January 9, 2024

Top 10 Cheap, Fast, Online MSN Programs

Top Cheap Online Masters Degrees in Nursing | Nurse.org

If you’re looking to further your education or advance your career with a master’s degree in nursing (MSN), chances are, you’re probably curious if an online degree could be right for you.

Online MSN degrees have a lot of advantages for nurses today because they allow you to have the flexibility to pursue the degree while keeping up with your busy schedule and, well, life. There are even as short as 1-year online MSN programs available, so you can complete your degree as fast as possible. 

10 Fast, Affordable Online MSN Programs 

To help guide your decision, here are the top 10 accredited online MSN programs that can get you your degree as affordably as possible.

The MSN programs selected vary in on-campus requirements and degree tracks. Again, check with the school before applying to determine your state’s eligibility requirements for online completion.

>> Related: Online MSN Programs Without Clinicals

1. Fort Hays State University

  • Cost per credit hour: $319.45 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: Committee on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Application Deadline: February 1 for the summer, July 1 for the fall semester, and October 1 for the spring semester
  • Length of program: 2 years
  • Total approximate cost of the program: $11,500.20 (for 36 credits)
  • Contact Information: 785-628-4256
  • On-Campus Requirement: In-person clinical requirement

Fort Hays State University offers two MSN degrees: Nurse Administration and Nursing Education. Fort Hays works with clinical sites across the country to accommodate out-of-state students and notes that if an acceptable site can not be found in your area, a site will be made available to you on their campus. However, it’s recommended that you work with a preceptor well in advance to ensure that you can find acceptable clinical site approval before enrolling. 

Additionally, the program does not accept students from Tennessee, Utah, Alabama, or Washington based on licensing restrictions. 

2. The University of Alabama 

  • Cost per credit hour: $440 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: 1-3 years 
  • Total tuition cost:
    • MSN Nurse Administration (33 credits): $14,520
    • MSN NP (45 credits): $19,800
    • MSN Dual FNP and PMHNP (66 credits): $29,040
    • MSN concentrations: 
    • Nurse Administrator (1-2 years)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (2-3 years)
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (2-3 years), and 
    • Dual Psychiatric Mental Health and Family Nurse Practitioner (3 years)
  • Contact Information: 205-348-6639
  • On-Campus Requirement: Two on-campus sessions and in-person clinical requirement

The University of Alabama offers 4 different online MSN concentrations: Nurse Administrator, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Dual Psychiatric Mental Health and Family Nurse Practitioner. The programs are available 100% online, with clinical sites chosen by you (although they are subject to approval by the college of nursing) and two on-campus sessions that have to be completed over the course of the study. 

Although the program is designed for a BSN-prepared nurse, they do offer an RN to BSN program with a pathway to the MSN program if you meet the requirements. 

Currently, only residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia are eligible for the Nurse Practitioner concentrations.

3. University of Texas-Tyler

  • Cost per credit hour:
    • Texas Resident: $990
    • Non-Texas Resident: $1,488
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: Two years (full-time) or three years (part-time)
  • Total sample tuition cost: Varies based on program, credit hours per semester, and resident eligibility
    • Non-clinical MSN (36 credits): $35,640
    • Nurse Practitioner (47 credits): $46,530
    • MSN-MBA (63 credits): $62,370
  • Contact Information: 903-566-7457
  • On-Campus Requirement: Two on-campus sessions and in-person clinical requirement

Also boasting a low per-credit tuition cost and a low credit requirement for degree completion, the University of Texas-Tyler has several online MSN tracks:

  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing Education
  • Web-Enhanced Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP
  • Informatics, Quality, & Safety
  • RN-MSN
  • MSN-MBA

Although the NP program coursework is offered online, it is a hybrid program, so 25 clinical hours are required one to two days a semester on the Tyler campus.  Anyone enrolling in the program must have an RN license in Texas as all clinical hours are required to be completed in Texas. The other degree tracks, however, are completely done online. 

4. Briar Cliff University

  • Cost per credit hour: $538 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: CCNE 
  • Length of program: 3 years (51 to 54 credits)
  • Total cost of program: $27,438 to $29,052 
  • Contact Information: 800-662-3303 or 712-279-5200
  • On-Campus Requirement: Six-day on-campus session and in-person clinical requirement

Briar Cliff comes in at one of the cheapest online MSN-NP programs with a variety of advanced track specialties--students can choose to specialize as a Family Nurse Practitioner, an Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric Mental Health Care Practitioner. 

This program allows you to choose a clinical site near your home area for the 600 required practicum hours. However, all students must attend a six-day seminar (Three days in summer year one during Advanced Health Assessment and three days in summer year two during Advanced Skills Lab).

Additional requirements to enroll include that you must have an RN license that is valid in Iowa and you must have the ability to demonstrate with a letter from your employer that you have worked at least 2,000 hours as an RN within the last two years to be eligible to apply. 

5. University of Arizona

  • Cost per credit hour: $702
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: 13 to 24 months + one 16-week capstone
  • Tuition cost:
    • RN to MS, BSN Track: $21,032
    • RN to MS, ADN Track: $28,828
  • Contact Information: 520-621-0898 or heidim@arizona.edu
  • On-Campus Requirement: No

The University of Arizona offers one of the fastest available MSN programs, allowing you to earn an MSN in Nursing Clinical Systems Leadership completely online in as little as 13 months. The program offers two pathways:

  • RN-MS (for students with a BSN): 13 months
  • RN-MS (for students with an ADN): 24 months

The ADN track does take longer to complete and costs more money due to the increase in the number of credit hours. 

The actual coursework for a BSN-prepared nurse is eight 7-week courses, with a capstone project that will take an additional semester. However, the Nursing Clinical Systems Leadership is the only track available, so if you’re looking for an MSN-NP program, this online program won’t be right for you. 

Since this program has the advantage of being made up of 7-week-long courses, admission rotates every five months, allowing students three opportunities per year to enroll. To be eligible for admission, you must have a BSN or ADN and have passed a 3-credit, college-level statistics class within the last five years, test out, or take the class at the start of the program.

Residents of Tennessee, Washington D.C., as well as the US Territories, are not eligible.

6. Baker University 

  • Cost per credit hour: $480
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: 15 months
  • Tuition cost: $11,040
  • Contact Information: 913-270-1307 or graduate.nursing@bakerU.edu
  • On Campus Requirement: No

Baker University offers two MSN tracks for eligible students: Nursing Education and Nursing Administration. Classes start in January, June and August with the ability to finish coursework quickly with Baker’s accelerated courses.

7. Troy University 

With three possible start dates, students have plenty of options at Troy University. The MSN program prepares nurses for advanced practice roles in Healthcare Informatics, Nurse Leadership, and Family Nurse Practitioners. The Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate option, Healthcare Informatics and Nursing Leadership Certificate option, and Nurse Educator Certificate option are available for MSN-prepared nurses.

While the programs are all offered online, the faculty is based at the Troy, Montgomery, Dothan, and Phenix City campuses in Alabama.

8. Georgia College & State University 

  • Cost per credit hour: $373
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: 20-24 months depending on program
  • Tuition cost: $14,920
  • Contact Information: 478-445-1076
  • On Campus Requirement: Yes

Students enrolled in either the FNP, PMHNP, WHNP, or Nurse Educator programs are required to attend a 45-hour hands-on intensive clinical lab immersion on the Milledgeville campus. While the didactic portions of the coursework are online, students are also required to complete in-person clinicals. Unlike other programs, Georgia College requires that all clinical hours must be completed in Georgia with an approved preceptor. This may make the programs unrealistic for out-of-state students unless they are willing to relocate. 

9. Denver College of Nursing

  • Cost per credit hour: $270.30
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: 15-18 months depending on program
  • Tuition cost: $16,187
  • Contact Information: 1-800-600-6604
  • On Campus Requirement: No

The MSN program at Denver College of Nursing is 56 quarter credits and can be completed entirely online in as little as 15 months. Making this program not only one of the most affordable online MSN programs available but also the fastest. Students must have a minimum of one year of bedside nursing experience before applying to the MSN program. 

10. Liberty University

  • Cost per credit hour: 
    • Full-time: $390
    • Part-time: $455
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Length of program: 1.5 years
  • Tuition cost: 
    • Full-time: $14,040
    • Part-time: $16,380
  • Contact Information: 1-800-424-9595
  • On Campus Requirement: No

The program at Liberty University is 100% online and offers working professionals the opportunity to complete an advanced degree with flexibility and at a very affordable tuition. Courses are 8 weeks in length, and students can transfer up to 50% of the total credits for the degree from another accredited institution.

1-Year Online MSN Programs

One-year online MSN programs, often referred to as accelerated MSN programs, are fast-paced MSN programs that are great for the highly motivated nurse.

While some find one-year programs questionable because of their fast completion timelines, in reality, they are just a great and quick option for many nurses. As long as the program is fully accredited, there is no difference in program quality.

Some advantages include,

  • Fast-paced
  • Save money/cheaper
  • Ability to earn a higher salary quicker
  • Ability to get an advanced practice position quicker

In short, accelerated MSN programs are ideal for working nurses who need to balance their current careers as well as other personal obligations.

What to Look for in an Online MSN Program

Despite the advantages of an online MSN program, it can take time to wade through the many different available options. It’s important to look carefully at any program before applying because many advertised online programs either require some kind of on-campus participation or have restrictions on eligibility based on where you live.

In-Person Requirements

Even online MSN programs have in-person clinical requirements. Some of these programs require campus visits, while others require that students find preceptors in their areas. These requirements may alter your ability to attend depending on your flexibility, so it's vital to understand them before starting your MSN program.

Program Accreditation

The most important thing to consider before choosing an online MSN program is accreditation. Currently, two accrediting bodies approve nursing programs in the US: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The purpose of accreditation is to focus on the same standards and criteria across all nursing programs. This ensures that there is some level of sameness within the programs.

Acceptance Rates

The easiest MSN online programs have high acceptance rates, lower standards of entry, and ACEN or CCNE accreditation. This balance helps MSN students achieve their goals at quality institutions without too much competition. Programs with high acceptance rates create qualified individuals ready to serve as APRNs or educators and fill necessary positions in the ongoing nursing shortage.

What to Expect From an Online MSN Program

The courses required for an online MSN program will vary depending on the concentration. Concentrations vary depending on your overall interests and career goals.

Coursework

The coursework required during an online MSN program will vary depending on the concentration. However, there will be some overlap. You can expect to take courses focused on,

  • Research
  • Ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Health assessment
  • Public health
  • Pathophysiology
  • Nursing Practice

MSN Students focusing on education will take courses focused on teaching, and understanding the fundamentals of teaching. On the other hand, administrative MSN students will have to take courses in management, leadership, and finance.

The majority of online MSN programs will require an in-person clinical; however, it will depend on the specific program and concentration.

Concentrations

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
    • Family
    • Pediatric
    • Adult-Gerontology
    • Neonatal
    • Women’s Health
    • Psychiatric
    • Administration
  • Education
  • Informatics
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
    • Family
    • Pediatric
    • Adult-Gerontology
    • Neonatal
    • Women’s Health
    • Psychiatric
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Skills Required

Online MSN programs require dedication and commitment because the majority, if not all, of the program is entirely online.

Tuition

The cost of an online MSN program will also vary. Some factors include if the university is public or private, concentration, and length of commitment time. A CRNA program will typically cost significantly more than a MSN in nursing education. You can expect to spend roughly $35,000 to over $100,000 for an online MSN degree.

Online MSN Program Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary depending on the online MSN program. However, all MSN programs have similar requirements such as,

  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited university
  • Current, unrestricted nursing (RN) license
  • Professional letters of recommendation
  • Current resume or CV
  • GRE score (if applicable)
  • Statement of intent
  • Personal interview
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score

Online MSN Program FAQs

  • How much does an MSN degree cost?

    • The average cost of an MSN degree is $36,000, but some programs can cost upwards of $70,000. 
  • Can you get an MSN in one year? 

    • You can earn your MSN degree in one year with some accelerated programs. 
  • How fast can I get a master’s in nursing? 

    • Some schools offer accelerated MSN degrees that can be completed in as fast as one year.
  • Are MSN programs worth it?

    • An MSN program can be worth the cost, depending on your career goals. An MSN is necessary to advance in many leadership and educational nurse roles. You’ll also need to earn your MSN for advanced practice registered nurse certifications, such as an NP. 
  • Which is better, MSN or BSN? 

    • It depends on your goals. If you have dreams of becoming an advanced practice nurse, or a nurse administrator or educator, you’ll need an MSN.
  • Can I go from RN to MSN? 

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