Best Online Master's in Nursing Education Programs

Oct 20, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Nursing Education Degree?

Registered nurses who seek greater leadership positions; opportunities to train, manage and develop nursing staff; or instructional roles in higher education may pursue an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education. With a master's in nursing education, registered nurses can follow career paths in academia, such as nursing professors or as leadership and staffing coordinators in clinical settings, such as directors of nursing.

An online post-graduate degree program affords practicing nurses the security to continue working while actively seeking their degree for greater professional opportunities. The flexibility of an online program targets the advancement of professionals already active in the field. Read on to discover some of the potential benefits of post-graduate programs in nursing.

The Best Online Masters Degree Programs in Nursing Education

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Herzing University-Madison $11680 91% 28% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits
2 Northeastern State University $5101 100% 33% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
3 Lamar University $8264 84% 34% 82% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
4 The University of Texas at Tyler $7578 83% 42% 85% Yes Yes AP Credits
5 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health $12105 97% 69% 100% No Yes AP Credits
6 The University of Texas at Arlington $10248 83% 51% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
7 Clarkson College $11658 46% 38% 78% Yes Yes AP Credits
8 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley $7128 80% 46% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits
9 University of Mary $17694 74% 60% 98% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
10 Carlow University $19036 92% 57% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
11 The University of Texas at El Paso $6744 100% 37% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
12 Baker University $11394 88% 64% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits
13 King University $19500 62% 59% 92% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
14 SUNY Polytechnic Institute $12773 69% 57% 96% No Yes AP Credits
15 Mercy College $16806 82% 44% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
16 Midway University $6390 60% 44% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
17 Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville $9176 86% 51% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
18 University of Indianapolis $38524 93% 60% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
19 Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global $11977 No Available Data (2019-2020) 38% 85% No Yes AP Credits
20 Notre Dame College $0 98% 37% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
21 Cumberland University $6600 61% 43% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit's ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Why Should I Get an Online Nursing Education Master's Degree?

According to the BLS, the labor force for registered nurses will grow faster than average at a rate of 7% from 2019 to 2029. The labor force is expected to increase at an even greater rate for nurses with advanced degrees and accreditation, such as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The BLS expects that for some positions available to post-graduate credentialed nurses like nurse practitioners, job growth will increase by 52%. Though there are multiple pathways to advanced positions in nursing, there is a strong relationship between increased education and increased salary.

As practicing healthcare workers, registered nurses typically also have uncertain hours. Earning an online master's can transition working nurses to administrative or instructive roles with more consistent, stable schedules at higher pay without leaving their preferred field.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Nursing Education?

In a general sense, earning a master's in nursing education typically takes around two years to complete, and requires somewhere between 34-39 credit hours. Most programs feature 12 to 21 credit hours of foundational coursework and 15 to 25 specialized courses. Almost all programs include practicum hours that require in-person training and mentoring. When a practicum is part of a master's program's coursework, it is often between 168 to 360 hours. Most programs also have a variety of potential transfer credits for those with applicable credit hours, which will shorten the time needed to obtain the degree.

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Nursing Education

Typical coursework for an online master's degree in nursing education focuses on leadership training, learning theories, classroom techniques, developing and administering curriculum, and nursing technology. While prospective students will have studied core nursing coursework already, master's programs will reinforce and expand this knowledge base with additional diagnostic and healthcare topics.

Specialized and elective courses may be chosen by the student according to what role they see themselves taking on in the future. Administrative courses prepare students for managing staff and making healthcare decisions in a hospital setting. Meanwhile, courses focused on pedagogy and curriculum develop teaching skills and confidence for those pursuing roles in academia.

Nursing Education Foundational Courses

Typical foundational courses for a master's in nursing education will include training in evidence-based practices in nursing, technology in teaching, leadership, patient health assessments, statistics and research as well as the theories and principles of nursing science. These courses will explore current healthcare theories surrounding training of nurses. They will also reinforce diagnostic and health assessment tools that registered nurses already have while highlighting ethical and financial framework for policy making in hospitals. Students will strengthen their current patient-oriented skills while learning how to evaluate policy and teaching techniques from the perspective of an administrator or instructor, relying on evidence from current research and statistics.

Some common courses include:

  • Statistics & Research
  • Evidence-based Practices in Nursing Education
  • Theories of Nursing Science
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Health Assessments & Policy
  • Integrating Technology

Nursing Education Specialist and Elective Courses

Elective courses in nursing education will give students the opportunity to specialize their interest according to the future roles they are pursuing. For those interested in working in clinical practices, coursework targeted toward healthcare management and nursing policy will provide the groundwork for future careers in leading nursing staff at hospitals. Students drawn toward teaching as nursing professors or even research-based positions in universities can take additional courses in pedagogy, learning styles and designing coursework.

Typical elective courses are:

  • Teaching Strategies
  • Curriculum Design, Development & Planning
  • Advanced Pharmacology & Assessment
  • Healthcare Management

Licensure and Certification in Nursing Education

Many individuals with a master's in nursing education may also obtain certification as a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE). This additional certification may be particularly desirable to prospective employers. Aspiring CNEs must have a current registered nurse's license, a master's in nursing education and pass the CNE Exam.

Aspiring CNEs who did not pursue a master's or higher specifically in nursing education can still sit for the exam if they possess a registered nurse's license, a master's in general nursing, and have two or more years of experience working in an academic position within the last five years.

Admissions Requirements for Online Nursing Education Master's Programs

Admission requirements vary. However, a typical program requires that aspiring students hold a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited university and a registered nurse's license. Some schools may require a minimum GPA while others may prefer one year experience as a registered nurse prior to admission.

Prospective students should be prepared to provide official transcripts for their bachelor's degree, their RN license, and sometimes writing samples or professional references. While most students will enter with a bachelor's degree, some schools may have programs for students with prior master's degrees in other related fields that accelerate the process of earning a master's in nursing education.

Choosing an Online Nursing Education Master's Program

For those who have decided to pursue an online master's program in nursing education, some of the most important factors may be tuition rates, accreditation of the schools and staff, graduation rates and post-graduation employment as well as one-on-one access to instructors and specializations.

While there are scholarships or grants to defray the cost of a master's degree, tuition may be one of the top concerns for prospective students. Tuition varies greatly between programs. According to U.S. News & World Report, tuition may be between $190 to $2,950 per credit. To compare tuition, students should determine the programs they are most interested in and find the cost per credit on their university pages.

In all cases, students should make certain that their program is NLNAC, ACEN or CCNE accredited. All programs should clearly display accreditation in the course overview. If students have difficulty finding the information, they should seek assistance with program administrators before enrolling.

Graduation rates can be found through ranking sites or on program overviews and give students an idea of how other students did in the program. Students should also look to see if schools have competitive employment rates after graduation as some programs may have up to a 100% employment rate in the field within one year of graduation.

Students should also consider their specialization when choosing a program. Some programs may be best suited for future nursing professors or those working in education, while others may best suit students seeking work in hospital administration. The best program will target their future career goals, whether academic or administrative.

What Can I Do with a Nursing Education Master's Degree?

A master's degree in nursing education opens many avenues for professional advancement. Those interested in teaching or roles in academia may choose to become nursing educators and work to train fellow nurses in university or clinical settings. A nursing education degree is also one step in a common pathway toward research positions, often accompanied by a doctorate in nursing.

For nurses who intend to continue practicing in the field, a master's degree in nursing education allows them to pursue roles in hospital management, such as directors of nursing. With increased specialization, some nurses may also choose to become nurse family practitioners. These nurses may provide primary care much in the same way as doctors or lead nursing staff at hospitals.

Job Outlook for a Master's in Nursing Education

The field of healthcare is growing at a faster than average rate for the U.S. due to increasing health care needs among the population. Most importantly, the need for specialized nurses with higher degrees as APRNs, health service managers, or nursing instructors will increase at an even greater rate than that of registered nurses in general. For the 2019-2029 period, job growth for health services managers is expected to be at 32% while APRNs will see 45% job growth, and nursing instructors will see an 18% increase. As the field of nursing grows, more instructors or administrators are needed to manage incoming students and growing staff. For these reasons, nurses with advanced degrees are projected to become very desirable to employers as the job market grows.

How to Become a Nursing Educator

Nursing educators, commonly called nurse instructors, are desperately needed to assist in the training of an influx of nursing students. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), over 80,000 prospective students were turned away in 2019 due to faculty shortage.

Nurse instructors typically teach students in clinical or academic settings. An ideal candidate will have good speaking skills, keep up to date on nursing research and learning strategies, and possess an interest in student growth. To become a clinical nurse instructor, a master's degree is needed, and some employers may also prefer candidates who are Certified Nurse Educators. To become a nurse instructor at a university, candidates usually need a doctorate degree and a nursing license, but community colleges often hire those with a master's degree in nursing education.

Wages for teachers are typically higher than practicing RNs. As of May 2019, the Bureau of Labor reported that nurse instructors at the post-secondary level earned $83,160 a year on average.

How to Become a Director of Nursing

As the health field grows, so too does the need for professionals specialized in management. Job growth is expected to continue to increase at a faster than average rate for hospital management. These managerial positions may become six figure earners. In May 2019, the BLS reported that medical managers such as directors of nursing made $115,160 on average.

Directors of nursing oversee staff, patient care, departmental budgeting and manage patient records. To become a director of nursing typically requires a post-graduate degree, such as a master's or higher in nursing, and a state nursing license. Experience working as a nurse will likely also be preferred. Credentials such as the Director of Nursing Services Certified (DNS-CT) certificate may also be desirable for the best positions.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Nursing Education

The most common undergraduate degree for nursing education is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The degree should be through an accredited NLNAC, ACEN or CCNE nursing program at a university or college. Some programs may also seek students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Though most students seeking an MSN will hold a bachelor's in nursing, some programs may offer bridge programs intended for registered nurses with associate degrees. To qualify for such bridge programs, candidates should have an associate degree in nursing, a registered nurse's license and some level of clinical experience.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Nursing Education

There are many online nursing specialty certification programs available to broaden the credentials of a nurse who holds a master's in nursing education. These programs prepare students for exams for certifications in various specializations, such as those for nurse practitioners or other APRNs. Registered RNs seeking roles as case managers may obtain nurse case management certification to make them more attractive to prospective employers.

After obtaining a master's degree, some students may also seek a Doctor of Nursing Practice. With this advanced degree, nurses can become university professors or apply to research positions or high-level administration positions. Nurses who wish to practice nursing with greater independence as nurse practitioners may also seek a DNP.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants for Online Master's in Nursing Education Programs

The first step toward finding financial aid for students interested in seeking an MSN is to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Once any federal aid has been identified, students can also consider program or school specific grants, scholarships or loan programs.

For instance, students with a military background may find that their potential program takes part in the Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program is intended to provide additional grants to help cover the cost of tuition, fees, and school supplies for veterans. Some schools, such as the University of West Florida match grant benefits to further aid.

Additionally, some schools may have work service agreements that forgive some portion of student loans with an agreement to serve as school faculty after graduation. The Nurse Faculty Loan Program through Bethel University forgives 85% of a student's loan with an agreement to work as Bethel University faculty for 5 years.

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