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Best MSN Degree Programs in 2018: The Top 50 Schools (Online & On-Campus)

Best MSN Degree Programs in 2018: The Top 50 Schools (Online & On-Campus)

Thinking about your next career move? Obtaining an MSN degree grants entry into a field with lots of job growth, an excellent wage, and the opportunity to engage with your community in a meaningful way.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners are earning an average salary of $110,930 annually in a job market projected to grow at a rapid 31% between 2016-2026. Anticipating an aging population and a booming need for skilled healthcare workers, MSN programs benefit from lots of flexibility and financial aid to encourage students to enter and support them to completion. When you’ve found a program that matches your needs, contact the admissions department today to get started on your future!

Here are the Best MSN Degree Programs in 2018 (Online & On-Campus)

1. University of Alabama-Birmingham

University of Alabama-Birmingham

Located in the heart of one of the largest academic health centers, the University of Alabama—Birmingham offers access to innovative learning opportunities. They offer highly affordable tuition and a plethora of flexible, online MSN programs. U.S. News & World Report ranked UAB as the 8th best nursing school in the nation.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $225
  • Degrees: 12
  • Online: 12
  • NCLEX91.9%

2. Texas Tech University of Health

TTUHSC has been recognized by the National League for Nursing as a Center of Excellence. They achieve excellence through programs like the free Combest Center, which serves high-risk and underserved patients, and grants nursing students access to community-focused, hands-on clinical experience. 

  • Tuition Per Credit: $250
  • Degrees: 8
  • Online: 5
  • NCLEX96.75%

3. Texas Women’s University

Graduating the largest number of health professionals in Texas, Texas Women’s University is also the nation’s largest university oriented towards women. They are actively engaged in research to prevent and treat childhood obesity, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis, offering opportunities for MSN students seeking opportunities in those areas.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $244
  • Degrees: 8
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX: 94.15%

4. Stony Brook University *

With 9 distinct MSN programs ranging from midwifery to mental health, Stony Brook delivers flexible full or part-time programs online or on campus. A research-focused campus, they are engaged in a collaborative scientific inquiry on 14 distinct healthcare areas of study, including chronic pain management, pediatric health promotion, and biomedical informatics applications.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $577
  • Degrees: 9
  • Online: 9
  • NCLEX94.8%

4. Wilmington University *

With a commitment to making continued education accessible, Wilmington University offers multiple locations across three states and fully online programs. Small teacher-to-student ratios, affordable tuition, and flexible schedules make their two MSN primary programs stand out. They also offer an accelerated transition into a DNP program.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $477
  • Degrees: 6
  • Online: 6
  • NCLEX: n/a

6. University of California – San Francisco *

UCSF provides students the opportunity to learn in a world-class health sciences environment. For a decade, they’ve been among the first two highest recipients of NIH research funding for nursing schools. UCSF fosters a collaborative environment between faculty and students to pursue new frontiers in nursing, perhaps why they maintain a consistent top rank in the US News & World Report rankings of nursing graduate programs.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $535
  • Degrees: 14
  • Online: 1
  • NCLEX98.25%

6. University of Central Florida *

Situated in Orlando at the heart of a diverse array of agencies and industries engaged in modeling, simulation, and training, UCF offers students a unique opportunity to utilize cutting-edge applications to advance healthcare practice. UCF consistently delivers a top-quality education at a reasonable price, earning them top ranks as a ‘best value’ school per The Princeton Review as well as best online MSN and a best for veteran’s per US News & World Report.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $370
  • Degrees: 4
  • Online: 4
  • NCLEX95.58%

8. Midwestern State University

MSU Nursing offers incredibly affordable tuition, for both in-state and out-of-state students and offers an online MSN with three track focuses – nurse educator, FNP, and psychiatric mental health NP. MSU is the only Texas university to become a member of COPLAC – granted only to superior public liberal arts schools.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $267
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 1
  • NCLEX87.59%

9. Ball State University

BSU offers fully online, flexible MSN programs with three concentrations – nurse educator, nurse administrator, and FNP. As a Center of Excellence, they’ve been recognized by the National League for Nursing as a top-notch nursing program. Their faculty is working nurses to ensure instruction tracks with the fast-paced, ever-changing world of healthcare.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $410
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 3
  • NCEX92.5%

10. Midwives College of Utah

Nurses looking to focus their career as a midwife will find the Midwives College of Utah well suited to their interests. Students begin by developing a tailored plan of study which will include a research-based thesis or applied project of interest and related to the field. The school approaches education from a holistic and evidence-based perspective and incorporates traditional midwifery skills alongside business and life skills development.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $275
  • Degrees: 1
  • Online: 1
  • NARM: 100%

11. Saginaw Valley State University *

SVSU delivers a hybrid MSN program that combines on-campus work with online instruction. The campus offers state of the art laboratories and simulation rooms to enhance learning. Their tuition is the lowest of all Michigan public universities and highly competitive for the region. Most of the faculty holds a Ph.D. and the school boasts an average graduate class size of 16 students per course.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $564
  • Degrees: 4
  • Online: 4
  • NCLEX: 95%

11. Central Methodist University *

CMU offers two MSN tracks – clinical nurse leader and nurse educator. They utilize a cohort system with a 10-12 student minimum per cohort with a fully online program. Online delivery and low tuition make CMU an attractive option for working nurses looking to continue their education.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $380
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX86.27%

13. Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University has spent over a decade on the top list of America’s best southern college by US News & World Report. The campus itself is home to over 100 majors and is 240-acres of riverfront and winding oak-lined paths in northern Florida. They offer a 14:1 student-teach ratio and a highly diverse student body. They offer flexible online and on-campus MSN programs.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $620
  • Degrees: 8
  • Online: 4
  • NCLEX: 100.00%

14. Frontier Nursing University

Offering both full-time and part-time study options as well as online coursework, Frontier provides flexibility to incoming MSN students. They require a five-day clinical intensive on-campus in Kentucky. For MSN graduates of their programs, they offer a seamless companion DNP with just an additional 19 credit and 360 clinical hours.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $580
  • Degrees: 4
  • Online: 4
  • NCLEX: n/a

15. George Mason University *

GMU offers blended coursework for their MSN programs – a hybrid of online and on-campus work, all delivered by notable faculty. MAP clinics allow students to complete clinical hours working with underserved, high-risk populations while gaining vital hands-on experience.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $489
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: 95%

15. The University of Louisville *

Situated on the UL Health Sciences Center allows nursing students to participate in an internationally recognized, multi-disciplinary health science research community, providing invaluable hands-on access to the leading edge of nursing practice. Their MSN program is primarily focused on creating healthcare educators.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $478
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: 91%

17. University of Colorado *

The UC Nursing school offers a wide array of MSN tracks for incoming nurses at a reasonable tuition rate. They also participate in the WICHE programoffing in-state tuition to students from 15 western states. Their vision is simple but powerful, “Shape the future of health.”

  • Tuition Per Credit: $655
  • Degrees: 9
  • Online: 3
  • NCLEX92.77%

17. University of Cincinnati *

UC Nursing is committed to expanding the diversity amidst their graduate nursing students. One method is through Leadership 2.0, in which they utilize tailored programs, financial support, and community partnerships to increase underrepresented students into its programs. They have been ranked amongst the best online MSNs by US News and World Report.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $640
  • Degrees: 6
  • Online: 5
  • NCLEX: 85%

19. Nova Southeastern University

Nova prepares MSN students for the ever-changing world of advanced nursing care with experienced faculty that take a personalized approach with their students and state-of-the-art simulation labs and educational technology. Flexible programs available at multiple campuses and online enhance accessibility. This has helped elevate NSU to the Best Online Grad Nursing Programs from U.S. News & World Report in 2018.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $685
  • Degrees: 6
  • Online: 6
  • NCLEX: 100.00%

20. Oregon Health and Science University *

OHSU achieved high rankings in the U.S. News & World multiple nursing programs and has been educating nurses for over a hundred years. They remain competitive as a research school with lots of opportunity for nurses looking to get hands-on experience at the forefront of nursing care.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $613
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX96.88%

20. Saint Joseph’s College of Maine *

Saint Joseph’s offers online tracks that begin four times per year, allowing students to begin when it is convenient. With flexible full or part-time schedules available and no required on-campus residency, Saint Joseph’s is a good choice for working RNs. They also have an accelerated dual degree option with an MHA or MBA.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $624
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 3
  • NCLEX100% 

22. Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s two MSN programs are tailored to support working nurses with an accelerated format with a part-time schedule that meets on the same day and time each week for the duration of the program. They focus on creating a collaborative learning environment with small classes, cohorts, and mentorship paired with opportunities to get hands-on experience in the community and abroad.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $590
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: 94.5%

23. Ohio State University

OSU offers two options to enter their MSN program – the traditional MSN is for those with a background in nursing while the graduate entry option is for those with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Their traditional program ranked on the Best Online Grad Nursing Programs from U.S. News and offers a plethora of specialty options, some on-campus, some hybrid, and some available online only.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $995
  • Degrees: 11
  • Online: 11
  • NCLEX95.24%

24. St. Xavier University

St. Xavier’s earned the #1 spot for best online MSN program by US News for the last two years in a row and they’ve been recognized by the NLN as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education three times. They offer three flexible, online MSN programs and competitive tuition rates.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $624
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 3
  • NCLEX82%

25. University of Virginia

UV Nursing offers a highly diverse student body working collaboratively on a wide array of critical healthcare research. Their Clinical Nurse Leader MSN ranked #3 with US News among other awards. Their facilities have recently been renovated to provide state-of-the-art learning environments.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $826
  • Degrees: 10
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX100%

26. Michigan State University *

The recently constructed Bott Building for Nursing Education on the MSU campus provides a state-of-the-art facility that combines nursing instruction with healthcare research in a collaborative environment. Students can focus on one of three MSN programs here and have access to flexible, hybrid and online programs that allow them to balance life and continued education.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $756
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 1
  • NCLEX: 97%

26. University of Maryland – Baltimore *

UMB offers programs for Clinical Nurse Leader, Community/Public Health Nursing, Health Services Leadership, Nursing Informatics, and an RN to MSN online program. Recently, they were awarded a $3 million research grant by the NIH to study chronic pain. The Nursing Informatics program is ranked #1 and the Clinical Nurse Leader program is ranked #2 by US News.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $800
  • Degrees: 4
  • Online: 3
  • NCLEX: 89.08%

26. University of Massachusetts – Amherst *

UMass Amherst offers three MSN programs, primarily offered online, one of which is a direct-entry into DNP.UMass nursing students have access to a prestigious academy with notable faculty operating in a caring and collaborative environment.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $761
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX: 83%

29. University of Washington

A notable center of healthcare research, the University of Washington boasts an impressive 66 research grant awards, 91 active research projects, and nearly 13 million in grand dollars between 2014-2015. They offer a variety of MSN programs, the course of study determined through collaborative, individualized plan developed between the student and their advisor.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $847
  • Degrees: 10
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX91.72% 

30. Arizona State University

Rated #1 in the US for Innovation by US News, ASU offers two fully online programs and the rest are completed in a hybrid online and on-campus format. Several of their programs are available both full or part-time. The campus offers three simulations suites focused on Adult Health, Complex Care, Pediatrics, and Labor & Delivery for hands-on experience with simulated patients.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $882
  • Degrees: 8
  • Online: 3
  • NCLEX92.83%

31. Albany State University *

Albany offers accelerated two online MSN programs in a program that blends practical, hands-on experience with a solid liberal arts education. They recently merged with Darton College to create a more robust healthcare education institution.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $846
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX: 77.93%

31. Wayne State University *

WSU was one among 28 nationwide nursing programs to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholars Award in 2017. They are also top ranked for both their MSN and DNP programs and the #2 highest rated Michigan grad school by US News.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $897
  • Degrees: 6
  • Online: 6
  • NCLEX84.57%

33. University of California – LA

UCLA Nursing offers three distinct health research centers and is ranked #9 in NIH research funding for nursing schools. They have a highly diverse student body, something the school intentionally cultivates with an understanding that improved diversity ultimately improves healthcare. They have two primary MSN options with 5 sub-focuses so students may tailor their program to their professional interests.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $791
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: 93.44%

34. Duke University *

All of Duke’s 8 clinical and 3 non-clinical MSN programs are offered as distance or online programs with some on-campus activities required during the course of the program for 2-5 day intensives to experience simulations and hands-on activities. Duke offers students a highly diverse community focused on leading-edge healthcare research and an engaged alumni to assist with post-graduation networking.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1769
  • Degrees: 11
  • Online: 11
  • NCLEX99.11% 

34. University of Arizona *

With an available RN to MSN program, nurses with an ADN can bypass the BSN entirely in an accelerated, online program at the University of Arizona. Others may find the online MSN in Clinical Systems Leadership more attractive, a program among the top 50 of best nursing master’s degree programs per US News.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $800
  • Degrees: 1
  • Online: 1
  • NCLEX: 92.16%

36. George Washington University *

GWU offers primarily online MSN tracks that use some on-campus requirements to provide face-to-face training and hands-on experience. Ranked #5 online MSN program nationwide by US News & World Report, in part because of the collection of nationally recognized faculty delivering top-notch education by leveraging the best of what technology has to offer nursing education.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1340
  • Degrees: 7
  • Online: 7
  • NCLEX: 91.5%

36. Bethel University *

Bethel offers an affordable, primarily online MSN in Nurse-Midwifery. Students in this program will have some on-campus intensives at the Anderson Center facility. The program is available in a rigorous 2- or 3-year program. Bethel’s program is rooted in Christian ethos and covers the full scope of women’s health from birth to menopause.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $804
  • Degrees: 1
  • Online: 1
  • Certification: 100%

38. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins is a nationally recognized school known for academic excellence. This is reflected with their ranking as the #1 graduate nursing school in the country per US News & World Report’s 2019 rankings, and their MSN programs are ranked in the top 10 nationally. They have four distinct research centers and have been awarded the most research grants for nursing schools in the latest budget round. Students wanting the best education at the frontier of healthcare research will find it here.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1639
  • Degrees: 10
  • Online: 6
  • NCLEX94.22%

39. Rutgers University

Rutgers is listed in the top 20 MSN and DNP programs nationwide in 2019 from US News & World Report. They have a commitment to creating diversity in healthcare and minority students currently make up 62% of their graduate population. Students have access to over 200 affiliated clinical sites to complete practicum hours.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $872
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX83.33%

40. Washington State University

Washington State University was the first land-grant institution of higher learning, established in 1890. The university contributes over $300 million each year towards research across its many colleges with over 200 programs. Getting an MSN degree from WSU is entirely possible since they offer an RN-MSN and an MSN with a concentration in Nurse Leadership and Nurse Education.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $890
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX: 88.17%

41. Gonzaga University

The US News and World report ranked Gonzaga University in the number four slot for western universities. The college was built by Jesuit settlers to Washington in 1887. Since then, the school has gone from just over 200 students and a single college to having numerous programs and thousands of students enrolled.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1020
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 3
  • NCLEX: 93.51%

42. University of Pittsburgh *

The graduate programs at the UP School of Nursing were ranked in the top ten across the country by the US News & World report, so you can expect to receive a quality education with an option to complete online. The lauded university enrolls nearly 10,000 graduate students yet maintains a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1116
  • Degrees: 4
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX: n/a

42. University of Rochester *

Located a scant few miles from the Canadian border, the University of Rochester is a small school with a big drive for achievement. A 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio delivers what the US News and World Report ranked at 51st amongst US colleges and 153rd across the world.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1510
  • Degrees: 9
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: n/a

44. Rush University *

Rush University is a private secondary education center located in Chicago, Illinois. The school is relatively new and small – it was founded in 1972 and serves just 854 graduate students, yet they’ve managed to achieve four #1 programs on the 2019 US News & World Report best graduate schools survey.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $995
  • Degrees: 2
  • Online: 1
  • NCLEX: n/a

44. Vanderbilt University *

With recent redesigns to its Nursing Informatics and Nursing and Health Care Leadership programs, the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University will launch any nurse’s career into their desired job focus. 96.5% of the MSN/PMC program graduates received employment upon leaving the school.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1556
  • Degrees: 14
  • Online: 12
  • NCLEX: n/a

46. Medical University of South Carolina

The Medical University of South Carolina has an astounding student-to-faculty ratio of 2.4:1, practically guaranteeing you will have ample one-on-one time with instructors when you need it. Despite the small number of students, the school contributes over $250 million to research and operates a 700-bed medical center with a children’s hospital, trauma center, and more.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1118
  • Degrees: 4
  • Online: 1
  • NCLEX93.19% 

47. Emory University

The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing is where Emory University students go to learn how to provide care for patients, whether that service happens in an assisted living facility, the emergency room, or in the research lab. The school earned a 4th place ranking amongst graduate schools from the US News & World Report in 2018.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1,906
  • Degrees: 9
  • Online: 2
  • NCLEX: 87.93%

48. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

UNC Chapel Hill makes it easy for nurses to progress to an MSN with both an RN-to-MSN and BSN-to-MSN program. The advanced practice areas include pediatric nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, health care systems, and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1917
  • Degrees: 10
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX96%

49. Columbia University *

As an Ivy League school established in 1754, the long history of producing successful graduates across numerous programs has allowed Columbia University to become one of the most selective institutions in the country. Instructors are typically active nurses who can bring real-world experiences and current cases to students.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $1538
  • Degrees: 3
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: 77.2%

49. New York University *

Within the heart of the Big Apple, NYU is dedicated to helping students “to persevere and to excel.” Nursing students will attend the Rory Meyers College of Nursing where they will join a diverse student body that draws people and experiences from around the world.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $2,263
  • Degrees: 9
  • Online: 0
  • NCLEX: 80.4%
Note: An * indicates a tie with the other school sharing the ranking number.

Ranking Process

We strive for accurate representation and utilize the information provided by the schools to determine their rank. To qualify for the list, schools needed to achieve an NCLEX pass rate (based on the most recently reported year by the appropriate state agency) of at least 75% and be accredited by ACEN or CCNE.

Ranks were determined by an even split of graduate programs, tuition rates, and online programs offered. All tuition rates are estimated based on the 2018 in-state rates for graduate-level courses per credit. Where not immediately available on a per-credit basis, we assumed a full-time semester is 12 credits. All schools on this list offer a quality education with an array of experiences sure to meet the needs of the MSN hopeful. See our methodology page for more information.

When you are ready, contact the school of your choice to begin. We welcome input, corrects, and additions from listed schools but do not allow schools to pay for higher rank. All sponsoring schools are separate and clearly marked.

Contact us here if you would like to make a change to your school or if you would like to be added to our list!

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