Online Graduate Nursing Certificate Programs

Online nursing certificate programs provide graduate level, nursing education in a concise, flexible format. Many students leverage these programs to build on prior education and experience. Online nursing certificate programs are generally shorter in length, and may focus on honing clinical skills and bedside care, technological expertise, education and training techniques, or even leadership.

How to earn a graduate certificate in nursing

Designed to meet the needs of busy nursing professionals (not to mention today’s tech-savvy students), these programs aim to meet students wherever they are. That could bring graduate education into reach no matter your hours. Online nursing certificate programs may also be available at a variety of levels, making advanced nursing education accessible to students with a range of backgrounds.

What Are Graduate Online Nursing Certificate Programs?

Graduate online nursing certificate programs are non-degree credential programs aimed primarily at licensed nurses with at least a BSN. However, rarely, certificate programs may also be available for those with unrelated education and backgrounds who are interested in learning more about nursing.

Most often, online graduate nursing certificate programs are offered at one of two levels:

  • Post-Baccalaureate Online Nursing Certificates: Also known as masters certificates, these graduate certificate programs are geared specifically for BSN nurses who have not yet earned a graduate degree.
  • Online Post-Masters Nursing Certificates: These programs are intended for nurses who have earned at least an MSN. Many of them focus on developing the skills of experienced nurses, or nurses in advanced roles like Nurse Practitioners. Some even focus on the leadership and organizational skills necessary to thrive in administrative positions.

Other programs may be designed more broadly. Sometimes referred to as online post graduate nursing certificate programs, these programs may cater both to MSNs and nurses holding a doctorate. Often, they aim to develop specific advanced skills relevant to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). These online nursing certificate programs may include coursework at either the masters level or higher. Specifics may depend on the topic and how the curriculum is designed. For more information, reach out to the program in question.

What To Expect In Online Nursing Certificate Programs

Earning a graduate nursing certificate online may be a unique experience. This is especially the case if you have little or no experience with online education. Online programs are designed to be flexible. This could be especially valuable for nurses, as it could enable you to pursue your education alongside your career, whatever shift you find yourself working. Because they’re not limited by physical location, you’d also have the freedom to choose a program whose curriculum really works for you, without having to worry about getting there. In other words, you could earn a graduate nursing certificate narrowly tailored to your goals and interests, and study alongside nurses living across the country and working in a diverse array of care settings.

Additionally, studying online doesn’t mean you’ll be alone. While online study may attract self-motivated students who prefer working independently, many programs provide unique support structures to help students succeed. From lively discussions in classroom forums and video chat, to simulated lab experiences, career support, and even resources for research, you may find that your online graduate nursing certificate program brings the resources of campus learning to your own laptop.

Why Attend Nursing Certificate Programs Online

Online graduate certificates in nursing could appeal to students for a wide spectrum of reasons. Below are a few to consider:

  • Maintenance of a nursing license or professional certification: While the specifics may vary by state (for licenses) or by certification type and issuing organization, often, these types of professional credentials have a continuing education requirement. Earning a graduate certificate in nursing online could be one way to complete that requirement, earning graduate credits while still being there for your patients.
  • Working toward a new certification: While a graduate certificate program is not itself a professional certification, it could be helpful in working toward one. If the content aligns, earning an online graduate nursing certificate in your targeted practice area could help you develop the expertise you may need for your credential exam.
  • Moving into a new practice area: Some nurses may pursue online graduate nursing certificates to learn more about what it might be like to work in a different practice area from what they currently do. This way, they could build up a general foundation of knowledge and skills in preparation for that potential career move, without necessarily having to leave their current role.
  • Enhancing expertise in one’s current practice area: Online graduate nursing certificates could help students to develop useful skills and expertise to support their current roles. You could study at night and then immediately put new methods into practice.

Of course, that’s just the start! The specific motivations for pursuing a nursing certificate, or benefits of having done so, depend not only on the specific program, but also on the area of focus, and the student in question. Contact schools directly to learn more about how they might support your goals.

Online Nursing Certificate Programs vs. Nursing Certification Programs: What’s The Difference?

An online graduate certificate in nursing is an academic credential, earned via successful completion of a specified curriculum. A certification program is a little different. A nursing certification is a professional credential, generally earned through a combination of experience and passing a standardized credential exam. Often, these certifications are specialized, and are designed to demonstrate expertise in a particular work area or type of nursing. In some cases, employers may express preference for or even require professional certifications. Also bear in mind that professional certification is still different from licensure, which is generally administered by the state and a primary requirement to work as a nurse in any capacity.

While many graduate online nursing certificate programs may support students in preparing for credential exams, they’re not directly related, and the requirements, standards and content may vary. As such, if you’re interested in doing both, it may be a good idea to compare the certification requirements and exam content with the curriculum of your selected online certificate programs. Reach out to the online program for more information.

Online Nursing Certificate Concentration Areas

Because graduate online nursing certificate programs are generally fairly short in terms of courses taken, they’re often quite focused. In many cases, online nursing certificate programs center on the responsibilities of a specific type of nurse, the needs of a certain type of patient, or a specific, in-demand skill set.

Topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • Online Midwifery: Passionate about women’s health, babies, and helping to bring new life into this world? Online nurse midwife graduate certificate programs focus on the roles and responsibilities of a nurse in labor and delivery, neonatal care, and related areas. As Nurse Midwife is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), many of these programs may require a masters degree as a prerequisite.
  • Nurse Education Online : These types of certificates focus on how you might take your nursing experience and expertise, and use it to help newer nurses develop. This could be in a professional development setting, teaching undergraduate nursing students, and more.
  • Online Nurse Practitioner: Because working as a nurse practitioner generally requires a masters degree, online nurse practitioner graduate certificates generally focus on helping current nurse practitioners learn more about a new specialty area. Examples include Adult Gerontology, Primary Care, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and more.
  • Online Post MSn Certificates: A tier rather than a specialty in itself, online post MSN certificates cater specifically to nurses who have already earned a masters degree, leveraging that expertise for more advanced discussion.
  • Online Nurse Administration & Leadership: Interested in moving out of bedside care and into a more organizational role? Online nurse administration graduate certificate programs aim to foster leadership skills and develop the management acumen to lead a team of nurses and run an effective unit.
  • Nurse Informatics Online: This more technical graduate nursing certificate focuses on the interplay of nursing and data management. These certificate programs develop fluency in informatics technology and skills. They aim to prepare nurses to support healthcare teams, patients and families in leveraging technology for better communication and care.
  • Online Nurse Specialties: Something of a catchall, Nurse Specialties refers to certificates focused on nursing care in specific settings or with certain types of patients and conditions. This broad category could include online graduate nursing certificates in pediatrics, critical care, adult-gerontology, psychiatric care, emergency medicine, primary care, and more.

Choosing Online Nursing Certificate Programs

Thinking about earning your graduate nursing certificate online? Choosing a graduate certificate program at all is a big decision. Choosing an online program may come with additional considerations!

Try using the following questions to help guide your search:

  • How Does This Online Graduate Nursing Certificate Program Support Me?
    Online nursing certificate programs may be designed for convenience. But that doesn’t mean they won’t offer some of the same support you might find on campus! This could include career guidance, lab simulations, research support, tutoring, and more. Follow up with your selected nursing certificate program to find out more about how they support your success in an online space.
  • How Is This Graduate Online Certificate in Nursing Program Organized?
    Your selected graduate online nursing certificate programs might be laid out in a few different ways, which could impact your schedule and course load, among other things. For example, will you have to log on at certain times each day, or will you have the freedom to fit your courses into an ever-evolving shift schedule? What about technological components? Make sure you’ll be able to access the program on your computer or tablet, or find out what you might need to do to make that happen.
  • Are There Any Offline Components?
    While most online nursing certificate programs are designed for working nurses, and therefore don’t have a fieldwork or observation requirement, it might be a good idea to double check. Make sure you’re aware if your selected program will have any campus visits or other in-person components you can’t do via the internet.
  • Does This Online Nursing Certificate Program Fulfill Requirements In My State?

This is especially important if you’re working toward a certification or license to provide nursing care in a specific capacity. Since, studying online, you won’t be limited to programs based locally. You’ll want to double check the program against any specific requirements in your area, to make sure it’s compatible.

Find Graduate Online Nursing Certificate Programs

Start searching for online nursing schools to earn your graduate certificate. Already know what you want to study? Then select your concentration from the menu above. Then read more about those programs, or review the sponsored program listings. Click on a program name to learn more about it or get in touch. Then you could schedule a phone or skype interview—or a visit if the school maintains a physical campus—or start applying!


  • Purdue University Global

  • King University

  • Loyola University Chicago

  • Carlow University

  • Benedictine University

  • Grantham University

  • Dignity Health Global Education

  • Wilkes University

  • UMassOnline

  • Maryville University