There is a great demand for nurse educators, which is why so many nurses are searching for an online Master’s in Nursing Education that will help them reach that status. As nursing becomes an advanced and critical part of the healthcare system, the need grows for working professionals to work as educators, teaching the next generation of nurses how the field works. Now, with so many schools choosing to heed the call of the industry, there are over a hundred online programs in America that provide graduate degrees in nursing.
Nurses are working professionals, so it makes sense that they would flock to online degrees. Programs that provide flexibility, affordability, and the chance to accelerate a degree plan are finding themselves to be very popular with the professionals in the field. With so many nursing education programs available online, it was time to make a ranking that showcased the most affordable programs in America.
This ranking began with research from the National Center for Education Statistics. Using the College Navigator database, an initial pool of 90 schools was created. We then narrowed down to the final 10 listed below, based on in-state graduate tuition rates.
Most Affordable Master’s in Nursing Education Online
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Accredited Online College Programs
Ranking Low-cost Online Nursing Education Master’s
George Washington University
One of the country's top private colleges, GW based in Washington, D.C., offers an online Ph.D. in nursing program in an executive format. The 57-credit degree emphasizes theoretical and methodological approaches to nursing, preparing students to assume teaching and research positions in academia upon graduation. Graduates may also go on to work in government research or public policy positions.
GW offers graduate assistantships to qualified students during the program's first two years, providing full tuition remission and a stipend.
GW's nursing degree uses a primarily online format that includes select campus residency sessions. Candidates attend an on-campus orientation session the summer before the program's start date, along with two intensive weekend sessions per semester during the program's first two years. These residency sessions offer the chance for experiential learning activities, workshops, and in-person meetings with other students and faculty members. The program's weekly online sessions use a primarily synchronous format.
The University of Texas Medical Branch
Part of the prestigious University of Texas system, UTMB is a center of medical education in the state, operating an extensive campus in Galveston, about 50 miles southeast of Houston. The school hosts one of Texas' top online P.h.D. in nursing programs, training experienced nurses to work as advanced practice nurse leaders. The program occurs almost entirely online, with students required to visit campus just once each semester for 2-3 days of classroom courses and seminars.
Program applicants must hold a master of science in nursing from a nursing program accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students must hold master's training as clinical nurse leaders, advanced practice registered nurses, executive nurse leaders, or nurse administrators, demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA on all graduate coursework.
Applicants must also have an active, valid, unencumbered nursing license in the state where they plan to practice.
University of West Georgia
A major public college based in Carrollton,about 50 miles west of Atlanta, UWG hosts one of the country's top doctorate in nursing programs. The online Ed.D. in nursing education employs theoretical and analytical approaches to nursing, preparing graduates for teaching and research positions in the field.
The program comprises 60 credits and typically takes four years to complete. The curriculum covers topics including nursing theory, scholarly writing, ethics in nursing education, advanced researched methods, healthcare policy analysis, and applied statistical methods in nursing. All candidates must complete a comprehensive exam and a 12-credit dissertation featuring original research into an area of nursing education.
UWG does enroll online students around the country, but it can't guarantee that its nursing program meets licensure or certification requirements for other states. Students who reside outside of Georgia should consult their respective local licensing boards before enrolling in the program.
Serving more than 10,000 students annually from its campus in southeastern Pennsylvania, Villanova offers one of the state's top online Ph.D. in nursing programs. This private Catholic college adheres to an Augustinian intellectual tradition, and the Ph.D. program uses a teacher-scholar model, preparing graduates to teach nursing at the college level and conduct both clinical and educational research.
The program uses a hybrid format, with online courses offered in the fall and spring. Students attend summer sessions on the Villanova campus, participating in experiential learning, clinical activities, and traditional classroom courses. The program begins with a campus orientation session in late May or early June.
Candidates complete a 51-credit curriculum, though exact completion times may vary based on previous educational and professional experience. The program includes courses such as contemporary research design, scientific and grant writing, psychometrics and measurement, and teaching strategies in nursing.
Western Connecticut State University
The only program of its kind in Connecticut, WCSU's Ed.D. in nursing emphasizes nursing education, preparing graduates for tenure-track teaching positions at colleges and universities. Offered in collaboration with Southern Connecticut State University, the degree ranks among the top doctorate in nursing programs in the Northeast, integrating major theories and concepts from both nursing and higher education.
The 51-credit degree includes five major components: teaching in higher education, specialized nursing education, leadership, science of nursing education, and a dissertation. Courses cover topics such as curriculum development, statistical analysis in educational research, and leadership theories and concepts.
The program uses a primarily online format, with both synchronous and asynchronous course components. Prior to the initial fall start date, students must attend three on-campus summer residency sessions on the WCSU campus in Danbury, lasting three days each. Students attend additional residency sessions each summer after the program's first and second years.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master’s in Nursing Education Degree?
The most common career path for graduates of an online Master’s in Nursing Education is that of a nurse educator. These are the professors and instructors who teach the new generation of nurses while in college or university. It is important to note that most nurse education graduates do pursue a doctorate in the field prior to going into clinical education.
There are other avenues for nurse educators, however. Some may choose to pursue a postgraduate certificate in another specialization and continue as nurses while others take on an MBA and become administrators and senior-level executives in hospital systems and other medical facilities. Some even gain employment in nonprofit medical charities, providing services to underserved populations at home and abroad. A select few become researchers and scholars, writing papers for journals and working as freelance journalists and authors.
For students who are interested in other avenues for nurse education, here are some examples:
- Nurse Educator
- Director of Nurse Education
- Clinical Educator
- Diabetes Consultant
- Patient Care Coordinator and Educator
- Nurse Practitioner
- Community Health Worker
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The average salary for a nurse educator, the most common career for an online degree in nursing education, is around $72,000. Unlike other salaries, this pay does not fluctuate much with experience, with the highest paid nurse educators making around $80,000.
Where salary difference comes in is the location in America where a nurse educator lives and works. Nurse educators in Texas, California, and New York make anywhere between $75,000 to $95,000; this accounts for nurses who work at universities and colleges, health centers, and as online teachers. Nurse educators in rural areas make slightly less, with salaries ranging from $65,000 to $77,000 a year.
What are the Various Disciplines of Nursing Education?
Nursing education has many facets, but it is firmly rooted in the relationship between nursing, education, and technology. Because nurses often earn graduate and postgraduate degrees, they must be taught by working professionals who understand that technology is the new ally in the fight to prepare more nurses for the future of healthcare. Online degrees are becoming much more popular and so many nursing education degrees focus on how technology can help nurses, both in the field and in the classroom.
There are other disciplines as well. Leadership, management, curriculum design, administration, and soft skills are all focused on in nursing education programs. This is because nurse educators must lead the new generation of nurses in the classroom; their duties as nurse educators also means that they must communicate with students and have the ability to structure their time and educational department.
Why is a Nurse License Necessary for this Degree?
An online Master’s in Nursing is an advanced professional degree; these programs are built for working professionals with some degree of work experience in nursing. They are not built for academics or scholars, but rather for nurses who wish to transition into teaching. It is very rare to find an accredited program that does not require licensure.
One of the main reasons graduate schools in nursing require licensure is because licensure is the natural next step for an undergraduate nursing student. Without holding licensure they cannot practice nursing anywhere in America. A student without a valid license who is trying to obtain a graduate degree is very likely to be rejected by every program simply.
The other main reason that nursing schools require licensure is that advanced degree builds not only on previous educational experience but work experience as well. A nurse who does not hold licensure cannot work in the field and therefore would be far behind their classmates in terms of curriculum and concepts. They would also be unaware of many of the technical aspects that come with being a nurse.
Many students will also know that clinical hours are required for undergraduate students; this is the same for graduates. Without a valid license, students cannot partake in the practicums at the graduate level. This would bar them from finishing the degree, so schools have decided to require licensure.
It is possible to go from a BSN to a Master’s in Nursing, especially through online schooling, but even here, students must hold a nursing license that is in good standing with the state. This is something to bear in mind as a school that does not require licensure should be considered suspicious.
Is Accreditation Important for an Online Master’s in Nursing Education?
Accreditation matters for professionals that wish to earn advanced nursing certification and other credentials in their state. For some students, that is the main goal of entering into the field of nursing education; for others, advanced licensure and certification is not as important. The decision really is up to the student.
Most nursing education programs are delivered with accreditation; this is because nursing is a highly regulated field and must be kept to high standards. It’s also telling that most of the programs, including all of the ones listed in this ranking, require an accredited bachelor’s degree in order to apply for their programs. Accredited graduate programs make a practice of preferring students with an accredited undergraduate degree.
For nursing educators, accreditation is important. The distinction of having graduated from an online accredited master’s program is attractive to potential employers. It denotes a commitment to excellence in nursing and is seen as a sign of a valuable candidate.
Professionals should always try to receive a degree from an accredited university, regardless if their next step is to apply for advanced licensure. In fact, many states require their nurse educators to hold advanced licensure; this is not applicable for many states, so students are advised to do their research on the matter.
Nursing education is a field that requires more educators from the professional side of the field. The best teacher for a new nurse is a nurse with experience both in the hospital and in the classroom, which is why this is a great choice for nurses who are ready to move into the next phase of their careers. With this ranking of the top most affordable online master’s in nursing education, nurses can pick and choose the schools to apply to that are right for them.
This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Master’s in Nursing Education Online.