A master’s degree in nursing leadership is perfect for the registered nurse who has the desire to design programs and lead other nurses in providing high quality medical care to patients. Individuals with master’s degrees in nursing leadership may be qualified to work as a chief nursing officer, program director, nursing executive or director of nursing.
There are several degree titles in the field of nursing leadership, including nurse administration, leadership in healthcare systems, leadership and management and executive leadership. The program requirements may vary slightly but most universities’ master’s degree in nursing leadership programs will qualify the nurse for positions as nursing executives or directors.
For many nurses, the heavy demands of a career in healthcare can make it difficult to attend graduate school full time. Online master of science in nursing programs can allow students to attend courses after work hours and on the weekends, enabling them to balance school, family and work responsibilities.
Top Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Leadership Degree Programs
The following schools have online master’s degree programs in nursing leadership. All of these programs are accredited by regional accrediting bodies. In compiling this list, we sought to include schools in each of the following categories.
1) Nationally ranked nursing schools
2) Accredited nursing schools with affordable tuition
3) Schools with a strong track record of making programs accessible to working professionals
To learn more about this list, please visit our Selection Criteria page: How We Decided on the Best MSN Programs
Vanderbilt University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Vanderbilt University is an independent private liberal arts college based in Tennessee. The university boasts several nobel laureate alumni including Al Gore Jr., Stanford Moore, Stanley Cohen and Max Delbruck. Many of these individuals continue to work with the university as faculty. The college is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Vanderbilt offers a Master of Science in Nursing and Healthcare Leadership. Distance learning students in this program have access to a state-of-the-art reference information and computer support center. Course offerings include Organizational Behavior, Continuous Quality Improvement and Outcomes Measurement, Conceptualization and Integration of Evidence for Advanced Nursing Practice and Scientific Underpinnings for Advanced Nursing Practice.
Tuition: $1,642 per credit hour
Capella University is a private for-profit distance learning institution based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Its MSN degree is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Capella University’s Master in Nursing Leadership and Administration allows students to choose course specializations in leadership and management for nurse executives, health care informatics, advanced finance and operations management, and health care quality and safety management. Core courses in the MSN-L program cover topics like health care law and policy, health care economics, care quality improvement, and biopsychosocial concepts for advanced nursing practice.
Tuition: $433 per course hour
Stevenson University – Master’s in Nursing, Nursing Leadership/Management
Stevenson University is a private, nonprofit university located in Pikesville, Maryland. It serves about 2,700 undergraduate students and 900 online students. It is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education, Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities, and its nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The Master’s in Nursing with a concentration in Nursing Leadership/Management is a fully online program that requires just one on-campus residency that takes place at the end of the final semester. An additional 135-hour practicum provides students with the opportunity to gain valuable, hands-on training as a nurse leader/manager. The online learning platform of this program is taught by a dedicated faculty with extensive, real-world experience. Courses include Organizational Behavior in Healthcare, Quality Management in Healthcare, and Healthcare Finance: Challenges of the Future.
Tuition: $625 per credit hour
Benedictine University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Benedictine University is a Roman Catholic distance learning institution. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. In 2011 and 2012, Forbes Magazine named the college one of America’s Top Colleges.
Benedictine University offers a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a Nurse Executive Leader concentration. The specialization allows nurses to earn certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Students can expect to take specialization courses including Building Effective Communication and Relationships, Advanced Knowledge of Health Care Systems and Nursing Leadership and Systems Thinking.
Tuition: $670 per credit hour
Saint Xavier University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Saint Xavier University is a Catholic institution in Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The university’s school of nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education of the American Association of Colleges and Nursing.
Students on the Executive Leadership track of the Master of Science in Nursing program can take both core and specialty courses. Core courses include Epidemiology, Nursing Inquiry and Population-Based Health Care. Specialty courses include Advanced Health and Social Policy, Administrative Leadership in Nursing and Information Technology and Health Care Outcomes.
Tuition: $750 per semester hour
Ball State University – Online Master’s-Nurse Administrator
Ball State University was founded in 1918 with a campus in Muncie, Indiana. There are approximately 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the online and traditional campus programs. Most of the students are enrolled in the campus-based program. However, the online program enrollment is rapidly increasing. Ball State’s online nursing program is one of the university’s largest and most well-developed online programs. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Ball State’s online master of science in nursing is the 11th largest MSN program in the United States according to the U.S. News and World Report. The program has become a model for online nursing programs across the country. All students in the master’s of nursing program must take core courses in nursing before specializing in a particular area of practice. The leadership track plan of study is 36 credit hours, including 19 credit hours of specialization courses. Specialization courses can be taken in the areas of teaching, program evaluation, pharmacology, health assessment, administration theories and financial management.
Tuition: $442 per credit hour for Indiana residents and $651 for out-of-state residents.
Purdue University Global – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Purdue University Global is a for-profit university formerly operated by Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of the Washington Post. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Master of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The Purdue University Global MSN program offers four specialization tracks, including a specialization in executive leadership. Students pursuing a MSN in executive leadership will take core courses including Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing, Advanced Statistics for the Health Sciences and Ethical and Legal Perspectives of the Health Care System. Specialization courses offered by Purdue University Global include Human Resources Management, Executive Leader Practicum and Health Care Finance, Strategic Planning and Budgeting.
Tuition: $420 per credit hour
University of Saint Mary – Online Master’s in Nursing-Leadership
The University of Saint Mary is a liberal arts university founded in 1923 in Leavenworth, Kansas. Both the traditional campus-based program and the online program are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition, the university has received several accolades, including the Princeton Review naming Saint Mary as a Best Midwestern College for eight consecutive years.
The University of Saint Mary’s online master of science in nursing program integrates the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing program. This rigorous program provides students with the latest research and information available for nurses. MSN students can choose to specialize in nurse administration and may be offered courses in organizational management, leadership and fiscal resource management, in addition to a full line of core courses.
Tuition: $615 per credit hour
Drexel University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Drexel University is a private university with both an online and traditional campuses. The university offers over 100 online degree and certificate programs. Drexel is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The nursing school is one of the 10 largest online graduate nursing programs in the United States and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Drexel University offers a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management. The program has both required core and track courses. Core course offerings include Information, Innovation and Technology in Advanced Nursing Practice, Advanced Ethical Decision Making in Health Care and Biostatistics. Required track courses include Economics of Healthcare Management and Policy, The Business of Healthcare and Professional Seminar for Advance Practice Nurses.
Tuition: $997 per credit hour
Liberty University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Liberty University is one of the largest non-profit universities in the United States, and one of the largest Christian universities in the world with more than 100,000 students in the traditional campus-based and online programs. It was founded in 1971 and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Liberty University offers an MSN in Nursing Administration degree designed to allow students to pursue careers as a nurse manager, director of nursing or administrator in nursing service and healthcare systems. This program requires 36 total credit hours and allows up to 18 credit hours to be transferred in from a previous degree program. Students must already have a bachelor of science in nursing and should register with their local state’s Department of Education in order to verify access to practicum sites. Students will have access to courses in pharmacology, strategies for end-of-life care, pain management, organizational leadership, and management of resources.
Tuition: $565 per credit hour
University of Cincinnati – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
The University of Cincinnati has a total enrollment of nearly 43,00 students and is a public research institution. It was founded in 1819 and offered one of the first baccalaureate programs in nursing in the country. The university is responsible for several innovations since its founding, including the creation of Benadryl, the first heart-lung machine, the first oral polio vaccine and the discovery of the heart failure gene. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. In addition, the school of nursing is accredited by the Council of Nurse Anesthetists, American College of Nurse-Midwives, the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, the National League for Nursing and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
The University of Cincinnati offers a master’s of science in nursing with a specialization in nursing administration. Upon completion of UC’s program, nurses are eligible to take either of the American Nurses Credentialing Center administrator certification exams: Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) or the Nurse Executive, Advanced Board Certified (NEA-BC). They can also take either of the American Organization of Nurse Executives administrator certification exams: Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) and Executive Nursing Practice (CENP). Students in the nursing administration specialization can take courses in clinical reasoning, health care policy, bio-statistics, economics of health care and human resource management.
Tuition: $724 per credit hour for Ohio students and $739 per credit hour for out-of-state students.
Jacksonville University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Jacksonville University is a private university in Jacksonville, Florida. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Jacksonville University School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Students pursuing an MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Systems complete core and specialization courses. Core courses include Nursing Theory and Research, Information Systems, and Policy in Healthcare. Specialization courses include Financial Management of Nursing Systems, Nursing Leadership and the Healthcare System, and Quality and Safety in Healthcare.
Tuition: $650 per credit hour
Western Governors University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Western Governors University is a distance learning institution founded by the governors of 19 states. The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education offers accreditation to the university’s nursing programs.
Western Governors University offers a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Leadership and Management. This program has a BSN to MSN track and a RN to MSN track. Most of the program is done online but the university requires applied learning projects to be completed in community and healthcare settings. Students will take courses in the areas of general education, health science, nursing and nursing administration. Some of the university’s course offerings include Human Physiology, Clinical Microbiology, Nutrition for Contemporary Society, Care of the Older Adult and Strategic Leadership and Future Delivery Models.
Tuition: $3,545 per term
California University of Pennsylvania – MSN in Nursing Administration and Leadership
Founded in 1852, the California University of Pennsylvania is a public school in the state of Pennsylvania accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Offered part-time to accommodate busy schedules, students can graduate in just 20 months. Graduates come out prepared to hit the job market running, serving as visionary leaders, thanks in part to a 150-hour capstone practicum spent with a preceptor tackling a real-world quality improvement project. According to an alumni survey, 100% of nursing alumni said they were professionally prepared for a variety of healthcare environments. This program also offers attractive options including eligibility for national certification exams and the possibility to combine the MSN with an MBA.
Tuition: $516 per credit for Pennsylvania students and $526 per credit for out-of-state students.
Walden University – Online Master’s in Nursing Leadership
Walden University is a distance leading institution founded in 1970. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The Walden University College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Students in the Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) program can choose from several specializations including Leadership and Management. Students can pursue this as part of the BSN to MSN track or the RN to MSN track. Learners can expect to take courses including Policy and Advocacy for Improving Population Health, Essentials of Evidence-Based Practice, Managing Human Resources, and Finances and Economics in Healthcare Delivery.
Tuition: $450 per quarter hour
This concludes our list of the top online master’s in nursing leadership degree programs. For additional lists, see: