December 20, 2021

Top Nurse Practitioner Programs 2022

Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses who enjoy the respect of their peers, the admiration of their patients, and an extremely high level of job satisfaction. But in order to become one, you first need to choose a nurse practitioner program. 

The position requires a minimum of a master’s degree level of education, and it is becoming increasingly common for Nurse Practitioner students to choose to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. 

If you are beginning to explore becoming a Nurse Practitioner, you likely have many questions about which programs will provide you with the best education and position you for the greatest level of success. 

Top Nurse Practitioner Programs for 2022

School Graduate Nursing Degrees Offered Number of Full-Time Faculty Number of Graduate Nursing Students Tuition 
Johns Hopkins University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 85 974 $1,738 per credit
Emory University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 99 755 $1,963 per credit
Duke University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 92 864 $1,838 per credit
University of Pennsylvania Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 98 816 $45,248
Columbia University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 70 732 $87,242
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 90 305 ​​$19,062 per year (in-state) and $40,394 per year (out-of-state)
University of Washington Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 80 530

$17,919 per year (in-state) and $31,026 per year (out-of-state)

Vanderbilt University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 143 969 $1,716 per credit
Ohio State University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 108 564 $973 per credit (in-state) and $2,447 per credit (out-of-state)
University of California - San Francisco Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 97 469 $12,570 per year (in-state) and $24,815 per year (out-of-state)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 100 364 $1,351 per credit (in-state) and $2,773 per credit (out-of-state)
New York University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 80 769 $36,514
Case Western University Master’s, Ph.D., DNP 97 410 $2,197 per credit

*Source U.S. News and World Report

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Top Nurse Practitioner Programs 2022

There are approximately 400 academic institutions in the United States that offer accredited Nurse Practitioner programs, and all of them provide the training and education needed to ensure you are ready and able to move forward as a Nurse Practitioner. 

If you are interested in pursuing your education at one of the NP programs that has distinguished itself in the most popular NP specialty areas, we have compiled a list of the top five programs for each, as judged by U.S. News and World Report.

>> Related: Top Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Top Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs 

1.      Duke University – Durham, North Carolina

Tuition: $1,838 per credit 

Duke University’s Adult-Gerontology Acute Care offers intensive courses, state-of-the-art simulation techniques and immersion in clinical rotations for patients across all acute care settings including urgent care and emergency departments, hospitalist, intensive care services and step-down units in academic, community or critical access environments. 

2.      Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee

Tuition: $1,716 per credit

Vanderbilt University’s Adult-Gerontology Acute Care program is taught by doctorally-prepared faculty using traditional classroom settings as well as live streaming videos, online educational activities, simulated experiences and clinical training. The program offers specialization in cardiology, critical care, nephrology, pulmonology, endocrinology, trauma, rehabilitation and other areas. 

3.      Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, Maryland

Tuition: $1,738

Johns Hopkins University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice Adult-Gerontological Acute Care track geared towards improving outcomes for acutely and critically ill older adult patients and provided within the framework of Hopkins extensive resources, clinical sites and faculty. The curriculum includes nursing theory, research, nursing informatics, statistics, and ethics. 

4.      Rush University - Chicago, IL 

Tuition: $1,035 per credit 

Rush University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice Adult-Gerontological Acute Care that is offered part-time in hybrid fashion . Course work begins as part-time, then requires full-time commitment halfway through the program. 75% of didactic course work is delivered online. 25% of course work is offered in a weekly on campus format. Clinical practice sites are located in the Chicago area.

5.      Emory University- Atlanta, GA

Tuition: $1,838

Emory University’s Adult/Gerontology Acute Care program focuses on both the care of acutely ill and complex chronically ill patients and their families. Areas of specialty include critical care, trauma surgery, and hospital medicine. 

Top Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

1.      Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Tuition: $1,838 per credit 

The Duke University Adult-Gerontology NP program is an MSN program that provides opportunities for short-term courses or clinical work in international sites and options for choosing an area of specialization including cardiology, endocrinology, oncology, orthopedics and HIV. 

2.      University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA

Tuition: $45,248 per year (full time) $1,931 per credit (part time)

The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care program at the University of Pennsylvania is a full-time program that lasts 15 months, beginning each May, and continues through the year to the following August. The clinical courses include classroom case studies and clinical preceptorships that focus on physical assessment and pathophysiology, health maintenance, and the management of common acute and chronic health problems. 

3.      Columbia University, New York, New York

Tuition: $84,700 per year

Columbia’s Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP program utilizes an immersion technique that focuses on areas including palliative and end-of-life care and the integration of primary and mental health care. It combines didactic classroom instruction with advanced clinical practice in diverse settings and experiential clinical seminars. 

4.      Yale University - New Haven. CT

Tuition: $46,190 per year (full-time) $30,650 per year (part-time)

Yale University’s Adult-Gerontology NP program is a collaboration with the Connecticut Older Adult Collaboration for Health (COACH) program, the framework of the 4M’s; mentation (cognition and mood), medication (appropriate medication use), mobility (mobility inside and outside the home and fall prevention) and matters most (patient health care goals and preferences) is utilized to educate students in the creation and maintenance of age-friendly health systems.

5.      Vanderbilt Unversity - Nashville, TN

Tuition: $1,716 per credit

Vanderbilt University works closely with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, one of the nation’s top academic medical centers for clinical placement throughout the program. Students benefit from low faculty-to-student ratios and personalized attention. 

Top Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

1.      Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Tuition: $1,838 per credit 

The Duke University FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) program is offered both in-person and online. It prepares its graduates to serve as the primary health care provider for patients of all ages and across all primary care settings. Much of the program’s focus is on preparation for advanced clinical practice throughout patients’ lifespan and across the health continuum. Includes pediatric and perinatal care courses and the ability to do clinical work in international sites. 

2.      Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Tuition: $1,716 per credit 

Vanderbilt University’s Family Nurse Practitioner program teaches a family-oriented approach focused on health promotion and maintenance. While the program offers a traditional didactic approach, it is particularly well suited to those who are self-directed learners who can take in a significant amount of information in concentrated form.  

3.      Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Tuition: $1,963 per credit 

Emory University’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program prepares graduates to meet the needs of individuals across the life span. The program has a strong focus on community-based primary care, offering multidisciplinary experiences in both the classroom and through clinical settings including rural and migrant populations. The program places students in more than 40 community-based sites and private practices to ensure a wide range of exposure and experience. 

4.       University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Tuition: $12,570 per year in-state, $24,815 per year out-of-state 

The University of California -San Francisco’s Family Nurse Practitioner program is focused on preparing Nurse Practitioners to be leaders in clinical care, research and policy. It provides extensive hands-on experience working with a wide range of patient populations with complex health care needs, across the lifespan and in a variety of clinical settings. Post-Master’s certificates are available and require 5 quarters of coursework and an additional 560 hours of clinical practice. 

5.       Columbia University - New York, New York

Tuition: $87,242 per year (full-time) $17,000 per year (part-time)

Students at Columbia University’s DNP program will complete approximately two years of coursework to complete degree requirements. Courses will include lecture, clinical, simulation, and final intensive practicum. Clinical sites are available in the tri-state area and beyond, and can be permanent or rotating. Clinical sites vary in setting and students are assigned at hospitals, outpatient clinics, home care, or schools. 

>> Related: Top Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Top Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Programs 

1.      Rush University - Chicago, Illinois

Tuition: $1,035 per credit (full-time) $1,166 per credit (part-time)

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PC PNP) program prepares students to function in a variety of primary care settings, taking care of children from infancy through young adulthood. The online program can be accomplished in two to four years on either a full-time or part-time basis. 

2.      Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Tuition: $1,838 per credit 

The Duke University Pediatric NP program provides training through all areas of primary health care for children of all ages, including health maintenance and prevention, chronic and acute pediatric illnesses, behavior issues and patient/family education. Clinical practice provides one-on-one experience and is facilitated through work in school-based health clinics, hospital ambulatory settings, health departments and community pediatric practices. 

3.      Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, Maryland

Tuition: $1,738 per credit

Become a DNP-prepared pediatric primary care nurse practitioner all while taking advantage of resources found only at Johns Hopkins. Students enhance their relationship with Johns Hopkins’ internationally acclaimed faculty who have broad experience in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and patient safety, and build up your network with the other emerging leaders among your cohort and alumni.

4.      Ohio State University - Columbus, Ohio

Tuition: $973 per credit (in-state, full-time) $2,447 per credit (out-of-state, full-time)

Students have the ability to earn an MSN PNP from Ohio State University. The program boasts clinical partners in a wide variety of geographic locations and clinical sites throughout Ohio. Students must complete 600 hours of precepted clinical experience, including the care of well children, children with common acute illnesses and children with stable chronic conditions.

5.      Columbia University - New York, NY

Tuition: $87,242 per year (full-time) $17,000 per year (part-time)

The DNP Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Program at Columba University prepares nurses to practice as pediatric nurse practitioners in the delivery of primary health care to infants, children, and adolescents. Students will complete approximately 2 years of coursework to complete degree requirements. Courses will include lecture, clinical, simulation, and final intensive practicum.

Top Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs

1.      Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Tuition: $1,838 per credit 

The Duke University Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program provides the skills needed to deliver psychiatric mental health care to all ages, with an emphasis on underserved communities and rural settings. The program offers immersion in the clinical environment, including emergency departments, inpatient facilities and intensive care services, VA facilities and residential mental health care facilities. Graduates receive certification in telepsychiatry, options for certification in veterans’ health. It also offers a Post-Graduate certificate program for those who are already nurse practitioners. 

2.      Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Tuition: $1,716 per credit 

Vanderbilt University’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program was one of the first of its kind in the country. It includes education on treatment for individuals, families or groups with common, acute or chronic mental health programs, providing its graduates with the training to prescribe appropriate medications, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, case management and consultation in a variety of settings. The program offers low faculty-to-student ratios, mentoring and personalized attention. 

3.      University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tuition: $45,248 per year full time, $1,931 per credit part-time 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program combines neuroscience with psychotherapy and psychopharmacology for patients from childhood through old age. The program emphasizes a holistic approach and uses a three-semester clinical practicum that rotates students through a wide range of psychiatric populations.

4.      University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Tuition: $19,062 per year in-state, $40,394 per year out-of-state 

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program prepares its graduates to provide for the psychiatric and mental health care needs of individuals, families groups and communities throughout the lifespan and in a broad range of practice and community settings.  The program emphasizes cultural sensitivity and the ability to understand and integrate mental and physical health problems. Students are encouraged to complete their clinical hours in their own communities. 

5.      Ohio State University - Columbus, Ohio

Tuition: $973 per credit (in-state, full-time) $2,447 per credit (out-of-state, full-time)

Graduates of Ohio State University’s NP program are prepared to provide mental health, addiction and comorbid mental health services in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings such as primary care, schools, community and business settings. PMHNPs are able to provide care for children, adolescents and all ages of adults across the lifespan.

How Do You Become Certified as a Nurse Practitioner?

After completing an accredited nurse practitioner program, you'll need to become certified in whatever NP specialty you have chosen. There are different certification organizations depending on what you're specializing in. They include:

  1. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP)
  2. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
  3. American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  4. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  5. National Certification Corporation (NCC)
  6. Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

Each certification board will have different requirements, though all will require you to have completed an accredited nurse practitioner program and to pass a certification exam.

Nurse Practitioner Program FAQs

  • Which nurse practitioner is most in demand? 

    • Many NP specialties are in demand, but primary care NPs may be especially needed in the next few years.
  • Which NP program is best? 

    • Duke University has one of the highest-ranked NP programs in the country. 
  • What is the easiest nurse practitioner program? 

    • Many schools offer hybrid NP programs, so coursework can be completed online. 
  • Where is the highest need for nurse practitioners? 

    • Florida, Texas, New York, California, and Ohio are all projected to have a high need for NPs in the next decade, with new jobs being added and current doctors due to retire.
  • Is the NP market oversaturated? 

    • The NP market is not oversaturated. It is a job that has grown rapidly in popularity, but there is still a high need for NPs. 
  • Is a PA higher than a nurse practitioner? 

    • A PA is not “higher” than an NP. Both PAs and NPs are mid-level practitioners. In fact, NPs can practice independently in more states than PAs can. 

Nurse Practitioner Programs: DNP vs. MSN 

One of the first and most important decisions you need to make before applying to a Nurse Practitioner program is whether to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree

Each can lead to the same job title, but the additional doctorate-level credentials can make a significant difference in the position and type of organization you work within, your marketability, the respect you receive from physicians and other professionals, and the salary that you can earn. 

While obtaining your DNP degree is being encouraged by the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties as the appropriate minimum education for nurse practitioners, candidates for Nurse Practitioner education also need to weigh the additional investment of time and money that the terminal degree carries. 

How Long Does it Take to Earn a DNP Degree vs an MSN Degree? 

The amount of time that it takes to earn either of these Advanced Practice Registered Nurse degrees depends initially upon the level of education that the nurse has already achieved. 

Starting Level of Education Time to Earn MSN Time to Earn DNP
Baccalaureate degree (No Nursing Experience) 4-5 years  6-7 years
Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) 3-5 years 5-6 years
Bachelor's of Science in Nursing 2 years 3-4 years
Master of Science in Nursing -- 2-4 years

Every candidate must begin with an active Registered Nurse license in order to even apply to a program, but RNs can have either an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing)

Some applicants may have a baccalaureate degree without having taken nursing classes, in which case an additional year of prerequisite courses will be required no matter whether they pursue the MSN or DNP degree. 

For those Registered Nurses who have their Associate’s Degree in Nursing, the course work required to earn an MSN will take three to five years, while the DNP will take five to six years to complete. 

For those Registered Nurses who have their bachelor's degree in nursing, earning an MSN will take two years, while the DNP will take three to four years. 

Nurses who have already earned their MSN and who wish to earn a DNP can complete the required coursework in two years. 

MSN vs DNP Considerations 

Nurse Practitioners who have earned a DNP degree earn approximately $8,000 more per year than do those who choose the MSN degree program.

Why Get a DNP?

  • DNP-degreed nurses have more opportunities for advancement and are looked to for their expertise in practice improvement and innovation in the delivery of care.
  • DNP-degreed nurses are more likely to be promoted into positions of leadership within their organizations. 
  • DNP programs include much of the same coursework and clinical specialization education as MSN programs, with an additional curriculum that is focused on leadership and health policy.

Why Get an MSN?

  • It takes approximately two more years to earn a DNP degree than an MSN degree
  • The additional schooling required to complete a DNP degree is likely to cost approximately $30,000 more per year in tuition. 

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What Will You Learn in a Nurse Practitioner Program? 

Nurse Practitioner programs offer core courses that are applicable to all areas of advanced practice nursing care, as well as classes geared towards individual specialization areas that students designate as their area of concentration and professional focus.  

These are taught through a combination of classroom hours and clinical hours, with an approximate ratio of three hours of clinical training for every one hour in the classroom. 

Clinical hours are offered through rotations through various sites affiliated with the program, though online students who are removed from their selected program’s physical location may coordinate clinical experience through their employer.


All NP programs adhere to the Nurse Practitioner framework and core competencies established by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for Nurse Practitioners. Those nine competencies are:

  • Ethics
  • Health Delivery System
  • Independent Practice
  • Leadership
  • Policy
  • Practice Inquiry
  • Quality
  • Scientific Foundation
  • Technology and Information Literacy

The core courses offered include: 

  •  Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Evidence-Based Research
  • Informatics 
  • Leadership and Role of Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Population Health and Epidemiology

Concentration-focused classes will provide additional specifics such as those appropriate for geriatric patients, family health, pediatrics, women’s health, family health, psychiatric/mental health patients, and other specialty areas. 

Those pursuing a DNP degree will take additional coursework focused on topics including ethics, practice leadership, and research design and methodology. 

Show Me Nurse Practitioner Programs

Can You Earn a Nurse Practitioner Degree Online? 

Remote learning has become increasingly popular, and online NP degrees at both the MSN level and the DNP level are offered through many of the country’s top Nurse Practitioner programs. 

This has allowed nurses to continue to work and support or care for themselves and their families while at the same time furthering their education and professional opportunities. 

How Much Do Nurse Practitioner Programs Cost? 

The costs of Nurse Practitioner programs vary depending on numerous variables, including whether you choose to attend an in-state public program or a private university, whether you will need to relocate to attend a full-time program where you will need room and board, and whether you are taking the program on a part-time, per-credit basis or a full-time tuition basis.  

The costs for MSN nursing programs can easily reach $60,000 to $100,000, with DNP programs costing almost twice that as a result of the additional coursework required. 

Fortunately, there are numerous opportunities for full-time students to take advantage of financial aid such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) program and nursing scholarships, and for those who are studying part-time or online while working to seek tuition reimbursement from their employers. 

NP Program Prerequisites & Requirements

When you're applying to nurse practitioner programs, prerequisites and requirements will vary depending on the school, but you can expect to generally need the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university
  • An active RN license and work experience, including a specified number of clinical hours
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA (usually a 3.0 or higher)
  • Letters of recommendation (academic and professional)
  • Application essay
  • Current resume or CV
  • GRE scores

Applicants will also need to have taken specific prerequisites, which may include:

  •  General Chemistry
  • Human Anatomy and physiology (with labs)
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

What are the Benefits of Becoming a Nurse Practitioner? 

Becoming a nurse practitioner provides you with the opportunity to provide nursing care on an entirely different level. Becoming a nurse practitioner offers both personal advantages and benefits that go well beyond the individual. These include: 

  • The ability to work autonomously and independently
  • The ability to treat a wide range of patients, diagnosing conditions, creating treatment plans and referring patients to specialists, as well as interpreting diagnostic tests and prescribing medications
  • An expansive choice of work settings and conditions ranging from the ability to work independently, within the framework of a private practice, in collaboration with a physician or multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals, or even in a rural setting as the sole source of medical care for a community
  • Higher compensation
  • Promising job growth
  • Greater professional respect 

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Nurse Practitioner Program Accreditation

When selecting a nurse practitioner program of any type, you'll want to make sure it's accredited. Accreditation is the process that evaluates nursing programs to determine if it is meeting specific state and national standards. The purpose of accreditation is to focus on the same standards and criteria across all Nurse Practitioner  programs. This ensures that there is some level of sameness within the programs. The accreditation process ultimately improves the quality of nursing education and keeps the curriculum up to date on current trends in advances in nursing and healthcare. Accreditation continues to further the nursing profession and enhances the overall care provided by nurses.

There are two primary accrediting organizations for NP programs:

1. Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, is an organization designed to support nursing education and ensure it is done in a safe, reliable, and consistent matter. According to the website, the purpose of the ACEN is as follows:

  • The ACEN is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as a specialized accrediting agency for nursing education programs located in the United States and its territories.
  • The ACEN is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for nursing education programs in the United States and its territories as well as for international nursing education programs.
  • The ACEN accredits all types of nursing education programs, including clinical doctorate/DNP specialist certificate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing programs.
  • The ACEN accredits nursing education programs in secondary, postsecondary, and hospital-based governing organizations that offer certificates, diplomas, or degrees.
  • The ACEN serves as a Title IV-HEA Gatekeeper for some practical nursing programs and hospital-based nursing education programs eligible to participate in financial aid programs administered by the USDE or other federal agencies.

2. Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education(CCNE)

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is considered the voice of academic nursing in America and contributes to the overall safety of the public’s health. This accreditation committee supports the continuous self-assessment of national programs to ensure quality education is delivered to all nursing students.  According to the website, the purpose of the CCNE is as follows:

  • To hold nursing programs accountable to the community of interest – the nursing profession, consumers, employers, higher education, students and their families, nurse residents – and to one another by ensuring that these programs have mission statements, goals, and outcomes that are appropriate to prepare individuals to fulfill their expected roles.
  • To evaluate the success of a nursing program in achieving its mission, goals, and expected outcomes.
  • To assess the extent to which a nursing program meets accreditation standards.
  • To inform the public of the purposes and values of accreditation and to identify nursing programs that meet accreditation standards.
  • To foster continuing improvement in nursing programs — and, thereby, in professional practice.

The CCNE approves accreditation for bachelor’s and master’s nursing programs. The CCNE evaluates programs based on the following:

  • Mission and goals of the program
  • Performance of program
  • Utilization of resources
  • Integrity of the program

Once accreditation is achieved through the CCNE, visits, self-assessments, and peer reviews help maintain accreditation.

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