2020 Most Affordable Online MSN Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 3/8/2021
2020 Most Affordable Nursing Masters Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 3/8/2021

Our list below highlights the most affordable online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees, with annual tuition rates under $7,000. MSN students can choose from several specialties, including nurse practitioner (NP), nurse educator, or nurse administrator. MSN graduates have a high salary potential and are prepared to enter in-demand careers as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). The BLS reports that nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $115,800 in 2019, and demand for these positions is projected to increase by a staggering 45% in the next decade. On this page, we've included information about getting an MSN degree online, the cost of an online program, and whether a degree in this field will be worth it for you.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online bachelor's in nursing degrees. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Northeastern State University $4,048
# 2 #2 Tennessee State University $4,294
# 3 #3 Drexel University $4,428
# 4 #4 Fitchburg State University $4,700
# 5 #5 American Public University System $4,900
# 6 #6 Georgia Southern University $4,986
# 7 #7 University of Southern Indiana $5,105
# 8 #8 Fort Hays State University $5,179
# 9 #9 Middle Georgia State University $5,610
# 10 #10 Wichita State University $5,736
# 11 #11 Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville $5,776
# 12 #12 Lamar University $5,806
# 13 #13 South Dakota State University $6,055
# 14 #14 Stephen F. Austin State University $6,060
# 15 #15 University of Central Missouri $6,220
# 16 #16 West Texas A&M University $6,297
# 17 (tie) #17 (tie) Grantham University $6,300
# 17 (tie) #17 (tie) Purdue University Global $6,300
# 19 #19 University of Missouri $6,438
# 20 #20 Central Methodist University $6,460
# 21 #21 The University of Texas at Arlington $6,500
# 22 (tie) #22 (tie) Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus $6,600
# 22 (tie) #22 (tie) William Carey University $6,600
# 24 #24 Pittsburg State University $6,630
# 25 #25 American Sentinel University $6,755
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $4,048
Annual Tuition: $4,048
Annual Tuition: $4,048

Northeastern State University (NSU) offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education and Nursing Informatics. Both accelerated online programs require 32 credit hours (11 courses) and can be completed in 12 months. The curriculum includes 18 credits of core courses that focus on advanced research and evidence-based practice, a two-credit practicum, and 12 credits of Nursing Informatics or Nursing Education courses. To graduate, students in both tracks complete a 120-hour practicum... in the field with a mentor and a capstone master's project or thesis. Coursework for Nursing Informatics aligns with the American Organization of Nurse Executives' standards, and the Nursing Education option aligns with the standards set by the National League for Nursing.

Online coursework is delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Online courses have assignment deadlines, course attendance requirements, and group collaboration. NSU offers a pay-by-the-course tuition model for the online MSN program. Distance learners have access to electronic library resources, research and clinical databases, veteran services, tutoring, technical support, academic advising, and financial and career services.

To be considered, students must have a current RN license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants must submit a completed application, official transcripts, required credentials, and supplemental information.

  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Acceptance Rate: 96%
  • Average SATs: 918 -1123
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,182
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 351
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (918) 456-5511

Example Classes: Advanced Research and Evidenced Based Practice for Health Professionals, Cultural Competency: Regional and Global Perspectives, Healthcare Finance & Economics, Leadership Development for the Advanced Nursing Professional, Organizational & Systems Management in Nursing

#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $4,294
Annual Tuition: $4,294
Annual Tuition: $4,294

Tennessee State University (TSU) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing with concentrations in Family Nurse Practitioner and Holistic Nursing. Both programs require 45 credit hours and a senior project or thesis to graduate. The Nursing Practitioner option leads to certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and requires 600 clinical hours. The curriculum for this track prepares students to work with individuals of all ages by conducting client examinations and diagnosing and treating... illnesses. The Holistic Nursing track meets eligibility criteria for certification in the field and requires 500 clinical hours. Students in this concentration can take courses in aromatherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage therapy, and more. The MSN program may be completed on a full-time or part-time basis, and students can graduate in six or nine semesters, respectively.

Online coursework may include both synchronous and asynchronous elements. TSU offers a reduced tuition "e-rate" for out-of-state students enrolled in online courses or programs. Additionally, various Tennessee State scholarships are available. Online students have access to admission information, academic advisement, financial aid, and more through the Adult and Distance Learners Information Portal.

Prospective students must have a current RN license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Applicants must submit an online application and official transcripts.

  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 197
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 241
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (615) 963-5000

Example Classes: Advanced Holistic Nursing Practicum, Health Policy, Interventions, Pharmacotherapeutics, Role Development

#3
#3

Drexel University

Philadelphia (PA)
Annual Tuition: $4,428
Annual Tuition: $4,428
Annual Tuition: $4,428

Drexel University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with various concentrations, including Clinical Leader, Leadership in Health Systems Management, Nursing Education, Public Health Nursing, Healthcare Quality, Patient Safety, and Risk Management. Additionally, an RN to MSN Bridge and RN-BSN-MSN program are available. Classes follow a 10-week quarter format; Students who take two courses per quarter can graduate in two years. Students in the Nurse Educator track must complete a three-day,... on-campus residency and are prepared to take the Certified Nursing Educator Exam. The Clinical Nurse Leader track requires that students complete a clinical practicum. Students in the remaining tracks complete a capstone course.

Online classes are synchronous with live, online lectures. Coursework is hosted on Blackboard, where students have access to assignments, discussion boards, and tests. Tuition for online programs is ten percent less than on-campus tuition rates. Drexel also offers a tuition lock for students who complete the MSN program in three years. Additionally, reduced tuition rates are available to alumni, military, and members of Drexel's partner organizations.

Prospective students must have an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a minimum GPA of 3.0, and a current RN license. Students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree may apply to the RN-BSN-MSN or RN to MSN Bridge programs. Other required documents include an application, official transcripts, personal statement, resume, and copy of RN license.

  • Online Degrees: 16
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 74%
  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Average SATs: 1170 -1380
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 559
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 878
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (215) 895-2000

Example Classes: Advanced Clinical Assessment & Diagnostic Reasoning, Advanced Ethical Decision Making in Health Care, Confronting Issues in Contemporary Health Care Environments, Curriculum Design for Higher Level Cognition, Evaluation and Translation of Health Research

#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $4,700
Annual Tuition: $4,700
Annual Tuition: $4,700
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Average SATs: 1000 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 152
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,097
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (978) 345-2151

Example Classes: Advanced Pathopharmacology and Epigenetics in Forensic Nursing, Contexts and Roles for Advanced Practice, Criminal Law: Substantive and Procedural, Forensic Nursing: Caring for Perpetrators, Forensic Nursing: Caring for Victims, Scientific Foundations for Forensic Nursing Interventions

#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $4,900
Annual Tuition: $4,900
Annual Tuition: $4,900
  • Online Degrees: 6
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,746
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 8,342
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (877) 468-6268

Example Classes: Healthcare Systems and Health Policy, Informatics and Technology, Leadership for Advanced Practice Roles, Population-Based Healthcare, Theory and Application to Nursing Practice

#6
#6

Georgia Southern University

Statesboro (GA)
Annual Tuition: $4,986
Annual Tuition: $4,986
Annual Tuition: $4,986
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Average SATs: 1060 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,168
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,484
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (912) 478-5391

Example Classes: Chronic Care Management and Advanced Health Assessment Capstone, Differential Diagnoses, Pathology and Scientific Medical Terminology, Differential Diagnoses, Pathology and Scientific Medical Terminology, Epidemiology and Transcultural Issues, Family Health Promotion for APRN

#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $5,105
Annual Tuition: $5,105
Annual Tuition: $5,105
  • Online Degrees: 8
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 620
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,183
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (812) 464-8600

Example Classes: Advanced Concepts of Pathophysiology, Clinical Pharmacology for Advanced Nursing Practice, Population Based Care and Health Policy, Theoretical Foundations for Advanced Nursing Practice

#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $5,179
Annual Tuition: $5,179
Annual Tuition: $5,179
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,608
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,404
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 628-4000

Example Classes: Holistic Perspective and Health Potential, Nursing Complexity in Health Care Organizations, Primary Health Promotion Across the Lifespan, Research in Nursing, Selected Studies in Nursing

#9
#9
Annual Tuition: $5,610
Annual Tuition: $5,610
Annual Tuition: $5,610
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 31%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 880 -1080
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,417
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 181
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (478) 471-2700

Example Classes: Advanced Health Assessment/Diagnostic Reasoning, Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology/Therapeutic Interventions, Leadership/Management & Healthcare Policy, Quality/Safety/Improvement Processes, Research and Evidence Based Practice

#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $5,736
Annual Tuition: $5,736
Annual Tuition: $5,736
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,016
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 572
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (316) 978-3456

Example Classes: Leadership and Emerging Issues in Nursing, Teaching Strategies for Nursing Education, Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing Practice

#11
#11
Annual Tuition: $5,776
Annual Tuition: $5,776
Annual Tuition: $5,776
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Average SATs: 1010 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 591
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 363
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (888) 328-5168

Example Classes: Biostatistics/Epidemiology, Health Policy and Advanced Nursing Practice, Healthcare Finance and Budgeting, Organizational Behavioral and Leadership for Nurse Executives, Quality and Safety for Nurse Executives

#12
#12

Lamar University

Beaumont (TX)
Annual Tuition: $5,806
Annual Tuition: $5,806
Annual Tuition: $5,806
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Acceptance Rate: 82%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1120
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,040
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,069
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (409) 880-7011

Example Classes: Advanced Nursing Issues, Direct & Control Healthcare Delivery, Financial Accounting, Marketing Concepts, Planning/Organizational Healthcare Delivery

#13
#13
Annual Tuition: $6,055
Annual Tuition: $6,055
Annual Tuition: $6,055
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Acceptance Rate: 91%
  • Average SATs: 1010 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,220
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 350
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (800) 952-3541

Example Classes: Advanced Assessment - Lifespan Clinical Laboratory, Advanced Concepts in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Cultural Competence in Health Care, Health Operations and Financial Management for Nurse Leaders, Health Policy, Legislation, Economics and Ethics, Pharmacotherapeutics Across the Lifespan: Application to Advanced Practice

#14
#14
Annual Tuition: $6,060
Annual Tuition: $6,060
Annual Tuition: $6,060
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Acceptance Rate: 65%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,048
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 729
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (936) 468-2011

Example Classes: Advanced Pharmacology, Contemporary Healthcare Ethics, Diagnostics and Procedures, Nursing Theory for the Advanced Practice Role, The Politics of Healthcare

#15
#15
Annual Tuition: $6,220
Annual Tuition: $6,220
Annual Tuition: $6,220
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 84%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 394
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 748
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (660) 543-4111

Example Classes: Graduate Statistics, Methods of Research in Nursing, Organizational Leadership in Complex Health Systems, Teaching Theory in Nursing, Theories of Nursing

#16
#16
Annual Tuition: $6,297
Annual Tuition: $6,297
Annual Tuition: $6,297
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,315
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,067
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (806) 651-0000

Example Classes: Bioethics and Advocacy, Nursing Populations and Settings, Pharmacotherapeutics, Scholarly Clinical Praxis, Theories for Nursing

#17
#17

Grantham University

Kansas City (KS)
Annual Tuition: $6,300
Annual Tuition: $6,300
Annual Tuition: $6,300
  • Online Degrees: 6
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,707
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,352
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (800) 955-2527

Example Classes: Diverse Populations and Healthcare, Legal and Ethical Issues of Advanced Practice Nursing, Modern Organizations and Healthcare, Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice

#17
#17

Purdue University Global

Indianapolis (IN)
Annual Tuition: $6,300
Annual Tuition: $6,300
Annual Tuition: $6,300
  • Online Degrees: 16
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 26,655
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 8,094
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (317) 208-5311

Example Classes: Advanced Nursing Roles, Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Health Policy, Ethical, and Legal Perspectives of the Health Care System, Promoting Optimal Models and Systems for Health Care Delivery, Scientific and Analytic Approaches to Advanced Evidence-Based Practice, Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Practice Nursing

#19
#19

University of Missouri

Columbia (MO)
Annual Tuition: $6,438
Annual Tuition: $6,438
Annual Tuition: $6,438
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Average SATs: 1090 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 679
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,236
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (573) 882-2121

Example Classes: Advanced Nursing Role Acquisition, Public Health and Sociocultural Issues, Research Basis for Advanced Nursing, Translational Evidence-Based Nursing Practice

#20
#20
Annual Tuition: $6,460
Annual Tuition: $6,460
Annual Tuition: $6,460
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1130
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,590
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 130
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Professional Role, Evidence-Based Client Care Management, Health Care Finance/Policy/Economics, Issues and Trends in Post-Secondary Education, Theoretical Frameworks

#21
#21
Annual Tuition: $6,500
Annual Tuition: $6,500
Annual Tuition: $6,500
  • Online Degrees: 13
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Average SATs: 1060 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 11,255
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 7,170
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (817) 272-2011

Example Classes: Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning, Advanced Pathophysiology, Exploration of Science and Theories for Nursing, Pediatric Assessment Lab, Pediatric Primary Care, Primary Complex Chronicity

#22
#22
Annual Tuition: $6,600
Annual Tuition: $6,600
Annual Tuition: $6,600
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 221
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 321
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (201) 692-2000

Example Classes: Advanced Pathophysiology, Educational and Learning Theory, Measurement and Evaluation, Teaching Strategies for the Learning Environment, Theory Development and Advanced Research

#22
#22

William Carey University

Hattiesburg (MS)
Annual Tuition: $6,600
Annual Tuition: $6,600
Annual Tuition: $6,600
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 262
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 808
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (601) 318-6051

Example Classes: Accounting for the Healthcare Decisions, Healthcare Finance, Human Resources Management and Fiscal Policy, Informatics in Nursing Education/ Introduction to Professional Writing, Teaching Advanced Assessment across the Lifespan

#24
#24
Annual Tuition: $6,630
Annual Tuition: $6,630
Annual Tuition: $6,630
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 126
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 616
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (620) 231-7000

Example Classes: Applied Drug Therapy, Informatics for Healthcare, Issues and Roles in Advanced Practice Nursing, Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics for Advanced Practice Nursing, Theories Related to Nursing

#25
#25
Annual Tuition: $6,755
Annual Tuition: $6,755
Annual Tuition: $6,755
  • Online Degrees: 9
  • Graduation Rate: 0%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,444
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,230
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (303) 991-1575

Example Classes: Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Physical Assessment, Clinical and Administrative System, Health Care Strategic Management and Planning, MSN Role Development

Getting an Online MSN Degree


An online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree prepares registered nurses to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or enter into administration or education roles within the field. Students can earn an MSN degree in 12-24 months, depending on their academic credentials before entering the program. Below are two common types of online MSN programs:

  • BSN to MSN: These programs require registered nurses to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to apply. Nurses can choose accelerated BSN to MSN bridge programs to earn their master’s degrees in 12 months.
  • RN to MSN: Students must have a registered nursing license, an associate degree or diploma in the field, and one to two years of full-time nursing experience. Students can typically complete an RN to MSN program in two years.

Regardless of the MSN program, students will take advanced clinical courses and select a nursing specialty, like nurse education, administrative leadership, nurse practitioner, or nursing informatics. While most of the coursework is facilitated online, students must also complete supervised clinical hours (ranging from 200-600 hours) at an approved healthcare facility in their area.


Why Accreditation is Important

Before enrolling in an online MSN program, students should determine that the school is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Nursing programs that have passed more rigorous reviews of standards and quality are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Accreditation is important to ensure that students can find employment after graduation and be eligible sit for advanced certification exams, such as the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (A-GNP), or Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification (ENP).


Common Online MSN Courses

An online MSN program will typically include a core curriculum and nursing specialization courses. Below is a list of standard MSN core courses and a description of what students will learn in each class:

  • Advanced Health Assessment: Students learn how to conduct comprehensive health assessments on patients across their lifespan. Other topics covered include health promotion strategies, risk assessment, and diagnostic reasoning. Students may also be required to complete a clinical practicum in this course.
  • Advanced Pathophysiology: This course examines advanced concepts in how the body responds to disease. Students explore various conditions and how organ systems function. Students also learn how to diagnose and develop treatment plans for patients.
  • Advanced Pharmacology: Students learn the principles of drug therapy in response to various diseases. This course also covers how to prescribe pharmaceutical treatments to patients in a clinical setting. Other topics covered include adverse drug reactions, ethical implications, and patient education.
  • Organizational/Nursing Leadership: This course emphasizes leadership and communication strategies within the healthcare environment. Students will learn how to build collaborative teams to facilitate better patient outcomes. They will also develop skills in listening, training, and motivating, other employees.
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing: Students learn how to apply best practices in patient care and make informed decisions based on evidence. In this course, students will analyze and evaluate current nursing knowledge for scientific merit. Students will also explore the ethical and cultural issues or barriers in evidence-based research.

Can I Get My MSN Without a BSN?

Registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma can apply to an RN to MSN bridge program without having a BSN. They are usually required to have one to two years of full-time experience. The schools on our most affordable MSN degree list that offer RN to MSN bridge programs are Drexel University, Lamar University, and American Public University System.


Cost of an Online MSN Degree

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that the average cost of graduate tuition was $19,214 per year in 2018-2019. In comparison, the schools on our list of most affordable online MSN programs have significantly lower annual tuition rates between $4,048 - $6,755. These rates do not include other college-related costs, such as textbooks and technology fees. Students rarely pay the full sticker price for a degree by applying for financial aid, scholarships, or other funding sources outlined below.


Funding an Online MSN Degree

Once accepted into an MSN program, students should submit a FAFSA application for federal financial aid. Most students who apply receive some form of financial award, ranging from federal loans to grants. Beyond the FAFSA, some healthcare employers may offer tuition benefits to RNs pursuing graduate degrees in the field. Students may also be eligible for loans, programs, or scholarships to help offset the cost of an online MSN program:

  • Nursing Student Loans (NSL): The Health Resources & Service Administration (HRSA) offers long-term and low-interest loans to nursing students enrolled full-time in a graduate program.
  • Nurse Corps Scholarship Program: This scholarship program is offered by the HRSA to students in graduate-level nurse practitioner programs or bridge programs. In exchange for receiving funding, graduates must complete a two-year service commitment in a critical shortage facility.
  • Scholarships: Students should contact their university to determine whether any graduate scholarship opportunities are available. Professional nursing organizations also offer scholarships to MSN students in various specialties. For example, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) has a scholarship for students in a nurse practitioner program. The Oncology Nursing Foundation also offers master’s degree scholarships for students at an accredited nursing school interested in oncology.

Is Getting an MSN Degree Worth It?

Students may wonder whether pursuing higher education will be worth the investment in terms of time and money. While this decision is personal to every individual and will vary based on a student's circumstances, below are a few metrics students might use to determine whether their investment will be beneficial in the long term. Considerations include future salary potential, job opportunities, access to roles with greater responsibility, and the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest within the field.

  • Salary: MSN graduates earn higher salaries and have more career advancement opportunities than RNs with only a BSN. The BLS reports that APRNs earned an average median salary of $115,800 in 2019, while RNs earned $73,330.
  • Job Growth & Career Advancement: The demand for APRNs is expected to grow by an unprecedented rate of 45% in the next decade, compared to 7% for RNs. In addition to providing patient care, APRNs have additional responsibilities that include working with providers to develop a patient care plan and, in some states, administer medication.
  • Specialization: Nurses with an MSN degree have the opportunity to specialize within the field. For example, APRNs can hold titles such as nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, or clinical nurse specialists (pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, etc.). Graduates can also work as nurse educators or nurse administrators.