Top Arkansas Nursing Schools and Programs

February 25, 2022 , Modified on April 27, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Explore the top available nursing programs in Arkansas, salary and job outlook for Arkansas nurses, and how to get your Arkansas license.

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Top Arkansas Nursing Schools and Programs
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There are more than 40 state-approved nursing schools in Arkansas. Because Arkansas is a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, graduates can apply for a multistate license to practice in any of the 37 participating states.

In Arkansas, you can enjoy a lower cost of living and an above-average job growth rate for registered nurses (RNs). This guide explores the best nursing programs in Arkansas, how to apply for a nursing license, and typical salary ranges, including the highest-paying cities in Arkansas for RNs.

Keep reading to learn more about the top nursing schools and programs in Arkansas.

The Best Nursing Schools in Arkansas

It can be hard to choose from the variety of private and state nursing programs in Arkansas. This guide can help you find the right program for your personal and career goals.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Arkansas, 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.

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How to Choose a Nursing Program in Arkansas

When considering different nursing programs in Arkansas, you might factor tuition and other costs, the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) pass rate, which can indicate program quality, and admission requirements.

You might also think about financial aid options, the program's format (especially for online nursing schools), clinical placement options and assistance, and the curriculum. This guide only lists accredited programs, since nursing accreditation is important to help you achieve your goals.

Why Become a Nurse in Arkansas

Arkansas is an NLC state, so you can get a multistate license when you attend nursing school in Arkansas. The number of RN jobs is projected to grow 13.5% between 2018 and 2028. Because most counties in Arkansas are medically underserved areas (MUAs), you can receive scholarships or loan forgiveness for nurses for working in these locations. The Arkansas Nurses Foundation offers scholarships as well.

Though Arkansas has many rural settings, you can still enjoy major city attractions in Little Rock and Bentonville. These cities offer a growing music, arts, and food scene. If you enjoy outdoor activities, especially hiking or fishing, Arkansas includes many state parks and other outdoor attractions.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Arkansas

The Arkansas cost of living index is 90.9, considerably below the national index of 100. While the average RN salary is $63,640, below the national median of $75,330, and the average nurse practitioner salary is $106,210, compared to the median of $111,680 nationally, your salary will go further than in most other parts of the country.

The number of RN jobs is projected to grow 13.5% between 2018 and 2028, more than the national projection of 9%. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects in Arkansas a surplus of 9,800 nurses from 2014-2030.

Because Arkansas is an NLC state and these projections do not factor the number of nurses leaving healthcare during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, attending nursing school in Arkansas might result in many more job opportunities.

As the largest metropolitan area in Arkansas, Little Rock also pays the highest average RN salaries. Unincorporated areas offer lower salaries, all under $60,000. Because Arkansas has so many MUAs, many areas in Arkansas are eligible for loan forgiveness state programs for nurses.

The Arkansas Department of Health offers information on available scholarships and loans to help your salary go even further.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in Arkansas
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary for RNs
Little Rock — North Little Rock — Conway $69,060
Fayetteville — Springdale — Rogers $63,830
Pine Bluff $62,310
Jonesboro $62,080
Hot Springs $62,030
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2020

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Arkansas

To earn an RN license in any state, you must graduate from nursing school, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, and complete a background check. To become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you must have an RN license, earn board certification, and pass a background check as well. Arkansas has additional requirements for APRNs.

RN Requirements

Just as in all states, you must first become licensed as an RN to practice by completing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program and passing the NCLEX-RN. If you attend nursing school in Arkansas and are eligible to apply for licensure by examination, you should apply to the state board of nursing around 60 days before you graduate.

APRN Requirements

To earn an APRN license, you need a master of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice and board certification. You must also pass a criminal background check and have an unencumbered RN license.

The state board of nursing requires at least 2,000 hours of experience as an RN to apply for APRN licensure. Most APRN nursing schools in Arkansas require or strongly encourage at least 2,000 hours for admission, so most graduates can apply immediately.

APRNs must apply separately for prescribing authority.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Arkansas


What is the salary range for nurses in Arkansas?

According to the BLS, RN salaries in Arkansas range from $44,660-$82,480, with an average salary of $63,640. NP salaries range from $82,810-$135,020, with an average $106,210 salary.

How many licensed nurses are in Arkansas?

There are 25,300 licensed RNs in Arkansas and 2,730 NPs. There are also 13,128 licensed practical nurses, 4,551 APRNs, and 55 licensed psychiatric technician nurses, a total of about 181.5 nurses per 10,000 in the population, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

How long does it take to become a nurse in Arkansas?

It takes approximately two years to earn an ADN and four years to earn a BSN. Processing time varies for a license, but you can apply to the state board of nursing for a temporary license for an additional fee.

What is the NCLEX-RN pass rate in Arkansas?

The NCLEX-RN pass rate for nursing schools in Arkansas is 82.3%, compared to 84.4% nationally. BSN nursing programs in Arkansas generally have a higher pass rate than ADN programs.

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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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