A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate-level degree designed for nurses who hope to go into advanced practice and take their nursing career to the next level. The majority of MSN programs take two to three years to complete, and their purpose is to teach students how to lead and educate other nurses. There are many advanced practice nursing careers that require an MSN: nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, nurse instructors and nurse managers all fall under this category.

Since there are a wide variety of MSN programs available at schools across the country, it is important for students to select the ideal program for their interests and career goals. On this page, we’ll review the basic qualities of master’s-level nursing degree programs; we’ll also rank the best schools in the country for earning this degree.

Getting Started With Master's Programs in Nursing

Prospective students who would like to earn a nursing master’s degree must hold a bachelor of science in nursing, an associate in nursing, or a diploma in nursing with a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts in another field of study.

Best Schools Offering Master's Programs in Nursing

Factors such as tuition costs, acceptance rate, graduation rate and availability of distance education can all contribute to a student’s success at any given school. As such, a ranking that takes these relevant factors into consideration can help prospective students find a school that fits their education- and career-centric needs.

Because of this, we have created this list of the best schools for a master’s in nursing through the use of data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Information about our ranking methodology can be found at the bottom of this page.

01
Emory University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
14
Graduate tuition
$39,800
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
N/A
02
University of Iowa
Number of Master nursing programs offered
10
Graduate tuition
$8,856
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
1%
03
New York University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
13
Graduate tuition
$39,936
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
N/A
04
Vanderbilt University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
13
Graduate tuition
$44,496
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
1%
05
Stony Brook University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
9
Graduate tuition
$10,870
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
8%
06
University of Pennsylvania
Number of Master nursing programs offered
13
Graduate tuition
$32,286
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
N/A
07
Case Western Reserve University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
14
Graduate tuition
$42,576
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
N/A
08
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
Number of Master nursing programs offered
9
Graduate tuition
$12,790
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
5%
09
Union University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
7
Graduate tuition
$6,870
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
N/A
10
Winona State University
Number of Master nursing programs offered
6
Graduate tuition
$6,720
Number of Master nursing programs offered through distance education
5%

Overview of MSN Programs

In master’s level nursing programs, students are expected not only to learn how to apply concepts of nursing science to the workplace, but also how to become critical thinkers who can lead and educate their peers. The courses in these programs are chosen to help students develop their knowledge, leadership skills and interpersonal skills so they can make a positive difference in the healthcare field. MSN students may also have the chance to focus their studies on a particular specialization, such as women’s health, pediatric care, oncology or mental health.

The following courses are examples of courses students might see in various Master of Science in Nursing programs:

  • Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning
  • Interprofessional Organizational and Systems Leadership
  • Advanced Pharmacology in Nursing
  • Essentials of Evidence-Based Practice
  • Role of the Nurse Educator

Bridge Programs

If you’ve already earned your degree and your certification to be working as a registered nurse, and you’re considering earning a master’s degree — perhaps to step up your career, or perhaps to start working in a specialty like anesthesiology — then a bridge program might be worth looking into. Bridge programs are specifically designed for working RNs, in order to help them apply their previous education into a master’s program for an accelerated learning experience. To learn more, check out our Bridge Program resource page.

Sources & Methodology
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed June 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
  2. Nurse Journal, Accessed June 2018, https://nursejournal.org/msn-degree/5-best-paying-msn-degree-nursing-jobs-and-careers/
  3. O*Net Online, Accessed June 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1171.00?redir=29-1199.03
  4. University of Minnesota, Accessed June 2018, https://www.nursing.umn.edu/degrees-programs/master-nursing
  5. Rutgers University, Accessed June 2018, http://nursing.rutgers.edu/academics/masters/index.html
  6. The Ohio State University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.osu.edu/sections/academic-programs/masters-program-overview/
  7. Duke University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.duke.edu/academics/programs/msn/master-science-nursing
  8. Ball State University, Accessed June 2018, https://www.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/nursing/academics/mastersdegrees