As America's elderly population grows and many healthcare professionals reach retirement age, hospitals and healthcare facilities nationwide are facing a shortage of qualified nurses. Combined with recent policy changes and a growing focus on preventative care, demand for healthcare services greatly exceeds the number of available providers. In an effort to address the nursing shortage crisis, many states are changing their laws regarding nurse practitioners. With fewer restrictions on the services they are able to provide, nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly popular as primary healthcare providers.
If you've considered taking your nursing career to a higher level, there's no time like now to get started. A growing number of colleges and universities offer convenient, affordable online nurse practitioner degrees developed with working professionals in mind. In this guide, we take an in-depth look at some of the best and most affordable online nurse practitioner degrees in the country.
Financing Your Degree
Employer Assisted Tuition Assistance
Many healthcare employers offer employees tuition assistance as an employment benefit; especially, if you're working on an advanced degree in nursing. You should check with your Human Resources department to see if your employer offers such a program.
Nurses Educational Funds Organization
Because of the critical need for nurses, and as part of the nationwide effort to attract more nursing faculty and nurse educators, the Nurses Educational Funds Organization provides funding for nurses working toward advanced degrees. This link will take you to the organization's webpage where you can learn more: Nurses Educational Funds Organization.
School/Department Grants or Scholarships
While not all nursing schools are able to do so, some Schools of Nursing offer grants, scholarships or subsidies to graduate students pursuing a MSN, Nurse Practitioner or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. You should talk with someone in admissions, School of Nursing or department to see whether they offer such assistance and how you might qualify.
Federal Student Aid
The federal government supports financial assistance for students entering or returning to college. For graduate students, this assistance comes mostly in the form of student loans. These loans are typically at lower interest rates than you can receive from a commercial bank or institution; but, it's worth it to check. There is an application deadline to qualify for this assistance so be certain to review the information on the Department of Education website Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Many schools offer reduced veterans' tuition costs for active or retired military personnel. Some schools also extend that benefit to military dependents and spouses. If you are, or have been, a member of the military, be certain to check with your chosen school's Bursar, or Treasurer, Offices to see if your chosen school participates in a reduced tuition benefit for the military.
Best Medical Degrees has researched, as a companion piece to our 10 Cheapest MSN Online Degrees, ten of the cheapest Nurse Practitioner degrees available online, using information from nursing accreditation associations, U.S. News and World Report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ten cheapest, most affordable, programs from our research are listed below.
1. Columbus State University
Established in 1958, this Georgia institution began offering four-year degrees in 1965. Home to nationally-ranked athletic teams and world-class business and nursing schools, the university has also received recognition for its exceptional distance education division. CSU Online offers web-based undergraduate degrees, master's programs, certificates, and endorsements, including an online nurse practitioner degree.
CSU's 44-hour, fully-online family nurse practitioner program is presented in a flexible asynchronous format, allowing registered BSN nurses to earn their degree in as little as two years. Distance learners may complete their 765-hour clinical requirement at a facility in their area.
Length of Program: 44 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $201.00 (Georgia Residents); $801.00 (Non-Residents)
2. Georgia College State University
This public, Milledgeville-based institution was founded in 1889 as the Georgia Normal & Industrial College. Originally intended as a two-year training school for women, the school's notable alumni include famed author Flannery O'Connor. Today, Georgia College offers coeducational four-year and graduate-level programs on campus and online. Registered nurses seeking an online nurse practitioner degree can pursue a family or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner concentration along with an 18-credit MSN. Candidates may enroll on a part- or full-time basis. Graduation requirements include a clinical assessment, electronic portfolio, and comprehensive exam. Students who wish to fulfill their clinical requirement in-state must hold a Georgia RN license.
Length of Program: 39 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit: $388 (Georgia Residents); $1,249 (Non Residents)
3. East Carolina University
A dedication to community outreach, innovative distance education programs, and faculty excellence are just some of the reasons why ECU's College of Nursing holds the National League for Nursing Center of Excellence designation. ECU's online nurse practitioner degree provides MSN candidates with the chance to become a neonatal or psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. The 42-credit neonatal track is available on a full- or part-time basis, with most full-time students completing the program in around five semesters. Required clinical experiences are arranged at facilities close to the student. The highly competitive psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program is available to North Carolina residents only.
Length of Study: 42 Credit Hours
Tuition Estimate Per Credit Hour: $228.24 (NC Resident); $860.15 (Non Resident)
Recommended Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs
4. University of Southern Indiana
USI's renowned distance education programs are a testament to the university's focus on educational accessibility. Developed to meet the needs of rural residents living far from USI's Evansville campus, the institution's innovative online offerings have received national acclaim.
The university's master of science in nursing program offers several specialized tracks for online nurse practitioner degree candidates: adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGNR), family nurse practitioner (FNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMH). Consisting of 42-44 credit hours, each specialty requires a two-day on-campus residency and at least 545 hours of clinical experience. Programs may not be available in all states.
Length of Study: 42 Credit Hours
Tuition Estimate Per Credit Hour: $337.92 (Indiana Residents); $666.19 (Non Residents)
5. Alcorn State University
The country's oldest historically black land-grant university, Alcorn is best known for its groundbreaking social and agricultural policy research. Along with three Mississippi campuses, the university maintains a thriving online education division. Distance learners may choose from three web-based undergraduate degrees and nine graduate programs, including an online nurse practitioner degree.
Students who complete the 44-credit MSN with family nurse practitioner (FNP) concentration are qualified to sit for the national FNP examination. Most full-time candidates earn their degree in around five semesters. Required courses include a rural healthcare seminar, a final project and four practicums. Applicants must submit GRE scores.
Length of Program: 44 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $364.00
6. Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi
A&M-Corpus Christi promises students a unique educational experience, whether they attend classes at the university's island campus or enroll in one of many online programs. Having received presidential recognition for academic excellence, the school's College of Nursing and Health Sciences is proud to offer several comprehensive web-based degrees, including a 49-credit online nurse practitioner degree. This program allows registered nurses to complete a family nurse practitioner concentration as they earn an MSN. Offered on a part-time basis only, the program takes three years to complete and includes 630 clinical hours. New students are admitted once a year, during the fall semester.
Length of Study: 49 Credit Hours
Tuition Estimate Per Credit Hour: $378 (Texas Resident); $694 (Non Resident)
7. Stony Brook University—SUNY
This SUNY system flagship school offers a variety of exciting concentrations for master's candidates seeking an online nurse practitioner degree. Specialization options include pediatric, adult-gerontology, neonatal, family health, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner tracks. Each plan of study includes a clinical component, which may be fulfilled at a facility close to the student. While each program is intended for students with a background in nursing, applicants who hold a bachelor's degree in another field may gain admission after completing an accelerated 12-month bachelor of science program. All prospective students are required to submit a clinical practice portfolio after obtaining conditional admission.
Length of Study: 45 Credit Hours
Tuition Estimate Per Credit Hour: $453 (NY Residents); $925 (Non Resident)
8. University of Missouri—Kansas City
Chartered in 1929, UMKC became a member of the University of Missouri system in 1963. The university's School of Medicine was founded nearly a decade later, and continues to expand in size, scope, and reputation. UMKC's online nurse practitioner degrees have received recognition for combining academic rigor with convenience and affordability. MSN candidates can choose from five nurse practitioner tracks: family practice, psychiatric mental health, adult gerontology, pediatric practice, or women's health. While each concentration consists of 46 credit hours, clinical experience requirements may vary in duration. Individuals pursuing the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner track must attend an on-campus residency each semester.
Length of Study: 53 Credit Hours
Tuition Estimate Per Credit Hour: $459.07 (Missouri Resident); $1,207.01 (Non Residents)
9. University of Southern Alabama
Do you want to apply your nursing skills in emergency settings, or would you prefer to work in a primary care environment? Whatever your career goals, USA has an online nurse practitioner degree for you. Students can select from nine MSN concentrations, including pediatric acute care, adult gerontology primary care, women's health, and family practice. While course content for all tracks is delivered online, every student must attend a three-day orientation at the Mobile campus. During the orientation period, candidates participate in intensive workshops, acquire hands-on practice in their focus area, and build rapport with classmates and faculty members.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $469.00 (Alabama Residents); $938.00 (Non-Residents)
10. Indiana Wesleyan University
Located in Marion, IWU is a Christian institution based in the Methodist tradition. IWU's emphasis on personalized learning extends to its online education division, where the university's 8,000 enrolled distance learners benefit from mandatory class size limits. IWU offers over 90 fully-online programs, including an online nurse practitioner degree.
The accelerated MSN-primary care degree with family nurse practitioner specialization allows candidates to complete their studies quickly and conveniently, with course materials delivered by mail or online. While the 700-hour supervised practicum requirement may be fulfilled at locations near the student, all must attend an onsite health assessment course.
Length of Program: 49 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $595.00