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Choosing the Best Online Master's in Nursing Program
The lists below are designed to help students find the schools that fit best for the master's in nursing concentration that interests them the most.
The 5 Best Online MSN Programs
The best online MSN (master of science in nursing) programs are designed for experienced professional nurses who have both a Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree and a current registered nurse license. The best online Master of Science in Nursing programs provide comprehensive training in advanced nursing practices and leadership and administrative skills, preparing students to take on advanced responsibilities in the workplace.
Most programs also offer students the chance to take concentrated courses in a professional skill area in order to prepare for a specialized nursing role. Common concentrations include healthcare administration, nursing education, and nursing informatics. Some online MSN programs offer students the chance to train as a nurse practitioner in areas such as adult-gerontology primary care or family care. These programs are designed to qualify students for state-level nurse practitioner certification exams.
The 4 Best Online Master's in Nursing Education Programs
The best online master's in nursing education programs prepare you to teach in nursing schools as well as clinical and work settings. Graduates of nursing education master's programs are qualified to teach students in licensed practical nurse (LPN) and registered nurse (RN) programs. Nurse educators can also teach in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, although many universities prefer to hire instructors who possess a doctoral degree.
Entry into a graduate nursing education program requires a registered nurse license and a BSN degree. You receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree at the conclusion of the program. Although there are some minor curricular differences among the best online master's in nursing education programs, they all place significant emphasis on educational theory and practical classroom teaching skills. As a nursing education student, you also take courses in advanced nursing practices and other standard MSN subjects.
It's important to understand that all the best online nursing education programs require students to complete a teacher training program or practicum. You can complete this training in your community if you are able to organize the opportunity and meet all program requirements. In most cases, teacher training requirements include teacher observation and supervised teaching practice that amounts to more than 100 total hours of training. Nurse training institutes, colleges, and large medical facilities with on-site nurse training programs are suitable places to carry out your training. Contact an admissions adviser at your chosen school to learn more about training requirements.
The 3 Best RN to MSN Online Programs
If you have a registered nurse license and an associate's degree in nursing, attending one of the three best online master of science in nursing programs can be a great way to upgrade your nursing skills and develop the leadership and administrative skills you need to advance your career. RN to MSN online programs combine the two years of undergraduate training that lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and the two years of graduate training that lead to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree into a single, continuous academic program. RN to MSN programs can be completed in four years or less. In most cases, you have the option to exit a program with a BSN after completing the first two years.
As an online RN to MSN student, you study health sciences courses like pharmacology and epidemiology, clinical nursing courses like health assessment and disease prevention, and technical courses like nursing informatics and nursing research methods. Most online RN to MSN programs also require courses in communication, leadership, and administrative skills, which are essential for registered nurses who want to take on more responsibility in the workplace. Some online RN to MSN programs require a limited number of campus visits to participate in training and skills-assessment sessions.
Note that many RN to MSN online programs offer the opportunity to specialize in a professional skill area such as nursing education or healthcare administration. Other programs enable you to train as a nurse practitioner (NP) focused on an area such as family care or adult-gerontology primary care. Nurse practitioner programs qualify you for an NP certification examination in your state. Although you can wait to decide on a nursing specialty until you've completed nearly two years of courses, it's best to decide on a specialty before committing to a program so you can select a school based on the specialty you want to pursue.
The 4 Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs
A nurse practitioner, or NP, is a type of advanced practice registered nurse qualified to diagnose medical problems and devise and implement treatment plans. The best online nurse practitioner programs prepare students with the knowledge and skills to take and pass a state-level NP certification exam. In many states, certified nurse practitioners are qualified to act as primary health care providers within a particular area of expertise, although some states require nurse practitioners to work in collaboration with a physician.
Most online nurse practitioner programs culminate in a Master of Science in Nursing degree. In an online NP program, you take courses in leadership and administrative skills in addition to advanced nursing practice courses in a specialty area. Popular NP specialties include family health, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal care, and acute care, among other areas. Of the many recognized NP specialties, only a handful are commonly available in an online format. If you're looking to pursue an NP program online, you can find a full variety of quality options among the programs listed below. All four of the schools in this list rank among the top-10 online graduate nursing program providers in the country, according to a 2013 study by U.S. News & World Report
What Online Master's in Nursing Features Matter and Why?
Networking discusses how the online school helps connect students and alumni, as well as how they help recent graduates find employment opportunities in nursing. For many schools, this includes an alumni association, but networks on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are also popular. The best online nursing programs will have large networks on these sites, some with over 3,000 members. Career services is another useful offering that helps newly graduated students find jobs in the nursing field. These networking opportunities will be very useful when searching for a job, so this is one category that should not be underestimated.
- 3,000+ LinkedIn Network Members - The school has a LinkedIn network of alumni, faculty, and students with 3,000 members or more.
- Alumni Association - The school offers membership to an alumni association.
- Career Services - The school offers job placement or career services to students and graduates.
- Facebook Network - The school has a Facebook network of alumni, faculty, and students.
- LinkedIn Network - The school has a LinkedIn network of alumni, faculty, and students.
Enrollment refers to how prospective students can apply to the online master's in nursing program and what kinds of students are accepted. Most schools accept both full-time and part-time students to their online nursing degree programs, and some accept international students. Applications can usually be filled out online or printed off and submitted by mail. The best online nursing programs don't charge an application fee, or if they do, it will be comparatively low. Some programs are more selective than others, though this selectivity often results in a very motivated and intelligent student body. Enrollment is a fairly important category to consider when choosing where to get a master's in nursing online, but it probably won't have a large influence because there are several schools that perform well in this category.
- Entirely Online - You can earn a degree entirely online.
- Flexible Term Start - The school does not require a Fall start for incoming students.
- Full-Time - The school allows students to be enrolled at full-time status.
- International Student Enrollment - The school offers enrollment to international students.
- Mail-in Form - You can apply by mail.
- No Application Fee - There is no application fee or application fee can be waived in certain circumstances.
- Online Application - You can apply online.
- Part-Time - The school allows students to be enrolled at part-time status.
- Selective Admissions - The school does not admit every applicant.
- Transfer Credits - The school accepts transfer credits to apply towards a degree.
Financial Aid describes the types of financial assistance opportunities that the university provides to students who are earning their nursing degree online. Federal student loans are always an option, but many of the best online nursing programs also have scholarships and grants available to students who qualify for them. Financial Aid is undoubtedly important, especially since very few people earn master's degrees these days without some sort of financial assistance. Many of the online nursing programs reviewed offer several kinds of financial aid, so this category likely won't be a deciding factor for most people.
- Federal Student Loans - The school provides access to federal student loans.
- Grants - The school provides access to grants.
- Scholarships - The school provides access to scholarships.
Student Engagement is a measure of how well the online nursing program keeps students interested and engaged in the classroom. This is determined by things like the training and credentials of the faculty and what types of student services are available. Admissions selectivity is another indicator of a strong nursing degree program, as are high graduation and retention rates. If a school is keeping most of its students past the first year and graduating a large number of them after three years, that is a good sign of a high-quality program. This category is fairly important to pay attention to when looking for the best online nursing program because it will have a big impact on the quality of the education that students receive.
- High Admissions Selectivity Score - The online school's graduate nursing program received an Admissions Selectivity score of 75 or higher from U.S. News and World Report.
- High Faculty Credentials and Training Score - The online school's graduate nursing program received a Faculty Credentials and Training score of 80 or higher from U.S. News and World Report.
- High Graduation Rate - The university has a competitive three year graduation rate from academic year 2012-2013 when compared to schools of a similar size.
- High Retention Rate - The university has a competitive one-year retention rate from 2013 when compared to schools of similar size.
- High Student Engagement Score - The online school's graduate nursing program received a Student Engagement score of 80 or higher from U.S. News and World Report.
- High Student Services and Technology Score - The online school's graduate nursing program received a Student Services and Technology score of 45 or higher from U.S. News and World Report.
Student Services are the resources that the university provides to help facilitate the learning process for students earning their nursing degree online. Online tutoring is offered by the best programs for students who need some extra help with their assignments, and academic advising can help with scheduling and choosing which classes to take. Technical support is another student service offered by some nursing degree programs, and is very nice to have in the event of a computer malfunction. Access to digitized library materials is found among the top online nursing programs, and enables students to view the materials they need from wherever they are. These resources can be very valuable to online students, so it's a good idea to take them into account when choosing a nursing program.
- 24/7 Live Tech Support - The school offers access to 24/7 live tech support.
- Academic Advising - The school offers academic advising.
- Digital Library - Students have access to digitized library materials.
- Online Tutoring - The school provides access to online tutoring.
Application Requirements describes the additional information that must be submitted when applying to the online nursing programs, aside from the application itself. This includes transcripts, a personal statement or essay, one or more letters of recommendation, and also standardized test scores. Certain online nursing degree programs may also request a formal interview as part of the application process. This may take place in person or over the phone. Some schools also require background checks and for prospective students to have a nursing license. In addition, nursing-related work experience may be necessary for admittance into some online nursing programs. All of these requirements are important to be aware of, but many schools have similar admissions processes, so this shouldn't be a critical category when trying to decide which school to attend.
- Background Check - The applicant is responsible for completing a background check as part of the application process.
- Essay - The application requires an essay or personal statement.
- Formal Interview - The application process requires an in-person or phone interview.
- Letters of Recommendations - You are required to submit at least one letter of recommendation as part of the application process.
- License - The online school requires the applicant to have a nursing license.
- Nursing-Related Undergraduate Coursework Required - The online school typically requires the applicant to have completed nursing-related coursework.
- Nursing-Related Undergraduate Degree Required - The online school typically requires the applicant to have an undergraduate degree in an nursing-related field.
- Nursing-Related Work Experience Required - The online school typically requires the applicant to have nursing-related work experience.
- Test Scores - The application requires copies of standardized tests scores (GRE, GMAT, etc).
- Transcripts - The application requires copies of education transcripts.