By Iris Stone
Welcome to HMDG’s ranking of the top online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership. We hope the resources found within this article help you as you research your options for furthering your nursing career.
Working as a nurse is a demanding – but rewarding – job. However, people often don’t realize that clinical nursing (working with patients) is just one part of an extremely large field. Nurses are also required as consultants, researchers, educators, advanced practitioners, and, of course, administrators.
In fact, according to Nurse Journal, nursing administration is one of the five highest paying MSN jobs! MSN salary data taken from Indeed.com indicates that nurse administrators can expect to earn a salary of up to $200,000 a year. Not only that, but jobs in nursing leadership are expected to grow by 26% by 2020. But while many nurses would probably like to advance their careers, they often need to continue working full-time while studying. The solution? Earn an MSN nursing administration degree online!
Finding the 20 Best Online MSN Programs in Nursing Leadership
How did we determine the top MSN degrees for nurse administrators? First and foremost, we only considered colleges with CCNE-accredited nursing programs. CCNE, which stands for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, uses strict standards (which address the quality of programs’ curriculum, teaching-learning practices, achievement outcomes, institutional resources, and more) to award accreditation only to those dedicated nursing programs that clearly demonstrate “effective educational practices.”
We also used College Navigator to confirm an overall list of colleges that have active MSN Nurse Administration programs (by “active” we mean actually awarding degrees to students each year). From there, we personally examined each school’s program, using four points to determine its effective value:
- Affordability of Education, as determined by the approximate (average of in-state and out-of-state) annual graduate tuition rates.
- Emphasis on Leadership, as determined by the percentage of coursework in the curriculum that covers administrative and managerial topics.
- Appeal to Students, as determined by the number of students who earned their degree online from that program last year.
- Requirement for Experiential Learning, as determined by the number of practicum hours required for graduation.
Together, categories two and four carried 70% of the weight for this ranking, while categories one and three had less impact and were each weighted as 15% of the total. Using a grading scale that awards points based on the condition that the top school earns the maximum score of 100, we ranked each of the eligible programs in order. We then cut the ranking off at 50 points to bring you only the very best – the 20 online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership that stand out above the rest.
20. Western Governors University
Online Master of Science Nursing Leadership and Management
For a quality education at a terrific cost, you’ll find it hard to beat Western Governors University. Because the school specializes in online education for working adults, it provides flexible programs for every schedule – and that includes their accredited online nursing administration master’s degree, which also happens to be one of the most affordable on this list! The program takes an average of two years to complete, although ambitious students with more time available can earn their degree in a single year. Included in the curriculum is a required 40-hour practicum and two “field experience” courses, so be sure to plan accordingly if you hope to graduate on an accelerated timeline.
Average Tuition: $6,790/yr
19. Saint Xavier University
Online MSN in Executive Leadership
One of just 40 schools in the US that the National League for Nursing has designated as a “Center of Excellence in Nursing Education,” it’s no surprise that SXU houses one of the best online MSN programs in nursing leadership. Thanks in part to the school’s Catholic background, this MSN program also has a uniquely focused curriculum; courses place a special emphasis on how to provide care to underserved communities and address healthcare disparity issues from a system-wide perspective. As another benefit, you’ll graduate with the training you need to sit for either the Nurse Executive Board or Advanced Board Certification Exam (NE-BC and NEA-BC, respectively).
Average Tuition: $14,800/yr
18. American International College
Online Master of Science (MSN): Nursing Administrator Concentration
Because AIC’s MSN program offers administrative coursework primarily through a concentration option, its curriculum maintains a more patient-centric approach than some of the other top online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership on this list. In fact, this degree program shares the majority of its courses with the general MSN degree, meaning you’ll graduate with a strong foundation in the basics of advanced nursing practice. Coursework within the Nursing Administrator concentration covers topics like core measures and management and also requires two mentored practicums, which culminate in reflective presentations about the experiences.
Average Tuition: $16,322/yr
17. Mercy College
Online MS in Nursing/Nursing Administration
Both full- and part-time students can earn an accredited master’s degree in nursing leadership and management online through Mercy College. The program, which typically takes about two years to complete, offers start dates in both fall and spring and provides designated advisors to help students begin planning their course of study as soon as they’re admitted. Mercy also maintains a partnership with many local hospitals, nursing associations, and unions in the area to provide generous discounts (up to 15% off tuition rates) to individuals employed by or affiliated with those organizations.
Average Tuition: $15,514/yr
16. Seton Hall University
Online MSN – Health Systems Administration with Case Management
Seton Hall puts a unique spin on its MSN in Health Systems Administration by including a strong case management component. Practically speaking, that means this top MSN nursing administration degree online incorporates advanced coursework in hot-button issues such as reimbursement systems, evidence-based practice, and legal/risk management. The program also requires two separate clinical internships (one in managed care and reimbursement and the other in management), giving you real-world experience that can help inform the career path you ultimately choose. And because Seton Hall partners with some of New Jersey’s most prominent hospitals and healthcare agencies, you’ll have the chance to forge valuable connections during your internship.
Average Tuition: $21,066/yr
15. The University of Texas at Arlington
Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Administration
Students who require flexibility in their studies (whether due to an atypical schedule or a desire to earn their degree quickly) should give UT – Arlington a look. The school’s affordable online nursing administration master’s degree eschews the traditional semester-based schedule in favor of a more adaptable instructional format. Courses, which adhere to a strict sequence, last anywhere from five to 10 weeks and are conveniently grouped into four “blocks,” making it easy to keep track of your progress. You also have the option to take electives at any time, and with just 12 additional credits of coursework you can earn an Advanced Nursing Educator Certificate.
Average Tuition: $12,394/yr
14. The University of Texas Medical Branch
Online MSN Executive Nurse Leader
The University of Texas Medical Branch boasts an impressive array of credentials and recognitions; institutions like U.S. News and World Report rate its top online MSN programs in nursing leadership as one of the best in the country. The school also earns high marks as a military-friendly institution, and veterans and their families will find strong support and benefits through UTMB’s Veterans Resource Group. But regardless of background, all students will benefit from this program’s strong focus on experiential learning: the MSN requires three separate practicums, ensuring that you’ll graduate with plenty of relevant, real-world experience.
Average Tuition: $13,442/yr
13. Queens University of Charlotte
Online MSN: Nurse Administrator Track
If cost is a deciding factor in your decision about where to earn an accredited master’s degree in nursing leadership and management online, note that Queens University of Charlotte offers extremely competitive tuition rates. But cost doesn’t come at the expensive of quality; its general MSN program covers all the same topics as more expensive schools, from the fundamentals of master’s-level nursing to system-level issues and managerial techniques in the nurse administrator track. Queens also utilizes a schedule that allows you to take a single course at a time, giving you an opportunity to truly master one topic before moving on to another.
Average Tuition: $8,147/yr
12. Allen College
Online Leadership in Health Care Delivery-Administration (MSN)
If you’ve been unsure about earning an accredited MSN nursing administration degree online because you learn best with hands-on work, Allen College may have an ideal solution for you. At 300 required hours, its Leadership in Health Care Delivery – Administration MSN program has one of the largest clinical requirements on this list. While this might seem overly demanding to some, it should come as welcome news to students eager to engage in experiential learning. If this sounds like you, you’ll also appreciate that faculty will work with you to tailor your practicum work so that it aligns with your specific career goals.
Average Tuition: $16,800/yr
11. Wheeling Jesuit University
Online Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Administration
One of just 24 Jesuit-affiliated institutions nationwide, WJU strives to embody the Jesuit tradition of intellectual rigor and service in all its programs. As such, the MSN program’s stated mission goes beyond the goals of other top online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership, aiming to graduate nurses who will not only be leaders in their communities, but will also “enhance the quality of healthcare for the betterment of mankind and the overall healthcare system.” WJU prepares you for this lofty work through a practicum (which you can complete in your home community) plus 42 credits of coursework that fall in three categories: Core Nursing Basics, Nursing Administration, and Business.
Average Tuition: $12,230/yr
10. California University of Pennsylvania
Online MSN: Nursing Administration and Leadership
Students in search of an online experience that replicates the camaraderie of an on-campus program will quickly see the benefits of attending Cal U. The school limits the number of students who enroll in its accredited online nursing administration master’s degree to 35 per start date and continues to assign everyone in that group to the same classes for the duration of their 20-month stint in the program. Cal U goes even further in creating a classroom-like atmosphere by encouraging online learners to join “class lounges,” or discussion forums where they can interact with faculty members and classmates alike.
Average Tuition: $13,822/yr
9. The University of Texas at El Paso
Online MS in Nurse Systems Management
A full-time student taking two courses per semester can earn their top master’s degree in nursing leadership and management online from the University of Texas at El Paso in just two years. But before you zoom past the finish line, you’ll cap off your coursework with a nursing management residency, which you can design (along with input from a staff advisor) to suit your individual career goals. However, what really distinguishes UTEP from other colleges is its affordability: graduate tuition averages less than $9,000 per year, making it an incredible value and one of the least expensive options not just on this list, but in the entire country.
Average Tuition: $8,971/yr
8. Lenoir-Rhyne University
Online Master of Science Program in Nursing – Nursing Administration
Lenoir-Rhyne’s affordable online MSN programs in nursing leadership could be a great fit for any student, but especially for students of faith. Christian ethics inform all aspects of this 33-hour degree program, which highlights global responsibility and accountability to the community. The curriculum will also likely appeal to adults who learn best by synthesizing information, as LRU requires all program members to complete either a three-credit project or thesis paper before graduating. This requirement provides a great way to reflect on all the theoretical knowledge and practical skills (an advanced practicum is also required) you’ve gained before heading out into the job market.
Average Tuition: $9,360/yr
7. Sacred Heart University
Online MS in Nursing: Nursing Management & Executive Leadership
Sacred Heart’s admirable dedication to – and genuine respect for – the diversity of its MSN students makes it one of the best online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership in the country. For one, the program’s broad-based curriculum prepares graduates for work in a variety of different settings. And SHU’s comprehensive website includes a wealth of resources beyond the academic, from advice on time management to tips on career advancement. As if that weren’t enough, the program also maintains flexible admission requirements to ensure students from all backgrounds have access to this top program. You don’t even need an undergraduate degree in nursing to apply!
Average Tuition: $23,125/yr
6. Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi
Online Leadership in Nursing Systems MSN
If you have any MSN-related graduate coursework under your belt, Texas A&M can help you earn an accredited MSN nursing administration degree online in an accelerated time frame. This opportunity is due to the university’s relatively generous transfer policy, which lets you apply up to 12 graduate hours from another school toward your degree. And even without previous coursework under your belt, there is still plenty to take advantage of at TAMU – including the option to earn a minor in Nursing Education alongside your Leadership in Nursing Systems major. This option requires just 13 credits of additional study and could be a great way to distinguish your resume.
Average Tuition: $9,674/yr
5. Indiana Wesleyan University
Online MS Nursing – Nursing Administration
Thanks to a few specific perks, Indiana Wesleyan’s MSN program emerges as one of the most affordable and convenient options on this top online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership ranking. For one, stated tuition rates include the costs of all books and materials, which the school conveniently delivers straight to your door each semester. What’s more, frustration-free registration frees you from the need to continually sign up for classes. Instead, you log in just once (after being admitted) and then never think about it again! As a final bonus, IWU grants MSN students up to four years to finish the program – a much-needed accommodation for working adults with busy schedules.
Average Tuition: $9,700/yr
4. Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville
Online Nursing – Health Care and Nursing Administration (MS)
If you’re an experiential learner who craves real-world work, you’ll appreciate SIUE’s approach to the MSN. Unlike many comparable programs, which don’t require a practicum until the last semester of coursework, SIUE inserts an organizational theory and behavior practicum at the end of your first year. And that’s just one of three practicums that SIUE requires of its MSN students, each of which focus on particular aspects of nursing administration, like advanced leadership and finance. This hands-on approach helps SIUE shine as one of the best options for earning an accredited MSN nursing administration degree online while still engaging in plenty of hands-on practice.
Average Tuition: $11,383/yr
3. University of Mary
Online MSN Nursing Leadership and Management
The University of Mary offers one of the best online MSN programs in nursing leadership for students who want their work to matter and to serve the greater good. That’s because this Benedictine Catholic school genuinely values and emphasizes service. In fact, the MSN program bills its required practicum as a service project, through which students first identify a real-world clinical problem and then work collaboratively to devise and implement solutions. As a result, you’ll graduate with both hands-on experience and a theoretical framework for becoming a truly ethical leader in your health care community.
Average Tuition: $12,820/yr
2. Winona State University
Online Master’s Nursing and Organizational Leadership Program
The affordable online nursing administration master’s degree at Winona State takes a little longer than most (about three years) to complete, thanks in part to a robust 420-hour practicum requirement. While arduous, this component of the program will leave you immensely prepared for the post-graduation job hunt. And even if you already work full time, WSU can provide a part-time schedule that won’t conflict with your job responsibilities. Another benefit? This MSN in Nursing and Organizational Leadership is one of the most affordable options on this list, with a graduate tuition rate that averages around $9,200 per year.
Average Tuition: $9,140/yr
1. Texas Woman’s University
Online MS in Nursing Health Systems Management
As the only all-female school on this list, Texas Woman’s University doesn’t need to make any extra effort to stand out from competitors. And yet, TWU boasts plenty of other distinctive features; for example, it produces more health care professionals than any other university in the state! Although this quality alone makes it one of the best places to earn an accredited master’s degree in nursing leadership and management online, TWU goes even further to distinguish its program by devising a curriculum with a strong focus on the fiscal aspects of nursing management. You can even pair your master’s degree with a minor in business to shore up your fiscal acumen.
Average Tuition: $10,177/yr
If you’ve found this ranking of the top online master’s degrees in nursing administration and leadership helpful, we think you might also like: Top 20 Programs in Clinical Nurse Leadership and Nursing Administration 2016