Top 15 Accelerated Online Master’s in Nursing Degree Programs for 2023

This article profiles the top 15 accelerated online master’s in nursing programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a favorable job outlook and clear demand for skilled nurses in all areas of healthcare. As the demand for highly skilled nurses continues to rise, accelerated MSN programs online are also in demand. Registered nurses do not want to forego valuable work experience to return to school. Finding the shortest MSN program can prove lucrative and necessary. Through careful research, we found accelerated online MSN programs that allow nurses to earn a graduate degree quickly.

Methodology for Fast MSN Online

We reviewed approximately 50 accredited colleges and universities listed by the Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator and reputable online sources that offered affordable online MSN programs. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying the following criteria:

  • Institution and/or program accreditation (such as CCNE accreditation)
  • Institution and/or program rankings with major publications
  • Affordable graduate tuition and fees of less than $18,000 per year

Our focus was primarily on the completion time for the MSN online degree. We selected the shortest MSN program offerings, including one-year online MSN programs, and ranked our findings according to raw affordability. Tuition and fees for these graduate programs have been taken from the NCES College Navigator’s Average Graduate Student Tuition and Fees for the Academic Year.

Degree Programs Featured in this Ranking:

  • Master of Science in Nursing Online
  • Online MSN in Nursing Education
  • Online MSN in Nursing Leadership
  • Master’s in Nursing Online
  • Online Accelerated Master’s in Nursing

Note: This ranking/article was originally published in November 2016 and was last updated in August 2023. The 2023 updates may affect the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.

Below are the resulting selections of the top 15 accelerated MSN programs online.

Reviewing Your Shortest MSN Program Options

#15 – University of Mary

Bismarck, North Dakota

Master of Science in Nursing Online

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,230

University of Mary logo

The University of Mary has five available programs. The nursing programs at the University of Mary allow you to continue to excel in your career. These programs are also available as accelerated degrees. For example, the online MSN program in nurse education takes 20 months to complete. The nursing leadership and management BSN to MSN takes 16 months to earn. Short completion times and cheap costs put the University of Mary among our top accelerated online MSN programs. Also, the school ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.

#14 – Mercy College

Dobbs Ferry, New York

Online MSN in Nursing Education

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,318

Mercy College logo

Mercy College offers a 15-month graduate nursing program in nursing education that can be completed entirely online. As one of the shortest online Master of Science in Nursing programs on our list, the master’s at Mercy has both part- and full-time enrollment options. However, part-time enrollment may exceed the time required to earn the online MSN. Core courses cover topics in advanced nursing and nursing education. These classes include:

  • Curriculum Processes, Diversity – Family as a Lens
  • Health Policy
  • Philosophical Foundations of Nursing
  • Research Perspectives and Methods


Accelerated Online Master’s in Education

In addition to being fully accredited, Mercy College ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 136th-176th best regional university in the North. Also, the online graduate nursing programs rank #132-#173.

#13 – University of Toledo

Toledo, Ohio

Master’s in Nursing Online

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $16,929; (out-of-state) $28,291

University of Toledo logo

The University of Toledo offers accelerated MSN programs online, such as:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

While most courses are online, a combination of online and campus coursework may be required. Adding to the flexible structure, UT offers both part- and full-time enrollment options. Each route has its advantages. Upon graduation, nursing students can sit for the credentialing and certification boards. The University of Toledo ranks with U.S. News as a top national university. Also, online master’s in nursing programs rank among the #132-#173 by U.S. News and World Report.

#12 – University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Master of Science in Nursing Online

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $14,015; (out-of-state) $33,957

University of Arizona logo

The University of Arizona offers both accelerated and affordable online MSN programs. In fact, the accelerated program in clinical systems leadership takes 15-24 months to finish. The online MSN offers a broad spectrum of study that benefits a career in various areas of healthcare. Courses cover topics like:

  • Evidence-Based Practice Improvement
  • Foundations of Systems Leadership
  • Health Information and Patient Care Technologies

U of A ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 97th best national university and 121st best value school. Also, the online master’s in nursing programs rank #31.

#11 – Northern Kentucky University

Highland Heights, Kentucky

Accelerated Online Master’s in Nursing

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $10,284; (out-of-state) $15,594

Northern Kentucky University logo

Northern Kentucky University offers one of the shortest online offerings on our list. The CCNE-accredited online MSN programs can be completed in just 12 months. These programs include online MSNs in nursing education and executive leadership. The MSN in family nursing and psych-mental health nursing takes 22 months to complete. The adult-gero nurse practitioner programs take 20 months. Between variety and accelerated offerings, the online Master of Science in Nursing programs at NKU rank high on our list. Also, NKU ranks with U.S. News as a top national university.

#10 – The University of Alabama

Online Accelerated Master’s in Nursing

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $11,790; (out-of-state) $15,594

The University of Alabama logo

The University of Alabama at Huntsville offers one of the shortest affordable online MSN programs on our list. It consists of 33-39 credits and can be completed full- or part-time. You must be a licensed RN for admission to this program. Having these credentials cuts completion time to less than one year. The UAH online MSN program is designed to improve the career trajectory. It offers a concentration in nurse administration. Courses cover advanced nursing topics like:

  • Health Policy and Finance
  • Informatics in Healthcare
  • Population Health
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Roles and Leadership in Nursing Administration

In addition to being a fully accredited institution, UAH ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top institution. Rankings include #272 in best national universities and #136 in top public schools.

#9 – Union University

Jackson, Tennessee

Online MS in Nursing

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,410

Union University - logo

Affordable accelerated nursing programs online are available at Union University for less than $10,000 annually. Union offers several online Master of Science in Nursing programs specializing in:

  • Administration
  • Education
  • Nurse Practitioner

The FNP program is full-time only and comprises a hybrid mix of online and traditional courses. This is one of the shortest online nurse practitioner programs on our list. In addition to these online selections, Union offers an MSN/MBA dual degree option, also available online. Union University ranks with major publications like U.S. News as the 206th-best national university in the country. Also, the online master’s in nursing programs rank #95.

#8 – Wilmington University

New Castle, Delaware

Online MSN in Nursing Leadership

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,276

Wilmington University logo

The online MSN in nursing leadership at Wilmington University is one of the shortest. The online program consists of 36 credits and can be completed in approximately one year. Specialization options are available in several areas. These specializations make nurses more marketable in areas of interest like:

  • Education
  • Executive
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Public Health

Core courses cover topics like:

  • Advanced Physical Assessment for Nurse Leaders
  • Contemporary Concepts in Advanced Practice Roles
  • Evidence-Based Practice in the Health Professions
  • Politics and Policy in the Healthcare System

Wilmington University ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.

#7 – Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Online MS in Nursing

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,405

Liberty University logo

Liberty University offers accelerated Master of Science in Nursing programs online for those seeking a CCNE-accredited degree. The affordable online MSN program offers five specializations in areas like:

  • Community Health
  • Health Policy
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing Informatics

Two dual degree programs allow nursing students to earn their MSN alongside an MBA or MSHA. Admission to a graduate nursing program at Liberty requires:

  • A minimum of one year of nursing practice as a registered nurse
  • A current license to practice as an RN
  • Official college transcripts
  • A statement of essential attributes

Also, Liberty ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report.

#6 – Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, Utah

Master’s in Nursing Online

Western Governors University logo

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,444

Western Governors University offers one of the shortest advanced practice nursing online programs. In addition, there are advanced accredited online master’s in nursing programs. The online MSN programs at WGU are accelerated. This allows nursing students to finish their degree in approximately 11-24 months. Upon graduation, students may be qualified to pursue positions in agencies, hospitals, schools, and more. WGU is proud to be CCNE-accredited and also ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, WGU has recently earned a top ranking as the best nursing school to earn a master’s degree, according to U.S. News. The online MSN programs are available at WGU for less than $8,500 annually.

#5 – Ferris State University

Online MS in Nursing

Big Rapids, Michigan

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,532

Ferris State University logo

Whether you’re searching for a 12-month FNP program or an online MSN program, Ferris State University has options. The online RN to MSN program offers an accelerated track for qualifying students. Only 20 students per year are admitted in the fall and spring semesters. Once admitted, students take advanced online courses that serve as preparation for:

  • Further study
  • FNP programs
  • Roles in Nursing Leadership

The online Master of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and ranked by U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Ferris State’s online master’s in nursing programs rank #66 out of more than 1,200 programs surveyed by U.S. News.

#4 – Charleston Southern University

Online MS in Nursing

Charleston, South Carolina

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,085

Charleston Southern University logo

Charleston Southern University offers affordable and accelerated nursing degrees. In fact, for less than $8,000 per year, qualifying students may earn an online MSN in 16 months. The online Charleston MSN is fully accredited by the ACEN. It is also recognized by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Charleston Southern ranked with U.S. News and World Report as the 62nd-best regional university in the South. It also ranked 74th top performer on social mobility. To qualify for admission to the accredited online master’s in nursing programs at Charleston, official transcripts, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and an active, unrestricted nursing license are required.

#3 – Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia

Online MS in Nursing

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $6,664; (out-of-state) $20,524

kennesaw-state-university- logo

Kennesaw State University offers tracks in:

  • Nursing Administration
  • Transformational Leadership

The programs are accelerated MSN programs and are available online. They prepare students for full-time work in the field. Kennesaw’s online MSN takes just 15 months to complete. Students will gain knowledge in advanced topics like:

  • Conflict Management and Ethical Decision-Making
  • Leadership Strategies in Development and Implementation
  • Safety and Quality in Healthcare

Kennesaw State ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 298th-389th best national university. It also ranked 154th-209th top public school.

#2 – Florida Atlantic University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Boca Raton, Florida

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $6,693; (out-of-state) $18,482

The logo for Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University offers one of our list’s fastest nurse practitioner programs. The 12-month FNP program online is flexible. It consists of 49 credit hours. The program follows a part-time format for studying online. It requires a minimum of 600 hours of clinical practice. Graduates of the FNP program are eligible to sit for the FNP Certification Examination. The American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers the exam. Several other online graduate nursing programs are available at FAU, including:

  • Online MSN in Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Advanced Holistic Nursing

FAU’s shortest online nurse practitioner program ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report.

#1 – University of Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Online MS in Nursing

University of Nevada logo

Graduate Tuition/Fees: (in-state) $6,760; (out-of-state) $23,302

One of the shortest MSN degrees on our list is the online MSN program at the University of Nevada. It is ideal for those seeking a 12-month FNP program online degree. In fact, there are several available study tracks. They include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Core MSN courses cover topics like:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pathophysiology and Genetics
  • Health and Public Policy for Advanced Practice of Nursing
  • Nursing Theory and Research

UNLV is fully accredited and ranks with U.S. News and World Report. These rankings include #258 in best national universities, #126 in top public schools, and #11 in best online master’s in nursing programs.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of an accelerated master’s in nursing online degree?

Generally speaking, receiving a more formal education will translate to better career outcomes in a wide range of health care systems. Within the realm of healthcare, this is especially true for nurses who go on to earn a master’s degree. And it’s not just the increased pay (although that’s a big one). Several other tangible benefits include better hours, career longevity, greater career options, and more knowledge acquisition. Let’s take a look at some of these in detail.

Ask any nurse, and they will tell you that working 12-hour shifts and holidays can be brutal. With a master’s degree, nurses can move into administrative positions with traditional 9-5 work schedules, making it easier for them and their families. Moreover, nurses who work only with patients often suffer from high-stress levels and physical issues such as back and leg problems. Having the option to work an administrative position that’s less taxing on the body can add years to a career.

An online MSN provides numerous career options. Administrative roles come in many different varieties and settings. Many online MSN programs allow students to choose a specialty track within the administration that allows them to work with different populations in various healthcare settings. Additionally, many nurses choose to become nurse educators spending their time teaching and training the next generation of nurses.


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Are the shortest MSN programs easier than traditional MSN degrees?

While this is a relative question, MSN programs are “easier” because they take a shorter amount of time to complete, and the tuition is typically less expensive. The shortest accelerated programs tend to be geared towards working nurses who must balance their current career and other personal obligations such as family, friends, and recreation. Because of this, most individuals find accelerated programs fit within their lifestyles much better than traditional programs. Moreover, the top MSN accelerated programs are designed for efficiency. The programmatic red tape and administrative bloat have been removed and replaced with efficient models of delivery as well as streamlined course content. Students can get a quality education that is rigorous yet leaner and purposeful. Administrators in these programs know their students do not want to waste time.

Outside of tuition costs, there are what economists refer to as “hidden costs.” Within higher education, these expenses can include dining out, commuting, parking fees, vehicle repairs, childcare, and the like. In addition to lower tuition rates, accelerated online MSN degrees have zero, or very few, hidden costs, which saves a lot of money and time for the working professional.

Can I earn an accelerated MSN degree online with a bachelor’s degree in a different field?

Yes. Earning an accelerated MSN degree online with a bachelor’s degree in a different field is possible. These programs are referred to as second-degree nursing programs without prerequisites.

There are three different types of MSN programs. The first is an RN-to-MSN track for individuals with an associate degree in nursing or a short-term nursing diploma/certificate. The second type of program is known as a BSN to MSN program for those with a bachelor’s degree in nursing who are seeking a master’s in nursing. The last degree is known as a second-degree master’s in nursing for non-nursing majors. While some of these programs do not have prerequisites because they are built into the program, some programs do require students to complete prerequisite courses, such as:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics

Second-degree nursing programs are excellent for those seeking to get into the nursing profession but do not have a nursing or healthcare background but a bachelor’s degree. The advantage of having a bachelor’s degree is the applicant has already completed all of the general education courses and can use them for credit toward the master’s nursing degree without having to repeat them.

How do colleges cut the completion time for accelerated MSN online degree programs?

There are several ways institutions and departments can reduce the completion time of an accelerated MSN online degree without negatively impacting rigor and learning outcomes.

Many accelerated online MSN programs have broken away from traditional 16-week semesters and run courses for just 6-8 weeks. Students cover the same amount of material, making it very intensive, but they can move quickly and efficiently through the content.

Another method programs use to shorten the timeline to degree completion is through generous credit transfer-in policies and credit for applied work experience. New students who have previously taken college-level coursework can get credit for it by having their transcript evaluated at the new institution. Similarly, students with relevant healthcare experience can earn credit based on their work history.

The final method that programs use to hasten completion time is reducing clinical hours. This is done by requiring fewer clinical hours than traditional programs or eliminating them for specific MSN nursing specialties.

Prospective students should thoroughly vet programs to see which accelerated format works best for them. Making sure the program is accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is a crucial step in ensuring the program meets educational standards.

What is the job outlook for individuals who have completed accelerated MSN programs online?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for registered nurses is relatively strong through 2029. The occupation is expected to increase by 7%, with an additional 176,000 job openings yearly from 2019 – 2029. Compared to the average increase of 5% for all other occupations, nursing compares favorably. The demand will be driven by society’s increased healthcare needs and existing nurses retiring and leaving the system.

Those with master’s degrees can expect even greater job opportunities in various fields of professional nursing practice. According to BLS data, Nurse anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners can expect an occupational growth rate of 26% through 2028. This growth rate represents a staggering 5-fold increase compared to the average growth rate of all other occupations tracked by the BLS. In fact, of the 30 fastest-growing occupations, 18 of them are in the healthcare field.

In addition to the accelerated growth rate, MSN holders can also expect a $12,000 annual wage premium due to their increased education. BSN holders earn an average salary of $66,000 compared to master’s degree holders, who earn an average annual income of %75,000. This data indicates that obtaining an accelerated online MSN in nursing is a worthwhile investment.


All information in this article was drawn from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator database.


CVO Staff
January 2021

This concludes our list of top 15 accelerated master of science in nursing online degree programs.