Best Graduate Nursing Certificate Online Programs for 2023

Whether you want to extend your nursing education or advance your career, earning your graduate nursing certificate online can help you achieve your goals while saving time and money.

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.

Schedule Flexibility

Today’s nurses are busier than ever, juggling work, family, and life obligations. Online certification programs allow you to work at your own pace, at a convenient time, and continue to live where you want. The online flexibility allows most nurses to continue to work while gaining the experience and education necessary to advance their careers.

Increase Your Earning Potential

Obtaining a post-bachelors or post-master’s certificate can increase your overall earning potential. By seeking additional education and setting yourself apart from the crowd, you can increase your income.


By obtaining your graduate nursing certificate online, you can avoid the added fees associated with traditional institutions, such as commuting, room and board, and student activities. Many online courses now offer streamlined pricing that is a set price, regardless of where you live.

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.

Popular Courses

Advanced Pathophysiology

This course prepares nurses for common diseases and conditions they may encounter during regular practice. It centers around studying advanced pathophysiological responses in the human body and how organ systems work synergistically to maintain homeostasis.

Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning

This course allows experienced nurses to dive deeper into assessing the health of their patients. It entails communication techniques, comprehensive patient history intake, advanced physical examinations, and screening/diagnostic test recommendations.


The culmination of an advanced certificate program will require either completion of a preceptorship involving clinical hours and/or a final practicum. Clinical hour requirements are typically for those seeking post-master’s certificates and wanting to enter the field as a nurse practitioner, nursing educator, or researcher. Practicum requirements may also be necessary for master-level programs but are commonly seen in certificate programs such as healthcare leadership and nursing informatics.

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.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

NPs provide health services to a specialty group, such as mental health nurse practitioners, who work with people with psychiatric issues, or family nurse practitioners, who work with people across their lifespan. To become an NP, you must complete didactic, clinical, and bedside immersion requirements before being eligible to sit for the national certification exam.

Nurse Education/Educator

Nursing educators are prepared to fulfill roles in academia and clinical nursing education. Nursing programs are struggling to find enough qualified educators to teach the next generation of nurses, so there is no shortage of need. To obtain the nurse educator certificate, you must have completed a master’s degree in nursing before applying to a program.

Nursing Administration

If you have strong leadership skills and a desire to propel the healthcare field forward, an online nursing certificate in healthcare administration or leadership is worth considering. This post-master’s certificate program can typically be completed either full- or part-time and will require some in-person precepted hours in a healthcare organizational setting.

Nursing Informatics

Nursing informatics combines technology and healthcare to support bedside clinicians to improve overall patient outcomes. Nurses with certificates in nursing informatics are needed to fill jobs where they use technology to organize healthcare data. Some programs offer a post-bachelor’s certificate option, but most are designed as a post-master’s option.

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.