters in the accelerated pathway.

No matter which degree path Chamberlain students choose, coursework is completely online, and students apply these methodologies in real-world clinical settings.

Old Dominion University

Logo of ODU Global, Old Dominion University. The design includes a stylized lion's head inside a circular shape on the left. To the right, "ODU Global" is written in bold uppercase letters, with "Old Dominion University" beneath it and a yellow line separating the two texts.

What makes Old Dominion University’s MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner unique is that students have opportunities for interprofessional study and can receive specialized instruction in topics like telehealth for rural areas. The program also provides pathways to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program for students who want to go further than a master’s.

ODU collaborates with Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Standardized Patient Program, offering simulations with more than 115 standardized patients ranging in age from 14 to 84.

Even though coursework is completed online, RN to NP online students must travel to campus for scheduled training and testing at various times throughout the program (usually once per semester).

Curriculum includes 49 credit hours, a clinical practicum at a physical location, and hands-on training in Virginia Beach. The program costs $599 per credit hour for Virginia residents and $623 for out-of-state students. ODUs master’s and doctoral nursing programs are accredited by CCNE; the family nurse practitioner MSN program has been approved by the Virginia Joint Boards of Nursing and Medicine.

Wilkes University

Wilkes University’s online RN to MSN program takes RNs with an associate degree in nursing directly to an MSN – nurse practitioner; no pass-through bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is granted as part of the program. You’ll be able to choose from three NP concentrations: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health, and adult-gerontology primary care.

Student support at Wilkes takes the form of integrated exam preparation courses that lead to high passing rates. While the program is online, students will be required to be in person for clinicals and residencies. A dedicated clinical placement team will help you find a location for your practical experience.

Students pay $728 per credit and save about $10,000 by enrolling in the RN to MSN program when compared to first getting your bachelor’s degree and then your master’s in nursing. Applicants must submit a resume or CV and official transcripts from an accredited institution where they earned an associate degree. One year of registered nursing clinical experience is required by the start of NP clinical courses (usually year two of the program).

Types of Online RN to NP Programs Online

How should you transition from an RN to NP online? With so many choices out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You can choose an accelerated program, a bridge program, an MSN, or DNP. Learning what makes each option different from the rest can help you make an informed decision about which is best for you. Take a look at your options below.


You’ll appreciate an accelerated program if you want to become a nurse practitioner quickly — typically in about three years, though some programs are as short in duration as one or two years. In an accelerated timeline, you’ll complete coursework, clinical rotations, and testing like traditional students, but your duration in the program will be significantly shorter. Spending less time in school also means potentially saving money on tuition, fees, and living expenses.


Nursing bridge RN to NP online programs are paths for credentialed RNs who want to upskill and advance their nursing careers. For example, if you’ve become a licensed RN after completing an associate degree program, you can earn your MSN through an RN-to-MSN bridge. If you pass your nurse practitioner testing at the completion of this program, you’ll be eligible to become an NP. Some bridge programs provide a pass-through BSN and others do not, so check with your school for details. Regardless, you won’t have to apply to multiple programs, and you’ll likely save time, money, and energy while you earn your MSN in about three to four years.


An MSN is a graduate degree in nursing that typically allows students to specialize in an area of healthcare that speaks to their future goals — with many offering nurse practitioner concentrations. These programs take about two years to complete. For all U.S. states, an MSN is the minimum degree requirement to become an NP, though some states do require a doctorate.


If you want to earn your doctorate and become a nurse leader, you’ll want to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP. These programs are designed to teach future nursing leaders how to turn research into practice. Earn a DNP, and you can work at the highest level of nursing practice to train nurses and improve patient outcomes. From start to finish, DNP programs usually take three to five years to complete.

Paths to Becoming an NP as an RN

No two registered nurses are the same, which means no two paths to becoming an NP are the same. That’s why it’s important to choose the right starting point for your RN to NP online journey based on your educational background. Some students start with an associate degree in nursing, while others begin with a BSN. Let’s examine the differences between these two starting points below.

With an ADN

For RNs who hold an ADN, one path to a future as an NP is to enroll in a BSN degree program, which usually takes two years to complete. You can then enroll in an MSN program and specialize in a nurse practitioner track. Another option is to apply for a bridge RN-to-MSN program, which can help you expedite the path toward becoming a nurse practitioner. Most bridge programs require a minimum GPA in your ADN program, often 3.0 or higher.

With a BSN

If you already hold a BSN, you can go from RN to NP online by pursuing an MSN directly. MSN programs focus on a variety of nurse practitioner specialties such as adult-gerontology, family health, neonatal health, and psychiatric/mental health. MSN programs tend to take two to three years to complete. You should expect to complete clinical rotations along with coursework and maybe even a thesis or capstone project. After you graduate, you can pursue certification as a nurse practitioner by completing the required testing.

Nurse Practitioner Specialization Options

Nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings, which is often dictated by their chosen area of specialization. You may know which specialty interests you when you enter your program, or it may take some time to figure out what you’re looking for. Below, find four examples of popular nurse practitioner specializations.

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNP) work to promote wellbeing for patients of all ages. This means they diagnose and treat patients with illnesses and injuries as well as those with chronic and common health conditions. Nurse practitioners with an AGPCNP specialty can work in a variety of professional settings that include hospitals, clinics, government agencies, and even private companies.

Sample Course: Primary Care of Adults Across the Lifespan

Family Nurse Practitioner

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with a broad scope of practice: They can treat patients at any stage of life, from babies to adults to senior citizens. FNPs prescribe medications, treat illnesses, perform physical examinations, and develop treatment plans, among other duties. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the top clinical focus areas for FNPs are family, primary, and urgent care, and the top practice settings are hospital outpatient clinics, private group practices, and private physician practices. FNPs can look forward to careers in fields that include school nursing, rural clinics, community-based organizations, and private practices.

Sample Course: Primary Care of Adolescents and Children

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) provide advanced care to babies and young toddlers up to age 2. You’ll often find NNPs working in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), as well as emergency rooms and delivery rooms in pediatric clinics and hospitals. Because the core of their work often happens in a NICU, one of the fundamental skills needed to be an effective NNP is the ability to communicate with family members and teach them important life skills for when a baby is released. Empathy and assessment skills are also among an NNP’s foundational abilities.

Sample Course: Embryology and Developmental Physiology

Psychiatric/Mental Health

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses trained to provide psychiatric care to patients facing mental health challenges. What differentiates PMHNPs is specialized education that prepares students to diagnose patients with mental health conditions, meeting the mental health needs of patients of all ages. Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in various settings that include psychiatric hospitals, private practices, and assisted living facilities. They also work in mental health centers.

Sample Course: Mental Health Diagnosis and Management

Salary Comparison Between a Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner

Going from an RN to NP online can lead to big earnings — and a significant increase compared to what you make as an RN. The data table below compares the earning potential of registered nurses and nurse practitioners. As you can see, the median annual salary for a nurse practitioner surpasses that of registered nurses, with NPs earning a median salary of $121,610 compared to $81,220 for RNs.

This difference extends to hourly wages as well, with nurse practitioners earning a median of $58.47 per hour while RNs earn an average of $39.05 per hour.

The data below underscores the financial benefits that await those who choose to become nurse practitioners. With the right education, registered nurses who want to enhance their skills and increase their income can make a financially rewarding transition to the role of nurse practitioner.

AreaOccupation10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
U.S.Registered Nurses$61,250$81,220$129,400
U.S.Nurse Practitioners$87,340$121,610$165,240

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics