Our top pick for the best Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program:
The winner of the best online MSN program is East Carolina University. How’d we come to this conclusion? Lots of research! If you’re looking for a master’s program in nursing, chances are you’re no stranger to extensive, scientific research. That’s why we broke our info down into as much detail as possible. We get that finding an online MSN program that fits your lifestyle, needs and budget is very important and not a task to be taken lightly.
We compiled a list of 101 online graduate nursing programs and then selected East Carolina University as the top program based on the following statistics, features and qualities: networking, enrollment, financial aid, student services and application requirements. According to this methodology, East Carolina University comes out on top.
What online master’s in nursing features matter and why
Networking encompasses how the online school helps connect students and alumni, as well as how it helps recent graduates find employment opportunities in nursing. For many schools, this includes an alumni association, but networks on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are also popular. The best online nursing programs will have a large membership base for networking on these sites.
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.
The most important networking features
- 3,000+ LinkedIn Network Members – The school has a LinkedIn network of alumni, faculty, and students with 3,000 members or more. East Carolina University currently has over 100,000 alumni connected on LinkedIn.
- Alumni Association – The school offers membership to an alumni association. East Carolina University has alumni-specific networking events to meet and discuss career opportunities.
- Career Services – The school offers job placement or career services to students and graduates. ECU has a dedicated career services department to help students and alumni find their next job and refine their career skills.
- Facebook Network – The school has a Facebook 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 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.
The most important enrollment features
- Entirely Online – You can earn a degree entirely online. Most MSN degrees at East Carolina University can be earned entirely online, while others might only require minimal or infrequent face-to-face attendance.
- 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.
- No Application Fee – There is no application fee or application fee can be waived in certain circumstances.
- Online Application – You can apply online.
- 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.
- 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 the university provides to students who are pursuing 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. 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.
The most important financial aid features
- 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. High graduation and retention rates are also good indicators of a strong online degree program.
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.
The most important student engagement features
- High Faculty Credentials and Training Score – The online school’s graduate nursing program received a high faculty credentials and training score from U.S. News and World Report. East Carolina University scored a 83 in the most recent ranking.
- High Graduation Rate – The university has a competitive three-year graduation rate from the previous academic year when compared to schools of a similar size.
- High Retention Rate – The university has a competitive one-year retention rate from the previous year when compared to schools of similar size.
- High Student Engagement Score – The online school’s graduate nursing program received a high student engagement score of 75 or higher from U.S. News and World Report. East Carolina University scored 86.
- High Student Services and Technology Score – The school’s online graduate nursing program received a high student services and technology score from U.S. News and World Report. East Carolina University’s online MSN program received a 70.
Student Services are the resources 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.
The most important student services
- 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 describe 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 standardized test scores.
Certain online nursing degree programs might also request a formal interview as part of the application process. This could take place in person or over the phone. Some schools require background checks and for prospective students to have a nursing license. In addition, nursing-related work experience might be necessary for admittance into some online nursing programs.
All 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.
The most important application requirements
- 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. The outcome of the interview is considered “very important” in consideration of your overall application.
- Letters of Recommendations – You are required to submit three letters of recommendation as part of the application process. One of the letters must be written by a professional contact.
- 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 requires the applicant to have an undergraduate degree in an nursing-related field.
- Nursing-Related Work Experience Required – The online school requires the applicant to have nursing-related work experience.
- Test Scores – The application requires copies of standardized tests scores (GRE). GRE results are considered “very important” in consideration of your overall application.
- Transcripts – The application requires copies of education transcripts.
Online Master’s in Nursing FAQ
What does MSN stand for in nursing?
MSN stands for “Master of Science in Nursing.” When you’re looking into degrees for becoming a registered nurse, you will often see it shortened to “MSN.” The same even goes for an online master’s in nursing.
What can you do with a master’s in nursing?
With an online master’s in nursing, you can take on a multitude of roles that focus primarily on nursing and patient care. These include:
- Nurse Administrator
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Advanced Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Educator
- Research Nurse
How much do MSN nurses make?
It depends on the career path and the level of experience. For example, a Nurse Administrator with 5-9 years under their belt could stand to make over $80,000 while one with more experience could make over $90,000. Other roles could earn the following based on averages put together by payscale.com:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist: $89,096
- Advanced Nurse Practitioner: $98,469 (5-9 years), $101,650 (10-19 years)
- Nurse Educator: $74,848
- Research Nurse: $70,750