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 

The nurse practitioner online programs below may have on–campus components and may only be available in the state where their campus is located. Be sure to check with your preferred university for more information. The list below was last updated in May 2021.

UniversityLocationProgram LengthClinical HoursSpecialization
Advent Health UniversityOrlando, FL24+ months600 hoursFNP
Albany State UniversityAlbany, GA24–36 monthsN/AFNP
American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health SciencesAurora, CO28–34 months630–720 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Angelo State UniversitySan Angelo, TXN/AN/AFNP
Arkansas State UniversityJonesboro, AR24+ months840 hoursAGACNP
FNP
Ball State UniversityMuncie, IN6–8 semesters690 hoursFNP
Bradley UniversityPeoria, IL32–40 months700–750 hoursFNP
Boise State UniversityBoise, ID36 months700 hoursAGNP
Bowie State UniversityBowie, MD24 months600 hoursFNP
Campbellsville UniversityCampbellsville, KY24 months660 hoursFNP
Chamberlain UniversityDowners Grove, IL36 months625 hoursAGNP
FNP
Carlow UniversityPittsburgh, PA30 months525–600 hoursFNP
WHNP
Clarkson CollegeOmaha, NE6–12 semesters650 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Concordia University—WisconsinMequon, WI36–48 months720 hoursAGPCNP
FNP
DeSales UniversityCenter Valley, PA24–36 months675 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PA36 months640–720 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
Duke UniversityDurham, NC24–48 months560–728 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
Duquesne UniversityPittsburgh, PA36 months550–750 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
East Carolina UniversityGreenville, SC24–36 monthsN/ANNP
East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City, TN5–8 semesters540 hoursFNP
PMHNP
Eastern Kentucky UniversityRichmond, KYN/AN/AFNP
PMHNP
Emory UniversityAtlanta, GA4 semesters630–780 hoursNNP
WHNP
Frontier Nursing UniversityVersailles, KYN/A675 hoursFNP
PMHNP
WHNP
George Mason UniversityFairfax, VAN/A500+ hoursFNP
George Washington UniversityWashington, D.C.24–36 months600–700 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
Georgetown University
Sponsored Program
Washington, D.C.23–27 months600–1,000+ hoursAGACNP
FNP
NM/WHNP
WHNP
Georgia CollegeMilledgeville, GA24–36 months570–675 hoursFNP
PMHNP
WHNP
Georgia State UniversityAtlanta, GA24–48 months500–630 hoursAGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP–PC
Gonzaga UniversitySpokane, WA9 semesters660 hoursFNP
PMHNP
Graceland UniversityIndependence, MO8–12 trimesters540–600 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Herzing UniversityMilwaukee, WI24–32 months540–675 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Indiana State UniversityTerre Haute, IN30–60 months675 hoursFNP
Indiana University KokomoKokomo, IN30 months600 hoursFNP
Indiana University NorthwestGary, IN7 semesters600 hoursFNP
Indiana University — Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolis, IN24–36 months525–600 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP–PC
Kent State UniversityKent, OH24–42 months600 hoursWHNP
La Salle UniversityPhiladelphia, PA18–20 months512–692 hoursAGPCNP
FNP
Lewis UniversityRomeoville, ILN/A540 hoursPMHNP
Loyola University New OrleansNew Orleans, LA24–36 months720 hoursFNP
Maryville UniversitySt.Louis, MO28–32 months580–830 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP
Middle Georgia State UniversityAtlanta, GA24 months630 hoursAGACNP
Midwestern State University TexasWichita Falls, TXN/A512–640 hoursFNP
PMHNP
Monmouth UniversityWest Long Branch, NJN/AN/AAGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
Northeastern UniversityBoston, MA24–36 monthsN/ANNP
Northern Illinois UniversityDeKalb, IL24–48 monthsN/AFNP
Northern Kentucky UniversityHighland Heights, KY20–22 months500–600 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
Norwich UniversityNorthfield, VTN/A660 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Ohio UniversityAthens, OH24+ months500–650 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
Ohio State UniversityColumbus, OH24–36 months600–712.5 hoursFNP
NNP
PMHNP
Old Dominion UniversityNorfolk, VA24–30 months560–600 hoursFNP
NNP
PNP
PMHNP
Olivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL24 months720 hoursFNP
Pace UniversityNew York City, NY24+ months550 hoursPMHNP
Purdue University NorthwestHammond, IN36 months555 hoursFNP
Regis CollegeWeston, MA28–36 months600 hoursAGNP
AGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP
WHNP
Regis UniversityDenver, CO24–26 months630 hoursFNP
NNP
Sacred Heart UniversityFairfield, CT36 months550 hoursFNP
Saint Francis Medical CenterPeoria, IL36–48 monthsN/AAGACNP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
Saint Louis UniversitySt. Louis, MO36–48 months525–675 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PNP–PC
Family PMHNP
Salve Regina UniversityNewport, RI28 months600 hoursFNP
Samford UniversityBirmingham, AL24–27 months660–1200 hoursFNP
Family PMHNP
Seton Hall UniversitySouth Orange, NJ36–48 months540–675 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
PNP–PC
South CollegeKnoxville, TN18–36 monthsN/AAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP
Simmons University
Sponsored Program
Boston, MA24–32 monthsMinimum of 672 hoursFNP
Stony Brook UniversityStony Brook, NY24–36 monthsN/AAGPCNP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP–PC
St. John Fisher College
Sponsored Program
Rochester, NYAs few as 24–36 months600 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
PCFNP
PMHNP
St. John’s CollegeSpringfield, IL24–36 months660 hoursFNP
Texas A&M UniversityBryan, TX24–36 months646 hoursFNP
Thomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphia, PA24–36 months672 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
NNP
PNP–PC
WHNP
Texas Tech UniversityLubbock, TX30–36 monthsN/AAGACNP
FNP
PNP–PC
Troy UniversityTroy, ALN/A705 hoursFNP
Union UniversityJackson, TN16 months560 hoursFNP
Family PMHNP
United States UniversitySan Diego, CA24 months540 hoursFNP
University of AlabamaTuscaloosa, AL5–8 semesters540 hoursFNP
PMHNP
University of Alabama at BirminghamBirmingham, AL24–36 monthsN/AAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorage, AK7–9 semestersN/AFNP
PMHNP
University of CincinnatiCincinnati, OH24 months504–672 hoursAGPCNP
FNP
WHNP
University of Colorado – Denver/Anschutz Medical CampusAurora, CO36 months540–630 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
University of Colorado – Colorado SpringsColorado Springs, COUp to 6 years630 hoursAGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
University of ConnecticutStorrs, CT24–36 months700–800 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
NNP
University of Missouri Sinclair School of NursingColumbia, MO36 months600–720 hoursFNP
PMHNP
PNP–PC
University of Missouri–Kansas CityKansas City, MO24–36 months660–742.5 hoursAGNP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
University of Mississippi Medical CenterJackson, MS24 months540–990 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP
University of New MexicoAlbuquerque, NM24 months650–800 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PNP–PC
PMHNP
University of North DakotaGrand Forks, ND32 months600 hoursFNP
PMHNP
University of South AlabamaMobile, AL24–48 months600–1,080 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP/AGACNP
FNP/Emergency NP
FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
University of South CarolinaColumbia, SC8 semesters672 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
University of Southern California
Sponsored Program
Los Angeles, CA21–33 months784 hoursFNP
University of Southern IndianaEvansville, IN36 months655–705 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
University of RochesterRochester, NYN/A616–672 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
Family PMHNP
PMHNP
PNP
PNP/NNP
University of Texas Medical Branch at GalvestonGalveston, TX7 semestersN/AAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
NNP
University of Texas ArlingtonArlington, TX29–35 months720 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
University of Texas at El PasoEl Paso, TX3 years675–775 hoursAGACNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
Utica CollegeUtica, NY8 semesters720 hoursFNP
Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, TN1–3 years620–1,365 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
ENP
FNP
NM/FNP
NNP
PMHNP
PNP–AC
PNP–PC
WHNP
WHNP/AGPCNP
Walden UniversityMinneapolis, MNN/A640 hoursAGACNP
AGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
PNP–PC
Wilkes UniversityWilkes-Barre, PA24–28 months500–584 hoursAGPCNP
FNP
PMHNP
William Paterson UniversityWayne, NJ16–20 months510–680 hoursAGNP
FNP
Youngstown State UniversityYoungstown, OH18–20 months540–600 hoursAGACNP
FNP

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:

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.

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 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 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 advanced practice registered nurse (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.

Can you work full time and go to nurse practitioner school?

If you plan on working full time while being enrolled in a full-time nurse practitioner program, it may be challenging to juggle both. But, balancing work and school as a full-time student is possible with the right planning and structure in place.

Is a part-time nurse practitioner program worth it?

If you plan on working full time while being enrolled in a full-time nurse practitioner program, it A part-time nurse practitioner program may be worth it for you if you need time to balance work, personal life responsibilities and schooling. You will earn the same degree as your full-time classmates, but it will take longer to complete your NP program.

What is the difference between an online APRN program and an online nurse practitioner program?

When thinking about the differences between an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and a nurse practitioner (NP) program, you must first know that an NP is one of four types of APRN (the other three are certified nurse-midwife [CNM], certified registered nurse anesthetist [CRNA] and clinical nurse specialist [CNS]). Nurse practitioners differ because they specialize in a certain area, such as women’s health. There are many different types of online APRN programs that include CNM, CRNA and CNS programs. Online nurse practitioner programs have several different types as well but may help prepare a nurse to become a nurse practitioner as compared to a nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist.

Information on this page was retrieved in May 2021.