The 5 Best Online MSN Programs


The Absolute Best

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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.

Ferris State University (FSU) is home to the nation’s top-ranked online graduate nursing programs as rated by the 2013 . The school’s online MSN program offers specialty concentrations in nursing administration, nursing informatics, and nursing education. You must choose at least one of the nine-credit concentrations, but you can complete all three if you wish. The concentration courses are delivered alongside a base curriculum that includes standard MSN courses in advanced nursing practices and leadership skills. FSU course scheduling policies are very flexible. At minimum, you must take one course per semester to progress through the program. Taking three courses per semester is considered full time and enables you to complete the MSN program in two years. FSU does not require any visits to campus for hands-on training. However, you must design, organize, and complete two practicum experiences in a medical facility in your local community.

The Clarkson College online MSN program offers the most variety of concentrated study options of any program in this list. Focus on healthcare administration or nursing education, or train as a nurse practitioner in adult-gerontology primary care or family care. The healthcare administration and nursing education concentrations do not require any campus visits, but you must organize a practicum in a local medical facility or nurse training institute that meets program requirements. If you choose one of the nurse practitioner options, you must visit the Clarkson College campus in Omaha, Nebraska, to fulfill the practical training requirements associated with several clinical courses. Because you can only take one clinical course at a time, you cannot fulfill all the requirements in a single visit. The nurse practitioner options also require you to organize and complete a practicum in your local community. Full-time students can complete the MSN program in about 30 months, although students are free to take as long as five years on a part-time basis.

The University of Pittsburgh is home to another one of the best online Master of Science in Nursing programs, offering the chance to specialize in nursing informatics or nursing administration, or pursue a broader curriculum that prepares you for certification as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). The online CNL option is unique among the programs in this list. If you choose to pursue the CNL option, you take courses in pathophysiology, pharmacology, and clinical assessment alongside standard MSN nursing courses. The curriculum is prepares you to oversee and coordinate patient care, lead nursing teams, and design and implement quality-improvement strategies at the team and clinic levels. The University of Pittsburgh online MSN programs don’t require any campus visits. Clinical practicum requirements, which are included in each concentration, can be completed in your community. Full-time students can finish the MSN program in as few as 16 months if a full course load is taken during the summer semester. Part-time study is also acceptable.

Lamar University offers the nation’s second-best online graduate nursing programs as ranked by . Although the school does not provide the scheduling flexibility or as many MSN concentrations as some other schools do, it is nevertheless an important option to consider, particularly if affordability is a key consideration in your search for a program. As an online MSN student at Lamar University, you choose to concentrate in either nursing administration or nursing education. Both concentration options have two predefined course schedules to choose from, both with fall start dates. The full-time scheduling option requires 20 months to complete, including courses in the summer. The part-time option requires nearly three years to complete, including courses in two summers. Both programs allow you to fulfill practicum requirements in your local community.

Loyola University-New Orleans is home to a top-tier online Master of Science in Nursing program offering a single curriculum plan in healthcare systems management. This program includes courses in nursing administration, general management and leadership, finance, and quality assurance. You also take standard MSN courses covering advanced nursing practices in health assessment, disease prevention, managed care, and other topics. As a student in this program, you take a single seven-week course at a time, which allows you to focus on just one topic during each session. If you take courses around the year, you can complete the program in 24 months. Practicum requirements can be completed in your local community.