The Top 50 Registered Nursing Programs By State

January 25, 2022 , Modified on April 20, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Registered nursing students are in great demand in the U.S. as the country faces a rising shortage of nurses. Find the best RN program in your state.

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The Top 50 Registered Nursing Programs By State
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Due to demand, now is a perfect time to consider entering the nursing field. However, navigating the best nursing programs by state can be daunting.

Whether looking to earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or a master of science in nursing (MSN), the following list provides insight into the top programs in the United States.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the top 50 registered nursing programs by state, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about registered nursing programs, or go straight to our list of the top 50 registered nursing programs by state.

What Can You Do With a Registered Nursing Degree?

A nursing degree prepares graduates for careers within the healthcare field. The specific role depends upon the nurse's educational background and the nursing program.

ADN jobs can be found in hospitals, physicians' offices, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers. Within these settings, nurses work as generalists, recording health histories, ordering and analyzing tests, educating patients on their condition and treatment, and collaborating with healthcare teams.

Nurses with a BSN can focus on nursing specialties not available to those with an ADN. Roles include nursing administrator, health educator, pediatric nurse, public health nurse, and critical care nurse.

The work settings and role responsibilities are similar between those with a BSN nursing job and those with an ADN. However, nurses with a bachelor's degree have more opportunities for career growth and leadership positions.

Nurses with an MSN have received advanced specialized clinical and administrative training. With an MSN, nurses can become licensed advanced practice nurses, which can lead to roles as a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, and family nurse practitioner, among others.

Some of the most popular careers for nursing program graduates include:

msn Required

Pediatric nurse

Pediatric nurses care for children ranging from birth to age 21. They work in various settings and provide services, such as childhood immunizations, developmental screenings, and school physicals. Pediatric nurses can earn an average annual salary of $61,170, according to Payscale data from January 2022.
Salary $61,170*
Job Outlook 52% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Pediatric nurses
msn Required

Certified nurse midwife

As a certified nurse midwife, nurses provide support, care, and advice during pregnancy, labor, and birth. They educate patients, families, and communities on issues ranging from fertility to infant care. Midwives typically work in hospital maternity units, private practice, and community-based health centers.

Certified nurse midwives earn a median annual salary of $111,130, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Salary $111,130*
Job Outlook 12% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Certified nurse midwives
msn Required

Family nurse practitioner

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work with both children and adults, providing general care in a noncritical capacity. FNPs track health histories, monitor wellness, and treat minor illnesses. Employment settings include community clinics or private practices.

FNPs earn an average annual salary of $97,550, according to Payscale as of January 2022.
Salary $97,550*
Job Outlook 45% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Family nurse practitioners
*SOURCE: Payscale, BLS

What to Look For in a Registered Nursing Program

When applying to a registered nurse (RN) program, there are many factors to consider. Prospective nurses should pay close attention to the following information when selecting a program.

While admission requirements vary from one program to the next, most require a high school diploma or GED certificate with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Applicants should research the school to make sure they meet the specific requirements. While programs often offer similar core classes, it is important to review a program's curriculum. Pay close attention to elective choices, as these can affect your nursing focus. School nursing programs organize nursing clinical experience. Students gain hands-on experience within a variety of specialties, allowing them to choose a focus area. Applicants should apply to an accredited program. Accrediting bodies, such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), evaluate schools/programs to ensure they meet state and national standards.

Enrolling in a nonaccredited program may not meet state nursing requirements, and credits from these programs do not transfer.
Program lengths vary based on several factors. Students who enroll in an ADN program can complete their education in two years. BSN programs take four years to complete. Length also varies based on the student's enrollment status of full time vs. part time. When selecting a nursing program, the NCLEX pass rate can indicate how successfully the program prepares its students for the exam. The ACEN and CCNE review NCLEX pass rates when evaluating a nursing program, using it to determine if the accreditation continues. A high graduation rate provides applicants with insight into student success and completion of the program. It also identifies if students are earning their degree on time. Online nursing programs provide the same rigorous curriculum found with in-person settings. They offer synchronous classes, which happen in real time, and asynchronous classes, which students access on their own schedule.

For online programs, students need a computer, preferably a laptop, and a stable internet connection.

Featured Online RN to BSN Programs

Applying to a Registered Nursing Program

When applying to nursing school, there are several requirements applicants must meet for admittance. These include certain academic prerequisites, such as a GPA minimum, a writing sample, and references. While most programs require similar material, some vary by degree and school.

ADN Requirements

  • Admission materials: Proof of previous education (high school diploma or GED certificate); high school transcripts proving the completion of academic prerequisites (algebra, biology, chemistry, etc.); personal essay; letters of recommendation
  • GPA requirement: 2.5 GPA or GED certificate equivalent
  • Other requirements: Some programs require SAT or ACT scores. Some also require pre-entrance exams, such as the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), the Nursing Entrance Test (NET), or the Kaplan Nursing School Admission Test.

BSN Requirements

  • Admission materials: Prior coursework in anatomy, biology, and chemistry; writing sample; letters of recommendation; volunteer experience
  • GPA requirement: 2.75 GPA in high school or associate program; 2.5 or higher in science courses
  • Other requirements: Some programs require you to take the SAT, ACT, or pre-entrance exams, such as the TEAS, NET, or the Kaplan Nursing School Admission Test.

MSN Requirements

  • Admission materials: Undergraduate transcripts; undergraduate degree (preferably in nursing); personal statement; letters of recommendation
  • GPA requirement: 3.0 GPA; 3.5 GPA for some exclusive programs
  • Other requirements: Many require at least one year of RN experience. Some programs require GRE or MAT scores; accelerated programs are available to ADN students and those who have a bachelor's degree in another field.

Why Is Accreditation Important for Registered Nursing Programs?

When searching for the right academic institution, potential students should make sure their nursing program is accredited. Graduating from an accredited nursing program is important because it provides many academic and professional benefits.

  • Accreditation from groups, such as the ACEN and CCNE, ensures the academic quality of the program.
  • Accredited schools rarely accept transfer credits from unaccredited institutions.
  • Undergraduate degrees from unaccredited schools may not be valid for those looking to enroll in a graduate program.
  • Students may not be eligible for financial aid if attending an unaccredited institution.
  • Graduates from accredited programs typically have better job prospects.

Paying for Registered Nursing Programs

When choosing a nursing program, many factors come into play. The type of school (public vs. private), program length, full-time or part-time attendance, and the student's location all impact tuition costs.

Students concerned about paying for their nursing program can find financial aid options for nursing students who need additional funds. Learners can also apply for nursing scholarships, grants, and student loans to decrease the cost of the program. Financial aid and grants typically provide students with need-based funding; scholarships are awarded on academic merit, diversity and inclusion, or financial need.

Frequently Asked Questions About Registered Nursing Programs

Can you become an RN in two years?

Yes, full-time students can complete an ADN program and become a licensed RN within two years. Those who have earned a bachelor's degree in another field can complete an accelerated BSN program within two years or less.

What are the pros and cons of earning a nursing degree online?

Earning a nursing degree online is less costly and provides the student with scheduling flexibility around their work and personal life.

However, online programs also limit interactions with instructors and peers. In-person classes offer immediate feedback and clarification. The relationships built with on-site programs can aid in the professional development of the student.

Is it better to get a BSN or an ADN?

Deciding whether it is better to complete a BSN or an ADN program depends on the student's personal and professional goals. While earning an ADN takes less time, those with a BSN have a higher earning potential and can focus on specific specializations or leadership roles.

Is becoming an RN difficult?

Prospective RNs can customize an education path based on their needs and preferences. While nursing is competitive and the coursework can be difficult, programs provide study resources for nursing students and the support needed to earn their degrees.

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