If you are a working nurse who has already earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), pursuing a graduate nursing certificate online can open the door to advanced job opportunities. The demand for graduate-level prepared nurses in the U.S. is expected to far outpace even that of nurses with BSN degrees. Getting an advanced degree can also qualify you to become a nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or nurse practitioner — careers that can net you an additional $46,000 per year.
Graduate nursing certificate programs online are designed with the working nurse in mind, allowing students to continue working in their field as they advance their education. Along with providing flexibility, these programs also tend to be more affordable. If you want more out of your nursing career but are busy with work and family obligations, an online nursing certification program can be an excellent option for balancing both worlds.
This guide is designed to help streamline your search by covering some of your big questions about earning a graduate nursing certificate online, such as how much it will cost, what specializations are available, and which schools rank the highest. Keep reading to get all the details you need to take the next step in your nursing career.
College Spotlights: Best Nursing Certificate Online Programs
We’ve identified some of the top nursing certificate online programs that offer the affordability, flexibility, and accreditation you need to advance your career. Below are three top-rated schools that offer certificate programs for nurses who already hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Degree options are also available online through these programs to those who want to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Nurse Practitioner (NP), or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Please check back later in 2023 for a list of our full rankings.
University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) offers nine full- and part-time nursing certificate programs online designed to prepare students for roles in advanced practice, research, and management. Specialization options include gerontology, pediatrics, acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, education, and administration.
RN to MSN and post-master’s certificates are available, and a customized coursework plan is created based on the student’s background and previously completed education. The online curriculum involves one intensive course at a time and can be completed either part- or full-time. Learning outcomes are customized to the program and based on the student’s needs.
Admissions requirements vary based on the type of degree and previous education. Meanwhile, costs range depending on the degree, clinical requirements, and length of time it takes to complete; in most cases, students can finish a program in 24 months.
UTA offers low tuition rates, averaging between $17,000-$30,000 for the program. The school also offers tuition assistance, financial aid, and a pay-as-you-go option. The programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina (USC) offers a variety of courses and education options for nurses, including an MSN, post-master’s, and doctoral programs. When you submit your application, a program adviser is assigned to help you with your selected program of study, including which courses to take and application requirements.
Specialization options include gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse practitioner, healthcare leadership, nursing education, and nursing informatics. The curriculum is designed to be completed online as either a full-time (six credit hours per semester) or part-time (up to five credit hours per semester) student.
Tuition and fee rates vary greatly depending on the degree selected, clinical requirements, and the time it takes to complete. In-state residents can expect to pay an average of $770 per credit hour, while out-of-state residents average $1,438 per credit hour.
Financial aid is available and dependent on the completion of the FAFSA. The College of Nursing also offers scholarships and endowments and has a financial aid and scholarships department available to help students maximize their tuition assistance.
The CCNE also accredits the programs.
University of Pittsburgh
Graduate programs offered online at the University of Pittsburgh equip students for the future of nursing by pairing with its award-winning online platform, Pitt Online, to deliver a seamless remote learning experience. Online courses are taught by the same faculty members as on-campus classes, and the school touts its extensive student resources to facilitate success during their enrollment and after graduation.
The School of Nursing offers a variety of CCNE-accredited programs, including RN-MSN, MSN, NP, and DNP degrees, as well as postgraduate certificates. Specialization options include clinical nurse leaders, nursing informatics, nurse practitioner, health systems executive leadership, and more.
Admissions requirements include undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation from professional sources, and an application essay. Certain specialty degree programs will have unique requirements.
The program costs $48,300 for part-time students and $42,417 for full-time students, with no price difference based on state residency. Standout student services include a dedicated academic adviser, 24/7 technology support, online library resources, including the Book Center, and clinical placement assistance.
Top Reasons to Earn an Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing
Online nursing graduate certificate programs can enable you to broaden your knowledge while increasing your job marketability. At the same time, they can help you advance in your current role or pivot into a new one. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to attend an online nursing certificate program, numerous benefits and options are available to complete your training in a flexible, timely manner.
What You’ll Learn in Nursing Certificate Online Programs
Nurses with BSNs or MSNs select online nursing certificate program specialties based on their area of interest, previous experience, and existing knowledge. Most certificate programs can be finished in one year or less and culminate in a final project or capstone.
For example, a bachelor’s-prepared nurse looking to pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate in informatics may be able to complete the certificate in as few as two semesters and after completion of a capstone course. Meanwhile, an MSN graduate looking to gain a family nurse practitioner certificate could complete the program in as few as three semesters, depending on their pace and clinical hour requirements.
What are Some Specialized Nursing Certificates that I Can Earn?
Not only is nursing an in-demand field, but it also has the bonus of being highly flexible with many specialties. Earning a nursing certificate online is a good way to open additional opportunities in the nursing field while studying a specialty you find interesting. There are many options, but below, you’ll learn about the degree certificates most often selected by experienced nurses.
What Can You Do with a Certificate in Nursing?
Nurses who obtain a graduate certificate should expect an income increase, more job flexibility, and additional competitiveness in the job market. With an aging U.S. population and nursing workforce, there has never been a better time to pursue advanced training as a nurse.
Nursing administrators earned a median salary of $101,340 as of May 2021, while nurse educators earned a median salary of $77,440 during that same time. Nurse practitioners are expected to see an incredibly high demand rate over the next eight years, with a projected 52% growth rate, outpacing registered nurses and other APRN roles.
Accreditation for Programs Offering Graduate Nursing Certificates Online
When you’re selecting an online nursing certificate program, be sure to check for accreditation status. Reputable programs will be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
In addition to meeting national accreditation standards, be sure to check that the program you’re interested in is approved by the state board of nursing. Certain programs may restrict where a student can reside, so be sure your state of residency is compatible with your chosen online program. This information is commonly listed on program websites, particularly in the application sections. You can also check with your state board of nursing to ensure accreditation status.
Costs and Financial Aid for Graduate Nursing Certificate Programs Online
Committing to the rigors of higher education also requires a financial commitment. You’ll benefit from having a plan before enrollment, and your goals should include exploring your eligibility for financial aid and scholarships. Our comprehensive financial aid guide will answer your questions about paying for your certificate program and provide resources to help you pay for graduate school.
You also can learn more about financial aid available at the schools you’re interested in as soon as you’re ready to apply. Many academic advisers can provide financial aid and scholarship resources, so be sure to ask during the application process. Many schools offer privately funded scholarships and opportunities for financial assistance through fellowships, work-study, or grants. If you plan to continue to work while going to school, consider checking with your current employer on possible programs for tuition assistance.
What Your Online Nursing Certificate Program Could Cost
Nursing certificate programs online will vary widely based on the specialty chosen, previously completed education, and credits required. Here is a list of three highly ranked online certificate programs and their associated costs to give you an idea.
|School Name||No. of Credits||Cost/Credit|
Duke University – Health Informatics Certificate
Saint Xavier University – Nurse Educator Certificate
Stony Brook University – Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate
Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Nursing Certificate Online
What is the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate and an MSN?
You must have completed a BSN or an MSN to be eligible for a graduate-level certificate program. Graduate certificates are designed to provide additional training and study in a specialty area. In contrast, an MSN is an advanced graduate-level degree with a broad core of cutting-edge research in nursing. Some courses required in certificate programs can be used for further education, but each school will impose unique limits.
What Are the Admissions Requirements for an Online Nursing Certificate?
While general admission requirements tend to be similar, they vary based on the school and type of certificate being pursued. Be prepared to show proof of completion of a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program and reach out to professional colleagues who may be willing to write you letters of recommendation. Some schools may require a graduate entrance exam (GRE) to be submitted but check with your chosen schools’ requirements. Whether choosing to attend school in person or online, the admission process is usually the same and will be reviewed by a committee before selections are made. Standard admission requirements will typically include the following:
- Possession of an active registered nurse license
- Minimum of two years of nursing experience
- Official transcripts
- Completed program application
- Letters of recommendation or an interview
- Application fees
How Long Will It Take to Finish My Nursing Certificate?
Online certificate programs will generally take at least one year to complete if pursued full-time. Students opting for part-time programs can expect a typical completion of two years or more, but this can vary depending on the certificate program chosen. Wilkes University offers a variety of postgraduate nurse practitioner certificates that can be completed in 12-18 months and offers clinical placement assistance. Vanderbilt University offers a 12-credit part-time program for working nurses seeking a post-master’s nursing education certificate. The program can be completed in just three or four semesters at a part-time pace.
Can I Earn My Nursing Certificate 100% Online, or Do I Need to Take Classes on Campus?
While most nursing certificate programs can be completed online, some components, such as clinical hours or precepted practicums, may need to be completed in person. You will need to check with your school regarding in-person requirements, but they tend to be more common for clinical certification, such as nurse practitioners.