Online nurse practitioner programs are hybrid programs that offer a registered nurse the chance to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) as a nurse practitioner (NP). While there are many factors to consider when choosing one, the main factor for many of us is, “How much does it cost?”
If you’re looking to become an NP while spending as little money as possible, we’ve rounded up the cheapest online nurse practitioner programs for 2023.
|Salary||$120,680 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics|
|Program length||2-3 years|
|Requirements||A minimum of two years of nursing experience
NP programs can vary widely in cost, ranging from around $30K for the whole program to over $100K, so you’ll want to choose something you can actually afford.
According to the BLS, NPs make an average annual salary of $120,680, so while you will make a comfortable living, if the cost of your education is also over $100K, it could take quite some time before you are able to pay down your loans, especially if you have other financial obligations (and really, who doesn’t?)
Here are some of the most affordable online Nurse Practitioner programs for 2023-2024 ranked by price, as well as instructor quality, student success, engagement, and student opinions.
1. Southeastern Louisiana University
Cost per credit hour: $286.03
Southeastern Louisiana University offers Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner tracks. It’s important to know that all clinical hours must be completed in Louisiana.
2. The University of Alabama
Cost per credit hour: $440
There are currently three tracks offered including 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 and two on-campus sessions that have to be completed over the course of the study.
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. Briar Cliff University
Cost per credit hour: $538
Three tracks are offered at Briar Cliff University including Family Nurse Practitioner, an Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric Mental Health Care Practitioner.
4. The University of Mississippi
Cost per credit hour: $484.88
The University of Mississippi’s School of Nursing is a nationally ranked program and offers flexible Nurse Practitioner programs in both online and hybrid formats.
It also has a very impressive number of NP programs including: Acute Care Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Acute/Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
5. Stony Brook University
Cost per credit hour: $471
Programs at Stony Brook allow for students to graduate with either an MSN or DNP degree which are offered through online distance education with on-site requirements.
Available programs include Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Family Health, Women’s Health, Neonatal Health, Pediatric Primary Care, Pediatric Acute Care, and Psychiatric Mental Health.
6. The University of Texas at Arlington
Cost per credit hour: $654
Programs at the University of Texas at Arlington are some of the most popular among nursing students.
Currently, there are five different specialty area options, including Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.
7. Mercer University
Cost per credit hour: $1,159 per credit
The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) track at Mercer University requires students to complete 48-course hours and 660 clinical hours.
8. The University of West Florida
Cost per credit hour: $500
Started in 1963, the program takes 27 months to complete with 600 required clinical hours. FNP students have to attend an on-campus summer immersion orientation prior to starting their clinicals. The University of West Florida FNP graduates had an overall 100% pass rate and a 95% pass rate on their first attempt at the 2021 FNP AANP Certification Exam.
9. Cedarville University
Cost per credit hour: $680
Cedarville boasts one of the best online FNP programs in Ohio. Students also have the opportunity to earn a Nursing Education Certificate with their FNP degree. Like similar online programs, students have to attend several on-campus learning experiences but with a low cost per credit hour – this program is worth it.
10. Bradley University
Cost per credit hour: $990
This program is 100% online from Bradley University and allows students to earn an FNP degree in as little as 26 months. There are currently four NP programs for students to earn an MSN and four options for students to earn a DNP degree.
So if you’ve been out of school for a while, you might be wondering: what exactly should you expect out of an online NP program? Well, much like your original nursing school degree, you’ll get a mixture of class time, coursework, and hands-on clinical learning.
The main difference, of course, is that, because your program is online, all of your class time and instruction time will be online as well. Here’s how the process of an online nursing school program will go:
The first step in going to NP school online will be submitting your application. Depending on the school you choose, the application process can be a bit intense, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for what you’ll need before you apply. If you’re applying at the same school you attended for undergraduate, the process can be a little easier, since they’ll already have access to your transcripts. If not, you’ll need a bit more additional paperwork. Most schools will require the following as part of the application process:
Complete undergraduate transcripts for any school you attended
Copy of your nursing license
Resume (most schools will require you to have at least one 1 year of experience as a nurse, although there may be exceptions for this)
Letter of intent
3 professional references
Copy of your driver’s license
Most MSN-NP programs don’t require the GRE, but if it’s required, you’ll also have to submit those scores. In addition to your application, you’ll want to complete a FAFSA for any financial aid you’ll be eligible for or loans you’ll need to take out.
There may also be additional program-specific information or requirements; for instance, some schools may require an interview or proof you’ve taken certain undergraduate classes, like statistics within the last 7 years, to be eligible.
Some schools may kick off your online NP program with what’s called a “welcome weekend,” in which they bring online students to gather in person for an introduction to the program, pass out required materials, and provide an orientation. If the program does require this, it is usually mandatory so consider this when applying to an NP program.
This is not a requisite and is only school-specific, but be sure to check if your school requires this before enrolling. Some schools may also have similar in-person events, called “immersion weeks” throughout the program so, again, check what in-person requirements there are with your course of choice.
As we mentioned, all of your coursework with an online NP program will be online. That will include:
- Virtual classes
- Virtual educational information (slides, presentations, etc.)
- Discussion boards
- Submission of your own work, including research papers, essays, etc.
If you’re attending a program full-time, you can expect anywhere from 2-4 classes per semester, and the amount of time you will need to dedicate to studying and homework could be anywhere from 12-24 hours per week. You will also need to factor in clinical hours which will vary based on the specific course.
Everyone is different, but you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time, especially in the beginning and/or it’s been a while since you’ve been in school.
Online nurse practitioner programs are more popular than ever because they allow for more flexibility in class schedules and are ideal for working students and students with other responsibilities including families and children.
However, despite the fact that they are “online,” any nurse practitioner program you choose will have some in-person components. Didactic coursework can be done online but clinicals MUST be completed in person.
Other programs may host additional in-person requirements, such as an “immersion weekend” where skills are taught, and still, others may have other onsite requirements, so be sure to check all of the course requirements carefully before choosing.
The clinical portion of your NP program is crucial to your success as an NP. Similar to how a BSN program is structured, you’ll start your NP program with 1-2 semesters of coursework only, then move into the clinical portion. The clinical portion usually consists of around 500 clinical hours that involve you shadowing and working side-by-side with a preceptor as you learn and practice your clinical skills.
Every program will have specific requirements for the clinical hours and will structure them differently. Some online NP programs set up their own clinicals, so you’ll be required to go through the school and work with a healthcare facility and NP they have partnered with, while others let you set up your own. If you have a provider in mind that you’d like to be your preceptor, be sure to speak to the school ahead of time to ensure that choosing your own preceptor is allowed.
Finally, in order to become an official NP, you’ll need to pass your national certifying exam.
The most common certifying organizations are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
If you’ve chosen the pediatric NP route, your exam might be through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). However, no matter which route you choose, even once you pass your exam, you’ll need to renew your NP periodically too, just like any healthcare professional.