Best BSN Degree Programs 2021

by NurseJournal Staff

A bachelor's-level program provides nurses with the critical thinking and leadership skills needed to administer nursing care in a variety of settings. Read here to learn more about the best colleges for nurses.

Best BSN Degree Programs 2021

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a bachelor's degree prepares registered nurses (RNs) to deliver safe nursing care.

A bachelor's-level program provides nurses with the critical thinking and leadership skills needed to administer nursing care in a variety of settings. Highly educated nurses are correlated with shorter hospital stays and mortality rates among patients. To encourage future RNs to earn a bachelor's degree, the AACN recommends that employers support professional development by offering monetary incentives.

RNs hold either a diploma, an associate degree in nursing, or a bachelor's degree in nursing. RNs with a bachelor's in nursing enjoy more career mobility and higher earning potential. Median annual salaries for RNs reached $73,300 in 2019.

Keep reading to learn more about the best colleges for nurses.

View ranking methodology here.

Top 10 BSN Degree Programs in 2021

Rank School Location
1 The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
2 Brigham Young University Provo, UT
3 California State University-Long Beach Long Beach, CA
4 Ohio State University Columbus, OH
5 University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
6 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
7 University of Washington Seattle, WA
8 San Diego State University San Diego, CA
9 Berea College Berea, KY
10 California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, CA

Featured Online Programs

The University of Texas at Austin View School Profile $$ Austin, TX 83% 36% 24% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

UT Austin is a public university. It offers a bachelor of science in nursing program that can be completed in four-years of full-time study and provides the necessary foundation for a nursing master's or doctoral degree and a national licensure exam.

BSN coursework at UT Austin emphasizes critical thinking and clinical judgment, biological and behavioral sciences, evidence-based nursing practice, and nursing leadership with various hospital and community settings for clinical experiences. UT Austin offers multiple financial aid opportunities and scholarship programs for students from and outside the state.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Austin, Texas
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $1,324 per semester for Texas residents; $4,769 per semester for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: High school transcripts; essays; short answer prompts
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.83% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Brigham Young University View School Profile Provo, UT 86% 15% 20% Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

A private university located in Provo, Utah, BYU offers a baccalaureate program in nursing. The 96-credit full-time program provides 12 hours of clinical experience each week, along with six semesters of nursing coursework. Students complete 16 credits in most semesters and spend about 30 hours in weekly course preparation.

Nursing students at BYU can access the nursing learning center with audiovisual and computer learning aids, a research center, and a clinical simulation laboratory. The College of Nursing at BYU also offers scholarships, awards, and nursing and education assistantships to qualifying students.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Provo, Utah
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $323 per credit for Latter-day Saint; $646 per credit for Non-Latter-day Saint
  • Admission Requirements: Transcripts; essay; minimum 3.5 GPA for transfer students
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Not specified
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.75% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Long Beach View School Profile $ Long Beach, CA 69% 32% 29% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

A public university located in Long Beach, California, CSULB is the third largest of the 23-school California State University System institutions. CSULB offers a baccalaureate program in nursing for beginners as well as working professionals.

The 120-credit program offers two paths. The basic BSN program is for learners with no prior nursing education or experience, and the RN/ADN-to-BSN path for RN license or associate degree holders. Students in their senior year select an area of clinical practice out of critical care, maternal child care, and selection populations. A summer bridge program is available for ADN students to complete non-clinical BSN courses before applying to the RN-to-BSN program.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Long Beach, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
  • Tuition: $1,665 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 2.5 GPA (Basic BSN); ADN, RN licence (RN-BSN)
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 5 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.25% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Ohio State University View School Profile $$$ Columbus, OH 84% 38% 33% Higher Learning Commission

A public university located in Columbus, OSU offers a bachelor of science in nursing program approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing. The BSN program prepares students to practice nursing as a generalist and provides the necessary foundation for graduate studies.

The 61-credit program takes a minimum of four years to complete, which includes one year of prerequisite coursework and three years of nursing coursework. First year students learn the discipline and acquire basic health assessment skills. In the second year, the program emphasizes classroom and lab simulations. Students also get clinical experience throughout the course, but more prominently from the third year onwards.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Columbus, Ohio
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $287 per credit for Ohio residents, $687 per credit for out-of-state residents
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.2 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 80% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of California-Los Angeles View School Profile $$$ Los Angeles, CA 91% 32% 6% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

UCLA is a public university in Los Angeles, California, which offers about 3,900 different courses. The bachelor of science in nursing offered at UCLA's School of Nursing is a pre-licensure program that also develops a foundation for further studies in advanced practice roles.

Students can complete the program in four years. Students must also prepare and implement a clinically-based scholarly project concerning improvement in the healthcare system during their last clinical course. Students learn subjects such as advanced leadership and role integration and fundamentals of professional nursing during the program. More than 50% of undergraduate students at UCLA get some sort of financial assistance.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Los Angeles, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
  • Tuition: $11,442 per year
  • Admission Requirements: 15 A-G courses
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.56% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of Florida View School Profile $$ Gainesville, FL 88% 24% 50% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Located in Gainesville, Florida, UF is a public university with research facilities in all 67 counties in Florida. The bachelor of science in nursing offered at UF comes with three tracks. The traditional track is for students enrolled at UF and transfer students, the accelerated path is for those possessing a 4-year degree, and the RN-to-BSN is for RN license holders.

A BSN at UF includes four semesters of classroom and laboratory activities and culminating clinical practice experience. Students also get exposure to various leadership and mentoring programs such as the Gator Nurse Ambassador Program and the Gator Nurse Mentorship Program.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Gainesville, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $6,380 per year for Florida residents; $28,658 per year for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Not specified
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.93% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of Washington View School Profile $ Seattle, WA 84% 26% 9% Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

A public university located in Seattle, Washington, UW boasts over 54,000 enrollees. The bachelor of science in nursing program at UW Seattle campus is a two-year professional program for those pursuing their career as a nurse.

The full-time program offers most courses in a distant learning format. Freshmen will go through science and humanities prerequisite coursework before the primary course topics. The curriculum studies motifs such as critical thinking, care and therapeutics, and health care resources. UW's BSN program also offers clinical simulations and supervised experience opportunities to enrolled students.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Seattle, Washington
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $15,660 per year for Washington residents; $52,152 per year for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 Years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.04% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
San Diego State University View School Profile $$ San Diego, CA 74% 28% 47% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

California's SDSU is a public university established in 1897. The bachelor of science in nursing program at SDSU emphasizes the biophysical and behavioral humanistic sciences in specific nursing practice skills and techniques.

A pre-approved international experience is necessary for all students to understand the health challenges experienced by local populations in international environments. SDSU's nursing program provides an integrated liberal educational experience in personal and professional terms. The 130-credit curriculum takes four years to complete and incorporates subjects such as social and behavioral sciences, and community health nursing.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: San Diego, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
  • Tuition: $8,136 per year
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.91% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Berea College View School Profile Berea, KY 63% 15% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Kentucky-based Berea is one of only eight federally recognized work colleges in the United States. Students taking courses at Berea pay no tuition fees. The nursing department at Berea offers a bachelor of science degree, majoring in nursing. The BSN curriculum at Berea meets state educational requirements for professional licensure in 52 states and jurisdictions.

The 36-credit coursework explores subjects such as pharmacology, nursing leadership/management, and microbiology. Standardized testing and remediation programs happen throughout the program. Students also get the opportunity to gain clinical experience from the second year onwards. With its No-Tuition Promise, the school covers 100% of tuition costs, which saves students an average of $176,000 across four years.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Berea, Kentucky
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: No tuition
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum GPA of 3.0; SAT/ACT scores
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Fullerton View School Profile $ Fullerton, CA 68% 28% 35% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

CSUF is a public university located in Fullerton with the largest student body in the 23-campus CSU system. CSUF's bachelor of science in nursing is a four-to-five year program.

Students must complete the 120-credit program by enrolling full-time in a minimum of 12 credits of coursework each semester. The nursing capstone incorporates planning, implementation, and evaluation skills for daily healthcare processes, while the supervised clinical capstone focuses on the application of theory and nursing processes. The School of Nursing at CSUF consists of 81 faculties and admits 40 students each year.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Fullerton, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
  • Tuition: $1,665 per semester for California residents; $2,061 per semester for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: High school A-G coursework
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: First-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of Central Florida View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% 57% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

A public university located in Orlando, UCF offers a bachelor of science in nursing program for individuals willing to enter the healthcare field as nurses.

The 120-credit program offers minors in psychology, health services, and administration. Students with more than a 3.5 nursing GPA can also apply for the honors option. Classes at UCF are work-intensive, with courses including clinical practice in a variety of settings. The accelerated track is also available for those possessing a baccalaureate or higher degree. Enrollees must complete program prerequisite requirements before the start of the program.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Orlando, Florida
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $212 per credit for Florida residents; $749 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.64% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Appalachian State University View School Profile $$ Boone, NC 72% 48% 20% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Appalachian is a public university in Boone, North Carolina, which is a part of the University of North Carolina System. It offers a bachelor of science in nursing program covering education in pediatrics, women's health, adult health, community, and mental health.

The 126-credit program takes four years to complete and focuses on research and clinical outreach. Students get access to a comprehensive nursing skills lab and over 20 laboratories and additional locations for simulated learning. The program also offers internships, field experiences, and clinical placement opportunities. Students enrolled in the RN program also require completing a professional capstone.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Boone, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $177 per credit for North Carolina residents; $827 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Auburn University View School Profile $$$$ Auburn, AL 78% 32% 23% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Located in its namesake town in Alabama, Auburn is a public university that enrolled more than 30,000 students this year and boasts around 300 student-related clubs and organizations. Auburn offers a bachelor of science in nursing program for prospective students seeking a career in nursing and existing nurse practitioners.

The pre-nursing program comprises general education and prerequisite courses that prepare students for the BSN program. RN license holders can opt for the online, 31-credit RN-to-BSN option and obtain a baccalaureate degree in just 12 months. Students can choose clinical locations that include but are not limited to Auburn, Montgomery, Birmingham, Mobile, Columbus, GA, and Atlanta.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Auburn, Alabama
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $609 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: No minimum GPA requirement
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Not specified
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.9% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Los Angeles View School Profile Los Angeles, CA 48% 29% 31% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Cal State LA is a public university located in Los Angeles, California ranked number one in the U.S. for upward mobility for its students. The university offers a bachelor of science in nursing degree in three different frameworks.

RN-to-BSN track is for RN license holders, ADN-to-BSN pathway is for associate degree holders, and the Traditional BSN courses are for high school graduates willing to pursue nursing as a degree. An accelerated option is also available for other higher degree holders. Cal State LA accepts BS applications between September and January of each academic year.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Los Angeles, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
  • Tuition: $8,196 per year for California residents; $17,700 per year for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: TEAS score
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3 Years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.4% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Fresno View School Profile $ Fresno, CA 54% 30% 25% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

A public university located on the northeast edge of Fresno, Fresno State provides the highest number of accredited departmental programs within the CSU system. Accredited by both professional and educational bodies, the bachelor of science in nursing program at Fresno covers a five-semester curriculum system.

The 120-credit program takes four years to complete. Notable classes include nursing of the childrearing family, concepts of community, health nursing, and health appraisal. The coursework also includes clinical placements for on-site experience and evaluation. Seventy-one percent of students receive financial aid at Fresno State.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Fresno, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
  • Tuition: $1,665 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA; 75% score on TEAS
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 4 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.08% first-time pass rate
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Applying to a BSN Degree Program

Nursing college admissions requirements depend on the individual's educational background. BSN nursing schools offer programs for students at all educational levels, welcoming applicants who hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, college diploma, or an associate degree. Other nursing colleges design programs for individuals with a bachelor's degree in another major.

Institutions commonly expect candidates to hold a minimum 2.5 or 3.0 GPA. Other common admissions requirements include high school or college transcripts, 2-3 letters of recommendation, a resume, and personal essays. Applicants may also need to take a standardized test to measure their academic skills.

Learn more about admissions requirements at the best colleges for nurses on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions


How long does it take to complete a BSN program?

BSN colleges take about four years to complete. Students who hold a diploma or an associate degree in nursing can often finish a BSN program in 2-3 years. Some programs prepare students to graduate and take the NCLEX-RN in as few as 15 months.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

The best colleges for nurses hold accreditation, and the best BSN programs receive field-specific programmatic accreditation. Accrediting bodies like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education evaluate nursing programs to ensure that students receive a quality education. Only students at accredited schools are eligible to receive federal financial aid.

What can I do with a BSN?

BSN colleges train future RNs through hands-on labs and clinics. By the end of a program, students can sit for the NCLEX-RN. RNs may use their BSN degree to work in pediatrics, nursing care, outpatient clinics, or rehabilitation facilities.

When can I take the NCLEX?

Nursing students can apply to take the NCLEX-RN exam about a month before graduation. While specific regulations vary by state, all candidates must complete the required clinical hours and pay testing fees. Applicants receive a test date within 30 days of applying.

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