Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs

February 21, 2022 , Modified on April 27, 2022 · 6 Min Read

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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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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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.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in Illinois
Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary for RNs
Chicago — Naperville — Elgin $81,300
Kankakee $76,040
Danville $71,870
Springfield $73,360
Rockford $72,830
Source: BLS

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.

RN Requirements

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.

APRN Requirements

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.

  1. Bradley University
    Location

    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

  2. Saint Xavier University
    Location

    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

  3. Olivet Nazarene University
    Location

    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

  4. Northern Illinois University
    Location

    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

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.

Find Nursing Programs in Other States

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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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