Online MSN in Nursing Administration Programs Ranked by Affordability
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In just a span of 14 years, student loan debt has risen from half a trillion dollars to $1.7 trillion. This is an increase of $1.2 trillion. Student loan debt has reached epic proportions and continues to rise, increasing by over $100 billion since Q1 of 2019 (FRED).
This has sparked a host of proposals by lawmakers to reduce and relieve student debt. Some of these include pausing student loan payments, while others have proposed that the government forgive up to $50,000 in federal debt per student (CNBC).
The bottom line is that in order to increase their income and advance their careers, professionals typically must earn advanced degrees in their fields, incurring even more debt after undergraduate school. This creates a need for more affordable master’s degrees.
Professionals are seeking out degrees in growing fields where the salaries are attractive. Online MSN in nursing administration programs fit the bill. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS 2021), medical and health services managers earn a median salary of $104,280 per year ($50.13 per hour). Median annual wages were highest in categories such as government facilities ($116,380) and hospitals ($112,870), with outpatient care centers falling near the overall median ($100,690). Doctor’s offices ($94,240) and nursing home facilities ($89,880) fell below the overall median for medical and health services managers.
Jobs in this market are also growing. The BLS (2021) projected that positions in this field will swell 32 percent nationally between 2019 and 2029, with the addition of 133,200 jobs.
Healthcare administrators typically have at least a bachelor’s degree, but master’s degrees are becoming increasingly common for these positions. To that end, in this article, we cover online MSN in Nursing Administration programs including clinical nurse leader programs ranked by affordability in 2020 to 2021.
These rankings are based on tuition data MHAOnline.com collected in 2021 from 250 online MHA programs and closely related graduate degrees. Tuition information is as current as possible, being taken from the 2020-2021 or 2021-2022 school years as published by each school.
Please note that the following are ranked based on their total program cost.
1) Rasmussen University MSN in Nursing Leadership and Administration
Topping our list as the most affordable online MSN in nursing administration program, Rasmussen University offers a 100 percent online MSN in nursing leadership and administration. This program can be completed in 18 months with full-time study and offers four start dates per year. Students can participate in live lectures or listen to lecture recordings as necessary. A practicum may be required local to the student in approved states of study.
The curriculum focuses on healthcare finance, human resources, interdisciplinary collaboration, nursing leadership, and performance management. Specialty courses include the business side of nursing, meaningful communication and collaboration, and leadership and management in advanced nursing practice.
The Rasmussen MSN is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the curriculum aligns with the National League for Nursing (NLN) Outcomes and Competencies for Graduates of Nursing programs, the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) Competencies.
- Cost per credit: $155/credit
- Number of credits: 48 credits
- Total cost: $7,440 + fees
2) Grand Canyon University (GCU) Online MSN in Nursing Leadership in Healthcare Systems
Grand Canyon University offers an online MSN in nursing leadership in healthcare systems that can be completed in as little as five semesters. Areas of focus include the importance and value of each individual patient, patient advocacy, organizational behavior, change implementation, and healthcare finance. Courses may include acquiring, developing, and leveraging human capital, organizational development and change, and performance improvement and quality in healthcare.
Students complete a leadership in healthcare systems practicum as well as an evidence-based project course through which students address an issue in their professional arena, propose a solution, and do an evaluation. This degree meets the leadership standards of the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and is accredited by the CCNE.
GCU also offers an online RN to MSN bridge program and a dual MBA/MSN for those interested.
- Cost per credit: $557/credit
- Number of credits: 36 credits
- Total cost: $20,052 + fees
3) Queens University of Charlotte MSN – Clinical Nurse Leader
Queens University of Charlotte offers an online MSN – clinical nurse leader program with no campus visits required and 400 clinical hours. The program can be completed in two years on a full-time basis by taking one course every eight weeks, or four years part-time. An RN-to-MSN pathway, as well as a post-master’s certificate, are also offered. Graduates are trained to improve patient outcomes, take an ethical approach to leadership, apply advanced therapeutics to complement traditional therapies, and manage clinical systems and microsystems.
Specialty courses may include management of clinical outcomes, leadership principles and practices, management of the care environment, and clinical nurse leader residency. Courses run eight weeks each so that students can take one course at a time while still completing two courses per semester. Small class sizes add to collaboration and relationship-building between faculty and peers.
This program is CCNE-accredited and graduates are eligible to sit for the clinical nurse leader certification exam through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
- Cost per credit: $572/credit
- Number of credits: 37 credits
- Total cost: $21,164 + fees
4) Queens University of Charlotte MSN – Nurse Administrator
Queens University of Charlotte also offers an online MSN – nurse administrator program with 225 practicum hours included, that can be completed in two years on a full-time basis or four years part-time. No campus visits are required. An RN-to-MSN pathway, as well as a post-master’s certificate, are also offered. Graduates are trained to work with executive teams to manage healthcare costs, access, and quality, as well as to make important business decisions.
Specialty courses may include leadership principles and practices, financial management for nurse leaders, educational principles and practices, principles of curriculum and evaluation, and graduate nursing capstone. Courses run eight weeks in length and class sizes are kept small for more collaboration and bonding between faculty and peers. This program is CCNE-accredited.
- Cost per credit: $586/credit
- Number of credits: 37 credits
- Total cost: $21,682 + fees
5) Capella University MSN in Nursing Leadership and Administration
Capella University offers an online MSN in Nursing Leadership and Administration that can be completed in one of two learning pathways: GuidedPath or FlexPath.
GuidedPath is a traditional learning pathway that allows students to take one to three courses per quarter and is charged at a per-credit rate.
FlexPath is a self-paced option in which students may take two courses at one time and begin another course as soon as one is finished. This pathway is charged on a 12-week basis and students may complete as many courses in that time as they are able.
Nursing leadership and administration MSN students complete courses such as leadership and management for nurses executives, healthcare informatics and technology, healthcare quality and safety management, advanced finance and operations management, and leading the future of healthcare. This program is CCNE-accredited.
Since the MSN program is flexible and offers multiple learning pathways, its duration and therefore its cost will be determined by several factors, including the path chosen and the courseload taken. While we made what we believe to be reasonable “middle of the road” assumptions in including the Capella MSN on this list and in this position, please click “View Full Profile” for more details, as the cost may vary significantly from student to student.
6) Sacred Heart University MSN in Nursing Management and Executive Leadership
Sacred Heart University offers an online MSN in nursing management and executive leadership degree in a part-time format with one course every eight weeks. It is specifically designed for full-time working nurses and can be completed in two years. This degree path includes 120 clinical hours. Sacred Heart University also offers an RN-to-BSN-to-MSN pathway.
The program focuses on research, human resource management, healthcare quality improvement, strategic planning, healthcare finance, and administrative processes. Specialty courses may include healthcare delivery system, management of financial resources, healthcare information systems, role development for nursing management and executive leadership, creating a professional work environment, quality and safety in practice, a practicum, and a capstone.
- Cost per credit: $695/credit
- Number of credits: 36 credits
- Total cost: $25,020 + fees
7) Saint Xavier University MSN in Executive Leadership
Saint Xavier University offers an online MSN in executive leadership that prepares graduates to lead a nursing department with the managerial, administrative, and critical thinking skills that promote excellent patient care. The degree can be completed in about 2.5 years. Upon completion, graduates will be able to take national certification exams to become nurse executives from the ANCC or the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL).
Specialty courses may include the executive leader role, advanced health and social policy, administrative leadership, advanced healthcare finance, practicums, and a capstone. Saint Xavier University offers a 20 percent partner tuition discount to enrolled students who are employed 40 hours per pay period in a clinical setting.
- Cost per credit: $750/credit
- Number of credits: 35 credits
- Total cost: $26,250 + fees
8) Carlow University MSN in Education and Leadership
Carlow University offers an online MSN in education and leadership that combines two specializations into one comprehensive degree. Students complete two internship capstones to cover both education and nursing leadership for a total of 300 clinical hours. The degree can be completed in 15 to 20 months or longer as necessary.
Graduates will have the interdisciplinary leadership skills to advocate for patients, families, and communities and to affect healthcare policy, assess and promote change to healthcare delivery and quality improvement, and address financial issues in healthcare organizations. Upon completion, graduates may be eligible to take the clinical nurse leader certification exam through the ANCC.
Courses may include organizational leadership, health promotion in families and communities, fiscal management, key concepts in pathophysiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment for nurse educators and leaders, health policy and healthcare economics, and ethical and legal healthcare issues.
- Cost per credit: $812/credit
- Number of credits: 33 credits
- Total cost: $26,796 + fees
9) Sacred Heart University MSN – Clinical Nurse Leader
Sacred Heart University offers an online MSN with a clinical nurse leader (CNL) specialization. This program offers 100 percent online coursework with no campus visits and requires the completion of 348 clinical hours. Students take one course every eight weeks and can complete the program in two years. Sacred Heart University also offers an RN-to-BSN-to-MSN pathway.
CNLs typically lead multi-faceted teams including nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and doctors. Graduates are eligible to take the CNL certification exam through the AACN. Clinical nurse leaders may qualify for positions as nurse leaders, nurse managers, nurse administrators, quality care coordinators, and academic positions.
The program focuses on patient safety and the advancement of superior healthcare outcomes. Specialty courses may include family and community context for healthcare, application of comprehensive health assessment methods, advanced pathophysiology, care management and resources across the continuum, and disease management and outcomes assessment.
- Cost per credit: $695/credit
- Number of credits: 39 credits
- Total cost: $27,105 + fees
10) Saint Xavier University MSN in Clinical Leadership
Saint Xavier University offers an online MSN in clinical leadership that prepares graduates to improve patient care and outcomes and reduce healthcare expenses. The curriculum gives nurses clinical expertise in pharmacology, health assessment, and pathophysiology, with an examination of epidemiology, applied research, and population-based healthcare included. The degree can be completed in about 2.5 years. Upon completion, graduates will be able to take the clinical nurse leader certification exam through the ANCC.
Specialty courses may include advanced health assessment, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, clinical leader role courses, clinical leader immersion courses, and practicums. Tuition discounts may be available to nurses who are employed 40 hours per pay period in a clinical setting.
- Cost per credit: $750/credit
- Number of credits: 38 credits
- Total cost: $28,500 + fees
Find an Affordable Online MSN in Nursing Administration Program
As the need for nurse administrators increases job opportunities will rise accordingly, yet these positions require an advanced nursing degree. As higher education costs rise, taking on more student loan debt to earn a graduate degree may not be feasible. These MSN in nursing administration programs ranked by affordability can open up some options that might not otherwise have been considered.
These online programs in nursing administration can be convenient, affordable, and completed in about two years. These programs can provide a career pathway to fill nursing administration and leadership positions without the looming burden of more tuition debt.
For more information on low-cost graduate degrees, check out our guide to the most affordable online MHA programs.