Can You Become a Nurse Practitioner Online – (10 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome)

Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C

Many nurses want to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner but are overwhelmed with deciding which NP (online or campus-based) program to pursue. Online NP programs have been around for a while. Still, after the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of online NP programs has soared—while some are solely online, others are in a hybrid format but can attend class virtually instead of in-person.

Many nurses have questions about completing their NP degree through an online program. How can you become a nurse practitioner online? Are online programs comparable to in-person programs? Are online programs more challenging? Below I will discuss the 10 most significant challenges of becoming a nurse practitioner online and how to overcome them.



Yes, you can become a nurse practitioner online. There are many programs nationwide— and more schools are adding online NP programs or transitioning their current program to either online or a hybrid format.

While the didactic portion of the program is online—you will still need to attend in-person clinical.


Becoming a nurse practitioner through an online NP program has many benefits. Below I will list 3 of the top benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner online.

1. Increased school-work-life balance:

Becoming a nurse practitioner through an online NP program can improve the school-work-life balance. It can create the opportunity to study, listen to lectures, and finish tests at times that are convenient for you based on work and family schedules.

2. More options for NP school without relocation:

Deciding to complete an NP program online opens the doors to choosing from NP programs nationwide without having to relocate yourself and your family to obtain an advanced degree.

3. Self-Paced Learning:

Becoming a nurse practitioner online allows for self-paced learning. This is because you are responsible for managing your time and can move between units at your own pace. This is not to say that assignments, quizzes, and tests don’t have due dates--but online learning allows you to learn on your schedule.


The time it takes to become a nurse practitioner online will vary significantly based on which program you complete (MSN vs. DNP) and status attended (part-time vs. full-time). On average, it will take 1.5 to 2 years to complete an online MSN NP program while attending full-time, and a DNP program will take 2-3 years. Again, additional time may be added if attending part-time or any breaks are needed throughout the program.


The cost to become a nurse practitioner online can range from just under $25,000 to $250,000. This is a significant range and is influenced by multiple factors including the school selected, the status attended, and if you are pursuing an MSN vs. DNP degree.


There are challenges to become a nurse practitioner online. Below, you will find the 10 biggest challenges of becoming a nurse practitioner through online NP programs and ways you can successfully overcome them.

CHALLENGE #1: You must have strong organizational skills and time management

About the Challenge:

To become a nurse practitioner online you must have strong organizational and time management skills. Not attending class daily or weekly and having in-person contact can lead to falling behind, missing assignments, and not learning the information needed to be a successful NP.

How to Overcome:

Once your class is open, recommend accessing it immediately and reviewing the syllabus. Purchase a planner or find an online planner you like and write down the due dates for all assignments, quizzes, and exams. Some people may even find it beneficial to schedule out a week, two weeks, or month at a time with what you will complete every day of the week (i.e., read Ch. 34 on Monday and start the discussion assignment, Tuesday, finish discussion, Wednesday read Ch. 35 and review PowerPoints from the unit, etc.).

It is essential to stay up on readings, attend class (online) when they happen, and stay caught up, which requires strong time management and organizational skills.

CHALLENGE #2: Self Motivated

About the Challenge:

Another challenge of becoming a nurse practitioner online is the need to be self-motivated. You will have to be responsible for scheduling study times, completion of quizzes, and when you will take the exams. Many NP students are working as nurses—and if this is you, it can be hard to get motivated after working a shift or on your day off. It becomes easy to say I will “do it tomorrow” and fall behind on your study schedule.

Lack of motivation can be exacerbated by not having weekly in-person classes or meetings with your instructor or peers.

How to Overcome:

To overcome this, it is important to be realistic about your schedule and plan when you will get tasks done—for example, try to avoid taking an exam or writing a 5-page paper after working a 12-hour shift. Also, form a group with peers—this may be a study group or even a group that meets frequently, but everyone works or studies individually, but the group will help hold you accountable.

CHALLENGE #3: Technology Requirements

About the Challenge:

There can be challenges regarding the technical requirements of the online NP program. This includes having a laptop with camera and microphone access and a cell phone, which may be an extra expense for the student. You must access the internet and download specific apps on the computer, such as an app, to take the exam. It may not be required, but very beneficial to have email and other apps on your cell phone for easy access to the course and communication with peers and instructors.

How to Overcome:

To overcome this challenge, it is essential to budget for any new equipment that you may need to be successful. Also, communicate with your instructors and the school of nursing to gain access to any websites or apps necessary for the course. It will also be beneficial to have the IT phone number easily accessible to call with any questions.

CHALLENGE #4: The Online NP program may not be accredited

About the Challenge:

While many online NP programs are available throughout the United States and even the world, not all of these programs are accredited. The online NP school you attend must be accredited by either CCNE or ACEN as most board certification associations/organizations will not let you sit for the exam unless you graduate from an accredited NP program—and some employers require graduation from an accredited NP program.

How to Overcome:

To avoid applying or attending an online NP program that is not accredited, visit their website and find out if they are an accredited program. If you cannot find the information—either call or email the program to find this information out before applying.

CHALLENGE #5: Group Projects

About the Challenge:

Group projects are still a part of online NP school—which can be challenging since you often do not meet your peers in person. Most, if not all, of the projects, are completed solely through online communication. While this may come with benefits such as no driving required, it can be challenging to ensure all group members are staying on task, completing their assigned sections, and the project will be cohesive.

How to Overcome:

To overcome this challenge—at the beginning of the assignment, meet with the group and divide the project out amongst the members. Then, set deadlines for when pieces of the assignment are due and have routine meetings with the group to ensure everyone is staying on task and on the same page with the project's direction.

CHALLENGE #6: Technology problems

About the Challenge:

Technology is great—but unfortunately, it comes with problems. This may include a poor or interrupted internet connection, a website or application not working, or not having access to specific documents or links.

How to Overcome:

It is often impossible to prevent technology problems from happening. While it is essential to make sure you update applications used and routinely restart your computer—technology problems will still occur.

So, to help minimize the stress or complications from these technical problems, be sure to have the phone number of the school’s IT department and call them with questions or assistance. Also—don’t hesitate to ask the instructor to resend a document if the email was not received or the link does not work.

CHALLENGE #7: Lack of personal contact with peers/other students

About the Challenge:

Forming connections or professional relationships with your peers can be challenging when you do not meet them in person. However, these connections are essential as they provide support and companionship while navigating the online NP program. They may also lead to professional relationships when working as an NP.

How to Overcome:

Do not be afraid to contact other students and form connections. This can be through email to ask questions about upcoming assignments or clarify a topic. It can also be through creating a study group or an “accountability group” meeting weekly and working on individual projects or tasks. However, meeting as a group helps hold you accountable to complete your job.

CHALLENGE #8: It is easy to get distracted.

About the Challenge:

Becoming a nurse practitioner online can be challenging--it is easy to get distracted when completing courses online. This includes being distracted by people or other responsibilities in your house, friends, work, and even mindless scrolling online. There is always something that can tear your attention away from studying.

How to Overcome:

There are a lot of resources available now to help minimize distractions—this may include planning your day out, setting a timer for an hour and then taking a break, having a dedicated workspace, and minimizing stimulation around the workspace. You may have to try a couple of methods to figure out what works best for you—but you must figure out the best way to stay on task.

CHALLENGE #9: Finding Clinical Sites

About the Challenge:

This may not apply to all online NP programs, but many online NP programs will not help the student find their clinical sites—this responsibility falls onto the student. This is a challenge—especially if the NP student does not have a lot of connections at the sites where they need experience.

How to Overcome:

Start reaching out early in the NP program. Ask your instructors when clinical will start and what sites are okay to complete the required hours. Once you know this information reach out to clinics that you have connections with and ask if they have availability to take a student—I also recommend asking co-workers if they have recommendations or links to any clinics. The most crucial point is not to delay looking for clinical sites!

CHALLENGE #10: Takes effort to make personal connections with instructors

About the Challenge:

In most online nurse practitioner programs, you will not meet your instructor in person—which can be challenging to develop a relationship and connection with your instructor. This will take extra work and effort—as they are not in front of you every week. It will take extra effort, which many people may feel is unimportant—but it is still vital as they are excellent resources and can provide support even after graduation.

How to Overcome:

Make an effort to introduce yourself to your instructor—this may already be a part of the first week; if it is not, reach out to your instructor and introduce yourself. Attend class, ask questions, and schedule meetings with the instructor to discuss your questions or concerns. Make sure your instructor can place a name with your face.


There are many options for nurses wanting to become nurse practitioners online. Below is a list of the ten best online nurse practitioner programs in the United States.

Rank School Name
1 University of South Carolina - Columbia, SC
2 Duke University - Durham, NC
2 Ohio State University - Columbus, OH
2 University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, AL
5 Saint Xavier University - Chicago, IL
5 The Catholic University of America Conway School of Nursing - Washington, DC
8 George Washington University - Washington, DC
8 Stony Brook University--SUNY - Stony Brook, NY
10 Boise State University - Boise, ID
10 Indiana University-Purdue University--Indianapolis - Indianapolis, IN
(Source: U.S. News)


Can you become a nurse practitioner online? Absolutely! Attending an online NP program is an excellent option for many nurses. It provides flexibility and work-life-school balance and may open the door to more programs for the nurse without forcing them to relocate. It does come with its fair share of challenges as well. After reading the 10 biggest challenges of becoming a nurse practitioner online and how to overcome them, you have a greater understanding of expectations and what to expect, leading to success in advancing your degree.

Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!