Online Master in Nursing (MSN) Programs
You’re a busy nurse and you don’t necessarily have the time to attend in-person courses. No worries! With an online master’s degree in nursing program, you can continue working full-time as a nurse while advancing your career. In these programs, you get the freedom to do much of your coursework online while still meeting clinical requirements in person. Check out our list of online MSN programs listed below now and get in touch with online programs. If none of the featured listings appeal to you, click “view more” or use our “Schools Near You” box to find programs that meet your preferences.
According to a recent study done for the US Department of Education, students who do part or all of their coursework online perform slightly better than students who do all their work in a face to face classroom setting. The nursing community has taken this to heart, and now offers several online MSN programs across the nation.
As a rule of thumb, you should contact multiple schools during the course of your research to find a school from which to earn your MSN online. There are significant differences between the programs in terms of cost, admissions requirements, and other characteristics. As with many things in life, the best way to find an online Master’s in Nursing program that will meet your needs is to spend some time researching what programs are available.
What Kinds of Master’s in Nursing Specialties Can I Pursue Online?
Most schools that offer master’s in nursing online programs will offer a variety of different options for study for your master’s degree. One of the most popular routes is the RN to MSN online option, which allows you to apply your current nursing experience to a master’s in nursing program. This route usually takes anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on your previous educational experience.
Another one of the popular online MSN programs is the direct entry route, which allows you to earn your MSN even if you are not already a nurse. This type of program is for those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and want to be able to apply those credits to an online master’s in nursing.
There are also several traditional online MSN programs, such as:
Most of these programs are offered for either full or part time study. If you already know the nursing specialty or area of graduate nursing study that interests you, you can find those online programs easily from the categories at the right. Select the programs you are interested in and find detailed information about each option.
If you know you want to earn an online MSN, but you are not sure which nursing track interests you most, take some time to explore our site, including the schools listed on this page or by using the quick search box to find schools near you. By requesting information, you get the details you need to understand how you can become a Nurse Practitioner, a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or complete one of several other MSN nursing programs online.
What Does “Online Masters in Nursing” Really Mean?
This is a critical question and one you should address very early on in any conversations you have with schools. There really is no single answer. Many schools (maybe even the majority of them) will offer some of the required classes in an online or distance learning format, yet still require a significant portion of study to be completed on campus.
We tried to restrict these listings to programs that are marketed on the school websites as online MSN programs, or that state explicitly that students can complete all or the vast majority of the coursework over the internet. Still, you should bear in mind that it is not black and white, and that the only way to confirm that all of the coursework can be completed online is to speak directly to the schools.
Some programs are completely online, requiring no campus visits at all. These are rare. What is more common is for the program to accept students from anywhere in the country, but require a certain number of campus visits (one or two per semester, etc.). This is certainly more convenient than a fully campus based program, but if you live in New Jersey and sign up for an “online” program in California, you may or may not want to fly out there a few times a year.
Keep in mind that if you are planning to enter an RN to MSN online program, you will likely need to complete some additional clinical time, but some schools are very flexible about where your clinicals can be completed. For instance, most of the clinical components of online RN to MSN programs focus on community and population based health, so your clinical settings will largely be within community agencies and locales. This means that you may be able to schedule your own local practicum sites at places like local health centers, non-profit agencies, e.g. HIV/AIDS outreach centers, domestic violence agencies and schools.
For this and other reasons, it is also common for programs that are mostly (versus completely) online to only accept students from their own states, or from surrounding states. The bottom line is that you should investigate a range of programs, not just one or two, and make sure to get a complete and detailed answer on how often you will have to visit the campus, and for how long.
How Do Clinicals Work in an Online MSN Program?
As long as the educational track you choose is one that requires clinicals in an on-campus delivery model (*not all of them do – check with the individual schools), you should expect clinicals to be a part of the online / distance learning version of it as well. And there is no getting around the fact that many kinds of master’s in nursing programs require a relatively large chunk of clinical hours. Five to seven hundred hours over the course of the program is fairly typical, even for an online program.
For many of the online MSN programs, the clinical time can be completed in any state you’re licensed in, and you will be able to select your own clinical preceptors to supervise your work. This often means you’ll be able to complete them right at your workplace, but it’s important to keep in mind that the allowed clinical settings may vary. For example, if the course that requires the clinicals is a public health nursing course, then you may be required to complete those clinicals at a school clinic,or a similar setting, but you may not be allowed to do them in a hospital.
As a rule, you should contact multiple schools during the course of your research (we also have some starter resources for you here). There are important differences between the programs in terms of cost, admissions requirements, and other characteristics, and, as with many things in life, the way to find the best Master’s program for your needs is to spend some time learning as much as you can about your options.
Below, we interview Dr. Pamela Kulbok, Coordinator of the Public Health Nursing Leadership program at the University of Virginia. She explains a bit more about what online MSN programs are like and how they can help to advance the future of nursing.