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Why This Matters


    Once licensed, a Registered Nurse can begin providing care or move forward to earn a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.


    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Registered Nurses is very strong, with an anticipated increase of 195,400 jobs over the next decade.


    The average annual salary for Registered Nurses in the United States is $77,600, though different specialty areas command a wide range of salaries.

Our Research

This list features some of the best nursing programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list are accredited by agencies like the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), both reputable organizations who assess nursing programs for educational excellence and a commitment to quality education.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for on-campus students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of nursing programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 50 Nursing Programs

Best Nursing Degree Programs 2023
Intelligent Pick
University of Southern California
Best Accelerated LPN-to-RN
Helene Fuld College of Nursing
Best Master's Program
Yale University
Best Online DNP
Duke University School of Nursing
Best Faculty
Columbia University School of Nursing
Best Clinical Options
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Best for Study Abroad
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Best Faith-based Dual Degree
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Best Doctoral Programs
Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing
Most Available Degrees
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Georgetown University

Loma Linda University

New York University

University of California at San Francisco

University of California at Los Angeles School of Nursing

Union County College

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

University of Maryland School of Nursing

University of Texas Medical Branch School of Nursing

Roseman University of Health Sciences

Villanova University

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

Boston College

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

University of Virginia School of Nursing

Emory University

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Nassau Community College

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What You Should Know About This Degree

People who choose to become nurses are compassionate, caring people who are eager to dive into their careers and begin helping the patients in their charge. Earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing can get you working as a nurse far more quickly than a four-year undergraduate degree, but there are several significant differences between an ADN-degreed Registered Nurse and a BSN-degreed Registered Nurse.

ADN-degreed nurses earn two year degrees while a BSN takes four years to earn. Though both prepare nursing students to take and pass the NCLEX exam that bestows licensure and the title of Registered Nurse, nurses who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing have a greater depth of skills, more training in leadership and research, and command higher salaries. They are eligible for promotion into higher-level positions and have the educational foundation needed to move on to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing degree to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.

As America’s population grows older and more and more working nurses prepare for retirement, new Registered Nurses will increasingly be in demand and eligible for positions working in hospitals, private physicians’ offices, nursing homes, schools, military installations, and more. The key to success rests on having a solid educational foundation, and the best way to ensure that you have that is to choose a school that has the proper accreditation.

After completion of an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX exam, a nursing program graduate will have their license and can begin working as a Registered Nurse. Choosing a specialty is dependent upon the individual nurse’s personal interests and skills, and once a nurse has worked in a specialty area they may pursue certification to demonstrate their expertise and experience.

Certifications are administered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Certifications available to BSN-degreed nurses include Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification; Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification; Gerontological Nursing Certification; Informatics Nursing Certification; Medical Surgical Nursing Certification; National Healthcare Disaster Certification; Nursing Case Management Certification; Nursing Professional Development Certification; Pain Management Nursing Certification; Pediatric Nursing Certification; and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification. Additional certifications are available for those who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing degree.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching nursing programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Nursing is a popular and highly-respected profession that offers generous salaries and a high degree of job satisfaction. As a result, admission to a nursing program is competitive. Students considering applying to a nursing program should dedicate themselves to earning good grades in high school and to getting good scores on the standardized tests that the nursing program may require (usually the SAT or ACT). You will likely need to submit a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a completed application along with having your high school send your transcripts to your desired program. You can improve your chance of being accepted by demonstrating your commitment to the field through volunteering or working at a medical facility.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Undergraduate nursing programs are offered as part of a comprehensive undergraduate education. Students can anticipate spending at least one year pursuing Gen Ed courses including English, History, and the Social Sciences before moving into a cohort that will focus on nursing education. That education will encompass both classroom learning and experiential, clinical learning.

Many nursing programs require applicants to have taken specific prerequisite classes and to have earned grades above a certain level in order to be considered for admission. Some of these classes may include biology, chemistry, or college-preparatory math. Be sure to carefully review the requirements of the particular programs to which you plan to apply in order to make sure that your application will meet all of their criteria.

One of the most important steps that prospective nursing students need to take is to determine how they are going to pay for their education. Most students will need some kind of financial assistance, and there are several different types of aid available. It is a good idea to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to determine your eligibility for federal and state financial support, as well as to investigate the availability of scholarships, grants, and student loans.

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