The Top Nursing Schools in Kentucky

June 7, 2021 , Modified 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.

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.

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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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