The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Updated November 11, 2022

Explore what it takes to become a nurse in North Carolina by reviewing the top nursing schools, degree and licensing requirements, salary projections, and anticipated job growth 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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There are 48 associate in nursing and 24 bachelor's in nursing degree programs in North Carolina with full-state approval. The state also boasts one of the country's highest average National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rates.

As a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, nurses can earn a multistate license in North Carolina.

These features make attending nursing fschool in North Carolina beneficial to working professionals. Keep reading to find the best nursing program in North Carolina for you, as well as information on earning your registered nurse (RN) license and typical salary expectations.

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The Best Nursing Schools in North Carolina

The best nursing program in North Carolina for you should match your background and career goals. Students can complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program faster. However, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree is more valuable if you plan to become a nurse practitioner (NP) or a nurse manager later in your career.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in North Carolina, 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 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosts one of the best nursing schools in North Carolina with fully online, on campus, and hybrid programs offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

UNC-Chapel Hill also offers accelerated programs that come with discounts. Students who enroll in the MSN-to-DNP degree, BSN-to-MSN degree in healthcare leadership, or BSN-to-DNP healthcare leadership degrees receive application fee waivers.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice; Ph.D. in nursing; graduate certificate in nursing education
  • Campus: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Tuition: $292 per undergraduate credit for North Carolina residents; $1,453 per undergraduate credit for out-of-state students; $586 per graduate credit for North Carolina residents; $1,602 per graduate credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; BSN students need a minimum 2.8 GPA, 60 undergraduate credits, completed prerequisites 
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 48 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $59,534 for bachelor's graduates and $86,036 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,019
Out-of-state
$34,198
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
29,877
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Duke University

  • Durham, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Duke University offers top-ranked undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in North Carolina, including an MSN degree with 11 majors and eight speciality certificates. 

MSN degree-seekers can choose from majors in nursing education, pediatric nurse practitioner acute care, health informatics, psychiatric mental health, and women's health. Depending on the major, students complete 42-49 credits.

Duke's nursing program prepares graduates to take nursing certificates in HIV, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, orthopedics, palliative care, pediatric behavioral and mental health, or veterans healthcare. Many graduates go on to the BSN-to-DNP program at Duke. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice; Ph.D. in nursing
  • Campus: Durham, North Carolina
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $24,147 per year for accelerated BSN degrees; $12,896 for MSN degrees; $14,880-$29,760 for DNP degrees
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; MSN students need at least a 3.0 GPA, a BSN, current RN license, resume, personal statement, three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $63,970 for bachelor's graduates and $97,071 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$55,880
Out-of-state
$55,880
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
16,686
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Wake Forest University

  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Wake Forest University's School of Medicine, which opened in 1902, offers a doctor of nursing practice degree and a certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) program with online courses. 

Sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist Health, the CRNA program combines one year of online courses and two years of clinical work. Students complete 2,500 hours and handle 800 cases.

  • Program: Master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice 
  • Campus: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Council on Accreditation 
  • Tuition: $36,650 per year for the CRNA program; $36,650 for the BSN-to-DNP program
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; MSN candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA, BSN degree, current RN license, Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certifications
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
Average Tuition
In-state
$54,430
Out-of-state
$54,430
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
30%
Students Enrolled
8,495
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Appalachian State University

  • Boone, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Appalachian State University features four nursing programs in North Carolina, three of which function fully online. 

Nursing students can enroll in the RN-to-BSN program, nursing education graduate certificate, or online MSN degree. App State also offers a 126-credit BSN degree with on-campus courses and clinical experiences that train students in adult healthcare, health assessments, mental health and community nursing, and women and children healthcare. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; graduate certificate in nursing education
  • Campus: Boone, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $5,379 per year for undergraduate in-state online tuition; $3,651 per year for graduate in-state online tuition; $20,986 per year for undergraduate out-of-state online tuition; $13,657 per year for graduate out-of-state online tuition 
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 48 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $56,415 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,242
Out-of-state
$19,049
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
19,280
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

University of North Carolina Wilmington

  • Wilmington, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of North Carolina Wilmington, among the top nursing schools in North Carolina, prepares nursing students to treat adult, family, and community health issues. 

Nursing students can choose from BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees, or a certificate in clinical research. Degrees offer pathways for nurses of all levels, including the BSN program which offers a concentration in professional nursing. BSN degree seekers pick from pre-licensure or RN-to-BSN tracks.

UNCW offers nursing students the chance to work in a 10,000-square foot stimulation center and access the Center for Clinical Research Workforce Development program to prepare for their careers.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice, graduate certificate in clinical research
  • Campus: Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $4,443 per year for undergraduate in-state tuition; $19,063 per year for undergraduate out-of-state tuition; $4,720 per year for graduate in-state tuition; $19,104 per year for graduate out-of-state tuition
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $73,321 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,443
Out-of-state
$18,508
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
17,499
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  • Charlotte, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte's nursing school, which began offering a BSN degree in 1964, now features an RN-to-BSN accelerated degree and two graduate programs. The BSN program provides students with a generalist nursing education and prepares them to take the NCLEX-RN. 

UNC Charlotte gives preference to applicants who have at least 30 completed general education credits. Graduates find work at clinics, hospitals, and hospice centers.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice; graduate and postgraduate certificates
  • Campus: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $158 per credit for North Carolina residents and distance learning students; $718 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA, complete prerequisites
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 48 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,307 for bachelor's graduates and $123,527 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,812
Out-of-state
$17,246
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
29,615
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

East Carolina University

  • Greenville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

East Carolina University, with 10 undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in North Carolina, offers a direct pathway to nursing degrees for students from eight community colleges.

Students can concurrently earn an ADN and a BSN degree through the Eastern North Carolina Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses program. Degree-seekers spend three years at community college, where they can continue paying reduced two-year college tuition. In the final year, they transfer to ECU. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice; Ph.D. in nursing
  • Campus: Greenville, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $556 per credit for undergraduate in-state tuition; $863 per credit for undergraduate out-of-state tuition; $263 per credit for graduate in-state tuition; $994 per credit for graduate out-of-state tuition
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Varies
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $60,064 for bachelor's graduates and $86,590 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,452
Out-of-state
$20,729
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
28,651
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Campbell University

  • Buies Creek, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Campbell University, which launched its first class in 2016 with 46 nursing students, offers one of the most convenient nursing programs in North Carolina, with a completely online RN-to-BSN degree. 

It takes students eight week to complete each class, which has no more than 20 students. Campbell's BSN program builds skills in advocacy, clinical reasoning, policy issues, leadership, and advanced nursing care.

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
  • Campus: Buies Creek, North Carolina
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $450 per credit for adult and online tuition
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA, complete an interview with the admissions committee or director of the program, personal essay, resume, current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 48 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$32,380
Out-of-state
$32,380
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
6,185
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Winston-Salem State University

  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Winston-Salem State University's School of Health Sciences features some of the most flexible nursing programs in North Carolina, including BSN degrees with three pathways. 

Nursing students can choose from a traditional BSN degree path, accelerated format, or RN-to-BSN degree for students who hold a current RN license. WSSU's accelerated BSN program lets students graduate in as few as 13 months. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice
  • Campus: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $141 per credit for undergraduate in-state tuition; $585 per credit for undergraduate out-of-state tuition
  • Admission Requirements: Current RN license, associate in nursing degree or diploma, official transcripts 
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 13 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $62,067 for bachelor's graduates and $88,195 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,401
Out-of-state
$13,648
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
68%
Students Enrolled
5,121
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

  • Greensboro, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro features undergraduate programs for veterans and active duty military personnel and working professionals who want to launch their nursing careers.

UNCG provides a 120-credit BSN degree for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in another major. Students can graduate in three years by using credits from their prior bachelor's degree. During the junior and senior years, students work as certified nursing assistants. Learners complete 35-40 clinical hours a week while studying upper division coursework. 

  • Program: Bachelor of science in nursing; master of science in nursing; doctor of nursing practice; Ph.D. in nursing
  • Campus: Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $9,760 per semester for in-state BSN tuition; $43,053 per semester for out-of-state tuition; $4,631 per semester for in-state RN-to-BSN degree; $20,507 per semester for out-of-state tuition; $15,876 per semester for MSN/MBA program; $57,608 per semester for out-of-state MSN/MBA tuition; $9,736 per semester for in-state MSN degree; $35,329 per semester for out-of-state tuition for MSN students; $17,738 per semester for in-state Ph.D. students; $63,770 per semester for out-of-state Ph.D. students
  • Admission Requirements: Varies by degree; BSN candidates need an associate degree or a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, official transcripts, minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,823 for bachelor's graduates and $139,500 for graduate school graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,422
Out-of-state
$19,581
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
20,196
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

How to Choose a Nursing Program in North Carolina

When choosing from the many nursing schools in North Carolina, consider costs (tuition and financial aid), NCLEX-RN pass rates (which can indicate program quality), and the acceptance rate. Application requirements, the logistics of attending, and clinical placement in your home community should also be considered.

Nursing program accreditation ensures that your program is a legitimate investment of your time and money. This guide only lists accredited programs.

Why Become a Nurse in North Carolina

North Carolina is known for its scenic beauty and subtropical climate. In addition to being a technology hub, the state offers a more leisurely lifestyle and lower cost of living than Silicon Valley or the Boston area.

More than 100,000 RNs and NPs work in North Carolina. Because North Carolina is a Nurse Licensure Compact state, graduating from nursing school in North Carolina allows you to apply for a multistate license that includes 37 participating states.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in North Carolina

While salaries for RNs and NPs are below national averages, the cost of living in North Carolina is also lower, with an index of 96.4. RNs earn an average annual $68,950 in North Carolina, compared to $80,010 nationally. The average NP salary is $108,370 versus $114,510 nationally.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 28.2% growth of NP jobs between 2018 and 2028, with a 12.1% growth for RN jobs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects a surplus of 16,500 nurses between 2014 and 2030, but these figures do not account for the number of nurses leaving healthcare during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charlotte is home to Atrium Health, one of the largest health systems in the Southeastern U.S, with more than 40 hospitals throughout the region. The Research Triangle in the Piedmont area, consisting of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, is a growing tech hub and home to a number of prestigious hospitals.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in North Carolina
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary for RNs
Fayetteville $75,530
Winston-Salem $70,640
Charlotte — Concord — Gastonia $70,420
Raleigh $70,110
Greenville $68,390
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in North Carolina

Every state has its own RN requirements, but all state boards of nursing require a nursing degree, passing the appropriate national examination, and completing a background check.

If you attended nursing school in North Carolina, apply for licensure by examination.

RN Requirements

To become an RN in North Carolina, you must earn an ADN or a BSN, pass the NCLEX, and complete a criminal background check. You must send an official transcript to the state board of nursing, pay the $75 application fee and the $200 examination fee, and submit your fingerprints for a background check.

You must renew your license every two years by meeting continuing competence requirements, such as 30 hours of continuing education for nurses or 15 hours of continuing education and completion of a research project as a principal investigator.

APRN Requirements

To become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you must earn a graduate degree, either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP), pass the relevant board certification examination, and have a valid North Carolina or other NLC state RN license.

The state board of nursing requires that NPs work under the supervision of a physician. NPs must renew their approval to practice each year, as well as maintaining board certification.

The Best Nurse Practitioner Programs in North Carolina

#1 The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

Duke University

  • Durham, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Duke University's master of science in nursing program enrolls prospective students who have completed a bachelor's degree in nursing. Learners pursue this master’s for a more in-depth understanding of nursing and for the advantages they receive after graduation, like more job opportunities and higher pay. Degree-holders leave the program equipped for management, development, and research careers.

Located in Durham, North Carolina, the public school is a comprehensive college. Graduate degree-seekers have 92 different master's programs to choose from, including the top-ranked master of science in nursing. Faculty focus on student success with strong academics and mentorship opportunities.

About 8% of applicants receive an acceptance letter, and this may vary across graduate programs. The advanced concepts that enrollees learn can often be supplemented with elective credits. The school provides resources like tutoring and financial aid opportunities to help learners complete the program.

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,880
Out-of-state
$55,880
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
16,686
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Other Nursing Programs Resources

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in North Carolina


How long does it take to become an RN in North Carolina?

It typically takes 2-4 years to complete an RN program in North Carolina, depending on the degree. For full-time students, earning an ADN typically takes two years, while a BSN takes four. Part-time study extends this timeline.

How much money do nurses make in North Carolina?

According to the BLS, RNs earn an annual median salary of $68,950, while NPs earn $108,370. However, the salary for both RNs and NPs in North Carolina can vary depending on location, education, and previous experience.

How much does nursing school cost in North Carolina?

The cost of nursing school in North Carolina varies depending on the program and institution. ADN programs can cost $6,000-$40,000, while BSN programs range from $40,000-$200,000. More advanced degrees vary in tuition cost based on the previous degree earned:

  • BSN-to-MSN: $20,000-$180,000
  • BSN-to-DNP: $25,000-$250,000
  • MSN-to-DNP: $17,000-$170,000

Is North Carolina a good state for nurses?

According to the personal finance group WalletHub, North Carolina is the 34th best state for nurses, while ranking 24th for opportunity and competition.

Even though nursing salaries in the state are lower than the national average, North Carolina also has a lower cost of living. Nurses can also benefit from North Carolina's involvement in the NLC, providing nurses who earned their degree in another state with an easier licensing process.

Does North Carolina have a nursing shortage?

Workforce strategy and analytics firm Mercer recently reported that North Carolina will be among the five worst states for nursing shortages from 2021-2026. They also estimate that national demand for nurses could increase by 5%, leaving North Carolina with a shortage of 13,000 nurses.

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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