Choose the Best Nurse Practitioner Program for You in 2021

An online nurse practitioner program is a great option for those looking to supplement their nursing education and advance their career. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who fall into different categories, each with a specific focus and purpose. They work directly with patients across the lifespan to diagnose and treat illnesses.

Though there are a few ways to earn your nurse practitioner degree, an online nurse practitioner program may offer more flexibility and accessibility than non-distance learning options. Nursing professionals pursuing an online degree can fit their continuing education into their schedule.

Sponsored Online Nursing Programs

Sponsored

Earn a Master of Science in Nursing online from Simmons University.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Preparation to pursue certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Part-time, full-time, and extended plans of study

Earn an MS in Nursing online from Georgetown University.

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

Earn an M.S. in Nursing online at the Wegmans School of Nursing

  • The Wegmans School of Nursing is ranked among the top 100 nursing schools nationally, and is No. 6 in New York state1
  • Part-time and accelerated tracks available
  • Four program options: PCFNP, PMHNP, AGACNP, AGPCNP

Earn your MSN online from USC’s Top-Ranked School of Social Work.

  • Prepares RNs to pursue board certification as family nurse practitioners
  • Earn a CCNE-accredited MSN in as few as 21 months
  • Choose from part-time and full-time study options

1 U.S. News & World Report, 2022 Best Nursing Schools: Master’s. Ranked in 2021.

Sponsored

Accredited Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs 

Accredited Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs
University Location Length Clinical Hours Nurse Practitioner Specialty Areas
Scroll to Duke University Durham, NC 24-48 Months 560-840 Hours
  • AGNP-PC
  • AGNP-AC
  • FNP
  • NNP
  • PNP-AC
  • PNP-PC
  • PMHNP
  • WHNP
Scroll to George Washington University Washington, D.C. 24-36 Months 600-700 Hours
  • AGNP-AC
  • AGNP-PC
  • FNP
  • PMHNP
Scroll to Georgetown University
Sponsored Program
Washington, D.C. 19-27 Months 600-1,000+ Hours
  • AG-ACNP
  • FNP
  • WHNP
  • NM/WHNP
Scroll to Ohio State University Columbus, OH 36 Months N/A
  • FNP
  • NNP
  • PMHNP
Scroll to Simmons University
Sponsored Program
Boston, MA 24-32 Months Minimum of 672 Hours
  • FNP
Scroll to Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY 24-36 Months N/A
  • AG-PCNP
  • FNP
  • NNP
  • PNP-PC
  • PMHNP
  • WHNP
Scroll to Texas A&M University Bryan, TX 24-36 Months 646 Clinical Learning Hours
  • FNP
Scroll to University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 30-48 Months 540-1080 Hours
  • FNP
  • PMHNP
Scroll to University of Connecticut Storrs, CT  24-36 Months N/A
  • NNP
Scroll to University of Southern California
Sponsored Program
Los Angeles, CA 21-33 Months 784 Hours
  • FNP
Scroll to Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 24-36 Months 630 Hours
  • AGNP-AC
  • AGNP-PC
  • Emergency NP
  • FNP
  • NNP
  • PNP-AC
  • PNP-PC
  • PMHNP
  • WHNP

Duke University

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in Acute and Primary Care
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Informatics
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing and Health Care Leadership
  • Nursing Education
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Acute and Primary Care
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 42-49 Credits
Clinical Practice Hours: 560-840 Hours Depending on Specialization
Length of Program: 24-48 Months
Additional Features: Students will be required to come to campus at least once every semester for intensives where face-to-face interactions, simulation and hands-on activities will be conducted.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at Duke University.

George Washington University

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in Acute and Primary Care
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Leadership and Management
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 36-50 Credits Depending on Specialization
Clinical Practice Hours: 600-700 Hours
Length of Program: 24-36 Months
Additional Features: GW Nursing offers a progressive MSN program that blends online learning with in-person training on campus.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing program at George Washington University.

Georgetown University – Sponsored Program

Program Name: MS in Nursing
Specialty Areas:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
  • Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (NM/WHNP)

Enrollment Options: Part-Time for FNP Program; Part-Time for AG-ACNP, WHNP, and NM/WHNP program
Coursework Credits: 40-49 Credits
Clinical Practice Hours: 600-1,000+ Hours
Length of Program: 23-27 Months

Admissions Requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or CNL/entry-level MSN from a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited program
  • Hold a current U.S. registered nurse (RN) license
  • Have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and a 3.0 science GPA
  • Have successfully completed a college level three-credit course in statistics with a grade of C or better

Sponsored Nursing Program

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Ohio State University

Program Name: Online Nursing – Master of Science
Specializations/Concentrations:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Leader

Enrollment Options: Full-Time
Coursework Credits: 40-50 Credits Depending on Specialization
Clinical Practice Hours: Degree candidates can complete clinical hours in their local communities.
Length of Program: 36 Months
Additional Features: The program is available in a distance learning format and only to particular states.

Learn more about the traditional Master of Science in Nursing program at Ohio University.

Simmons University – Sponsored Program

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time and Extended Track Option
Coursework Credits: 48 Course Credits
Clinical Practice Hours: Minimum of 672 Hours
Length of Program: 24-32 Months

Admissions Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or institution
  • Resume
  • Personal statement
  • Transcripts from all academic institutions attended
  • Completed (with a grade of 83 or better) a three-credit course in statistics and a three-credit course in health assessment.
  • A current unencumbered and unrestricted U.S. registered nurse (RN) license
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score, if your native language is not English.

Sponsored Nursing Program

Stony Brook University

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwifery

Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 45 Credits
Clinical Practice Hours: Degree candidates can complete clinical hours in their local communities.
Length of Program: 24-36 Months
Additional Features: The program is available as a distance education with on-site requirements.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing Programs online at Stony Brook University.

Texas A&M University

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner
Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 48
Clinical Practice Hours: 45 Hours to be Completed On-Campus
Length of Program: 24-36 Months
Additional Features: On-campus intensives required.

Learn more about the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program at Texas A&M University.

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University of Alabama

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 45-72
Clinical Practice Hours: 540-1080 Hours
Length of Program: 30-48 Months
Additional Features: The program is available in a distance learning format and only to particular states.

Learn more about the MS in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Alabama.

University of Connecticut

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 44
Clinical Practice Hours: Degree candidates can complete clinical hours in their local communities.
Length of Program: 24-36 Months
Additional Features: Coursework is delivered fully online with three on-campus visits required over the course of the program.

Learn more about the Neonatal Nursing Master’s Degree Online program at the University of Connecticut.

University of Southern California – Sponsored Program

Program Name: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing
Concentration: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: Traditional – 49 credits or Bridge Program – 51 credits
Clinical Practice Hours: 784 Hours
Length of Program: 21-33 Months

Admissions Requirements:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited college or university
  • Minimum 3.0 grade point average in your BSN or MSN program
  • Completion of a 3-credit course in statistics, with a grade of C or better
  • Must be a U.S.-licensed registered nurse (RN) and reside within the United States upon application and throughout the duration of the program
  • One year of clinical experience

Sponsored Nursing Program

Vanderbilt University

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Nursing
Specializations/Concentrations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in Acute and Primary Care
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Acute and Primary Care
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Enrollment Options: Full-Time or Part-Time
Coursework Credits: 37+ Credits
Clinical Practice Hours: 630 Hours
Length of Program: 24-36 Months
Additional Features: The program is offered in a modified-distance format. Online conferencing and clinical practicum placement in your home region may be required.

Learn more about the online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at Vanderbilt University.

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Types of Nurse Practitioner MSN Programs

Nationally accredited nurse practitioner programs may help lead to certification by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or the National Certification Corporation (NCC). There are several types of nurse practitioner degrees with specializations in different populations and approaches to care.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) Programs

ACNP programs help prepare nurses to care for acutely ill patients. Some ACNP programs may have a population focus, such as adult-gerontology or pediatric. The curriculum for ACNP programs may include acute care management, clinical residencies, acute care procedures and diagnostics and acute care clinical skills. Learn more about online acute care nurse practitioner programs.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP and AG-PCNP) Programs

Nurses who may wish to focus on acute and long-term care of adolescents and adults may become an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. Students who enroll in an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner program learn how to diagnose and manage acute health problems in adult patients. Curriculum may include evidence-based practice, advanced practice care of elders, pathophysiology and pharmacology.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) 

From newborns to seniors, a family nurse practitioner provides complete, advanced care for the whole family. As an online FNP program student, you may learn skills including how to diagnose and manage acute and primary healthcare problems, disease prevention and management, counseling, and how to provide health and wellness education for families.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)

Specializing in the care and treatment of preterm and full-term newborns, neonatal nurse practitioners hold their graduate degree in nursing. This may be a master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral program. Curriculum for NNP programs may include embryology, neonatal physiology, and family dynamics.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Nurses seeking to become a pediatric nurse practitioner will need to pursue a graduate degree in nursing. The PNP program curriculum may focus on pediatric health assessment, child and adolescent development and theory, nutritional and pharmacologic management, and pediatric sociocultural issues. Completing a PNP program may help prepare nurses for certification by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) 

To become a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner, nurses may pursue a graduate degree in a PMHNP program. Curriculum for PMHNP degrees may include pathophysiology, pharmacology, counseling and psychotherapy, psychiatric mental healthcare, and organizational systems and behaviors.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) 

For nurses seeking to become a women’s health nurse practitioner, an online women’s health nurse practitioner program may help prepare students to provide gynecologic and primary care to women. As an online WHNP student, you will learn and acquire the skills and experience to treat and prevent illnesses and health concerns unique to women. Areas of focus will include primary care, prenatal and postpartum care, menopause, reproductive healthcare, and general wellness.

Additional Nurse Practitioner Programs

When researching the best nurse practitioner program for your goals and aspirations, you may find that a specialized NP program is your best route, a bridge nursing program, or an online nursing program.

  • Accelerated NP Programs: Accelerated nursing programs are available for future nurse practitioners who may already hold a BSN or their RN license. While universities may use “accelerated” to also define their Direct-Entry MSN Programs, it may also be used to delineate an accelerated time to complete.
  • Dual Degree NP Programs: There are a variety of dual degree programs focused on nurse practitioners. Some university programs combine one specialty with another NP focus or combine primary and acute care specialties. 
  • Bridge NP Programs: Nursing bridge programs for nurse practitioners are likely to be those that bridge to an MSN, such as RN-to-MSN programs and BSN-to-MSN programs. You may also pursue a BSN-to-DNP program which may also prepare you for APRN careers.
  • Graduate Certificate Programs for NPs: Universities may offer a post-master’s certificate in nurse practitioner fields such as Adult-Gerontology, Psychiatric-Mental Health and Women’s Health. These certificate programs may require proof of an RN license and national NP certification. The CCNE also accredits these post-graduate certificate programs.
  • Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) NP Programs: The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) announced in 2018 that entry-level nurse practitioner education will move to DNP programs by the year 2025. There are already a number of DNP programs online.

There are several MSN-level programs you may also consider:

What to Consider When Choosing an Online NP School 

Nurse practitioner programs vary from school to school. Courses may also vary depending on the specialty you choose. Learn more about the educational requirements for your program and what you can do with your degree below.

Education Requirements 

Regardless of what specialty you choose, most online MSN programs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, current nursing license, and documented clinical experience. Direct-entry online nurse practitioner programs are also available to help students with a degree of any kind, not necessarily in a medical field, begin their nursing education.

Additional degrees may be required for future and current nurse practitioners. The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) recently announced a change in requirements to the nurse practitioner field. By 2025, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) will become the new threshold requirement for entry-level positions. There are more than 300 DNP programs throughout the United States according to the NONPF. Some universities also offer online DNP programs.


Program Curriculum

As an online NP student, advanced nursing classes are part of your nursing program curriculum. Aside from your credit load, you are also required to complete clinical and practicum hours to gain the experience to be an expert in your field. Your studies will prepare you to take nurse practitioner certification exams, including those administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners

Many online nurse practitioner programs also include on-campus immersions, where you are required to complete a certain number of classes or hours on campus. Refer to your school’s program website for a list of courses you will be expected to take.


Clinical Hour Experience

All nurse practitioner programs that are nationally accredited will require clinical hour experiences. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a minimum of 500 hours is required in all curriculum plans for accredited nurse practitioner programs. CCNE requires all degree programs and post-graduate APRN certificates to incorporate clinical practice experiences that are appropriate for the role or specialization.

Depending on your specialization and degree program, you may encounter more than 500-hour requirements. This varies depending on certification requirements and state licensure.


Potential Salary and Jobs

There are a variety of nurse practitioner specialties that open up opportunities in different fields. Careers may include nurse midwives, anesthetists, educators, neonatal, cardiac, pediatric practitioners and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will increase 45% from 2019 to 2029. You may also view our page on nurse salary to get an idea what a nurse practitioner earns by state.


Accreditation 

There are two agencies that award accreditation for nurse practitioner programs: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

For master’s programs, the ACEN reviews for standards such as:

  • Administrative capacity to operate the program
  • Qualified and credentialed faculty
  • Achievable program outcomes
  • A curriculum that supports safe practice in healthcare environments
  • Resources that are sufficient in support of program outcomes
  • Plan of program evaluation

The CCNE reviews master’s programs (PDF, 217 KB) on quality in terms of mission and governance, institutional commitment and resources, and curriculum and teaching-learning practices, as well as effectiveness assessing and achieving program outcomes. 

Certification agencies and organizations may require an accredited degree from one of these organizations. Check with your preferred certificate awarding agency and state licensure board for more specific information.

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NP Degree vs. a Post-Graduate Nursing Certificate  

The main difference between earning an NP degree and a post-graduate certificate is the post-graduate certificate may be supplemental to your NP degree. Once you have earned your degree from an accredited NP program, you may start applying for certificates or attend an accredited post-graduate certificate program that may help advance your career. 

While there may be multiple paths to entry for the nursing field, a post-graduate nursing certificate may assist with a role change or role expansion. A post-graduate certificate or post-master’s certificate is designed for nurses who already hold a master’s degree in nursing. These certificate programs provide graduates with an opportunity to enhance their clinical skills and nursing knowledge in several specialty areas. 

Since post-graduate certificate programs are for those who have a master’s degree or higher, you may be required to go through the prerequisite programs to earn an NP degree first. What is offered by NP programs may vary by school. The specialty options are generally the same. Those options may be:

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP
  • Family NP
  • Neonatal NP
  • Pediatric NP 
  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP
  • Women’s Health NP 

Post-graduate certificate programs may offer different specialization options based on the school you choose, but the options are generally the same. Some of those options may include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Informatics
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education

Eligibility requirements for a post-graduate program may vary based on the school. It’s important to research each program before applying. However, some general requirements may include:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in the United States or the equivalent from an international institution.
  • Have a current registered nurse (RN) license.
  • Complete a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited program.

Professional Organizations and Credentials

There are several agencies and organizations that award certifications for nurse practitioners. These often require eligibility requirements such as experience in the field, a completed accredited nursing degree, and a passing score on an examination. 

Your licensure as a nurse practitioner is determined by your state’s nursing board. Requirements are likely to vary but most include a graduate-level accredited nursing degree, a nationally recognized certification, like those above, license as a registered nurse, and an application fee. Check your state’s nursing licensure requirements for more information.

Scholarship Options for Nurse Practitioner Students 

When researching scholarship opportunities for your NP program, check with your admitted university. They often list scholarships or grants for their graduate nursing students. You may also view our page of nursing scholarships. For other opportunities you may refer to:

Nurse Practitioner Program FAQs

What is the best online nurse practitioner program?

The best nurse practitioner online program for you depends on your career goals. For example, if you’d like to become a women’s health nurse practitioner, an online WHNP program may help you earn certification and licensure. There are several different types of nurse practitioner programs online that you may choose from.

How do online NP programs work?

Online nurse practitioner programs are like traditional on-campus programs but allow students the flexibility to juggle their careers and school because they aren’t tied to a fixed schedule. They also have the same curriculum, education requirements, clinical hours, and job opportunities as on-campus programs. 

What’s the difference between on-campus and online nurse practitioner programs?

Online nurse practitioner programs resemble their on-campus counterparts. If they are accredited by a nationally recognized agency, they likely meet the same standards as the brick-and-mortar version. Nurses will still have to complete the required clinical hours—often near their homes.

Is an online nurse practitioner program worth it?

Depending on your career goals and available time, an online nurse practitioner program may be worth it for you. As long as the program is accredited, you are likely to meet requirements for certification and state licensure to practice as a nurse practitioner. Completing an online NP program may provide more flexibility on coursework and completion times.

How difficult is a nurse practitioner program compared to other nursing programs?

A nurse practitioner program is a graduate program that expands on registered nurse knowledge and practice. The curriculum typically helps prepare you for national certification and APRN licensure. As a graduate program, it may be more difficult than a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. However, the difficulty may depend on many personal and professional factors.

How long does it take to complete a nurse practitioner program?

The time to complete an online program varies by school. Generally, they are available on a part-time or full-time basis and may be completed in two to four years.

How much do nurse practitioners earn?

The median annual wage of a nurse practitioner was $111,680 in 2020, according to the BLS. It is important to note that your salary may be different depending on your area of specialty.

Information on this page was retrieved in April 2021.