Many colleges offer nursing programs across the country, making it easy for students to find a degree that suits their financial, professional, and personal needs. Roles for both registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are projected to grow between 2018 and 2028, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing an increase of 12% and 26%, respectively. The American Association of College of Nursing also warns that the field might experience a shortage of nurses if more qualified individuals fail to enter the field in the coming years.
This ranking focuses on nursing bachelor’s and master’s programs in campus-based format only. Check out our ranking methodology before reviewing the best nursing colleges for 2020.
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There are several paths to securing employment as a nurse, and the one you take depends on the type of nurse you want to become. To work as an RN, you must complete an associate (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. To work as a nurse practitioner, you must pursue a master’s in nursing (MSN). The first step takes 2-4 years, depending on the degree, while the MSN takes an additional two years. Some schools offer faster paths to graduation with accelerated degrees.
Choosing a nursing program is an important step in the process, making it imperative that prospective degree-seekers to know what they need. Busy students may also want to consider an online nursing program, as these typically provide more flexibility.
programs are commonly offered by community colleges and vocational schools, both online and in person. Most of these programs take 2-3 years to complete and include coursework and clinical experience requirements. While an ADN provides the qualifications needed to take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse, an increasing number of employers now seek job candidates with a BSN.
A bachelor of science in nursing, offered at four-year colleges across the U.S., takes about four years of full-time study to complete. These programs combine general and nursing education to create well-rounded graduates prepared for 21st century nursing challenges. After graduating, BSN-holders follow the same path as those with an ADN by passing the NCLEX-RN exam and applying for licensure in their state.
programs usually take two years to complete and can be done through distance learning or on campus. Some accelerated programs may allow students to graduate in 18 months. After finishing all requirements, many graduates find jobs as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse educators. Some of these programs require applicants to possess a set amount of professional experience; others allow learners to move straight through from undergraduate to graduate studies.
The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is a professional degree that allows graduates to work in the most advanced positions available. Some DNP programs are bridge programs for BSN graduates, while others require a previously obtained MSN for enrollment. Program length varies depending on which degree a student already has. This program differs from a Ph.D. in nursing by focusing more on clinical and leadership skills used in the profession rather than those needed to work in academia and/or research positions.
Graduates of ADN and BSN programs seek licensure as a registered nurse, while those who complete MSN and DNP programs usually continue using these same licenses in their work. To receive a license, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. They must also complete continuing education credits every two years to qualify for renewal.
Job and Salary Outlook for Nurses in the United States
Both RNs and NPs earn substantial salaries and enjoy job security thanks to the need for more and more qualified professionals. The BLS found that registered nurses and nurse practitioners earned average median salaries $73,300 and $115,800 in 2019, respectively. Those in the top 10% of earners brought home in excess of $111,220 and $184,180. These professionals earned the highest salaries in California, with RNs receiving annual mean wages of $113,240 and NPs earning $138,660.
The majority of nurses work in hospitals and clinics, but they may also find work in ambulatory health services, physicians’ offices, and nursing and residential care facilities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Duke's school of nursing, as one of the best nursing colleges in the U.S., offers several nursing programs across degree levels. Enrollees can pursue an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing, a master of science in nursing, a doctor of nursing practice, or a Ph.D. in nursing.
With a diverse community of clinicians, researchers, and scholars, the nursing school advances nursing science with leaders in clinical practice, educational excellence, community health, and leading research. Most nursing programs feature curriculum formats that allow degree-seekers to customize their courses to align with their goals and needs. Enrollees can explore distance learning formats for several courses.
The nursing school also offers continuing education opportunities and specialized tracks, including professional certificates and military programs. Nursing students can also consider population care coordinator or psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner postgraduate training programs.
Penn offers one of the best nursing schools in the United States. Nursing students can enroll in undergraduate and transfer programs, master's programs, or doctoral programs. The nursing school also features accelerated programs, including a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) second degree program, a direct-entry BSN-to-MSN bridge program, or a program in nursing innovation.
The undergraduate and transfer programs feature practical, mentored education, and the master's program offers many specialties for nurse practitioners, advanced specialists, and administration roles. Doctoral programs focus on producing leaders in the nursing science field in clinical scholarship, practice, and research.
Across degree levels, nursing programs focus on advancing practice, policy, research, and education. Penn also offers the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation for motivated students who want to transition directly from their bachelor's programs into a Ph.D. in nursing degree.
Yale features one of the top schools for nursing in the nation. The graduate entry pre-specialty in nursing leads to a master of science in nursing (MSN) for incoming students with no prior experience. The program requires learners to complete two terms, along with one summer session and Yale's two-year specialization sequence.
Students can also consider enrolling in the MSN to prepare for leadership roles across the discipline. Throughout the master's curriculum, degree-seekers focus on building the skills and knowledge necessary for advanced practice nursing roles to serve diverse patient populations. Nursing students can also explore joint degrees and post-master's certificates for advanced practice nurses, along with predoctoral and postdoctoral research programs.
The Yale School of Nursing and Yale Divinity School offer a joint degree program. Students can enroll in a joint degree leading to the MSN or the master of arts in religion, each leading to different career paths.
SLU offers some of the best nursing programs for students across degree levels. The Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing provides learners with professional nursing experience across bachelor's, master's, post-master's, and doctoral levels. Throughout these programs, nursing students can learn various methods for interprofessional collaboration.
Undergraduate degrees in nursing include a traditional, four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), an accelerated one-year BSN, and a registered nurse (RN)-to-BSN bridge program for RNs who hold active licenses and want to complete a bachelor's degree.
Graduate nursing students can enroll in an accelerated master of science in nursing (MSN), an MSN nurse practitioner program, an MSN clinical nurse leader option, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) post-baccalaureate, a DNP post-master's option, and a Ph.D. in nursing. Post-master's certificate programs allow learners to focus on different patient populations, such as pediatrics, mental health, and adult-gerontology.
Located in Washington, D.C., Georgetown features one of the best nursing schools in the nation. The school of nursing and health studies provides opportunities to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral students.
Learners can enroll in a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a bachelor's degree in global health, human science, or healthcare management and policy. All of these majors can function as pre-med programs.
Master's students can explore master of science (MS) or master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees. MS options include concentrations in nurse-midwifery, health systems administration, global health, clinical nurse leader, and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, among others.
Master's students can also consider taking advantage of flexible online formats for some of the programs. Enrollees interested in earning a doctoral education can pursue doctor of nurse anesthesia practice degrees, along with post-bachelor's or post-master's doctor of nursing practice programs.
NYU offers some of the best nursing degrees across bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. The Rory Meyers College of Nursing's top-ranked programs meet the needs of a diverse student population.
Nursing students benefit from global experiences with portal campus locations in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, along with ten international academic centers in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. NYU offers a 15-month accelerated bachelor of science in nursing and a traditional, four-year program.
Graduate students can pursue a master of science in nursing, post-master's advanced certificate programs, a doctor of nursing practice, and a Ph.D. in research theory and development. The nursing curriculum includes clinical and evidence-based classroom learning to prepare nurses for work at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The school also boasts an innovative clinical simulation learning center, providing enrollees with one-of-a-kind clinical learning opportunities.
Known as one of the best nursing schools in the U.S., Simmons' nursing programs provide students with research opportunities and clinical experiences. The graduate nursing degrees feature flexible online formats for undergraduate students and licensed nurses who want to advance their education.
Simmons' nursing school cultivates close relationships with research facilities and teaching hospitals, allowing students to participate in clinical rotations, attend talks, and pursue opportunities for employment and research.
At the undergraduate level, degree-seekers can earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or pursue a bridge program, which allows them to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing simultaneously. Graduate students can pursue master of public health, master of science in nursing (MSN), or doctor of nursing practice degrees.
An MSN student can pursue a direct-entry format, an online program for registered nurses (RNs), and an on-campus program for RNs. Doctoral students can enroll in their program on campus or online.
Vanderbilt features one of the top schools for nursing students seeking master's or doctoral degrees. The school of nursing offers a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, a doctor of nursing practice, a Ph.D. in nursing science, post-master's certificates, and a postdoctoral program.
Master's students can explore specializations in women's health nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, emergency nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, among others.
These programs offer multiple entry options and online options for students who want more flexibility as they earn their degree. Applicants to master's programs do not need to hold any prior registered nursing experience, unlike similar programs at many other institutions.
Degree-seekers can also consider dual-degree opportunities at the master's level to pursue an MSN/master of divinity degree or an MSN/master of theological studies.
Offering some of the best nursing programs in the country, the school of nursing at UW emphasizes community. Built on the collaboration of staff, students, and faculty members to improve and expand health globally and locally, the nursing school offers degrees across bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
Bachelor's level students can earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or consider an accelerated BSN or an accelerated BSN with early admission to a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
At the master's level, an enrollee can pursue a master of science in clinical informatics and patient-centered technology. The school offers several doctoral programs, including a Ph.D. in nursing science. DNPs at UW offer concentration options in family nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, pediatric clinical nurse specialist, population health nursing, women's health clinical nurse specialist, and more.
Located in Washington, D.C., GWU features one of the best nursing colleges for students across degree levels. The bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree at GWU features three different formats.
BSN students can enroll in an accelerated 15-month program if they hold a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing, or a veteran's BSN if they have served in the military.
Nursing students can also earn master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees through a flexible online format at GWU. Learners who want to pursue advanced nursing roles in clinical practice, leadership, and policy can earn doctor of nursing practice degrees through post-BSN and post-MSN program options.
GWU emphasizes program options for registered nurses (RNs) who want to advance their education. Those who hold associate degrees in nursing and valid RN licenses can enroll in RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN bridge programs.
The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at CWRU ranks among the best nursing schools in the country. A nursing student can pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of nursing (MN), master of science in nursing (MSN), doctor of nursing practice (DNP), Ph.D. in nursing, or enroll in a dual doctorate DNP/Ph.D. program.
The BSN program offers direct admission into the nursing program, with nursing courses beginning in the first semester of the curriculum. During their bachelor's program, learners can complete more than 1,300 clinical hours.
The MN program serves students who want to practice as advanced generalist registered nurses. The degree also prepares learners to pursue an MSN, DNP, or Ph.D. in nursing.
CSWU, as the innovator of the original DNP, is the foremost leader for doctoral-level education in the field. Degree-seekers can prepare for clinical nursing careers through a flexible executive format and cohort program during their DNP.
The nursing school at UB boasts accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and provides high-quality education across bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. The school's nurse anesthetist program also features national accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthetist Programs. The nursing school emphasizes diversity and inclusion across programs.
Undergraduate students can pursue a traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), which prepares them to work across several healthcare settings and meet the needs of diverse individuals and families. An enrollee can also pursue an RN-to-BS bridge program if they hold an associate degree in nursing and an unencumbered registered nurse license.
UB offers an accelerated BSN program for individuals with a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing. Learners can also pursue a master's degree in nursing leadership and healthcare systems, a doctor of nursing practice, or a Ph.D. in nursing.
Regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Rutgers' nursing school offers bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs.
Degree-seekers interested in a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can pursue a traditional four-year program or a second-degree program if they already hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. Students enrolled in the second-degree program can earn their BSNs in 14 months if they enroll full-time.
Registered nurses (RN) who hold an associate degree in nursing can enroll in the RN-to-BSN bridge program to gain credit for their existing education and experience. This track allows them to earn a BSN sooner than students enrolled in traditional bachelor's programs.
At the master's level, enrollees can pursue a 37-credit informatics program or a 42-credit program focused on leadership. Degree-seekers interested in earning a doctor of nursing practice degree can pursue specialties in nurse midwifery, nurse anesthesia, nurse leadership, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, and pediatric nurse practitioner, among others.
Learners can also earn dual degrees in nurse midwifery and women's health nurse practitioner, a Ph.D. in nursing, and a post-master's certificate or school nurse certificate.
The school of nursing and human physiology at Gonzaga offers nursing degrees across levels, following a Jesuit, humanistic approach to nursing education. Nursing students can earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of science in nursing (MSN), or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
The BSN program, ideal for aspiring registered nurses (RNs), focuses on foundational nursing concepts. During their rigorous curriculum, enrollees focus on preparing for the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure.
Degree-seekers who hold unencumbered RN licenses can enroll in the online RN-to-MSN bridge program to earn their master's degree more quickly than those in traditional MSN programs.
Nursing students can also enroll in the online MSN or the online second master's degree program to pursue a secondary area of specialization. The online DNP prepares students to practice at the highest level of nursing through post-bachelor's and post-master's formats.
Nursing students across degree levels can enroll in Duquesne's top-ranked nursing school and prepare to become ethical healthcare leaders. The nursing school provides degree-seekers with individual support and attention, incorporating global experiences at undergraduate and graduate levels.
Undergraduate students can enroll in a traditional, four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. Students who hold a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing can pursue the second degree BSN to earn their degree in 12 or 16 months. Duquesne also offers a five-year biomedical engineering and BSN dual degree.
A graduate student can earn a master of science in nursing and select from adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, or executive nurse leadership and healthcare management focuses. Doctoral students can earn a doctor of nursing practice in executive nurse leadership and healthcare management.
Learn More About Nursing Programs in the United States
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