Top 10 Accelerated Online Master’s in Nursing Degree Programs for 2024

Author: Adam Birch / Reviewed By: Melissa Anderson, MS.Ed. / First covered: November 2016 / Updates: 3

Key Takeaways:

  • Our #1 ranking school for an accelerated online master’s in nursing degree program is the University of Nevada, followed by Florida Atlantic University.
  • Accelerated online MSN programs cater to registered nurses, offering quick completion to minimize career disruption.
  • These programs focus on affordability, reduced completion times, and CCNE accreditation, aiming for high job market relevance.

This article profiles the top 10 accelerated online master’s in nursing programs.

Featured 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 December 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 10 accelerated MSN programs online.

Reviewing Your Shortest MSN Program Options

#10 – The University of Alabama in Huntsville

Online Accelerated Master’s in Nursing

Huntsville, Alabama

Website
Graduate Tuition: $10,632

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 #227 in best national universities and #123 in top public schools.

Pros:

  • Customizable curriculum
  • Flexible scheduling

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate
  • More competitive

#9 – Union University

Jackson, Tennessee

Online MS in Nursing

Website
Graduate Tuition: $12,360

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 249th-best national university in the country.

Pros:

  • Small class sizes
  • Highly accelerated

Cons:

  • On-campus orientation
  • Less diverse

#8 – Wilmington University

New Castle, Delaware

Online MSN in Nursing Leadership

Website
Graduate Tuition: $9,216

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

Pros:

  • Numerous concentration options
  • Smaller class sizes
  • One-year completion time

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate

#7 – Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Online MS in Nursing

Website
Graduate Tuition: $7,893

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.

Pros:

  • Customizable curriculum
  • Dual degree options

Cons:

  • Less diverse
  • Minimal tech support

#6 – Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, Utah

Master’s in Nursing Online

Website
Graduate Tuition: $7,765

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. The online MSN programs are available at WGU for less than $8,500 annually.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • CCNE-accredited

Cons:

  • Less reputable online nursing programs

#5 – Ferris State University

Online MS in Nursing

Big Rapids, Michigan

Website
Graduate Tuition: $8,532

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 #102 out of more than 1,200 programs surveyed by U.S. News.

Pros:

  • ACEN-accredited
  • Top-ranked

Cons:

  • Less diverse
  • Minimal career services

#4 – Charleston Southern University

Online MS in Nursing

Charleston, South Carolina

Website
Graduate Tuition: $5,085

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 59th best regional university in the South. It also ranked 59th 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.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • ACEN- accredited

Cons:

  • Less reputable online nursing programs

#3 – Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia

Online MS in Nursing

Website
Graduate Tuition: $5,328

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 394th-435th best national university. It also ranked 211th-227th top public school.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • 100% acceptance rate
  • High graduation rate

Cons:

  • Uncertified course design
  • Minimal tech support

#2 – Florida Atlantic University

Online Master of Science in Nursing

Boca Raton, Florida

Website
Graduate Tuition: $5,467

Florida Atlantic University offers one of our list’s fastest nurse practitioner programs. The 12-month FNP program is flexible, consisting of 49 credit hours. The program follows a part-time format for studying online and 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.

Pros:

  • Highly ranked in online nursing
  • One-year completion
  • Exam preparation
  • Robust tech support

Cons:

  • More competitive

#1 – University of Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Online MS in Nursing

Website
Graduate Tuition: $5,976

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 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 #269 in best national universities, #145 in top public schools, and #10 in best online master’s in nursing programs.

Pros:

  • Top-ranked in online nursing
  • Customizable curriculum
  • One-year completion

Cons:

  • More competitive

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 2032. The occupation is expected to increase by 6%, with an additional 177,400 job openings yearly from 2022 – 2032. 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 38% through 2032. This growth rate represents a staggering 7-fold increase compared to the average growth rate of all other occupations tracked by the BLS.

In addition to the accelerated growth rate, MSN holders can also expect a $11,000 annual wage premium due to their increased education, according to PayScale. BSN holders earn an average salary of $92,000 compared to master’s degree holders, who earn an average annual income of $103,000. This data indicates that obtaining an accelerated online MSN in nursing is a worthwhile investment.

Sources

  • National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
  • PayScale.com

CVO Staff

This concludes our list of top 10 accelerated master of science in nursing online degree programs.