Top 15 Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing Online Degrees

In this article, we profile the top 15 accelerated MSN programs online.

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 MSN online programs that allow nurses to earn a graduate degree in the shortest possible time.

Featured Programs

  • #1 University of Nevada
  • #2 Florida Atlantic University 
  • #3 Kennesaw State University
  • #4 Charleston Southern University
  • #5 Ferris State University 
  • #6 Western Governors University 
  • #7 Liberty University 
  • #8 Wilmington University 
  • #9 Union University 
  • #10 The University of Alabama 
  • #11 Northern Kentucky University 
  • #12 University of Arizona
  • #13 University of Toledo 
  • #14 Mercy College 
  • #15 University of Mary 

Methodology for Fast MSN Online

We reviewed approximately 48 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 like U.S. News and World Report, and affordable graduate tuition and fees less than $18,000 per year. Our focus was primarily on the time of completion for the MSN online degree. We selected the shortest MSN program offerings, including 1 year online MSN programs, and ranked our findings according to raw affordability.

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

Reviewing Your Shortest MSN Program Options

The logo for University of Mary which ranked 15th for shortest MSN Program Options#15 – University of Mary

Online Master’s in Nursing

Bismarck, North Dakota


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,694

Looking for one of the shortest MSN programs for an affordable price? University of Mary has five available programs. Whether you want to earn an MBA alongside your MSN or become a nurse educator, there are nursing programs at University of Mary that allow you to continue to excel in your career. The nursing programs are also available as accelerated degrees. For example, the online MSN in nurse education takes 20 months to complete, while the BSN to MSN in nursing leadership and management takes 16 months to earn. The short completion times along with affordability place University of Mary among our top accelerated MSN online program offerings. Also, the school ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.

#14 – Mercy College

The logo for Mercy College which ranked 14th for best accelerated msn programs online	Online MSN in Nursing Education

Dobbs Ferry, New York


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,806

Mercy College offers a 15-month graduate nursing program in nursing education that can be completed entirely online. As one of the shortest MSN program offerings on our list, the online MSN at Mercy has both part- and full-time enrollment options. However, part-time enrollment may exceed the time it takes 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, and research perspectives and methods. 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

The logo for University of Toledo which placed 13th for the top 12 month fnp programOnline Master’s in Nursing

Toledo, Ohio


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,809

University of Toledo offers accelerated MSN programs online, such as the online MSN in family nurse practitioner and pediatric primary care nurse practitioner. While most courses are delivered online, a combination of online and campus coursework may be required. Also, adding to the flexible structure, UT offers both part- and full-time enrollment options. Enrolling full-time may shorten the program by months, however, part-time enrollment also presents its advantages. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the credentialing and certification boards. In addition to offering accelerated MSN online programs, University of Toledo ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university. Also, the online master’s in nursing programs rank #132-#173 by U.S. News and World Report.

#12 – University of Arizona

The logo for University of Arizona which placed 12th in our ranking of the top shortest online nurse practitioner programOnline Master’s in Nursing

Tucson, Arizona


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,271

Of the shortest MSN programs available online, University of Arizona offers both accelerated and affordable options. In fact, the accelerated MSN programs online at University of Arizona, specifically the MSN in clinical systems leadership, take just 15-24 months to finish. Combining instruction with distance-learning technologies, the online MSN offers broad spectrum study that is beneficial to a career in various areas of healthcare. Courses cover topics like evidence-based practice improvement, foundations of systems leadership, and 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

The logo for NKU which placed 11th for the best 12 month fnp program online

Online Master’s in Nursing

Highland Heights, Kentucky


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,418

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

#10 – The University of Alabama

The logo for University of Alabama which placed 10th in our ranking for fastest nurse practitioner programOnline Master’s in Nursing

Tuscaloosa, Alabama


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,780

The University of Alabama at Huntsville offers one of the shortest MSN programs on our list. The online MSN consists of 33-39 credits and can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. While RN licensure is required for admission, having these credentials cuts completion time to less than one year. The UAH online MSN program is designed to improve the career trajectory of nurses and offers a concentration in nurse administrator. Courses cover advanced nursing topics like health policy and finance, informatics in healthcare, population health, research and evidence-based practice, and 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

The logo for Union University which placed 9th in our ranking for 1 year msn programsOnline Master’s in Nursing

Jackson, Tennessee


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,022

Accelerated MSN programs online can be found at Union University for less than $10,000 per year. Union offers several online master’s in nursing programs with specializations in administration, education, and nurse practitioner. The FNP program is full-time only and made up of 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, which is also available entirely online. Union University ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 206th best national university in the country. Also, the online master’s in nursing programs rank #95.

#8 – Wilmington University

The logo for Wilmington University which ranked 8th for top shortest nurse practitioner programsOnline MSN in Nursing Leadership

New Castle, Delaware


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,834

One of the fastest nurse practitioner program offerings on our list is the online MSN in nursing leadership at Wilmington University. 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, and 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, and 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

The logo for Liberty University which placed 7th for top accelerated nurse practitioner programs onlineOnline Master’s in Nursing

Lynchburg, Virginia


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,400

Liberty University offers accelerated MSN 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, and nursing informatics. There are also two dual degree programs that allow 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, and a statement of essential attributes. Also, Liberty ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report.

#6 – Western Governors University

The logo for Western Governors University which ranked 6th for top shortest msn programOnline Master’s in Nursing

Salt Lake City, Utah


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,790

Western Governors University offers one of the shortest online nurse practitioner programs, as well as other advanced nursing programs. The online MSN programs at WGU are accelerated and allow 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 a 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 $8,000 per year.

#5 – Ferris State University

The logo for Ferris State University which placed 5th in our ranking for top accelerated MSN online degree optionsOnline Master’s in Nursing

Big Rapids, Michigan


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,608

Whether you’re searching for a 12 month FNP program online or one of the shortest MSN programs out there, 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, or roles in nursing leadership. The online MSN 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

The logo for Charleston Southern University which place 4th for top accelerated msn programs onlineOnline Master’s in Nursing

Charleston, South Carolina


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,500

For individuals researching 12 month FNP program online options, 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 and recognized by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Charleston Southern ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 62nd best regional university in the South and 74th top performer on social mobility. To qualify for admission to the online MSN at Charleston, official transcripts, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and an active, unrestricted nursing license are required.

#3 – Kennesaw State University

The logo for Kennesaw State University which ranked 3rd for Top 15 Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing Online DegreesOnline Master’s in Nursing

Kennesaw, Georgia


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,334

The accelerated MSN programs online at Kennesaw State University offer tracks in nursing administration and transformational leadership. The program prepares students for full-time work in the field. Good news for those seeking rigorous yet fast-paced online MSN programs, as 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, and safety and quality in healthcare. Kennesaw State ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 298th-389th best national university and 154th-209th top public school.

#2 – Florida Atlantic University

Online Master’s in Nursing

Boca Raton, Florida


The logo for Florida Atlantic University which offers a great online nursing degree

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,693

Florida Atlantic University offers one of the fastest nurse practitioner programs on our list. The 12 month FNP program online is a flexibly designed degree that consists 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 offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Several other graduate nursing online programs are also available at FAU, including the online MSN in clinical nurse leader and 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

The logo for University of Nevada which placed 1st in our ranking of top 15 Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing Online DegreeOnline Master’s in Nursing

Las Vegas, Nevada


Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,158

One of the shortest MSN program offerings on our list is the online MSN at University of Nevada. Ideal for those seeking 12 month FNP program online degrees, the online MSN offers various completion tracks. In fact, available study tracks include family nurse practitioner, nursing education, and 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, and 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, recieving more formal education will translate to better career outcomes. Within the realm of healthcare this is especially true when it comes to nurses that go on to earn a master’s degree. And it’s not just the increased pay (although that’s a big one). There are several other tangible benefits such as 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 the 12-hours shifts along with working holidays can be brutal. With a master’s degree in hand, nurses can move into administrative positions with traditional 9-5 work schedules, making it easier for them and their families. Moreover, nurses that work only with patients often suffer from high levels of stress, along with 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 administration that allows them to work with different populations in a variety of healthcare settings. Additionally, many nurses choose to become nurse educators spending their time teaching and training the next generation of nurses.

Are the shortest MSN programs easier than traditional MSN degrees?

While this is a relative question, MSN programs are “easier” in that 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 that need to balance their current career as well as 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 are able to get a quality education that is rigorous, yet is 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 the context of 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 save 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. It is possible to earn an accelerated MSN degree online with a bachelor’s degree in a different field. These programs are referred to as second-degree nursing programs without prerequisites.

There are three different types of MSN programs. The first is known as an RN-to-MSN track for individuals who have an associate degree in nursing or 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 second-degree nursing program for those with non-nursing bachelor degrees. While some of these programs do not have pre-requisites 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, and the like.

Second-degree nursing programs are excellent for those who are seeking to get into the nursing profession but do not have a nursing or healthcare background but do have 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 towards 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 are able to 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 who have relevant healthcare experience can earn credit based on their work history.

The final method that programs use to reduce completion time is through a reduction in clinical hours. This is done by requiring fewer clinical hours compared to 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 making sure 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 7% with an additional 176,000 job openings each year from 2019 – 2029. Compared to the average increase of 5% for all other occupations, nursing compares favorably. The demand will be be driven by the increased healthcare needs of society, as well as existing nurses retiring and leaving the system.

Those with master’s degrees can expect even greater job opportunities. According to BLS data, Nurse anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners can expect an occupational growth rate of 26% through 2028. This rate of growth 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 that 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 either directly from each school’s website or 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.