10 Most Affordable Online MSN Degree Programs for 2020

Affordability is an important factor to consider when getting an online MSN program. Online MSN programs or even online BSN to MSN programs – all types of nursing degrees – are often more affordable than traditional programs. These online MSN programs offer students the same affordable tuition rates, with some students residing in the same state of the institution or across the nation in another state. The most affordable online MSN programs sacrifice nothing in quality, while providing a degree that will return their investment with a real career boost.

One of the ways in which to reduce the tuition costs of an online MSN is to consider the cheapest online MSN programs that can be completed in a year or so. Be cautious though, because a 1-year course workload requires a serious commitment to successfully complete. Another possibility of reducing your costs to obtain your Master of Science in Nursing degree is to select an online MSN program that has a generous transfer credit school policy. Each school operates with a different credit transfer policy, so be vigilant when researching this cost reduction possibility.

Our Method: Ranking the Most Affordable Online MSN Programs

The Best Health Degrees ranking of the most affordable online MSN programs began with a survey of fully online and hybrid MSN programs offered by accredited, reputable nursing schools. The ranking is organized by tuition cost, from lowest to highest, according to current IPEDS data.

1. Fitchburg State University

Fitchburg State University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program which specializes in Forensic Nursing that can be completed entirely online. Fitchburg State offers a rolling admission policy for Registered Nurses with at least one year of experience. Fitchburg State’s MSN in Forensic Nursing requires the completion of 39 credit units and is considered one of the most affordable online MSN programs in the Northeastern United States.

Fitchburg State University was established in 1894 as a normal school chartered by the Massachusetts state legislature. US News recognizes Fitchburg State among the highest-ranked master’s program in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The school’s main urban campus covers more than 30 acres and is home to more than 6,800 students. Fitchburg State University follows the Carnegie Rule – which requires that each student at Fitchburg State must complete four courses per semester.

Degree: MSN – Forensic Nursing

2. University of West Georgia

The University of West Georgia’s Tanner Health System School of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that can be completed 100% online. UWG offers two academic tracks within their MSN degree program – Health Systems Leadership (Clinical Nurse Leaders) and Nursing Education. The University of West Georgia’s affordable online MSN programs have received accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). College Choice and US News recognizes UWG among the top most affordable online MSN programs available.

The University of West Georgia was established in 1906. The University of West Georgia is a member school of the University System of Georgia system. The school’s campus is located in a college town and covers more than 625 acres and is located less than an hour to the west of the city of Atlanta. The University of West Georgia’s student body exceeds 13,700. Princeton Review recognizes the University of West Georgia among the top colleges in the Southeastern portion of the country.

Degree: MSN – 2 concentrations

3. West Texas A&M University

West Texas A&M University’s College of Nursing & Health Sciences/Department of Nursing Graduate Program offers a comprehensive Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available 100% online or a hybrid version with clinical practicums that are only available in the state of Texas. There are two specialty tracks available from WTAMU’s MSN program – a Comprehensive MSN (which requires 39 credit units) or a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) (which requires 46 credit units). The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits the MSN programs offered by WTAMU.

West Texas A&M University was established in 1910 as West Texas State Normal College. West Texas A&M University is located in across 175+-acres in Canyon Texas situated just about 10 miles to the south of Amarillo. West Texas A&M University is a member school of the state’s university system. West Texas A&M University operates an Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility and research facilities testing biosafety methodologies.

Degree: MSN – 2 concentrations

4. Lamar University

Lamar University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available 100% online. Lamar University’s MSN degree program follows two academic concentrations – a Nursing Administration track (MSNA) and a Nursing Education track (MSNE). Each of Lamar University’s MSN academic nursing tracks requires the completion of 37 credit units to graduate. Students may attend on a part-time or full-time basis. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredits Lamar University’s MSN online programs.

Lamar University was established in 1934 as a public institution of higher education. In addition, Lamar University is a member school of the Texas State University System and a space-grant school. The school’s urban campus covers nearly 300 acres and is home to more than 14,500 students. US News recognizes Lamar’s graduate online nursing programs among the best in the country. Before becoming a state university, Lamar University was the flagship campus of the Lamar University System.

Degree: MSN – 2 concentrations

5. University of Central Missouri

The University of Central Missouri offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available 100% online. The University of Central Missouri’s graduate nursing degree program offers two specialty tracks – a Nurse Educator or a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) which prepares students to sit for the relevant certification examination. Degree candidates for the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) academic track must complete a total of 44 credit units to graduate while the Nurse Education academic track requires 44 credit units to graduate. Coursework includes Organizational Leadership, Health Care Advocacy, and Theories of Nursing and Population Health.

The University of Central Missouri was established in 1871 as a state public institution of higher learning. The University of Central Missouri’s 1,500+-acres is home to more than 14,000 students studying from more than 140 degree programs offer. The University of Central Missouri operates several locations situated off-campus in Lee’s Summit and through their distance-learning platform.

Degree: MSN – 2 concentrations

6. Indiana State University

Indiana State University’s Department of Advanced Practice Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available entirely online. Indiana State University’s affordable online Master of Science in Nursing that has received accreditation from the Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). ISU’s MSN program offers two academic pathways – Nursing Education and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). The FNP academic path requires the completion of 47 credit units whereas the Nurse Educator path requires the completion of 35 credit units.

Indiana State University was established in 1865 as the Indiana State Normal School. The school’s urban campus covers more than 200 acres in Terre Haute’s business section and is home to more than 12,000 students studying from more than 170 graduate and undergraduate programs. The Princeton Review recognizes Indiana State University among the best institutions of higher learning in the US Midwest.

Degree: 2 concentrations

7. Ferris State University

Ferris State University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that can be completed entirely online. FSU’s MSN program is designed for those nursing professionals who already possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing when applying. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredits the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs offered by Ferris State University. FSU’s MSN program offers three academic paths – Nursing Informatics, Nursing Education, and Nursing Administration.

Ferris State University was established in 1884 as the Big Rapids Industrial School. The school’s main campus is located on 880 acres in the rural community of Big Rapids; with a secondary campus in the urban location of Grand Rapids. The school’s student population exceeds 14,500 students. Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, who later became the governor of Michigan and a member of the US Senate representing Michigan, founded the school.

Degree: MSN

8. Saint Francis Medical Center

Saint Francis Medical Center offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that offers nursing students seven academic pathways. These include a Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Nursing Leadership, Adult-Gerontology, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Nurse. The ninth track is an accelerated RN to MSN for those who hold a bachelor’s degree in another discipline. The SR Education Group recognizes OSF SFMC’s graduate nursing degree program among the most affordable online MSN programs.

Saint Francis Medical Center was established in 1876 and is currently the teaching hospital for medical students enrolled at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The Saint Francis Medical Center is the 4th largest hospital in the entire state of Illinois. Saint Francis Medical Center is designated as the major trauma center for more than 25 counties in the central portion of the state of Illinois.

Degree: MSN — 7 concentrations

9. Liberty University

Liberty University School of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available entirely online and completed, on average, in about two years. LU’s MSN program offers seven specialty tracks that require 42 credit units to graduate. Two MSN concentration options offer dual degree paths, while the other academic tracks include Nursing Informatics. Nurse Educator, Nursing Administration, Health Policy, and Community Health. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits LU’s online graduate nursing degree programs.

Liberty University was established in 1971 by Jerry Falwell as an evangelical Christian institution of higher education. The school is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church. Liberty University’s suburban 7,00-acre campus is home to 15,000 students who study on campus from 17 colleges/schools. Liberty University’s student enrollment, including their online student population, exceed 110,000 members.

Degree: MSN – 7 concentrations

10. Ball State University

Ball State University offers three online MSN academic tracks designed specifically for working nurses. Ball State’s MSN specialty pathways include Nurse Administrator, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Nurse Educator. The Family Nurse Practitioner pathway requires the completion of 47 credits, while the Nurse Educator and Nurse Administration concentrations only require 36 credit units. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits Ball State University distance-learning graduate nursing degree programs.

Ball State University was established in 1918 as a public research institution of higher learning that operates with two additional satellite campuses in Indianapolis and Fishers, IN. The school’s 1,000+-acre campus is home to more than 22,300 students studying from more than 250 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The tuition fees for the first year of operation was just $10 for the approximate 250 students who attended the first classes.

Degree: MSN – 3 concentrations

How Much More Can I Make with an Online MSN Degree?

Nursing professionals who hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) are trained in many areas of nursing specialties. These graduate nursing positions pay an MSN salary that exceeds the salaries offered to nurse professionals who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Registered Nurse nursing diploma (RN). On average, according to government data, most MSN jobs that pay 50 an hour, or more. Most of the highest-paying jobs for nurses required an MSN.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the median salary for a Registered Nurse and the Master of Science in Nursing salary for the year 2018 is as follows:

  • MS Nurse Salary — $113,930 per year; this translates to an MSN Salary per hour of $54.78.
  • RN (or BSN) Nurse Salary — $71,730 per year; that translates to $34.48/year.

Clearly, a Master of Science in Nursing salary will exceed that of a nursing professional without an MS nursing degree. In addition to the larger MS nurse salary, the job outlook through 2026, for nursing professionals with a graduate degree, far exceeds the expected growth in the nursing industry for those who only hold a baccalaureate degree or a nursing diploma.

  • The job growth for MSN jobs that pay 50 an hour is anticipated to be 31% through the year 2026.
  • The job growth for non-MSN nurse professionals is anticipated to be 15% through the year 2026.

For the record, the predicted job growth for both the undergraduate and graduate-level nursing professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), far exceeds the average growth rate predicted for all US industries through the year 2026 (which is an approximate rate of 8%).

How Much Should an Online MSN Program Cost?

The education community offers a plethora of educational opportunities and resources, even before the tremendous popularity of distance learning or online educational platforms. The great news is that there are now incredibly affordable online MSN degree programs from some of the best institutions of higher learning in the United States.

A simple Internet search is the easiest way to locate the cheapest online MSN programs. As you begin to search for the cheapest online MSN programs, remember that smaller schools and public regionals colleges also offer an affordable MSN program with quality education through distance learning platforms.

In general, an online MSN program varies greatly and falls between $125 per credit unit (on the low side) and $325 per credit unit (on the high side). And while these typical online MSN program per credit costs may seem a bit out of reach, you must remember about the current and ongoing strong demand for nursing professionals across the country. What is clear to most nursing students is that online MSN programs are almost always more affordable than on-campus institutions of higher learning, especially from Ivy League or the elite group of schools.

It is important to do your due diligence as you vet potential online MSN programs that are designed to meet your career goals.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Get with an Online MSN Degree?

With this graduate degree in hand, there are many MSN degree job opportunities from which to choose. These MSN degree job opportunities allow MSN nursing students to select from a wide variety of specialties and disciplines.

Some well-paying Masters in Nursing jobs include the following specialties:

Nurse Consultant — these jobs for nurses with MSN degrees offer expert opinions in the insurance and legal arenas. Highly respected Nurse Consultants testify in legal matters in open court during proceedings.
Nurse Educator — many Masters in Nursing jobs include positions in the post-secondary education field. Nurse Educators work in agencies, nursing schools, universities, nursing centers, and medical facilities.
Advanced Nurse Practitioner (APRN) — these Masters in Nursing jobs generally include a Nurse Practitioner, a Nurse Midwife, a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), or a Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA). In addition, an APRN can receive specialized training in certain parts of the nursing field like Gerontology, Emergency Room Care, Psychiatric Care, Pediatric Care, Family Care, Acute Care, Women’s Care, and Neonatal Care, to name just a few.
Nurse Administrator – healthcare facilities are increasingly bringing nurses into the decision-making process, and nurse administrators are a key part of making sure nurses’ voices are respected and trusted in the healthcare system.

Related Rankings:
25 Best Traditional MSN Degree Programs
15 Online MSN Degree Programs
10 Fastest Online MSN Degree Programs
What Can I Do with a Master’s of Science in Nursing?