The job market for registered nurses is very strong, but choosing the right school for getting your nursing degree can still make hundreds of thousands of dollars difference in your future earnings and in your potential for advancement in your career.
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There are several considerations in choosing the program that maximizes your potential for success in nursing. Your nursing education must include strong clinical education. All of the schools we list here have world-class clinical learning opportunities that can prepare you to practice nursing at any hospital or clinic anywhere in the world.
Another consideration for choosing your best nursing program is tuition cost. Don’t let the apparent high cost of tuition discourage you from applying to a program that perfectly matches your needs. Ask about loans, grants, and tuition forgiveness in exchange for commitments to practice in specific areas for a few years.
And don’t forget that to practice nursing you need to pass the NCLEX. All of the schools we recommend here have high pass rates, meaning the overwhelming majority of their graduates get their nursing licenses right away.
|Washington, D.C., United States
|University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
|Ann Arbor, Michigan
|Durham, North Carolina
|Johns Hopkins University
|University of Pennsylvania
Here are our Top 10 Nursing Schools in the US
Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies has a well-established, highly respected nursing program in the nation’s capital. Students who have just graduated from high school can apply for admission into the nursing program so they can focus their studies without any worries of having to transfer to a different college later to study nursing. Nursing students at Georgetown get 850 hours of patient contact during their program, and have opportunities for further study to become licensed midwives or to pursue a graduate degree.
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
The School of Nursing at the University of Michigan offers concentrations in eight fields including an interprofessional certificate in trauma-informed practice for working with children and adults who have experienced trauma and an evidence-based practice certificate offered by the National Nursing Practice Network. All eight certificates lead to a specific APRN position with the networking needed to make the ideal match to a nursing career track.
The School of Nursing looks for students who have taken challenging courses in high school and who have skills in written expression. Extracurricular activities are given careful consideration in admitting freshman students into the nursing program. It’s important to take a careful look at admission requirements before completing an application. It’s possible to transfer up to 36 semester hours of college credit and enter the program as a sophomore, but the school looks for both good grades and evidence of a commitment to nursing in admitting students.
If you are interested in an accelerated program for getting your BSN after earning a bachelor’s degree in another field, Duke University is an excellent choice. You only need to take 58 semester hours of coursework in 16 months to earn your BSN at Duke no matter what your prior field of study. Students in the accelerated nursing degree track spend 800 hours working with patients after learning procedures in the Center for Nursing Discovery, a state-of-the-art simulation center where nursing students learn by working on virtual patients before they work with real patients. Duke has the best program in the United States for nurse anesthetists, although you would need to continue your education to earn at least a master’s to get into this field.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins is one of the most highly regarded medical research centers in the world. It does not offer a BSN program, but it has an MSN program for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. The program emphasizes leadership skills and the ability to work with other medical professionals to advance evidence-based medicine.
This program does not offer remedial work for course prerequisites (biology, chemistry, math, statistics, and so on). Students should have completed these courses in the last five years, although that is not a firm admission requirement. One of the requirements of the program is having you own reliable transportation for travel to the university’s numerous clinics in the Baltimore area.
University of Pennsylvania
Close faculty attention is standard at Penn Nursing, where there are just six students for each faculty member. This school of nursing offers an accelerated program for a BSN for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, as well as direct entry into BSN-MSN and BSN-PhD programs. It also offers APRN certificates in elder care, neonatal care, and pediatric acute care. There are also tracks for midwives and future nursing administrators. If you have an interest in healthcare administration, you can combine your nursing degree with the University of Pennsylvania’s famed MBA program.
University of California at Los Angeles
Nursing students at UCLA are trained at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a 520-room state-of-the-art hospital with numerous specialty clinics and the most advanced technology. They may also be assigned to any of 200 university-affiliated clinics in greater Los Angeles. The university offers a traditional Bachelor of Science program for nurses beginning their study as undergraduates, a Masters Entry Clinical Nurse for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse programs for nurses seeking credentials as care specialists and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. UCLA is an excellent choice for nurses who expect to be working in clinics and hospitals that combine patient care with research.
The School of Nursing at Emory University has built a 70,000-square foot nursing learning center in Decatur, Georgia for direct-entry and transfer students seeking a BSN degree, as well as for accelerated program students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. The school of nursing offers APRN certificates in nine fields. It is nationally recognized for its programs for family nurse practitioners, health systems leaders, and gerontology nurse practitioners.
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland School of Nursing takes pride in its diverse student body and its culture of civility and inclusiveness for all students. The school of nursing cares about academic success, but also helping students work through the life issues that make them happy, whole, balanced professionals. Classes are taught in multiple learning and testing modalities to accommodate different learning styles.
University of Washington
The School of Nursing at the University of Washington offers BSN and doctoral programs but does not offer a master’s degree in nursing. This program is an excellent place to get your BSN and DN if your bachelor’s degree is in another field, but it is first and foremost a program for future researchers.
New York University
The Rory Myers School of Nursing at NYU has programs at its campuses in Manhattan, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai for future nurses who wish to pursue international careers in nursing. The clinical placement opportunities in New York and the school’s global campuses are unmatched.
How We Calculated Our Rankings
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that there were 363,433 students enrolled in 688 nursing degree programs in the United States in 2020. The overwhelming majority of those students will find jobs on or before graduation. But how do you identify the very best nursing schools in the United States to prepare for a high-demand career with cutting-edge technical skills and the greatest options for advancement?
We have identified 10 clearly superior nursing schools for study in the US. We only considered schools that have ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) or CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) accreditation. We looked at the percentages of students at each institution that pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) that enables you to get a license to practice nursing in the United States, Canada, or Australia.
And we considered tuition, although you may need to get advice from the hospitals, clinics, or research organizations where you intend to practice to make sure the tuition you pay is justified by your future earning and advancement opportunities. The tuition figures we quote here are what you would pay if you did not get any scholarships.
Would you like more information about nursing programs?
Please contact us with your questions! And if you have graduated from any of the programs we listed here, please feel free to share your experiences.