Why This Matters

  • THERE ARE OVER 4 MILLION REGISTERED NURSES IN THE U.S.

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

  • THE FIELD IS EXPECTED TO GROW BY 7% IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Registered Nurses is very strong, with an anticipated increase in 221,900 jobs. As the population ages and many working nurses prepare for retirement, opportunities will continue to grow.

  • EARN $73,300 PER YEAR ON AVERAGE

    The average annual salary for Registered Nurses in the United States is $73,300, though different specialty areas command a wide range of salaries.

Our Research

Nursing is a broad term that encompasses professionals from Nursing Aides (who have just a few months of education) to Doctor of Nursing Practice-degreed nurses who have decades of education. Our list of nursing programs includes schools that offer both undergraduate and graduate level programs leading to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees and Master of Science in Nursing degrees. All of the programs are offered in-person and require meeting clinical hour requirements in addition to classroom learning. Some offer online classes synchronously. None of the programs are offered strictly online.

Nursing schools are accredited by two different organizations: The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). These programs both evaluate the curriculum offered by nursing programs to ensure that they meet specific state and national standards. Accreditation ensures that nurses are getting universally high-quality educations, and it is essential that you choose a nursing program that has been accredited by one of these two highly-respected agencies.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Nursing program are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 72 hours to write this article
  • 171 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 343 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Nursing Programs

Best Nursing Programs
01

 

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 with to 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 submit 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.