Hello and welcome to our guide to the best nursing schools in the US.
By the end of this article, you will have comprehensive knowledge of the top nursing programs in the United States,
Here is a list of the topics that this article will cover:
- What is a good nursing program?
- Best Diploma Programs
- Best Associate’s Degree Programs
- Best Bachelor’s Degree Programs
- Best Master’s Degree Programs
Investing in a good nursing degree and quality of education is as good as investing in your nursing career.
A close assessment of the available degree programs will help you make an informed decision.
We will look through some of the best private and public universities that offer some of the most renowned first degrees and higher education programs in the United States.
Let us get into the topics that will kickstart your nursing education research without further ado!
What is a good nursing program?
What exactly makes a nursing program great? Just like regular degrees in community college or state university, there are a lot of factors to consider when assessing a specific nursing program.
Different schools have their own way of teaching methodology and philosophies, so it’s not just curriculum you will have to study to determine your dream school.
It is critical to assess the educational institution you consider by checking their accreditation records.
Accreditation must not only be reached, but it must also be maintained.
Sometimes, a good reputation and a good alumni roster are not enough.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are the official organizations assessing nursing programs in the United States.
The difference between the two is that the CCNE accredits higher-level programs like bachelor’s and master’s level programs. ACEN can accredit all levels of nursing programs, from diplomas to doctorates.
These institutions ensure that the nursing programs being offered pass the standards required for real-world practice and are updated to coincide with the technological advances of the medical field.
If you attend a reputable and trustworthy school, they are likely to be accredited by one or both organizations.
History and Reputation
You can assess an institution by how long it has been running and how many people are enrolled there.
The longevity of an institution points towards a foundation of values and a strong network of alumni that keep the scholarly tradition strong.
Flimsy education programs are not likely to survive and gain enrollment through the years, so a long-standing program is admirable and desirable for prospective nursing students.
While not an ultimatum when checking out schools, rankings, while not an ultimatum when checking out schools, do bear some importance.
These rankings show prospective students how competitive their alumni are.
Graduating from an institution with a good reputation guarantees that your capabilities will stand out and not be looked down upon.
Location and Schedule
The location and schedule of classes are crucial to consider if you are a part-time student.
You will have to work around where the campus is and the schedule of the classes available.
If your current location and schedule conflict with those in the program, you may have to stay in the program longer to complete your units.
It is best to opt for a program that also has the speed of your nursing career in mind, especially if you would like to keep your studying years as short as possible.
Specializations and Courses
Aside from your introductory nursing education courses and topics, you also want to look into the availability of specific practice courses available for you to take.
These specializations can give you even more practical knowledge and experience in the field that you are interested in and want to pursue in the future.
You may even leverage this experience when you are on the field and be recognized for your capabilities.
In your practice, you will be able to show skill and initiative in your field of interest early, thanks to the lessons that you picked up in these special courses!
NCLEX Exam Passing Rate
Knowing the NCLEX exam pass rate of graduates from the program could give you an idea of the performance of a degree.
A low passing rate might indicate knowledge gaps in the course syllabus.
A high passing rate proves the effectiveness of the program – that anyone who studies it will be equipped with enough knowledge to get through the NCLEX.
After all, this is the exam that will determine your fate as a healthcare professional.
It would be best to pursue enrollment at an institution that takes this process seriously and equips its graduates with the ability to pass this rigorous exam.
Financial Aid Options
If you are on a budget that affects your dream of becoming a nurse, some institutions have scholarships available.
These financial aid programs will be highly competitive, but they will be a genuine relief for the already hectic nature of nursing education.
You may want to look for universities that offer this kind of opportunity for less well-off prospective students.
Now that we’ve had a look at what is needed for a great program, it’s time to get into the best Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees available in the US.
If you want to become an LPN, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a good choice for you, which is not covered in this article.
Best Bachelor’s Degree Programs
If you want to become a Registered Nurse (RN), you must secure a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
The best BSN programs will help you pass the NCLEX-RN with flying colors and equip you with the practical experience that you need for your future career.
Many of these programs host online and require additional contact hours for training purposes.
Here are the nine best BSN programs in the US according to the U.S. News & World Report:
#1 – University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Penn Nursing took the top spot in the BSN rankings in 2021.
The highest-ranking campus boasts a large university with an intimate Nursing and Healthcare community.
Their partnerships with top hospitals make the clinical experience easy to participate in and learn from, complete with a flexible curriculum.
Transferring students can also enroll in these programs.
Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing
This is the traditional four-year course that first-year students typically take as a direct-entry program for high school graduates.
Nursing and Health Care Management Coordinated Dual Degree
The Nursing and Health Management (NHCM) program is a double degree in partnership with The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania‘s business school.
This double degree is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Economics, all rolled into one.
The program aims to produce world-class healthcare leaders with knowledge of the industry’s business environment.
#2 (tie) – Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)
The second-highest ranking on our list, Duke University, the second-highest ranking, features a unique spin on the typical BSN degree, geared towards those with existing Bachelor’s degrees.
Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Catering towards those graduates interested in becoming registered nurses later on in their professional careers, Duke’s ABSN attempts to catch enrollees up on essential nursing education.
#2 (tie) – University of Washington (Seattle, Washington)
The University of Washington (UW) School of Nursing offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as a two-year full-time program.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Aside from the regular curriculum, the UW Seattle campus also features a Learning Lab that simulates a clinical setting that allows students to practice their nursing skills in a safe and supervised environment.
Partnerships with the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington Medical Center will ensure that hands-on experience with patients and healthcare systems will make you an asset for any hospital you apply for.
They also have an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program for students to shift to a career as a registered nurse. The registered nurse‘s requirements include a minimum grade point average (GPA).
#4 (tie) – Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia)
Emory University offers three different paths into the Bachelor’s degree nursing programs.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
This first bachelor’s degree program is intended for high school students aiming for a career as a registered nurse.
Under the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, this BSN degree is completed in 4 years with a liberal arts focus and partnerships with internationally renowned health institutions.
BSN Transfer Option
Like typical accelerated programs, the transfer option caters to students who wish to transfer into the School of Nursing.
Given 60 semester hours of course credits, eligible transferees get the opportunity to continue a four-year course with two years in nursing.
BSN Freshman Option
This unique program for Emory College and Oxford College students allows freshman entrants to take their first two years on either campus.
Once the two years and other prerequisites are fulfilled, the final two years in the Emory campus will consist of practical nursing instruction in both clinical and classroom environments.
#4 (tie) – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
The University of Michigan‘s 130-year strong history continues to be built up by a network of 13,000 global alumni of their various programs, starting with their BSN.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
The University of Michigan School of Nursing features stellar results in its students: an average GPA of 3.88, an Average SAT Score of 1360, and an Average ACT Score of 30.5.
This tight-knit nursing community is focused on building the competency of its students through 1,000 hours of hands-on experience in clinics and instruction by internationally-renown practitioners.
#4 (tie) – University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing has a rich faculty and research background that could interest many students entering the field.
The Chapel Hill School of Nursing also features different on-campus BSN programs:
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
This BSN’s typical course for undergraduates focuses on building students up to be a “Carolina Nurse,” entering into a wide array of healthcare functions in the industry.
Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing
This undergraduate accelerated option offers a four-semester path towards a degree in nursing.
Given an existing Bachelor’s degree in another field of study, this path offers a quicker way to employment.
BSN Military Pathway
This special BSN is catered to Armed Forces Veterans and Active Duty members of any branch and past service.
Given completed General Education requirements, eligible applicants seeking their first degree in this path will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to pursue the nursing career path.
#7 (tie) – New York University (New York, New York)
The NYU Rory Myers School of Nursing offers numerous paths to a nursing career.
Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing
This is the typical undergraduate option for incoming first-year students looking to complete their first degree.
RN to BS
The RN-to-BSN course will help those with an Associate’s Degree in an LPN career track shift to a Registered Nurse role.
Global Public Health/Nursing Combined Major
Merging Nursing and Public Health education, this combined major is composed of a mix of electives that help customize the ideal healthcare career path for students and graduates.
Accelerated 15-Month Program
Those who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field can fast track their way to RN status and NCLEX-RN eligibility by completing the 15-month program.
#7 (tie) – Oregon Health and Science University (Portland, Oregon)
The OHSU School of Nursing is focused on the science of nursing and expertise in health systems, leadership, interdisciplinary care, public health, and communications in various settings.
Bachelor of Science Degree
This traditional BSN focuses on building students’ skillset for the changing needs of health care systems in Oregon and across the country and equipping them with the means to take and pass the NCLEX.
This is a full-time program that will take three years to complete.
Online RNBS Completion
The Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science (RNBS) program is completed online and specifically with Registered Nurses with an Associate’s Degree completed at a community college.
This boosts its enrollees’ knowledge, skill set, and practical experience and is available in full-time or part-time set-ups.
Accelerated Bachelor of Science Degree
This accelerated BSN is an opportunity for Bachelor’s degree holders to earn a BSN in 15 months’ time and certain eligibility to take the NCLEX.
#7 (tie) – University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing develops capable generalists who can gain sound footing in their specializations of choice.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program
This is Pitt’s version of the typical four-year BSN program, with in-depth preparation for the NCLEX.
The first year focuses on foundational knowledge; the second year focuses on clinical study, health promotion, and risk factor identification.
The third year focuses on patient care, and the final year is focused on hands-on clinical experience as the synthesis of the entire course.
RN Options Program
The RN Options Program is for Registered Nurses with a diploma or associate degree qualifications.
Enrollees may obtain either a BSN or a BSN with Early Admission to MSN or DNP, giving a straightforward journey towards the nursing direction they are interested in.
Best Master’s Degree Programs
Perhaps you want to go into a more advanced practice after gaining more experience.
A grad student in medicine has a lot to gain from an excellent doctorate program.
After graduating with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you are eligible to pursue careers such as a Nurse Practitioner.
Here are the ten best MSN programs in the US according to the U.S. News & World Report:
#1 – John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)
The world-class John Hopkins University is a top-of-mind education brand, even for not knowing much about nursing.
The John Hopkins School of Nursing also offers a few different MSN options:
- MSN (Entry into Nursing) Program that accepts Bachelor’s degree graduates from programs outside of Nursing, and
- MSN with different tracks for Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates who want to advance their nursing career, including:
- DNP Advanced Nursing Practice Tracks
- MSN Healthcare Organizational Leadership Track
- MSN Healthcare Organizational Leadership / MBA Dual Degree
With the number of tracks and full-time degrees that the university offers, there is sure to be an option that will be right up your alley and help you advance your nursing career.
#2 – Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia)
Emory University has the renowned Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the Rollins School of Public Health on-campus to deliver top-notch Nursing and Public Health Master’s program.
They offer the following Master’s tracks:
Master of Nursing (Pre-Licensure Program)
This particular program is available for those graduates of degrees other than nursing who want to start their careers as Registered Nurses.
This second-degree nursing education has Master’s-level applications.
Emory’s MN full-time program can be completed within 15 months.
MSN-MA in Bioethics Dual Degree Program
This course focuses on the nursing practice, emphasizing the health care administration aspect of the job.
It is also taught by the international renown Emory Center for Ethics.
The MA-Bioethics can be completed in 1-2 years, while the MSN can be completed in 2-3 years.
MSN-MPH Dual Degree Program
This dual degree adds a Master’s in Public Health to the curriculum.
Graduates of the course can pursue career paths as Nurse Practitioner or Certified Nurse Midwife.
The MSN-MPH can be completed within six to seven full-time semesters.
#3 (tie) – Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)
Duke University‘s School of Nursing was established in 1931 and continues to produce top professionals in the field.
Their Master of Science in Nursing program has eight majors and three non-clinical majors, with specialization courses.
These are the following majors:
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in Acute Care
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Health Informatics
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Nursing and Healthcare Leadership
- Nursing Education
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
With 11 credit hours of clinical core courses, the MSN programs are expected to be completed within three years.
#3 (tie) – University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
As it is affectionately called, Penn Nursing offers its MSN program in separate specialty tracks.
These are the majors being offered:
- Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
- Pediatric Acute Care
- Pediatric Primary Care
- Psychiatric Mental Health
- Women’s Health/Gender-related
- Advanced Specialist Programs
- Administration Programs
- Health Leadership
- Nursing and Healthcare
#5 – Columbia University (New York, New York)
Columbia University’s School of Nursing offers several doctorate nursing programs and a unique MSN for non-nurses who wish to pursue a healthcare career.
Masters Direct Entry Program for Non-Nurses (MDE)
This unique accelerated program equips non-nursing degree professionals with an MS and eligibility to take the NCLEX in just 15 months.
The program emphasizes care coordination, putting awareness of religious and cultural patient needs in the foreground to cover what’s missing in current healthcare set-ups.
The six-week integration experience and the 1,000 clinical hour requirements students must complete for the course are the most exciting part of the course.
#6 (tie) – University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Chapel Hill School of Nursing offers two different options for MSN enrollees.
Each tries to address complicated aspects of the health care systems with the combination of a research-intensive institution and partnerships with UNC Hospitals.
MSN Nurse Practitioner Options
This hybrid program features the option to choose 40 to 49% online instruction.
Students can also explore the Advanced Practice Areas of:
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
MSN Health Care Leadership and Administration
This online program emphasizes the skills of management and leadership, finance, human resources, education, and more.
The program develops individuals with solid knowledge and understanding of running successful and efficient health institutions.
#6 (tie) – University of Washington (Seattle, Washington)
Currently, the public University of Washington School of Nursing offers an online MSN.
Master of Science in Clinical Informatics & Patient-Centered Technologies
This unique online program puts emphasis on the innovations and technology being rolled out and studied at modern healthcare systems today.
Students interested in advancing their nursing careers in informatics and technology will be eligible for the program, given a BSN and at least one year of experience in the health care industry.
#8 – Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee)
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing offers different entry options, advanced specialties, and flexible course delivery for those who want to secure an MSN.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
The typical MSN degree takes advantage of the school’s state-of-the-art facilities and faculty practice network to give students a top-notch education.
MSN/MTS and MSN/MDiv Double Degree
Students in MSN programs can also choose to combine their education with a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) or Master of Divinity (MDiv) at the Vanderbilt Divinity School.
This is ideal for nursing students who are also interested in the practice of ministry.
The program can be completed within four to five years.
#9 (tie) – Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
Aside from the traditional Master of Science in Nursing with 11 unique specializations, OSU College of Nursing also offers the following programs:
Graduate Entry Master of Science
As the name of the program suggests, it is an accelerated program for non-nursing Bachelor’s degree holders to earn an MSN.
The program can be completed within three years of full-time study.
Master of Clinical Research
The online interdisciplinary graduate degree trains students to be administrators and regulatory specialists with deep knowledge in leading and handling clinical research teams.
Covering the theory and practice of research, graduates of the program have a full spectrum of employment in the study ahead of them, especially with the specializations offered: Clinical Research Management and Regulatory Affairs.
Master of Healthcare Innovation
The online program is committed to a diverse pool of perspectives by being open to all holders of an undergraduate degree.
The aim of the program is to study and collaborate on big ideas and innovations in the healthcare sector.
Post-Master’s Study Option
Designed explicitly for MSN-graduate nurses, the focus of this online program is to offer second specialty or advanced specialty certifications.
Enrollees convene with an advisor from the faculty to formulate a unique curriculum that will meet the requirements for the specialization.
#9 (tie) – University of California (San Francisco, California)
The online Master of Science in Nursing program from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing specializes in training Family Nurse Practitioners.
[email protected] – Family Nurse Practitioner
The FNP program was formulated to meet the demand for primary care providers.
Those interested in online advanced practice nursing education may have their needs met by this focused program.
The path to completing a nursing education is essential for all individuals who want to take this career seriously.
Nursing is a science, with many standard procedures and protocols that you need to have in mind.
Nursing is also an art because of the human element that makes you deal with patients and their families on a daily basis.
These skills are first encountered and taught during your stint in nursing school.
It is not an easy educational path to choose, and that is because it’s not an easy career, either.
Dedicating yourself to an excellent nursing program can spell success in your future career as a full-fledged nurse.
Does it matter where you go to college for nursing?
As mentioned in the factors that make a good nursing school, it depends on your needs as a student.
What is the #1 nursing school in the US?
University of Pennsylvania‘s School of Nursing has the top-ranked BSN program.
John Hopkins University School of Nursing has the top-rankingranking MSN program.
What is the difference between an RN and an LPN?
A Registered Nurse (RN) usually graduates with a BSN and passes the NCLEX-RN.
A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) usually graduates with an ADN and passes the NCLEX-PN.
Both roles have different tasks at hospitals – LPNs usually handle monitoring and patient care while RNs can diagnose, assess, and treat conditions of the patient.
What is the average salary for a nurse in the US?
According to the Nursing License Map, a Registered Nurse has a mean salary of US $77,460 in 2019, varying from state to state.