The Top Nursing Schools in Kentucky

June 7, 2021 , Updated on April 28, 2022 · 6 Min Read

With more than 50 RN programs in Kentucky, how do you choose the best fit for you? Check out this guide to the top RN programs, licensing process, and expected salaries.

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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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The Top Nursing Schools in Kentucky
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Nurses are in high demand across the country, especially in Kentucky. The state hosts more than 50 associate degree in nursing (ADN) and bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs with above average licensing exam pass rates.

This guide lists the best nursing schools in the state, how to earn a Kentucky nursing license, and typical salary prospects. Read on for more about the best nursing schools in Kentucky.

The Best Nursing Schools in Kentucky

Because there are so many good nursing programs in Kentucky, it can be hard to choose. This guide can help you make the right decision for your career goals and background.

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

#1

Midway University

School Information
Location Midway, Kentucky
Admission Rate 60%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 73% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Midway University, among the top nursing schools in Kentucky, features flexible nursing programs with evenings or online courses.

Nursing students can complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) with traditional daytime or evening courses and transition to the 12-month RN-to-BSN or ADN-to-MSN programs. Midway also offers a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree with tracks in administration or education, and a dual MSN and master of business administration degree. 

  • Program: Associate degree in nursing; bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Midway, KY
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $24,500 per year for Kentucky undergraduate students; $395 per credit for evening and online undergraduate students; $494 per credit for MSN students
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; ADN candidates must submit high school transcripts, GED scores, or college transcripts; minimum 2.8 GPA; ACT or SAT scores; TEAS scores 
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $52,385 for associate degree graduates and $66,244 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#2

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

School Information
Location Paducah, Kentucky
Graduation Rate 53%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College fast tracks students to a new career with its practical nursing diploma that takes three semesters to complete. 

Students earning a practical nursing diploma complete 43-52 credits to gain the technical knowledge and skills in medical terminology, nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, and mental health concepts. The program also includes clinical practicum hours.

WKCTC offers 10 nursing programs, including an advanced nursing assistant certificate, health science technology, and an associate degree in nursing. 

  • Program: Associate degree in nursing; nursing certificates and diplomas
  • Campus: Paducah, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $179 per credit for Kentucky residents; $358 per credit for out-of-state students in contiguous counties; $627 per credit for out-of-state residents
  • Admission Requirements: High school or college transcripts; CPR certification; ACT, National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam, or Evolve Admission Assessment Exam scores
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $49,053 for associate degree graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#3

Bellarmine University

School Information
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 66%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Bellarmine University features undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in Kentucky that offer flexible online courses. 

Master of science in nursing degree-seekers can choose from tracks in administration, education, or family nursing with a non-thesis option. Students complete 37-43 credits either on a full- or part-time basis. 

The family nursing specialty prepares nurses to pass the certification exams through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Students attend live classes once each semester. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctorate in nursing practice; Ph.D. in nursing
  • Campus: Louisville, KY
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $905 per credit for Kentucky undergraduate students; $880 per credit for DNP students; $795 per credit for MSN students
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; MSN candidates need a BSN degree from an accredited program, official transcripts, minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores on request 
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $60,088 for bachelor's graduates and $83,915 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#4

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College

School Information
Location Cumberland, Kentucky
Graduation Rate 34%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College features top-ranked nursing programs in Kentucky for future registered nurses (RNs) and nursing aides. 

Students can complete the associate degree in nursing in two years and take the NCLEX-RN exam. After the first year, students qualify for a nursing diploma and the practical nurse licensure exam. The programs include 62-66 credits in subjects, such as maternal newborn, behavioral health, pediatrics, and medical-surgical nursing. 

SKCTC also offers accelerated pathways for RNs and licensed practical nurses.

  • Program: Associate degree in nursing; practical nurse diploma; advanced nursing assistant certificate
  • Campus: Cumberland, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $179 per credit for Kentucky residents; $358 per credit for out-of-state students in contiguous counties; $627 per credit for out-of-state students; $179 per credit for online students
  • Admission Requirements: High school, GED, or college transcripts; standardized test scores; minimum 2.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,856 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#5

University of Louisville

School Information
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 59%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Louisville offers undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in Kentucky with on-campus, online, or accelerated formats. 

The traditional BSN degree takes four years to complete and offers hands-on training at the UofL's Patient Simulation and Standardized Patient Centers. The program enrolls recent high school graduates or students who hold a bachelor's degree in another major. 

Degree-seekers can complete the lower division coursework part time and online. However, degree-seekers must complete upper division courses, including clinical rotations, full time and in person.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice; Ph.D. in nursing
  • Campus: Louisville, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $508 per credit for undergraduate in-state residents; $1,189 per credit for undergraduate out-of-state students; $752 per credit for graduate in-state residents; $1,536 per credit for graduate out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; 3.0 GPA for first-year BSN applicants; ACT or SAT scores; 2.8 minimum GPA for transfer students
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,264 for bachelor's graduates and $95,473 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#6

University of Kentucky

School Information
Location Lexington, Kentucky
Admission Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 66%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Kentucky, one of the leading nursing schools in Kentucky, features undergraduate and graduate degrees for nurses at all stages in their careers.

Bachelor of science in nursing students complete at least 120 credits in courses that cover health assessments, medical-surgical nursing, pathopharmacology, maternity and reproductive health, pediatrics, and professional and leadership development. 

Instruction takes place in labs, classrooms, and at the clinical simulation and learning center. Clinical groups include only eight students. Junior and senior nursing students can also apply to four internships that focus on health equity, nursing practice, research, and education. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Lexington, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation
  • Tuition: $512 per credit for Kentucky undergraduate students; $1,303 per credit for out-of-state undergraduate students; $742 per credit for Kentucky graduate students; $1,846 per credit for out-of-state graduate students 
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; high school seniors need a minimum 3.4 GPA, prerequisites; current UK students need a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 48 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,125 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#7

Ashland Community and Technical College

School Information
Location Ashland, Kentucky
Graduation Rate 43%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Ashland Community and Technical College, among the top reputable nursing schools in Kentucky, features a 54-credit associate degree in nursing that takes only four semesters to complete. 

Through classroom and clinical work students learn professional behaviors, nursing processes, clinical decision-making, caring interventions, and collaboration. ACTC also offers a four-semester military medic-to-ADN program and three-semester LPN-to-ADN program.

This nursing program in Kentucky admits new students every fall. 

  • Program: Associate degree in nursing
  • Campus: Ashland, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $179 per credit for in-state residents and $358 for out-of-state residents
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; minimum 2.5 GPA, CPR certification, standardized test scores
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 73% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,995 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#8

Owensboro Community and Technical College

School Information
Location Owensboro, Kentucky
Graduation Rate 36%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Owensboro Community and Technical College offers two of the top nursing programs in Kentucky with traditional or LPN-to-ADN tracks that students can complete in five semesters.

Nursing students complete 64 credits. They study human anatomy and physiology, maternal newborn nursing, medical and surgical nursing, medical microbiology, and pediatrics. 

OCTC provides graduates with easy transfer pathways to earn four-year degrees at schools that include Brescia University, Eastern Kentucky University, and Kentucky State University. 

  • Program: Associate degree in nursing
  • Campus: Owensboro, Kentucky
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: National League of Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation
  • Tuition: $179 per credit for in-state residents; $358 for out-of-state residents from contiguous counties; $627 per credit for out-of-state residents
  • Admission Requirements: High school or college transcripts; ACT or TEAS scores; minimum 2.75 GPA; complete prerequisites with a minimum "C" grade
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,105 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#9

Northern Kentucky University

School Information
Location Highland Heights, Kentucky
Admission Rate 90%
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Offering one of the best Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited nursing schools in Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University prepares students to become patient care assistants at local hospitals after just one semester. 

The bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree trains students to work in acute care, intensive care, or specialty areas of nursing, such as pediatrics, maternity, and mental health wards. The program offers a traditional four-year BSN degree or accelerated BSN degree that takes only 16 months to complete.

Nursing students practice at facilities that include Elizabeth Healthcare, Christ Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Highland Heights, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $417 per credit for Kentucky undergraduate students; $836 per credit for out-of-state undergraduate students; $550 per credit for Kentucky graduate students; $845 per credit for out-of-state graduate students
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; minimum 3.0 GPA, ACT scores for students with less than 24 credits, minimum 2.5 GPA for transfer students
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 16 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $55,301 for bachelor's graduates and $90,245 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#10

Maysville Community and Technical College

School Information
Location Maysville, Kentucky
Graduation Rate 42%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Maysville Community and Technical College features an associate degree in nursing (ADN) on the Maysville campus and an online program for licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

ADN nursing students complete 64 credits with courses in human anatomy and physiology, maternal newborn nursing, and pediatric nursing. The curriculum prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN. 

Current LPNs can continue working through the LPN-to-RN program that operates fully online, except for clinicals and labs. Maysville also offers a medicaid nurse aide certificate. 

  • Program: Associate degree in nursing; practical nursing diploma; medicaid nurse aide certificate
  • Campus: Maysville, KY
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $179 per credit for Kentucky residents; $358 per credit for students from contiguous counties; $627 per credit for out-of-state residents
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; official transcripts, TEAS scores, ACT scores, CPR certification, active on the Kentucky Nurse Aide Registry, minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $52,464 for associate degree graduates, according to College Scorecard
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Featured Online Programs

How to Choose a Nursing Program in Kentucky

Factors to consider when choosing from the many nursing programs in Kentucky include whether you want a two-year ADN or a four-year BSN, the acceptance and graduation rates, and the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) pass rate (which can indicate quality).

Cost, financial aid options for nurses, and logistics should also be considered. If you'll be attending an online nursing program, look for one that offers local clinical placement.

Because nursing accreditation is vital to meeting your career and financial goals, this guide only lists accredited programs.

Why Become a Nurse in Kentucky

The NCLEX-RN first-time pass rate for nursing schools in Kentucky is 88.8%, higher than the national average of 86.6%. In addition, Kentucky is a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state. This means that once you graduate from a nursing school in Kentucky, you can apply for a multistate license. These licenses allow you to work in any of the 39 NLC states.

If you like a slower-paced rural lifestyle, Kentucky hosts many small towns. But there are also several cities with active dining and cultural scenes. Outdoor recreation options include national parks, such as Mammoth Cave. Kentucky is famous for horseback riding and the Kentucky Derby.

Because many communities in Kentucky are underserved, special financial incentives related to these communities can entice nurses. Incentives include loan forgiveness programs for nurses or scholarships. RNs can also gain the satisfaction of helping communities in need as nurses.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Kentucky

The average salary for RNs in Kentucky is $64,730, and the salary for nurse practitioners (NPs) is $102,460, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While these figures are lower than the national averages of $80,010 and $114,510, respectively, the cost of living is lower at 93.1, compared to the national index of 100.

Between 2018 and 2028, the BLS projects 20% job growth for RNs, which is above the national rate of 12.1%. While still strong, the 22.3% job growth rate for NPs is under the national rate of 30.8%.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in Kentucky

Unlike many states, Kentucky does not show a major difference in RN salaries among the major metropolitan areas. However, nurses in government and hospital settings tend to earn the highest salaries.

Each of these cities offers an easygoing mix of southern and midwestern culture, as well as ample access to outdoor recreation.

Top-Paying Areas
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Louisville/Jefferson County $66,440
Elizabethtown — Fort Knox $64,560
Lexington — Fayette $64,310
Owensboro $63,520
Bowling Green $60,990
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Kentucky

To earn an RN license in Kentucky, you must graduate from an ADN or a BSN degree program, pass the NCLEX-RN, complete a criminal background check with fingerprinting, and pass the jurisprudence examination.

If you attended nursing school in Kentucky, the state board of nursing automatically receives your transcripts. If not, you must have your school send an official copy. The application fee is $125. RN licenses are renewed annually.

APRN Requirements

To become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in Kentucky, you need a master of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice, board certification for your specialty, and a current and unencumbered RN license. You must send your transcripts and proof of board certification to the state board of nursing. The application fee is $165.

APRNs in Kentucky with prescriptive authority must work in collaboration with a physician, but they can otherwise practice independently. You must renew your license annually.

Other Top Nursing Programs in Kentucky

Frequently Asked Questions About Kentucky


How do I become an RN in Kentucky?

To become an RN in Kentucky, you must earn an ADN or a BSN degree from a state-approved nursing school, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, complete a criminal background check, and pass a jurisprudence examination.

How long does it take to become an RN in Kentucky?

An ADN takes about two years to complete, while a BSN requires four. After graduating and passing the NCLEX-RN, it takes around 15 business days to process a license request.

The process can take up to three months if you have a criminal record other than traffic violations.

How much does a new nurse make in Kentucky?

According to Salary.com, the median salary for a new nurse in Kentucky is $61,555 as of March 2022. However, in general, nurses with a BSN earn more than nurses with an ADN, as do nurses in government offices and hospitals. Those with additional certifications can also earn more.

Is there a nursing shortage in Kentucky?

Kentucky needs 12-20% more nurses than currently employed, according to an executive order issued in December 2021. By 2024, the state will need an additional 16,000 nurses. Kentucky is working to increase capacity in nursing programs to help reduce the shortage.

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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