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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Nurse Practitioner

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Nurse Practitioner

Value
The best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for value is Georgetown University, which offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a family nurse practitioner specialization. The annual return on investment (ROI) at the university was 8.9%, according to PayScale.com’s 2012 ROI Rankings. That percentage went up to 11.4% for students who received financial aid. In addition, Georgetown University was ranked among the nation’s 50 best value national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report, which takes into account an institution’s quality and net cost of attendance for students receiving an average amount of financial aid.

Flexibility
Kaplan University, which offers an online Master of Science in Nursing with specialization in adult gerontology nurse practitioner or family nurse practitioner, wins the award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for flexibility. The university received an A+ in academic flexibility from College Prowler and CliffsNotes. Kaplan is committed to helping working adults earn an advanced degree on their own schedules, and the online program allows students to access their courses at any time of the day or night from any location with Internet access. In addition, students can complete practicum experiences at the healthcare organization or school of their choice, according to the program website.

Career Support
Georgetown University wins the award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for career support because of the wide array of career services it offers, including career counseling, employment advising, career workshops, mock interviews, on-campus interviewing, and more, according to the university’s Career Education Center. One of the center’s most useful online services include the Hoya Career Connection, which allows students to create a profile, post a resume, search for jobs and internships, and apply for positions. This service includes access to the iNet Internship Network, where students from seven top universities, including Georgetown, MIT, NYU, and Rice, have access to internship opportunities in a variety of industries in different locations. In addition, the center provides the Alumni Career Network and extensive research tools for the job hunt.

Financial Support
The award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for financial support goes to Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, which offers an online MSN with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialization. The institution has a reputation for providing generous financial aid; in the 2010-2011 academic year, 100% of full-time beginning undergraduate students received some sort of financial aid, and 100% received institutional grants or scholarships, according to College Navigator. Financial aid staff are available to help graduate students apply for Federal Stafford loans and utilize their military benefits, and nursing students in particular can apply for a wide variety of endowed scholarships offered through Saint Joseph’s. Lastly, the college allows students to pay tuition in installments to spread out the cost of tuition over time.

Technology Support
Walden University, which offers an online MSN program with tracks in both adult-gerontology nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner, wins the award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for technology support. As a distance learning-only institution, Walden understands the importance of having a fully-operational course management system, and provides its students with 24/7 technical assistance. So if online students are having difficulty accessing their courses, email account, or experiencing any other technical issues, they can contact tech support by phone, email, or online chat.

Student Engagement
The winner of the award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for student engagement is the University of Texas at Tyler, which offers an online/hybrid MSN degree for future nurse practitioners. UT-Tyler’s online graduate nursing programs were ranked No. 3 in the nation for student engagement and accreditation by U.S. News & World Report. One of the strongest factors contributing to such a high level of student engagement is the inclusion of Web-enhanced courses that combine online learning with face-to-face interaction with faculty and fellow students, according to the program website. In addition, faculty enjoy involving students in their research, providing more opportunities for engagement.

Disability Support
The award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for disability support goes to Ohio University, which offers an online MSN with a specialty in family nurse practitioner. The Office of Disability Services provides an array of services for students with physical disabilities, health-related disabilities, mental health-related disabilities, and learning disabilities. Services include assistive technology, accommodations in graduate school, job search resources tailored for disabled individuals, and even scholarship opportunities. Ohio University provides information on documentation and guidelines, forms, and rights and responsibilities of both students and the university on its website, where students can easily access them at all times.

Library and Research Support
Georgetown University wins the award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for library and research support because its online students have access to Georgetown University Libraries, which comprise 10 distinct libraries, including the Bioethics Research Library, the Dahlgren Memorial Library, and the Maternal and Child Health Library. Aside from having access to the university’s more than 2.4 million books, online students can connect with university librarians via online chat, email, or phone, and take advantage of interlibrary and consortium loan privileges. Distance learners also have off-campus access to e-resources, such as databases, scholarly journals, and e-books.

Learning Support
The University of North Dakota is the winner of the best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for learning support because it provides an array of student services for distance learners, including online tutoring, library services, technical support, and advising, according to the program website. In addition, the University of North Dakota was ranked among the top online graduate nursing programs for student services and technology by U.S. News & World Report, which also listed career placement assistance among the many support services offered to students in online graduate nursing programs.

Faculty Credentials
The award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for faculty credentials goes to Walden University. Walden ranked among the top online graduate nursing programs for faculty credentials and training, according to U.S. News & World Report. The publication reported that 87% of faculty have at least two years of experience teaching online, and training in online instruction is required before faculty can teach. The school pays for that training, U.S. News reports. In addition, 100% of the faculty who work in Walden’s School of Nursing hold doctoral degrees, according to the university’s website.

Alumni Engagement
The award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for alumni engagement is Georgetown University because of the wealth of networking opportunities available after graduation. Georgetown’s alumni association includes more than 160,000 alumni from all 50 states and more than 110 countries. Graduates can find former classmates through the online alumni directory or join one of 80 regional alumni clubs in the U.S. and across the globe. In addition, students have access to the Alumni Career Services Office, and may even participate in the Alumni Admissions Program, where alumni get to interview new freshman and transfer applicants to Georgetown.

Prior Learning Options
Students who have already completed some graduate course work toward their nurse practitioner master’s at another university may need to complete the program at another university for a variety of reasons. This is why it’s important for a master’s program to accept transfer credits from other institutions. The University of North Dakota wins the award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for prior learning options for accepting a maximum of a quarter of the total credits required for graduation from applicable graduate work completed at another regionally accredited program, according to the program website.

New Online Student Orientation
The award for best online master’s degree in nurse practitioner for new online student orientation goes to Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, which not only provides a helpful Guide to Learning Online, but also features a useful new student orientation. This orientation provides vital information about academic advising, posting to discussion boards, accessing library services, time management, and other habits necessary to be a successful online student. The orientation concludes with a survey where students can provide feedback as to the usefulness of the information provided in the orientation.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Nurse Practitioner

A master's degree with a nurse practitioner concentration is an advanced graduate certificate designed for advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). An APRN is a RN who earned his or her Master of Science in Nursing. Those who get their ANP certificate can hold higher-ranking positions in the health care industry, as well as work on more complex cases than RNs; they also tend to make a markedly higher salary. Within ANP certificate programs, students can choose specialization areas; for example, Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP), and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Specializations require different curriculum credit hours. The average nurse practitioner master's certificate program requires about two years of education. No school's program is the identical to the next, however, so this degree may take some students longer than others.

Class Curriculum

Class curriculum depends strongly on the certificate program a student is working towards. There is a great deal of certificate programs and students can expect that the one they choose will have matching curriculum. For instance, a NP certificate in mental health will focus on mental illnesses, psychology, and the background legal and ethical issues related to that field. Students may take some of the following classes:

  • Adult Primary Care. This is a course devoted specifically to adult health care. Being that nurse practitioners may be the first health care professional patients seek, it is imperative that they understand the illnesses and various chemical life changes that affect young and old adults alike to be able to diagnose and properly treat them; this also includes the maintenance care needs of adults.
  • Advanced Pharmacology. An advanced pharmacology course involves learning the short and long-term effects that medical drugs can have on the human body. It will also touch on the federal laws and regulations that reside over the prescribing process; this is because in some states, NPs are permitted to prescribe medications.
  • Children Primary Care. Such a course examines children's health from a primary care position. Like with adult primary care, nurse practitioners may be the first medical professional to see a child, meaning that they must have a very broad understanding of children's health to catch cases that may need a specialist. Nurse practitioners will advance their knowledge of children's development, common illnesses, as well as normal and abnormal transitional changes.

Reading various scientific and medical texts will play a large role in a nurse practitioner certificate program. Research-related projects and papers are other types of course work students will be assigned. Nurse practitioners are expected to be life-long learners and researchers, keeping current with new medical knowledge and procedures. Internships, also known as field work or a practicum, are a common component of certificate programs; they require students to apply their new skills and allow them to obtain on-the-job experience.

Building a Career

Upon receiving their certificates, students will find themselves ready to take on their new careers. The specialized knowledge they worked to attain, as well as the real-world experience they had applying that knowledge, will leave them ready for careers as nurse practitioners or as nursing professors. Nurse practitioners must have their master's degree in nursing, an advanced nursing certificate, and pass state requirements, such as exams, in order to practice. They provide primary care to patients, both independently and as part of team. Their care revolves around diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries; in some states, NPs also prescribe medication. Some nurse practitioners also take on leadership roles in their careers. According to HealthCareers.gov in 2012, nurse practitioners' yearly salaries are $90,380.

A second route that certificate earners take is to continue their studies and teach nursing at the postsecondary level. As nursing professors, they will teach students in both classroom and clinical settings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated in mid-2011 that teachers at universities earned salaries of $69,680, while those as teaching hospitals made $80,270, making it apparent that where one teaches may have a direct effect on salary.

You should understand, however, that these reported salaries are not what every graduate can expect. Salary determination is based on years of experience, your academic and professional records, and a series of other circumstances.

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