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Top 5 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. 

5 Fast & Cheap Online MSN Programs 

To help guide your decision, here are the top 5 accredited online MSN programs that can get you your degree as quickly and affordably as possible.

The MSN programs selected vary in on-campus requirements and degree tracks. Again, check with the school prior to 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: $298.55 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: $10,747.80 (for 36 credits)
  • Contact Information: 785-628-4256

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: Collegiate Nursing Education 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

    • Contact Information: 205-348-6639 or 800-313-3591

  • The University of Alabama offers four different online 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)

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: Approximately $1469 per credit hour for out-of-state residents
  • 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): approx. $34,020
    • Nurse Practitioner (47 credits): approx. $44,415
    • MSN-MBA (63 credits): approx. $59,535
  • Contact Information: 903-566-7457

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

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 ear 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, American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Western Institute of Nursing member
  • Length of program: 13 to 24 months + one 16-week capstone
  • Total approximate tuition cost: $21,032 to $28,828
  • Contact Information: 520-621-0898 or heidim@arizona.edu

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), completable in as few as 13 months

  • RN-MSN (for students with an ADN), completable in as few as 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.

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 be difficult to wade through the many different options that are available. 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.

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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