Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs

by NurseJournal Staff

Illinois is home to several quality nursing programs so read on to learn more about nursing salaries, degree requirements, and license options in the state.

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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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Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs
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While Illinois has experienced regional nursing shortages for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation. The state must replace over 9,800 nurses each year to maintain current staffing levels. These projected nursing shortfalls suggest that graduates of nursing schools in Illinois can find ample employment opportunities.

Nursing programs in Illinois only graduate 7,000 registered nurses (RNs) each year. Close to one-third of these nurses are expected to retire within five years. By 2025, Illinois will face an RN shortfall of over 14,000 on top of the current shortage. Illinois labor force projections also indicate that 2,700 licensed practical nurse (LPNs) positions could remain unfilled from 2014-2030.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs in Illinois earn about 7% less than the average salary for all RNs in the U.S, but paychecks go further because the cost of living is lower than in other states. Illinois nurses also benefit from the state's strong tradition of union membership. The Illinois Nurses Association advocates on behalf of its members and offers collective bargaining representation at over 80 public and private healthcare facilities.

If you are considering a nursing career, read on to learn more about degrees, license requirements, and salaries in Illinois. This guide also offers rankings of the best RN-to-BSN and NP programs in the state.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing programs 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.

Keep reading to learn more about the best BSN programs in Illinois, or go straight to our list of the best NP programs in Illinois.

Featured Online Programs

The Best Nursing Schools in Illinois for RN-to-BSN Programs

Aurora University true View School Profile Aurora, IL

Aurora University’s BSN degree program delivers an excellent foundation in the art of nursing through clinical experiences and professional training. The faculty to student ratio is 1:32, which means there is the advantage that classes are quite small. During practicum experiences, the ratio is 1:8, which is even better. This means that the faculty, who are truly dedicated, will give you all the personal attention you need. Indeed, students often take part in regional and national conferences with faculty staff. Students also take part in various real-life practice situations where they will work alongside various highly experienced professionals.

  • Campus: Aurora, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Tuition: $10,560 per semester
  • Minimum time commitment: 123 semester hours
  • Online availability: No
  • Degree requirements: TEAS, GPA of 2.75 minimum, interview, TOEFL if applicable
  • Programs: BSN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing true View School Profile Quincy, IL

The Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing offers a program in conjunction with two other schools. As such, a BSN graduate is educated not just by Blessing-Rieman, but also by Quincy University and/or Culver Stockton College. The college is responsible for the educational aspect of the degree, whereas Quincy provides liberal arts and general education. The BSN degree itself is achieved through Blessing-Rieman.

  • Campus: Quincy, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Tuition: $20,772
  • Minimum time commitment: 124 semester hours
  • Online availability: No
  • Degree requirements: High school or GED, health check, criminal background check
  • Programs: BSN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
Bradley University true View School Profile Peoria, IL

Bradley University is fully committed to ensuring each nursing student is able to get the best BSN education available. This includes clinical nursing and theoretical nursing. Students are mentored as they go through the entire process, rather than having to take additional exams to be accepted to the second part of the degree program. Additionally, students are given all the flexibility they need to complete their degree. Each student is treated as an individual and the curriculum is adapted to meet the needs of each student and of the health care professional in general.

  • Campus: Peoria, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Tuition: $810 per semester hour
  • Minimum time commitment: 124 credit hours
  • Online availability: No
  • Degree requirements: High school or GED, visit, meeting with admission representative
  • Programs: BSN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
Chicago State University true View School Profile Chicago, IL

When the Affordable Care Act was implemented, a significant additional demand for nurses was created. Also, a substantial percentage of the nursing workforce is starting to retire, which means that the demand has grown even more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a demand for some 525,000 nurses in the country right now, which will increase to 1.05 million nurses in some 8 years time.

However, although demand is high, gaining a job as a nurse is highly competitive. Only those with the best education will get those coveted jobs and Chicago State University is committed to delivering that high quality. They will assist every student to achieve their goals on both a professional and personal level, so that they can start their career in nursing.

  • Campus: Chicago, IL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Tuition: $223 per credit hour
  • Minimum time commitment: Four years
  • Online availability: No
  • Degree requirements: Placement examination, GPA of 2.75 minimum, medical and dental exam, personal statement, prerequisite courses
  • Programs: BSN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
Elmhurst College true View School Profile Elmhurst, IL

Elmhurst College has always been at the forefront of the nursing careers. They understand how trusted nurses are and how important it is that they can lead and communicate in a scientific field. Nursing is about helping others and more. Indeed, today, nurses have to have a strong involvement in all areas of patient care and management, from advocating for community health to dealing with an individual patient at their bedside.

At Elmhurst, students are mentored with a 1:8 faculty ratio. This means they actually build up a relationship with their fellow students and instructors, who become true mentors. Additionally, the school gives access to all the new theoretical and clinical developments in the field of nursing. Students are given a solid foundation in liberal arts, which allows them to take on various important positions in the field of health care. This is something that have been doing since 1975. Almost all of the graduates managed to find employment within a year from graduation and many also continued on their educational pathway, gaining master’s or even doctorate degrees.

  • Campus: Elmhurst, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Tuition: $21,543 per term
  • Minimum time commitment: Four years
  • Online availability: No
  • Degree requirements: High school or GED
  • Programs: BSN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
Lakeview College of Nursing View School Profile Charleston and Danville, IL

Lakeview College of Nursing offers a four-year, comprehensive BSN degree program. It offers liberal arts foundations and then adds a background of sciences. Graduates are able to take the NCLEX-RN examination to start their career as registered nurses. Due to the quality of the program, graduates are highly sought after, particularly because they are ready to study on towards achieving their master’s or even doctorate degree.

  • Campus: Charleston and Danville, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: CCNE, ACEN
  • Tuition: Varies depending on residency
  • Minimum time commitment: 4 years
  • Online availability: No
  • Degree requirements: GPA of 2.5, HESI A, prerequisite courses, transcripts, health check, criminal background chec
  • Programs: BSN
  • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Illinois

The first step to becoming a nurse is to apply to a nursing program. Each nursing school sets its own admission standards. The number of credits and other requirements depends on the type of degree program you want to pursue. Once you earn your degree, you must obtain your license to practice in Illinois.

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) in Illinois can obtain CNA certification from the Illinois Department of Public Health after completing a nursing training program and passing a written competency test. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation administers licenses for LPNs, RNs, and nurse practitioners (NPs).

Illinois has a pending application to join the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC). The 34 states in the eNLC allow LPNs and RNs to hold one multistate license that permits them to practice in their home states and other eNLC states. All nurses with multistate licenses meet the same requirements, including a federal and state criminal background check.

Because Illinois is not yet a nursing compact state, it requires its own nursing license without offering reciprocity for nurses holding a license from another state. However, Illinois' current licensing requirements meet eNLC standards. By becoming part of the eNLC, Illinois could bring in RNs and LPNs from other compact states to work without them having to apply for an additional license.

While the American Nursing Association-Illinois supports eNLC membership, the Illinois Nurses Association opposes it. The union argues that the eNLC takes jobs away from local nurses and undermines collective bargaining on pay and safety issues.

Becoming a Registered Nurse in Illinois

Prospective nurses can gain their RN licensure after earning a nursing diploma, an associate degree in nursing (ADN,) or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Requirements for licensing vary for each state. The Illinois Board of Nursing, part of the state's Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, regulates the licensure process for RNs planning to practice in the state.

RN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate; prerequisite coursework in statistics, math, and biology
  • How Long To Complete: Two years for ADN; four years for BSN
  • Accrediting Bodies: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Illinois Licensure Requirements:

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner in Illinois

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including NPs, must hold either an accredited master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and obtain national certification in a specialty area. APRN licensure varies by state. In Illinois, the state board of nursing handles NP licensure and approves specializations from national certification agencies.

NP Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: BSN with 3.0 GPA; current RN license
  • How Long To Complete: Two years for MSN; four years for DNP
  • Accrediting Bodies: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Illinois Licensure Requirements:

The Best Nurse Practitioner Programs in Illinois

Bradley University true View School Profile Peoria, IL

Lydia Moss Bradley founded Bradley University in 1897. Today, more than 5,000 students currently attend the institution and benefit from a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university boasts over 70,000 graduates from its eight schools and colleges. Bradley holds Carnegie Classification and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bradley's master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner (MSN-FNP) program offers two paths. The 74-credit RN-to-MSN-FNP option targets associate-holders and requires 800 clinical hours. Bachelor's-holders can choose the BSN-to-MSN-FNP path, which mandates 65 credits and 750 clinical hours. Program courses address concepts in health informatics, evidence-based practice, and pathophysiology.

Campus: Peoria, Illinois

Type: Private

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Tuition: $910/hour

Admission Requirements: Associate or bachelor's in nursing; nursing license; minimum 3.0 GPA for full admission; prerequisite statistics course; essay; two recommendation letters; resume

Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months

On-Campus Requirements: No

Program: Master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner

School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Saint Xavier University true View School Profile Chicago, IL

SXU began in 1846 as an all-female school affiliated with the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church. Today, SXU educates more than 3,600 co-educational students. The institution holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, and U.S. News & World Report ranks SXU 61st among regional universities in the Midwest.

SXU's School of Nursing and Health Sciences offers a master of science in nursing family nurse practitioner program. The curriculum includes courses on healthcare systems, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Students must also complete 600 clinical practicum hours.

After completing the program, graduates may take certification exams from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Campus: Chicago, Illinois

Type: Private

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Tuition: $895/credit

Admission Requirements: Bachelor's in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license and 12 months of full-time experience; three recommendations; personal statement; CV or resume; health records; criminal background check

Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months

On-Campus Requirements: No

Program: Master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner

School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Olivet Nazarene University true View School Profile Bourbonnais, IL

Founded in 1907, ONU is a Christian university with nearly 5,000 students and over 40,000 graduates living around the world. U.S. News & World Report ranks ONU 19th for best value schools and 52nd for regional universities in the Midwest. The university holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

ONU offers a 52-credit master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner (MSN-FNP) degree. Candidates complete a series of eight-week courses like nursing informatics and advanced pharmacology, along with 720 hours of fieldwork.

Applicants who have previously earned an associate degree in nursing may enroll in the university's RN-MSN program, which includes bachelor's- and master's-level coursework and practicums.

Campus: Bourbonnais, Illinois

Type: Private

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Tuition: $795/credit

Admission Requirements: RN license with a minimum of 2,000 hours of fieldwork; bachelor of science in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA

Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

On-Campus Requirements: No

Program: Master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner

School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Northern Illinois University true View School Profile DeKalb, IL

NIU dates back to 1895, when it was established as a university for teachers. Today, the institution boasts more than 16,000 current students and over 230,000 graduates. The university boasts a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

NIU's School of Nursing delivers a master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner specialization. Learners must finish the 50-credit program in six years or less. Candidates complete three internships in total, including experiences with children and adults.

Bachelor's-holders can also apply for admission into NIU's online doctorate program with a family nurse practitioner specialization.

Campus: DeKalb, Illinois

Type: Public

Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Tuition: $735.72/credit

Admission Requirements: RN license; bachelor's in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; goal statement; three references; 2,000 specialty practice hours in three years

Minimum Time Commitment: Five semesters

On-Campus Requirements: No

Program: Master of science in nursing - family nurse practitioner

School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Other Nursing License Options in Illinois

Becoming a CNA or LPN in Illinois

Illinois offers other nursing license options that enable you to work as a nurse without an undergraduate or graduate degree. Licensure for both CNAs and LPNs requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. Training can be completed in 12 months or less.

Aspiring nurses sometimes choose one of these options as a quick pathway into a nursing career or as a step towards earning an RN license.

Illinois CNA Requirements:

  • Education: High school diploma or GED certificate
  • Exams: Illinois Nurse Aide Test
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: None

Illinois LPN Licensure Requirements:

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Illinois

Although salaries for nurses in Illinois fall slightly below the national average, nurses can expect to pay less for essentials like housing, food, and transportation. Illinois has a cost-of-living index of 95, ranking it 32nd among all 50 states.

While employment prospects for CNAs, LPNs, and RNs in the state have kept pace with national averages, NPs have a projected job growth rate of 45% between 2018 and 2028, the highest of all Illinois nurses. NPs also earn the highest salaries.

Nursing Role Median Salary Projected Job Growth
Registered Nurse $75,330 9%
Nurse Practitioner $117,670 45%
Source: BLS

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Illinois

Top Paying Metropolitan Area (RN)
Top Paying Metropolitan Area Median Salary for RNs
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin $76,150
Kankakee $74,030
Danville $72,730
Rockford $71,470
Springfield $70,570
Source: BLS
Top Paying Metropolitan Area (NP)
Top Paying Metropolitan Area Median Salary for NPs
Bloomington $121,600
Rockford $118,060
Springfield $116,250
Decatur $115,370
Peoria $112,820
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions


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

The length of time it takes to become a nurse depends on the type of nursing program. CNAs and LPNs can complete their training in one year or less. ADN degrees typically require two years for completion. Most students finish their BSN degree in four years, but some schools offer accelerated programs that shorten the timeline to graduation.

Students interested in becoming NPs should plan on spending two years to complete their MSN. A DNP degree may require four or more years.

What is the number one nursing program in Illinois?

Illinois is home to many of the nation's top ranked nursing schools. Identifying the best nursing school in Illinois depends on your personal needs and career goals. Before choosing the best program that fits your plans, check each program's NCLEX-RN pass rates, graduation rates, and employment rates for graduates.

How many nursing programs are in Illinois?

Many of the state's best public colleges, universities, and nationally ranked private schools provide nurse training. Prospective nursing students can choose from several programs throughout the state, with many available online options.

Over 90 schools offer certificates, ADN, and BSN degrees. Thirty institutions sponsor graduate programs in nursing at the master's level and above.


Nursing in Surrounding States

State

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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