Online NP School Rankings: What Is AdvanceU?

The NPSchools.com team created the AdvanceU score to measure how well a nursing school structures its online programs to meet the needs of registered nurses (RNs) looking to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

AdvanceU scores range from 1 to 100. For a nursing school to earn a 100, it would have to best every other school across every category. A school scoring 70 outperforms an average of 70% of its competitors across all measures.

In general, nursing schools that score the highest are the ones that:

  • Offer RNs a variety of programs and specializations
  • Limit extraneous admissions hurdles
  • Let students start as quickly as possible
  • Are among the most affordable

The AdvanceU score is not a measure of a nursing school’s academic quality, although all of the profiled online programs are approved by one of these reputable programmatic accreditors: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACNE), or the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

NPSchools.com collected data on each school’s online programs, grouped the data into three “buckets,” calculated a sub-score for each bucket, and finally combined and weighted them to generate a unique AdvanceU score for the school.

Primary Measures of AdvanceU: What is a Top Online Nursing Program?

The three “buckets” (or primary measures) that factor into the AdvanceU score are admissions flexibility, program variety, and cost.

For 2020, we weighted cost and admissions flexibility evenly (30% each) and gave a bit more weight to program variety (40%) as it is composed of more individual data points and, practically speaking, best demonstrates a school’s investment in and commitment to online advanced practice training and development for registered nurses at all levels of education.

Admissions
Flexibility (30%)
This measures how well an online nursing school accommodates RNs from different states, admits them without entrance exams, and has multiple start dates throughout the year.
Program Variety (40%)This considers the breadth of online nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, and clinical nurse specialist programs offered by an institution, factoring in the variety of program pathways (e.g., RN-to-MSN, BSN-to-DNP) and specializations (e.g., adult-gerontology, psychiatric-mental health).
Cost (30%)This weighs total program tuition for both in-state and out-of-state residents.

What’s the Point of the AdvanceU Ranking?

Registered nurses (RNs) seeking greater autonomy, more population-specific experience, and higher pay might consider an advanced practice role. Nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) all require graduate-level training, including at least 500 to 1,000 clinical hours in their chosen specialization. Then, they can pursue state licensure and national certification.

Online NP, CNM, and CNS programs give working RNs the ability to earn a graduate degree while continuing to work. However, not every school offers the right program for every aspiring APRN. Some schools offer limited specializations and start dates. Others require that prospective students live and work in specific states, submit GRE scores, or have a BSN prior to enrollment.

Generally speaking, distance-based APRN programs have different requirements and characteristics. Restrictions may not always be obvious. Consequently, the NPSchools.com team did the research to show which online nursing schools are the most flexible, affordable, and varied in their program offerings.

In other words, we created the AdvanceU system to help you determine whether a nursing school can meet your specific needs. Check out our customized AdvanceU rankings to find your ideal online program.

Rankings by NP Specialization

Top Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) play an important role in the care of infants, especially those born prematurely or needing special care because they are sick or have acute health challenges. Here you can view a comprehensive, ranked list of online neonatal NP programs, and learn more about programs of interest by reading their detailed school profiles.

Top Online Women’s Health and Gender-Related NP Programs

The women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) is specifically prepared to serve women from adolescence through adulthood. WHNPs address the unique needs of women during the childbearing years and beyond, working with menstruation, childbearing, menopause, and many other women’s health issues. View a complete list of online WHNP programs ranked according to our AdvanceU score.

Top Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) play an especially important role in the lives of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses as well as well-visit checkups and preventive care. View a complete list of all online pediatric NP programs, including specialized primary care and acute care PNP programs, ranked using our AdvanceU scoring system.

Top Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Fortunately for future FNPs, there are a variety of master’s, post-master’s certificate, and doctoral level programs available in most states, with a growing number of online, distance learning programs available around the country. View here a comprehensive list of online family nurse practitioner programs (which we define as programs that require no more than nine campus visits over the duration of the program), ranked by cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety.

Top Online Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Programs

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners may study general gerontology, acute care, or primary care and serve populations ranging from adolescence through late adulthood. There are a variety of master’s, post-master’s certificate, and doctoral level programs available in most states, with a growing number of online programs becoming available. View a comprehensive list of online AGNP programs, including specialized primary and acute care programs, ranked by cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety.

Top Online Psychiatric-Mental Health NP Programs

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) play an important role in the care of patients and families in the United States serving populations across the lifespan with their mental health needs including in the areas of patient education and disease prevention. View a comprehensive, ranked list of online psychiatric NP programs, and learn more about programs of interest by reading their detailed school profiles.

Rankings by NP Degree Type

Top Online RN-to-MSN Nurse Practitioner Programs

The top online RN-to-MSN nurse practitioner programs ranked here offer students several choices that take into account the cost-per-credit, admissions flexibility, and the variety of the program options. One advantage of moving directly from the associate’s degree or diploma to the MSN is that generally at least three bachelor’s and master’s level classes overlap, reducing the overall credit load. This helps nurses earn their degree in less time, with less cost, in a seamless manner.

Top Online Post-Master’s NP Certificate Programs

View a comprehensive, ranked list of the top online post-master’s NP certificate programs. A post-master’s NP certificate allows MSN-prepared nurses to specialize in a nurse practitioner area of study and practice. Specializations include family nursing, neonatal, pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, and adult-gerontology, as well as acute care and primary care options.

Top Online MSN Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse practitioners fill an important role in the care of patients from infancy through late adulthood in primary, acute, and specialty care settings. Patients are turning more and more to nurse practitioners due to the shortage of family practice doctors, as well as the excellent service provided by NPs due to their comprehensive educational experience and clinical practice. We’ve ranked a comprehensive list of online MSN-NP programs here based on cost, admissions flexibility and the variety of the programs.

Top Online DNP Nurse Practitioner Programs

The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree provides an opportunity to study leadership, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, interpersonal communication, and health care systems in a practice-focused manner rather than a research-based doctoral education. Earning a DNP degree with an NP specialization requires completion of a preceptorship consisting of a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours in a supervised setting. The following is a comprehensive list of online DNP-NP programs ranked by cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety.

Online APRN Program Rankings

Top Online Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs

Clinical nurse specialists are able to diagnose, treat, and manage the health care of patients in their respective specialization, providing expertise and support to other nursing professionals, doctors, and specialists. CNSs are in high demand and have several specializations to choose from in the areas of adult-gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal, family, women’s health, and psychiatric mental health. View a complete list of online clinical nurse specialist programs ranked by cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety.

Top Online Nurse-Midwifery Programs

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) primarily care for women throughout pregnancy including prenatal and postpartum care. However, CNMs are also qualified to address the gynecologic and primary health care needs of women from adolescence through menopause, as well as caring for newborns and young babies. View a comprehensive list of online nurse-midwifery programs ranked by cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety.