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Top 10 Most Affordable Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs

Overview

MSN programs provide the education needed for careers in advanced practice nursing, nursing administration and nursing education. Additionally, if you already hold a BSN degree, it is becoming increasingly easier to work towards a MSN degree. Several years ago, it would take another three to four years of study, but it is now possible to complete the trajectory in as little as one and a half to two years.  But is it worth the time and cost? The answer depends on your career aspirations. Many senior nursing leadership positions, such as director of nursing, department head, and management positions with hospitals, clinics, or health insurers require a Master’s degree. This degree is considered the bare minimum requirement for nurse educators. MSN degrees not only provide this basic qualification, they also are essential for nurses who want to pursue doctoral degrees.

The MSN usually garners a higher salary as senior-level clinical leaders can earn six-figure salaries, while wages for advanced nursing specialists average between $75,000 and $100,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nursing educators can often earn as much $70,000 per year, while nurses in upper management at nursing schools and full professors may find they have the potential to earn much more. Whether it’s the financial incentive or desire to proceed into a leadership or teaching position, the opportunities are greater with a Master’s degree on your resume.

1. Fitchburg State University

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Established in 1894 by an act of the Massachusetts Legislature, the State Normal School in Fitchburg opened in temporary quarters in the old high school building on Academy Street. In 1930, the State Normal School was authorized to offer a bachelor’s degree in practical arts, and in 1932, when it became the State Teachers College at Fitchburg, four-year degrees were offered in all areas of education. In 1965, its name was officially changed to Fitchburg State College, which today offers forty-nine undergraduate degree programs in eighteen academic departments, twenty Masters Degree programs, five Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study programs, and seven Graduate Certificate programs.

Their online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Program is designed for registered nurses who wish to pursue advanced leadership positions in the community and the health care system. This is a specialty program in Forensic Nursing for those who want to advance their knowledge and skills of nursing and forensic science to the investigation of trauma concurrently with emergency care and emotional support for victims of violent crime, for one. This program also prepares graduates to apply nursing to legal proceedings, be an expert witness in investigations, related to violence and trauma, and be a consultant and educator for related agencies. The learned skills can also be applied to emergency health services, schools, correctional facilities, varied community health agencies, employee assistance programs in occupational health settings, and law enforcement agencies. This particular program is currently planned on a part-time, 6-7 credit per semester cycle.

Tuition: $167 per credit hour (in and out-of-state)
Accreditation: The New England Association of Schools and Colleges

2. West Texas A&M University

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The passage of a bill in early 1909 by the Thirty-first Texas Legislature authorizing the establishment of a State normal school for the education of  teachers located somewhere “west of the ninety-eighth meridian” set off a spirited bidding war as some 25 west Texas cities and towns competed to secure the educational institution. Fast forward to the 21st century when enrollment has grown from 7,412 in the fall of 2006 to 8,970 in the fall of 2014, the highest in West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) history. Also, in 2006, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences was established. The University’s online graduate programs in business, nursing and education have been highly placed in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of Online Graduate Programs.

Their Comprehensive M.S.N. program prepares students to function at an advanced nursing practice level in complex environments. This degree allows students to tailor their nursing education around specific role specializations. Students will take the advanced clinical nursing courses of Pathophysiology, Pharmacotherapeutics, and Advanced Assessment to enhance clinical practice at an advanced level. Graduates work in hospitals, outpatient settings, administrative positions, educator positions, and in collaborative practice with physicians and other health care providers, and schools of nursing. The graduate program at WTAMU is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and is based on the latest standards for nursing education. All applicants must have an unencumbered nursing license (RN).

Tuition: $201.46 per hour (Tx resident/border counties; $227.20 (out-of-state)
Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

3. Lamar University

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Lamar University (LU) in Beaumont, Texas was founded in 1923 a few blocks from the current location as South Park Junior College and enrolled 125 students in its first fall semester. The name changed to Lamar College in 1932 in honor of Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas and the “Father of Education” in Texas. Today it is home to 15,000 students making Lamar one of the fastest growing Texas colleges and universities, and is a member of The Texas State University System. LU offers more than 100 programs of study leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Lamar University offers two online Master of Science in Nursing degree programs that prepare you to take a lead role in the future of health care either as a nurse educator (MSNE) or in a nursing administration (MSNA) role. Their MSN in Nursing Education prepares you to develop the next generation of outstanding nurses. Students will learn:

  • Core knowledge and teaching methodologies that will prepare your students to deliver quality care in a rapidly changing health care landscape
  • Strategies for designing and implementing challenging and effective learning objectives and curricula

The online MSN in Nursing Administration prepares graduates to take on upper-management and leadership roles in a variety of health care settings. In this degree program students will:

  • Develop the knowledge and skills you need to assume more of a primary care role as health care reform creates greater demand for access to quality care
  • Gain expertise in strategic management, resource management and creating a safe, supportive and inclusive practice environment

Both these programs are considered Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing, and are 37 hours in length.

Tuition: $208 per credit hour
Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

4. Winona State University

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Winona State University (WSU), located in Rochester, Minnesota, has served the region with distinction since 1917. The location of the campus in the growing city of Rochester provides WSU-Rochester with unique opportunities for specialized classes and programs aimed at key industries in the area, including computer science, healthcare, business and education. Over the years, this learning institution has graduated over 5,000 bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates. Over 1,500 students attend day, evening, weekend, and online classes each year to enhance their education in one of 12 baccalaureate degrees and 16 different graduate programs.

Courses are offered in a variety of delivery methods, i.e., one day per week on campus, online, or in a hybrid format. The school’s Master of Science in Nursing is offered in these specialties:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Leadership: Nursing and Organizational Leadership

Students in the Nurse Educator and Nursing and Organizational Leadership programs can choose a Distance Option that is a three-year plan with all courses offered in hybrid format. Students in other programs are also able to access their required courses via hybrid format.

Tuition: $234.85 per credit for undergraduates in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North & South Dakota; $426.32 (non-resident undergraduates)
Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

5. Fort Hays State University

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Founded in 1902, Fort Hays State University (FHSU) is a leading forward-thinking, entrepreneurial university of the Midwest. It has an enrollment of more than 13,000 students and offers hundreds of certificate and degree programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s levels through 28 academic departments. Located on 200 acres in Fort Hays, Kansas, it has a current campus enrollment of 4,767 students and an additional 8,674 taking online courses. It boasts of 4,050 international students from more than 30 countries. It’s nursing program is accredited by the Kansas State Board of Nursing. Their online master’s degrees in nursing were ranked high by US News & World Report.

Their nationally accredited program by the Committee on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) prepares post-BSN nurses in the advanced specialty roles of nurse administrator or nurse educator. The Nursing Administration (NA) track courses include administrative management in health organizations, nursing administration in complex organizations, and experience working with expert nurse administrators. The Nursing Education (NE) track courses include curriculum planning and evaluation, teaching strategies in nursing, and experience working with expert teachers in various nursing education programs. The Department of Nursing offers the MSN degree and Post-Master’s credential in Nursing Administration and Nursing Education via the Internet with supplemental audio conferencing. Both master’s programs (NA & NE) consist of 36 total credit hours.

Tuition: $253.07 per credit hour
Accreditation:  The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

6. Western Carolina University

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Nursing was established at Western Carolina University in 1969 under Dr. Mary K. Kneedler, a nationally recognized leader in health care who helped develop the Head Start program under President Lyndon Johnson. The first class of BSN students graduated in 1973. In 1982, the RN to BSN program was started. The master’s program was initiated in 1999 with the Family Nurse Practitioner as the first track. The school now also offers tracks in Nursing Administration, Nursing Anesthesia and Nursing Education at the graduate level. In May of 2007 it also started an accelerated entry option for the pre-licensure program for individuals with baccalaureate degrees in other fields. The fall of 2009 marked the School of Nursing’s 40th anniversary. Western Carolina’s School of Nursing offers masters degrees in the specialties of: Nurse Leadership, Nurse Educator, and Family Nurse Practitioner. In order to be eligible for admission to the Nurse Leadership, Nurse Educator and Family Nurse Practitioner Programs, applicants must meet additional criteria, plus the following:

  • BSN from a regionally accredited college or university and nationally accredited nursing program
  • Minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on 4.0 scale on the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework
  • Statistics course, undergraduate or graduate level
  • Research course, undergraduate
  • Registered nurse eligible for licensure to practice in the state in which the student intends to practice

The school also offers am option to assist selected RNs with good academic records to move smoothly through the RN to BSN curriculum directly into the MS(N) Nursing Leadership program, the MS(N) Nurse Educator program, or the Nurse Anesthesia program.

Tuition: $236.08 per credit hour (in-state); $746.23 (out-of-state)
Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

7. University of North Alabama

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The university was established in 1830 and rests on 130 acres in historic Florence, Alabama. The school has been a leader in educating nurses since 1973. Their Master of Science in Nursing program at the University of North Alabama (UNA) is a post-baccalaureate degree program consisting of two tracks: “Nursing in Teaching-Learning Environments” and “Nursing Leadership in Organizational Environments.” The programs are completely online in an asynchronous format. The “Teaching-Learning” track will equip registered nurses with tools that will enable them to facilitate the education of nursing students, health care clients, and health care colleagues. The “Leadership” track will prepare registered nurses who will function at an advanced level in the health care environment regarding politics and legislation, budgeting and economics, and leadership and management. A sampling of the admission requirements are:

  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from a professionally accredited institution in the U.S.
  • Unencumbered license to practice nursing in the United States
  • Undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or greater
  • 1 year full-time experience as a registered nurse (Required for Nursing in Teaching-Learning Environments track only)

The UNA College of Nursing is currently only accepting students for admission into its online nursing programs from the Southern Region Educational Board (SREB) states.

Tuition: $299 per credit hour (in-state); $598 (out-of-state)
Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

8. Missouri State University

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Missouri State University (MSU), formerly Southwest Missouri State University, is a public university located in Springfield, Missouri, and was founded in 1906. The institution became Missouri State University in 2005 reflecting its enrollment of tens of thousands of students, as well as higher admissions standards and increased graduate programs. It is the state’s second largest university, with an official enrollment of 22,385 in the fall 2014 semester. In 2011, students represented 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and 83 countries.

The Missouri State University MSN Program uses a combination of online and on campus modalities. Didactic online content is delivered using asynchronous and synchronous formats. Applicants to the MSN program must be proficient using Blackboard (or other course platform systems), word processing, spreadsheet management, and presentation graphics software. The MSN program provides an educational opportunity for BSN-prepared nurses to obtain a degree in the Nurse Educator (NE) role. The Nurse Educator program is built on a foundation of core courses, including research, nursing science, advanced health assessment, health policy and issues, and thesis or non-thesis course work. This is a sampling of the admission requirements:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.00, on a 4.00 scale, in the last 60 hours of college course work attempted.
  • If the student’s cumulative GPA is less than 3.00, on a 4.00 scale, submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is reviewed
  • Completion of a baccalaureate degree with a major in nursing from a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

The complete requirements may be found here.

Tuition: $305 per credit hour (in-state and out-of-state)
Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission

9. East Carolina University

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Since opening its doors on October 5, 1909, East Carolina University (ECU) has been a leader in distance education in North Carolina for more than sixty years. ECU recognized the potential of online learning, and was one of the first universities in the nation to develop and offer a degree entirely over the Internet. Since then, ECU has worked to offer more than 75 degrees and certificate programs online, in fields such as education, business, health care, and technology, among others.

The master of science in nursing program prepares graduates for advanced practice nursing and for leadership roles in a variety of community based or acute care provider agencies. The MSN program offers eight concentrations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Health
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Anesthesia
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Nursing Education
  • Nursing Leadership

All of the above are offered online except Nurse Anesthesia. Admission to the master of science in nursing degree program requires the student to meet the minimum admission requirements for graduate study as established by the university and by the College of Nursing. Applicants for the nursing education, nursing leadership, and clinical nurse specialist concentrations must have a minimum of one year RN experience prior to enrolling in specialty courses.

Tuition: $333.36 per credit hour (in-state//includes $100 MSN additional per semester hour charge)
Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

10. Delta State University

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The campaign to locate Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi, began several years before the doors opened for the first summer session in 1925. There is evidence that the subject was brought up for discussion as early as 1910. In 1928, the first graduating class consisted of thirteen students. A tradition was established that the first degree was to be awarded on the basis of scholarship. Miss Mollie Bedwell of Cleveland, holds the distinction of receiving the first degree (a Master of Science) ever granted by Delta State Teachers College. Today, Delta State University is a public institution providing a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate curriculum to over 4,000 students representing all of the states and more than 20 countries.

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing provides role concentrations as nurse administrator, nurse educator and family nurse practitioner. Students applying to either of these three must be registered nurses with a current RN license and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing or a health-related field. The nurse administrator consists of 44 total credit hours; the educator is 45-48 total credit hours and the family nurse is 42-45 hours. Some of the admission requirements to the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing Graduate Program are as follows:

  • Baccalaureate degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.00 overall
  • Completion of Robert E. Smith School of Nursing Master of Science in Nursing Program Application
  • A combined verbal and quantitative score ≥800 (≥280 on new test) analytic score of ≥3.5 on the Graduate Record Exam [score must have been obtained in the past 5 years]
  • At least one year of continuous clinical nursing experience as a Registered Nurse for Nurse Administrator and Nurse Educator
  • At least one year of continuous clinical nursing experience with patient contact as a RN within the past three years for Nurse Practitioner

Tuition: $334 per credit hour
Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

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