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America’s Best Nursing Schools 2020

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Nursing is an ideal profession for individuals who love to help others, and healthcare careers come with the added benefit of continued growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over three million people work as registered nurses (RNs). That number could increase with about 222,000 job openings, or 7%, from 2019-29.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) could also see considerable growth within their profession. Over 260,000 APRNs now work in the U.S., but that number could increase by nearly 118,000 jobs in the same time frame — much faster than the national average.

Aspiring nurses must hold the correct degree and a license to practice. RNs need either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). APRNs need a master of science in nursing (MSN).

Check out our list of the best nursing schools in the U.S. below.

Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Top 10 Nursing Schools in America

Rank School Location
1 Columbia University New York City, NY
2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
3 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
4 University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI
5 Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
6 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
7 Creighton University Omaha, NE
8 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
9 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
10 Villanova University Villanova, PA
Read about our ranking methodology here.

 

The Best Nursing Schools for 2020

  1. Columbia University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    Ranking among the world's leading centers of nursing research, education, and practice, Columbia features one of the best nursing schools in the United States. For more than 100 years, its nursing school has prepared nurses to become researchers, clinicians, and leaders. Instructors equip enrollees with the advanced knowledge and skills needed to improve healthcare across communities.

    Earning a nursing degree at Columbia allows students to practice at the highest level of the profession and master all facets of nursing care. An aspiring registered nurse can consider a master's direct-entry program at Columbia if they hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing.

    The school also offers a doctor of nursing practice, a Ph.D. in nursing, a master's in advanced clinical management and leadership, a master's in nurse anesthesia, and a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner degree.

  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    With one of the best nursing colleges in the nation, UNC-Chapel Hill aims to advance healthcare for all communities. Enrollees can pursue a bachelor of science in nursing, a master of science in nursing (MSN), a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and a Ph.D. in nursing.

    Degree-seekers can consider online degree options for the MSN and DNP tracks to earn their degrees through a more flexible format. The university's nursing school was established in 1950 to meet critical healthcare needs across North Carolina. Today, the school maintains the same focus to advance healthcare and improve nursing education.

    Across degree programs, students prepare for licensing opportunities by focusing on the specific skills and knowledge needed for exams and practicums. UNC-Chapel Hill's program strives to broaden perspectives and embrace inclusivity in its nurses and education.

  3. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Johns Hopkins, one of the top schools for nursing, is dedicated to leading the way for nursing education, practice, and research. Offering programs to fit the needs of diverse student populations, Johns Hopkins features a master of science in nursing, a Ph.D. in nursing, and a doctor of nursing practice.

    Learners can also explore post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates, along with online program options at the master's and doctoral levels. Master's and doctoral students can also select from the university's "areas of excellence," including aging and dementia care; cardiovascular, chronic care, and symptom management; mental health and behavioral interventions; and community, global, and public health.

    Concentration options include health systems management, public health nursing, and pediatric critical care. Johns Hopkins maintains interdisciplinary research centers that provide mentors to new enrollees and allow learners to broaden their knowledge across fields.

  4. University of Michigan
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    U-M, located in Ann Arbor, offers some of the best nursing programs in the nation. The university's nursing degrees provide pathways to careers in leadership in healthcare organizations, advanced clinical practice, informatics, and research. Enrollees can pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of science in nursing, doctor of nursing practice (DNP), or a Ph.D. in nursing.

    Nursing students at the bachelor's level can also consider a minor in population health in a global context. BSN enrollees receive a balanced education that includes courses in biological and social sciences, along with humanities.

    Learners at the master's level can pursue specializations in primary care pediatric nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. MSN enrollees choose between clinically focused and leadership-focused tracks.

    The DNP at U-M offers bridge programs for students with BSNs or MSNs. Enrollees in the BSN-to-DNP bridge program receive placements from faculty.

  5. Purdue University
    Location

    West Lafayette, IN

    As one of the best nursing schools in the nation, Purdue prepares learners to influence healthcare delivery and contribute to health around the world. The university offers programs across degree levels to prepare degree-seekers for work in community health clinics, hospitals, and neonatal intensive care units. Purdue offers a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of science in nursing (MSN), a doctor of nursing practice, and a Ph.D. in nursing care.

    The BSN program prepares learners to take the NCLEX-RN exam and earn their registered nurse licenses. High school graduates enrolling for the first time can follow the traditional, four-year bachelor's format. Candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree in other disciplines can enroll in the second degree BSN.

    Enrollees pursuing an MSN prepare for advanced practice roles. These students can also consider specializations in family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, primary care pediatric nurse practitioner, or psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.

  6. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    UF features one of the best nursing colleges. Its flagship nursing program provides students with access to unique educational and clinical experiences. UF nursing students can explore nursing science and research to participate in clinical experiences with diverse populations across the lifespan.

    As the premier educational institution for nursing in Florida, the university's nursing college offers a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and a Ph.D. in nursing. BSN students prepare to take the NCLEX-RN exam to earn their registered nurse licenses.

    Degree-seekers who hold a BSN can pursue DNPs at UF through the BSN-to-DNP bridge program. A student can also consider the master of science in nursing (MSN)-to-DNP bridge program if they have previously earned an MSN and currently hold an active Florida advanced practice registered nurse license.

  7. Creighton University
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    As one of the best nursing schools in the U.S., Creighton offers many program options for nursing students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Learners can pursue a traditional or accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), a master of science in nursing (MSN), a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), or a postgraduate certificate.

    BSN students can consider two pathways to earn their degree. High school graduates enrolling in college for the first time can pursue the direct-entry format, while candidates who hold a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing can enroll in the accelerated program to earn their degree in one year.

    Creighton's MSN features programs in nursing administration and leadership or nursing education to prepare graduates for advanced practice nursing roles. The DNP prepares graduates to become leaders in resolving complex issues through analysis and research. Postgraduate certificates offer an expanded scope of practice, with options for adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners, family nurse practitioners, pediatric acute care nurse practitioners, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners.

  8. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Drexel features one of the top nursing schools to offer undergraduate and graduate programs. The university's college of nursing and health professions provides a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with a co-op format or an accelerated career entry option.

    Working registered nurses (RNs) who hold an associate degree in nursing and want to expand their education can enroll in the RN-to-BSN bridge program to earn their bachelor's degree sooner than students in traditional BSN programs.

    Master's students can earn an advanced role master of science in nursing (MSN), a nurse practitioner MSN, or a nurse anesthesia MSN. At the master's level, learners can also consider an RN-to-MSN bridge program or an MSN/Ph.D. joint degree. Drexel prepares learners to specialize their skills and knowledge in a specific patient population through concentration opportunities in MSN programs.

    Doctoral learners can explore several programs, including a doctor of nursing practice, doctor of health science, Ph.D. in nursing, and an MSN/Ph.D. joint degree.

  9. University of Virginia
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    With some of the best nursing programs in the nation, the school of nursing at UVA emphasizes a humanistic approach to education to promote cultural diversity and critical thinking. The university offers a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of science in nursing (MSN), post-master's certificate, doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and a Ph.D. in nursing.

    The BSN serves high school graduates or transfer students. Working registered nurses (RNs) interested in a bachelor's degree can enroll in the RN-to-BSN hybrid program to continue working as they earn their degree and advance their career opportunities. Nurses who want to specialize in one of seven specialty areas, such as family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, or psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, can enroll in the MSN program.

    The DNP features two pathways: a BSN-to-DNP or an MSN-to-DNP bridge program. The Ph.D. option serves students who want to pursue careers as nurses and academic scholars.

  10. Villanova University
    Location

    Villanova, PA

    As one of the best nursing schools in the U.S., Villanova's M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing allows students to collaborate with expert faculty members. The school maintains recognition from the National League for Nursing as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.

    Students can pursue bachelor's, master's, and doctoral nursing programs at Villanova. Bachelor's programs include a traditional four-year opportunity or a second-degree option for non-nursing bachelor's degree-holders. Nursing programs at the master's level offer tracks in adult-gerontology, family nurse practitioner, nursing education, and pediatric nurse practitioner.

    Degree-seekers at the doctoral level can earn a Ph.D. in nursing, a post-master's doctor of nursing practice, or a post-baccalaureate nurse anesthesia doctor of nursing practice. Nurses can also complete nursing continuing education courses in child abuse recognition and reporting at Villanova, along with certificate programs for clinical faculty/preceptors and nurse managers.

Applying to a Nursing Program

While admission requirements vary between nursing schools, BSN applicants are usually expected to hold a high school diploma. Many BSN programs consider students with an ADN or some other previous nurse training or education.

The best colleges for nursing often set a minimum GPA requirement. Candidates should keep their GPA high and achieve competitive ACT or SAT scores. Prospective students may need to submit recommendation letters or personal essays when they apply.

MSN programs come with even more admission requirements. Applicants typically need to possess an RN license, and some programs expect incoming students to hold work experience.

Some special RN-to-MSN degrees admit students without a bachelor’s degree, as long as they possess an associate degree and RN licensure. Many of the best nursing schools, however, expect incoming students to hold a BSN. MSN applicants should expect to submit transcripts with competitive GPAs, GRE or MAT scores, personal essays, and recommendation letters.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What degree do I need to become a nurse?

    You can become an RN with an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. While licensed practical and vocational nurses do not need a degree, they must finish a one-year training program. Finally, advanced practice nurses need a master’s degree to legally practice.

  • What is accreditation, and why is it important?

    Accreditation is an evaluation system for higher education institutions and academic programs. Students can count on receiving a quality education from accredited schools and programs. Nursing students should look for accreditation from agencies like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Nurses need an accredited degree to qualify for licensure.

  • What can I do with an MSN?

    Many students pursue an MSN to go into advanced practice roles. They might work as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or nurse practitioners (NPs). An MSN can help NPs specialize even further, as many programs offer concentrations in areas like adult-gerontology, psychiatric mental health, neonatal care, and women’s health.

  • What does a DNP prepare graduates for?

    A doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is ideal for individuals seeking leadership positions in the nursing industry, such as nurse administrator or nursing department head. A doctoral degree can also prepare candidates for careers in academia. Graduates can become nurse educators, university professors, or researchers.

Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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