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The Top 5 Online MSN Programs in PA for 2024

Are you considering an MSN program in Pennsylvania? This guide covers the best-accredited programs in the state and can help you choose the right school for your needs. Whether you’re looking for an online program or an in-person experience, you’ve come to the right place.

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Whether you’re currently working in healthcare or hoping to transition into it, an MSN can broaden your nursing opportunities and increase your salary. Compared to the national average, Pennsylvania has higher numbers of preventable hospitalizations, people who smoke, and obesity. This isn’t good news, but it does mean that healthcare workers with advanced training are in high demand.

MSN programs in Pennsylvania offer plenty of options for earning your master’s in nursing. You can choose between on-campus, online, and hybrid programs, as well as full-time, part-time, and accelerated paths. Your responsibilities outside of school, prior education, and work experience will determine which programs are a good fit. Traditional BSN to MSN programs are for students with bachelor’s degrees in nursing, while direct-entry MSN programs are for students with bachelor’s degrees in other subjects. RN to MSN bridge programs assist registered nurses with an associate degree bypass the BSN requirement, and dual master’s programs are for motivated students looking to study multiple subject areas.

Whichever path you choose, we’ve made it easy to explore all your options and find a program where you can succeed.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS.

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted.

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

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

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 DeSales UniversityCenter Valley, PA Private not-for-profit $$$$ 2

DeSales University offers a quality MSN degree that's highly customizable in two ways. First, it's a hybrid program, meaning some classes are offered 100% online and others have in-person labs or clinical components. The hybrid format, as well as the university's flexible course times, make it easier to balance getting your MSN and working full-time. Second, DeSales offers many specializations, including forensics, adult-gerontology, family practice, and psychiatric nursing. There's also a dual MBA/MSN option available.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 45-58
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $945/credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
59%
2 Wilson CollegeChambersburg, PA Private not-for-profit $ 1

Nurses looking to get their MSN on top of a full-time job should consider the program from Wilson College. Since all courses are hosted online and in an asynchronous format, Wilson's MSN is often easier to manage on top of full-time work. Students not only control when they complete coursework, but what they specialize in. The school has two MSN tracks: nursing education and leadership/management. In both, students take a combination of nursing, business, and leadership courses.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $580/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: NLN CNEA
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
88%
3 Waynesburg UniversityWaynesburg, PA Private not-for-profit $$$ 1

Waynesburg University offers a fully online MSN that can suit many professional interests. Thanks to their many concentrations, most nurses will find an option that suits them. MSN concentrations include administration, education, and nursing informatics. There's also an option to double concentrate in administration and education or to get a MBA and MSN at the same time. No matter which specialization a student chooses, they can take all coursework online and graduate in two years while working full-time.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 30-54
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $705/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
11/1
Online
Student %
100%
4 California University of PennsylvaniaCalifornia, PA Public $ 1

Nurses looking for a fully online MSN program should consider the options from the California University of Pennsylvania. The school offers two tracks: one in administration and leadership and one in family practice. In the first, students take a combination of business and leadership courses and often graduate in less than two years. The second program is longer and prepares students to work as a family nurse practitioner. For either program, applicants should be registered nurses with BSN degrees.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing, Administration and Leadership

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $410.20/credit in-state | $462.20/credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
19/1
Online
Student %
91%
5 Clarion University of PennsylvaniaClarion, PA Public $ 1

Clarion University of Pennsylvania offers a fully online MSN program for registered nurses who already have their BSN degree. There's two specializations in this program: one in family nurse practice and the other in administration and leadership. In the first, students take a combination of business and leadership courses and often graduate in less than two years. The second program is longer and prepares students to work as a family nurse practitioner. Both programs offer a fully online experience.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Credits: 49
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $410.20/credit in-state | $462.20/credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: ACEN

Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
17/1
Online
Student %
87%

We’ve identified several popular accredited MSN programs in Pennsylvania with the resources and student support you need to start or expand your RN career. We’ve spotlighted programs that will give you additional insight into MSN programs.

University of Pennsylvania

The MSN programs at the University of Pennsylvania require a minimum of 12 courses. Depending on the specific program, full-time students usually complete the degree in one to three years, with a maximum of five years. Most graduate classes are in person, but the school is flexible in other ways. The family nurse practitioner (FNP) program can be taken full-time or part-time, and students without a BSN can complete a combined BSN/MSN degree.

This program is fully accredited by the CCNE, and all faculty are in clinical practice, ensuring the teaching is current and evidence-based. In addition to classroom work and lab sessions, students participate in clinical preceptorships. The University of Pennsylvania finds the preceptor for their students, which means you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

There are multiple MSN tracks at the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. No matter which option you choose, you can rest assured that the program is accredited by CCNE. Students can choose the MSN in education or administration paths, which require 34 credits and take about two years (or six semesters) to complete. These programs are primarily online.

Depending on the specialty, the nurse practitioner track requires 51 to 53 credits and takes about three years to finish. The nurse practitioner program is a mix of online and in-person learning. Nurse practitioner students can choose from three specialties: adult/gerontology acute care, family/individual across the lifespan, and psychiatric/mental health. In addition to in-person and online coursework, students participate in clinicals and state-of-the-art simulator learning. Students can choose to work full- or part-time while they earn their MSN, thanks to the school’s flexible online course schedules.

Misericordia University

MSN students at Misericordia University can choose from two program tracks: family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. The programs consist of 45 to 50 credits and take about three years (seven to eight semesters) to complete.

These are primarily online programs with remote classes and in-person clinicals. Misericordia stands out amongst its peers thanks to small classes and advanced simulation opportunities. If students wish to continue their studies, Misericordia offers several pathways to a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). All graduate-level professors are also active clinicians, which allow them to stay relevant and on top of current best practices.

Advantages of Getting an MSN From a Pennsylvania School

Everyone has their own reason for pursuing an MSN, but common motives include job growth, job satisfaction, and earning potential. Because Pennsylvania is such a large and diverse state, MSN graduates have a lot of choices after graduation. Some MSN graduates have their own practices in rural areas, while others work in administration for large hospital systems. Whether you want to upgrade your BSN or switch careers entirely, a master’s degree in nursing can help with professional growth.

Job Growth

A recent report by the American Academy of Family Physicians has projected a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. This is, in part, because of longer life expectancies and an aging population. As a nurse with advanced skills, you can offer care and help bridge the provider shortage. Also, an in-demand profession means you’ll have a lot of job security and can live and work almost anywhere.

Job Satisfaction

U.S. News & World Report ranked nurse practitioners No. 1 in “Best Health Care Jobs” and No. 2 in “Best 100 Jobs.” Nurse practitioners are generally very happy in their positions, thanks to independence and challenging work. They also enjoy job security and a high earning potential. Other advanced nursing positions also ranked highly. Nurse anesthetists ranked No. 8, and nurse midwives ranked No. 24 among healthcare jobs.

Higher Earning Potential

Money isn’t everything when it comes to having a fulfilling career, but it can provide stability and the means to make life comfortable. While the median wage in Pennsylvania for all jobs is $55,490, nurses with advanced training earn much more. Pennsylvania’s median wage for nurse practitioners is $117,260, $111,980 for nurse midwives, and $203,150 for nurse anesthetists. Wondering about the pay bump for going from an RN to a specialized position? In Pennsylvania, registered nurses earn about $76,000 annually, which is only two-thirds of what a nurse practitioner usually earns.

Program Checklist: Qualities to Look for in an MSN Program in Pennsylvania

The quality and curriculum of MSN programs can vary a lot, so be sure to evaluate the different components before you commit your money and time. Are you looking for a robust on-campus experience, or do you value the flexibility and convenience of online courses? How will your program prepare you for life after graduation (i.e., clinical experience, licensing exam outcomes)? Everyone’s preferences and priorities will be different, but the following qualities are generally hallmarks of a quality program.

State Approved and Nationally Accredited

A degree from an accredited school is often the number one thing employers look for from an MSN graduate. There are different types of accreditation, but the main ones to look for are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The Pennsylvania Department of State has also compiled a list of board approved nursing programs.

Flexible Courses

Thanks to technology, MSN students have options when it comes to how and when they take courses. Depending on your situation and preferences, you may want a program that is fully online, hybrid, or in-person. Online learners also should ask whether classes are synchronous (live lectures) or asynchronous (learn the material on your own schedule). You may also want to consider which of the following program speeds makes sense: full-time, part-time, or accelerated.

Faculty in Clinical Practice

Look for a program with at least some in-practice faculty. Since they’ll be working and educating, their skills will be up to date, and they’ll be abreast of the latest evidence-based practices.

Types of MSN Programs in Pennsylvania

Traditional MSN

The most traditional path to an MSN is obtaining a BSN first. Some BSN graduates have work experience, while others go directly to graduate school. Assuming your BSN study meets all the prerequisites, a traditional MSN program will take about two years to complete.

Examples of Pennsylvania Nursing Schools with This Program

University of Pittsburgh

Misericordia University

Direct Entry MSN

If you have a bachelor’s degree in another subject but are interested in a graduate nursing degree, a direct entry MSN may be a good option. You can bypass earning a BSN as you begin working on your MSN. This approach may require you to take some prerequisites, especially if your bachelor’s degree isn’t heavy on the sciences.

Examples of Pennsylvania Nursing Schools with This Program

LaRoche University

Gwynedd Mercy University

Accelerated MSN

Highly motivated students who are not planning to work full-time while in school may want to consider an accelerated program. Rather than taking classes in semesters, students may take intensive classes six to eight weeks at a time. Other programs may allow students to start their MSN degree while still in undergrad. Every school’s approach is different, so check the curriculum and calendar for specifics.

Examples of Pennsylvania Nursing Schools with This Program

LaSalle University MSN FNP Accelerated

University of Pennsylvania Accelerated BSN to MSN

RN to MSN

Students currently working as nurses with an RN license can enroll in some MSN programs without a bachelor’s degree. These programs allow students to either bypass the BSN or earn it alongside an MSN. This type of path typically takes a bit longer than a traditional MSN program.

Examples of Pennsylvania Nursing Schools with This Program

Wilkes University RN to MSN

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences RN to MSN

Dual Master’s

For highly motivated students, some schools offer the option to enroll in two graduate programs at once. An MSN/MBA degree is a popular combo, but other options include an MSN/MPH degree and an MSN/MA in bioethics degree.

Examples of Pennsylvania Nursing Schools with This Program:

Drexel MSN/MBA dual degree

Bloomsburg University MSN/MBA dual degree

Online MSN Programs in Pennsylvania

Many MSN programs now offer fully online or hybrid courses. It’s quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to earn an MSN degree in Pennsylvania. Online and hybrid programs are great for students planning to work while earning their degree because they allow for flexibility in where and when learning takes place.

FAQs About Pennsylvania’s MSN Programs

What Can an RN with an MSN Do in Pennsylvania?

Nurses with MSN degrees are prepared for a variety of careers. Some work in clinical settings as nurse practitioners or nurse midwives. Other times they work closely in surgical settings as nurse anesthetists. Students can pursue some niche specialties, such as an MSN in forensic nursing or an MSN in nursing informatics. MSN graduates who don’t want to work in patient-facing roles often serve in administrative or faculty positions, while some MSN graduates continue their studies and enroll in a Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) program. This is the highest level of graduate school for nurses.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an MSN in Pennsylvania?

In general, you can expect an MSN degree to take about two years to complete. However, that will vary depending on full-time vs. part-time status, as well as what type of program you choose. An accelerated program can often be completed in about 16-20 months, while a dual major program will take much longer.

The nurse midwifery program at the University of Pennsylvania takes about two years (five semesters) to complete, while the family nurse practitioner program at Misericordia University takes three years (eight semesters) to finish. Two years is the average, but it depends on your situation.

In Pennsylvania, How Much Do MSN Programs Cost?

Costs will vary depending on the type of school (public vs. private), the type of program (direct entry vs. traditional MSN vs. accelerated), where you live, how long it takes you, and how much funding you’ve secured. So be sure to look at the whole picture when it comes to cost. Sometimes, private schools charge more tuition but can offer more school-based aid. And be on the lookout for extra charges; fully online programs can often save you money because you can forgo activity fees, room & board, and other on-campus charges.

What Requirements Do I Need to Apply for Admission to MSN Programs in Pennsylvania?

Admission requirements will depend on the school and the type of program you enroll in. Most MSN programs are moderately competitive, requiring a GPA of at least 3.0. The MSN program at Penn State is more competitive, requiring a GPA of at least 3.3, as well as a B or higher in all undergraduate science courses. While some admission requirements are standard, schools may have their own policies. For example, Wilkes University requires students to have state authorization for where they intend to work. In general, you can expect the following admissions requirements for MSN programs:

  • A GPA of 2.5-3.0 (check with the program for specifics)
  • College transcripts
  • GRE or MAT test scores
  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing (for a BSN to MSN program)
  • An associate degree in nursing (for an RN to MSN program)
  • A bachelor’s degree in an area other than nursing (direct entry MSN programs)
  • An unencumbered RN license for certain programs
  • Two to three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose and/or writing samples
  • Résumé
  • Application fee

Where Can I Find Financial Aid to Help Pay for My MSN Program in Pennsylvania?

Any student that attends an accredited school is eligible for federal and state aid, including loans, grants, and work-study positions. Grants are considered a gift, while loans need to be paid back. Depending on the school, students may also be eligible for school-based aid (grants, loans, and scholarships). There are also many scholarship opportunities from nonprofits and professional organizations. Pennsylvania residents should look into the Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit that administers nursing scholarships in the state.

No matter where you decide to apply, our nursing scholarship guide can help you find the money for school. And for general information on paying for college, head over to our financial aid guide.

Inside Look at MSN Online Programs in Pennsylvania

Many schools in Pennsylvania offer fully online or hybrid MSN programs. These types of programs offer increased flexibility over in-person options, especially for students who plan to work while they’re in school. Without a commute or a scheduled lecture time, online students can choose when and where they learn the material.

For the most part, students can take online classes from wherever they find it convenient. All that’s required is a quiet space, a computer, and a high-speed internet connection. Almost all programs require in-person clinical (or practicum) hours. These often happen toward the end of the program. Clinical placements are usually made within about 100 miles of the school, so students should be prepared for that.

For more information on what to expect in this type of program, head to our guide on online MSN programs.

Standout Online MSN Programs in Pennsylvania

Penn State University World Campus

The MSN program from Penn State World Campus consists of 36 credit hours, along with a practicum toward the end of the program. This CCNE-accredited program is intended for nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and students can choose between the nurse administrator or nurse educator track. The program takes about two years to complete, and students are expected to take at least two classes during the fall and spring semesters.

Thanks to its partnership with the Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing, students can expect a comprehensive curriculum that will prepare them well for a career after graduation. The program also prioritizes flexibility so students can maintain current responsibilities, whether that be work, family, or personal obligations. Students can choose to enter the competitive MSN program immediately or enhance their professional skills by completing a graduate certificate first and then applying those credits to the MSN program.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

The MSN program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania is similar in many ways to Penn State’s option. Students can choose from two tracks: an MSN in education or an MSN in administration, which are 36 credits each and take two to five years to complete. Students also have the option of completing both tracks for a total of 48 credits. The combined program will add less than a year to the timeline.

Students take online courses on a part-time basis, and most classes are taken in seven-week increments. This school is accredited by the CCNE, so students can be assured of its quality. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania is also a very cost-effective option with low tuition rates and good financial support, especially compared to similar programs.

Do Employers in Pennsylvania Accept Graduates from Online MSN Programs?

Yes, online MSN programs are valued and respected by employers if they are accredited. Before enrolling in a program, research where you will be living and where you plan to work after graduation. Some schools require students to live in an authorized state before enrolling in a program.

MSN Career Outlook for Pennsylvania

With an aging population and longer lifespans, the needs of the healthcare industry are expected to grow over the next decade. In addition to job growth, MSN nurses can look forward to increased earnings and higher salary potential.

Are MSN Nurses in High Demand in Pennsylvania?

Absolutely. The Pennsylvania healthcare job market is strong. The Philadelphia area is in the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest employment level for nurse practitioners, which are one of the most common jobs for MSN graduates.

Nationally, through 2030 there is expected to be a 33% increase in jobs for nurse practitioners compared to only a 9% increase for registered nurses. Additionally, there is also a projected 20% increase in openings for post-secondary nursing instructors by 2030. Pennsylvania is the fifth most populous state, so as the nation’s citizens continue to age and require care, employees in the healthcare industry will be in particularly high demand.

How Much Do MSN Nurses Make in Pennsylvania?

The average salary for a nurse with advanced training in Pennsylvania varies. It often depends on the type of job. For example, a nurse anesthetist in urban Philadelphia earns about $217,520 annually. Comparatively, a nurse practitioner at a community clinic in a rural area will likely learn much less.

As an example, a nurse practitioner in the Philadelphia metro area earns about $131,680 annually, while that same position will earn $115,050 in the more rural Williamsport area. For comparison, the national average is $119,310.

All these salaries are more than the expected earnings for a registered nurse. In Philadelphia, an RN can expect to earn about $94,850 annually, while an RN in Williamsport can expect $86,520 per year. As you can see, a few extra years of school can add up to exponentially more earnings over the course of your career.