10 Best 1-Year Online MSN Programs For 2023

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

If you are a nurse interested in pursuing a master’s degree in nursing, you may be asking yourself how much money you have to invest or what the requirements are to enroll in one of these programs. One of the most important questions you may have is how quickly you can complete an MSN degree. In addition to attending traditional brick and mortar schools, the option of attending school online is becoming more and more popular.

In fact, there are several 1-year MSN programs online that you can choose from if that interests you.

In this article, we will discuss some of the best 1-year online MSN programs for 2023 and answer some questions about how you can get started!

What Exactly Is the Goal of A 1-Year MSN Program?

Overall, the goal of 1-year online MSN programs is to educate registered nurses who are already baccalaureate-prepared to take on leadership roles related to advanced practice nursing, clinical nursing, nursing administration, nursing Informatics or education. Additionally, these programs are designed to prepare graduates to meet the health care needs of diverse patient populations. Once a nurse has completed any of the available one-year online MSN programs, he/she should be able to use ethical decision-making skills, incorporate advanced theory, scientific and clinical knowledge to provide patient care, and function as a leader within the nursing industry.

Who Accredits 1-Year Online MSN Programs & Why Does Accreditation Matter?

Accreditation of nursing programs is a way of exhibiting characteristics associated with a high-quality education. Being accredited means that a school meets the standards for necessary content and that instructors are not only qualified but also use teaching methods that have been proven to be successful. The best 1-year online MSN programs are generally accredited by either the ACEN or the CCNE.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing provides accreditation in support of nursing education and practices. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing is recognized by the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. It accredits various types of nursing education programs from diploma and practical nursing programs all the way up to doctoral nursing degrees.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education has been recognized as a national accreditation agency by the United States Secretary of Education. The Commission’s primary focus is to support the integrity and quality of baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs as well as residency nursing programs.

8 Advantages Of 1-Year Online MSN Programs

Depending on your motivation for completing an MSN program in one-year, there are several advantages that may be in your best interest.

1. Save money!

The faster you can accomplish a degree, the less financial burden you may experience related to attending college.

2. There is a shortage of primary care providers in the United States.

In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by the year 2033, we could see a shortage of over 55,000 primary care physicians. Enrolling in any one of the best 1-year online MSN programs means you can get your degree faster, which will help you play an integral role in filling the shortage of primary care providers.

3. Master’s-prepared nurses typically earn significantly higher salaries than nurses with an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing.

The sooner you enroll in a program and graduate, the quicker you can begin to enjoy the benefits of a higher salary.

4. The higher the degree level you have, the more flexible your work schedule may be.

One of the advantages of pursuing a 1-year online MSN program could be that you are able to negotiate a better work schedule for yourself.

5. After pursuing an MSN degree, you have the option of choosing a specialty concentration.

For example, you may find that pediatrics, geriatrics, or psychiatric nursing care are areas of study on which you'd like to concentrate.

6. The opportunity to become a nurse educator.

Most nursing education facilities require that instructors possess at least a master's degree in Nursing. Because you will already have clinical experience in the nursing field, after completing any 1-year online MSN programs, you should be able to transition into a teaching role.

7. Create a more extensive professional network.

Completion of a graduate program presents opportunities to connect with others in the nursing industry who share like passions for nursing. For some, expanding a professional network may mean meeting potential employers or making connections with others who can offer opportunities for even more educational opportunities.

8. Mentor others in the profession.

Anyone who has the drive that it takes to complete a one-year MSN program has what it takes to be a mentor to others hoping to pursue the same goals.

How Much Do 1-Year Online MSN Programs Cost?

1-year online MSN programs vary in cost. Some plans cost as little as $14,000, while others can cost upwards of $50,000. One of the main things that influence the cost of any online program is the level of education you have upon entry into the program. Also, whether you are a resident or non-resident of the state where the college is located can impact tuition costs.

• The University of Alabama in Huntsville offers a 12-month online MSN program for those wishing to specialize in nursing administration. The tuition cost for this program is approximately $14,040, which is an average of $405 per credit hour.
• At the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, ranked among the most affordable 1-year online MSN programs, you can earn a Master of Science in Nursing Education in one year. The program requires students to complete thirty-six credits hours, which cost around $444 per credit. This makes the program cost an average of $15,984.
• The University of Arizona College of Nursing has two MSN tracks, the ADN and BSN tracks. The ADN track requires students to complete 45 credit hours, and the BSN track consists of 38 credit hours. Tuition for the online MSN program costs $680 per credit hour. This means the ADN track costs approximately $30,600, and the BSN track costs about $23,800. Additional fees may include books and supplies, which typically average around $300 per semester, and an $85 one-time application fee.
• Weatherford’s Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s MSN program in Nursing Informatics costs $350.25 per credit hour for state residents and $628.25 for non-residents. Additionally, students pay mandatory fees of $36.50 per credit hour, which include student activity fees, technology services fees, facility fees, and event center fees.


Coursework for 1-year online MSN programs typically include advanced pharmacology, nursing research, and advanced health assessment. MSN students can choose a specialization that includes additional coursework and clinical practicum hours to help them achieve the status of nurse practitioner or other advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware, offers a Master of Science in Nursing Leadership degree with concentration options of Executive, Educator, Public Health or Legal Nurse Consultant. Students enrolled in the Public Health track will complete twelve-course credits of core MSN classes, MSN Leadership core courses, and executive concentration requirements. Some of the courses in this track include politics and policy in the healthcare system, leadership roles in advanced nursing practice, advanced physical assessment for nurse leaders, and philosophy and ethics in advanced nursing roles.

Capella University’s 12-month MSN in Care Coordination program consists of fifty-four quarter credits. Core classes include:

o Communication, collaboration, and case analysis
o Biopsychosocial concepts for Advanced Nursing Practice
o Healthcare Law and Policy
o Economics and Decision-Making

Other specialized classes include an introduction to care coordination, ethical and legal considerations in care coordination, leadership in care coordination, and healthcare models used in care coordination.

The University of Arizona in Tucson offers both ADN and BSN tracks to obtain a master of science in nursing in clinical systems leadership. The program curriculum covers topics such as:

o Foundations of Systems Leadership
o Health Promotion and Risk Reduction
o Leadership for Patient-Centered Care
o Quality and Safety Management

Additionally, all MSN students at the University of Arizona must pass a 3-credit statistics class that is college-level at some point within the previous five years.

Western Governor’s University assigns each student a program mentor who works with you through each term, building a personalized plan to accomplish your degree. Students enrolled in the leadership and management specialty program take courses such as:

o Business Case Analysis for Healthcare Improvement
o Evidence-Based Measures for Evaluating Healthcare Improvements
o Leading with Personal Mastery
o Nursing Leadership, Management Field Experience, and Management Capstone

The MSN Core courses include:

o Advanced Patho-pharmacological Foundations
o Informatics for Transforming Nursing Care
o Professional Presence and Influence
o Essentials of Advanced Nursing Roles and Interprofessional Practice

**Please note, these are just some examples of the coursework required at each of the schools listed above. Other classes may be required at each of these schools, as well as any other of the best 1-year online MSN programs you choose to enroll in.

Clinical Training

Even attending one of the best 1-year MSN programs online, you are still required to participate in clinical training. The specialty program you enroll in will typically determine what clinical practice is necessary for the completion of the program.

Capella University’s students who are enrolled in any Care Coordination, Nursing Education, and Nursing Leadership & Administration 1-year online MSN program are required to complete one hundred hours of documented hands-on practical experience. Students in the Nursing Informatics program are required to have 200 hours of hands-on clinical experience.
Another example is the University of Alabama at Huntsville, which offers an MSN in Nursing Administration. Upon completion of the program, graduates will have accumulated 225 clinical hours of hands-on supervised administrative, clinical experience.
On the other hand, Wilmington University students at Wilmington who enroll in the nursing leadership track choose either executive practice, legal nurse consultant role, or educator role.

o The executive practice and educator roles each require thirty-two clinical hours.
o The Legal Nurse Consultant concentration requires twenty-eight clinical hours.

Admission Requirements

While all colleges and universities reserve the right to set specific guidelines for admission to the programs they offer, many 1-year online MSN programs share similar basic requirements. General requirements include possessing at least an ADN or BSN in nursing, or a bachelor's degree in another specialty from an accredited college, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a current resume'.

Admission to the MSN program at Southwestern Oklahoma State University includes the following requirements:

o Submit official copies of all transcripts from any post-secondary school attended
o Submit an application for graduate admission and a 9-hour transfer of credit policy agreement
o Show proof of retention of a 3.0 grade point average or higher on a 4.0 scale for any previous college/university credits

The University of Arizona offers a 100% online 1-year fast-track MSN program with both ADN and BSN track options. Prospective students must meet admission requirements as outlined below:

o Possess a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse in the state where you reside
o Pass a 3-credit, college-level statistics course within the last five years
o Possess an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) from an institution that is regionally accredited with proof of a cumulative grade point average of at least a 3.0.
o Proof of at least one full year of work experience as a registered nurse within the last five years

The University of Alabama in Huntsville requires the following for admission to its online MSN in Nursing Administration program:

o Possess a BSN degree from a regionally accredited university whose program is accredited by the CCNE (Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education) or the (CNEA) NLN commission for Nursing Education Accreditation
o Hold a current, unencumbered license to practice as an RN
o Overall GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all baccalaureate courses taken, or at a minimum on the last sixty baccalaureate coursework semester hours completed

How to Fund Your 1-Year Online MSN Program?

Not only do on-campus MSN programs offer ways to fund attending a program, even the best 1-year online MSN programs have several options. A few of the most popular are listed below.

1. Saving and Budgeting:

Taking the time to carefully plan your expenses is an essential step in funding your education. Make a list of essential and non-essential expenses and eliminate the things that aren't necessary. For example, instead of going out to lunch or dinner or going to the movies, have an in-home movie night and cook for yourself or your family. It may sound simple, but when you consider the cost of feeding a family at a restaurant a few times a week, you can see how the expenses add up.

2. Utilize Student Loans:

The government offers programs for students to receive funding to help pay for education. The repayment plans typically have lower interest rates than conventional loans. To apply for federal financial student aid, visit here.

3. Apply for Scholarships:

Scholarships are a great option because they are like getting a financial gift, which never has to be repaid. Scholarships for MSN students are often decided upon merit-based criteria. For instance, students may need to show proof of undergraduate academic records, prepare letters of intent, or submit letters of recommendation.

4. Work-Study Programs:

Over three thousand universities and colleges nationwide participate in federal work-study programs that provide financial aid. There is information about work-study programs when filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Colleges and universities have different ways of working their programs. Some students may find on-campus jobs. Others may work off-campus.

How to Decide Which 1-Year Online MSN Program Is the Right Fit for You?

Knowing you want to pursue a 1-year online MSN program is just one of the first steps toward advancing your career in a big way. But how do you know which program is right for you? There are some things to consider that may help you narrow your choices. Make a list of concerns you have first so that you can arrange to talk with admissions counselors and staff at prospective schools and get your questions answered. A few examples of things to consider include the following.

1. Get as much information as possible about the instructors in your chosen program.

Find out their credentials and how long they have been teaching online courses. Online courses are much different than on-campus classes, so you want to be sure that you choose a school that offers a good mix of knowledge and experience.

2. Find a school that is accredited.

Being accredited means that the school has met quality standards that are necessary for nursing education. As mentioned before, 1-year online MSN programs are typically accredited by the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing and Education or the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

3. What is the post-graduation success rate of students at the schools you are considering?

If local healthcare centers or providers value a program, chances are graduates' success rate will be good.

4. Are student advisors readily available to assist online students?

Although attending school online may seem like an easier task than on-campus learning, there will be times when you need the assistance of an advisor. Ask prospective schools if students are assigned a personal advisor and how easy it is to communicate with them.

5. Find out what type of technology each prospective school uses to teach their classes.

Just because you can take an online class in your pajamas at home doesn’t mean you should have to settle for a program that is not up to par with the standards you need to obtain your MSN and be successful.

6. Ask about the pass rate of students who are taking certification exams.

If you are going to spend your time and effort to learn a specialty, you want to be prepared to pass the certification examination, right?


1. University of Nevada - Las Vegas, NV

Programs Offered:

Nursing Education (1-Year)

2. The University of Alabama at Huntsville - Huntsville, AL

Programs Offered:

Nursing Administration (12 months)

3. University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Programs Offered:

Clinical Systems Leadership (15 months)

4. Kennesaw State University - Marietta, GA

Programs Offered:

Nursing Administration & Transformational Leadership (15 months)

5. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley - Edinburg, TX

Programs Offered:

Nursing Administration (12 months) and Nursing Education (12 months)

6. Capella University - Minneapolis, MN

Programs Offered:

Care Coordination (12 months), Nursing Education (12 months), Nursing Informatics (12 months), and Nursing Leadership and Administration (12 months)

7. Northern Kentucky University - Highland Heights, KY

Programs Offered:

Nurse Executive Leadership (12 months) and Nursing Education (12 months)

8. Wilmington University - New Castle, DE

Programs Offered:

Nurse Leadership (1-Year)

9. Southwestern Oklahoma State University - Weatherford, OK

Programs Offered:

Administration (14 months), Informatics (14 months), and MSN Education (14 months)

10. Western Governors University - Salt Lake City, UT

Programs Offered:

Nursing Informatics (18 months)


Career Opportunities Post Completion of One-Year MSN

After graduating from one of the best 1-year MSN programs online, career opportunities abound. MSN-nursing students have the opportunity to choose a sub-specialty or concentration that is of specific interest to them. Depending on the specialty area you are interested in practicing, you may be required to take a specialty certification examination.

Some common career opportunities that are available to nurses who hold 1-year master’s degrees include the following.

1. Nursing Informatics -

In this specialty, nurses incorporate the science of nursing with analytical sciences to help healthcare professionals manage data and communicate it appropriately.

2. Nurse Educator -

Nurse educators work together with nursing staff to help them develop and build upon their skills and competencies. They help nursing staff to achieve academic advancement and fulfill career goals.

3. Clinical Nurse Researcher -

Clinical nurse researchers write proposals for grants, evaluate data, collect data, and work with statistics.

4. Forensic Nurse Consultant -

This specialized group of nurses work with criminal defense attorneys and law enforcement officers and often act as expert witnesses in court for prosecutors.

5. Legal Nurse Consultant -

Legal nurse consultants gather and study medical records and study evidence to help legal professionals. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants offers certification examinations for those who wish to pursue this specialty area of practice.

Average Earnings

Nurses who have achieved an MSN degree in 1-year, according to Payscale.com, typically earn just under $95,000 a year. The average hourly pay is $45.57, which makes the monthly income about $7,900. Some factors, such as years of experience, specialty certifications, and geographical location, may influence potential earnings. Typically, areas that have a higher cost of living offer higher salaries to make up the difference.

Per Hour $45.57
Per Month $7,900
Per Year$94,787
(Source: payscale.com)

Job Market

Job market opportunities for nurses who hold a 1-year online MSN degree include administrative and management positions, teaching, and developing policies related to healthcare. Whether MSN nurses choose to specialize in a sub-specialty such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or psychiatrics, there is plenty of room for growth in the job market. In fact, according to the BLS, the outlook for annual job growth for master’s-prepared nurses is twenty-six percent.

Bottom line

There is a lot to consider when you are trying to choose from the best 1-year online MSN programs. Take the time to research your options and choose a specialty that means something to you. Remember, furthering your education is a great way to add value to your life and to the lives of others!


How many years do online MSN programs usually take to complete?

Although there are some one-year MSN programs, online MSN programs typically take at least two years to complete. Additionally, depending on whether you enroll as a full-time or part-time student, the program could take longer.

Are there any MSN programs that are shorter than 1-year?

Currently, there are no MSN programs that take less than one year to complete.

Are MSN programs that can be completed in 1-year less expensive?

Sometimes they can be, but this is not always the case. Although you spend less time enrolled in school, tuition varies from one school to the next and can be quite expensive, even in the one-year MSN programs. Also, you need to consider the cost of any additional school fees, books, and supplies.

Do one-year MSN programs cover the same topics?

No matter which MSN program you enroll in, you will take courses in both general nursing topics such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and health assessment. Also, depending on the track you choose to specialize in, you will take courses specific to that specialty as well as have specific clinical practicum requirements associated with that specialty.

Is 1-year MSN Degree Accreditation Really Necessary?

Yes! Accreditation really is essential. When a school is accredited, it means that it has demonstrated high-quality standards of education. If your school is not accredited, you may find it difficult to find gainful employment. Healthcare providers and facilities believe it is very important to check whether a potential employee's school is accredited before offering any employment opportunity.

If I Have a BSN but Need to Work While Getting my MSN, How Long Will It Take?

If you plan on working while pursuing your MSN degree, it could take you two to four years to complete the program. One thing to keep in mind is, it’s okay to pace yourself. If you need to work while you go to school, then do it. Don’t overload yourself by enrolling in too many classes. Endurance always wins in the end.

What exactly is an MSN Degree?

An MSN degree stands for Master of Science in Nursing degree. It represents the fact that a nurse has completed a master’s-level degree in the study of nursing and has achieved advanced-practice status, also known as being an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

If I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Another Field but Want to Become an MSN, How Long Will It Take to Complete the Program?

It usually takes at least three years of full-time study to achieve a Master of Science in Nursing degree if you have a bachelor's degree in another field. This is because the first year of the program focuses specifically only on entry-level coursework.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.