Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs
Illinois is home to several quality nursing programs so read on to learn more about nursing salaries, degree requirements, and licensing options in the state.
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Nursing schools in Illinois are some of the best in the country, as you would expect from a state with some of the best hospitals. This guide will help you choose from among the many nursing programs in Illinois, including both registered nurse (RN) and nurse practitioner (NP) programs. It also provides information on how to get an Illinois nursing license and what you can expect to earn.
Keep reading to learn more about becoming a nurse in Illinois or go straight to our list of the best nursing schools in Illinois or our list of the best nurse practitioner programs in Illinois.
The Best Nursing Schools in Illinois
There are many excellent nursing schools in Illinois, whether you want an associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor's, master's, or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). This guide will help you find the right one for your career goals and learning preferences.
Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Illinois, 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.
Featured Online MSN Programs
How to Choose a Nursing Program in Illinois
With so many nursing schools in Illinois, it can be hard to choose. Factors to consider include tuition and other costs, financial aid, the curriculum, and the size of the school. You might also look up the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) pass rate (a good indicator of program quality) and the program's logistics, such as schedule and clinical placement options.
Because accreditation for nursing school is so important to your career prospects, this guide only lists accredited nursing programs in Illinois.
Why Become a Nurse in Illinois
Chicago residents enjoy a world-class city with a considerably lower cost of living than coastal cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. The biggest nursing schools in Illinois are in Chicago.
While most Illinois nurses live and work in Chicago, there are opportunities all over the state, whether you want a big college city like Champaign-Urbana, a mid-sized city like Rockford, or smaller, rural towns.
Estimates project a 12.4% growth in RN jobs between 2018 and 2028 and 31.1% growth for NP jobs.
Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Illinois
The average salary for RNs in Illinois is $78,260, compared to $82,750 nationally. However, the cost of living index in Illinois is 94.3, well below the national index of 100, so attending a nursing program in Illinois is still an excellent investment. NPs in Illinois earn an average of $120,470, compared to $118,040, the national average.
Federal projections estimate a surplus of 3,600 nurses in Illinois by 2030, perhaps because of the number of nursing schools in Illinois. However, since more than 125,000 nurses currently work in Illinois, this number is much smaller in context.
Additionally, many nurses plan to leave healthcare because of nurse burnout from COVID-19, so attending nursing school in Illinois is still a good choice if you want a degree that's in demand.
Chicago has many options if you want to work at a large academic medical center such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern, or Rush (to name just a few) or prefer a big-city lifestyle.
If you want to work in a smaller city, downstate Illinois, including the state capital Springfield, offers many choices.
|Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas||Average Salary for RNs|
|Chicago — Naperville — Elgin||$81,300|
Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Illinois
Illinois licensing requirements are similar to other states' nursing requirements, including education, passing the appropriate examination, and a successful background check. Illinois is not a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, although the state government is considering legislation to join the NLC.
To become an RN in Illinois, you must earn an ADN or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree at a state-approved nursing school in Illinois or another state, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, and apply to the state board of nursing. You must pass a background check, including fingerprints, in the 60-day period before application.
Not all criminal convictions will prevent you from earning a license, so check with the state board if you are uncertain.
To become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you must graduate from a master of science in nursing or DNP degree program, pass the board certification examination for your specialty, and submit your application to the state board of nursing. You must also apply to receive full-practice authority. Full-practice authority requirements include documenting your certification, at least 4,000 hours of professional practice, and 250 hours of continuing education.
The Best Nurse Practitioner Programs in Illinois
If you want more professional autonomy, including full-practice authority, and higher wages, consider attending one of the many APRN programs in Illinois to become a nurse practitioner.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Illinois
What is an RN salary in Illinois?
The average salary for RNs in Illinois is $78,260. Salaries are highest in the Chicago area, at $81,300, though the cost of living is also higher. Nurse practitioners earn an average $120,470, so attending an advanced practice nursing program in Illinois can be a good investment.
Are nurses in demand in Illinois?
Estimates project a 12.4% growth in RN jobs between 2018 and 2028. However, the federal government estimates a projected surplus of 3,600 nurses in Illinois by 2030, perhaps because there are so many large nursing schools in Illinois.
However, 52% of Illinois nurses are 55 or older and the federal estimates do not take into account the number of nurses who plan to leave the healthcare workforce because of COVID-19 and its aftermath.
How do I get a nursing license in Illinois?
You must graduate from a state-approved nursing school in Illinois or another state, earn an ADN or BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, and receive a clear background check, including fingerprinting. The ADN takes approximately two years and a BSN takes four.
How long does it take to become an RN in Illinois?
It takes two years to complete an ADN program and four years to complete a BSN, studying full time. While an ADN is faster and tuition is generally cheaper, many employers require or strongly prefer a BSN for higher-level positions. The majority (58%) of Illinois nurses have a BSN or higher.
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