The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina

March 7, 2022 , Modified on June 1, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Explore what it takes to become a nurse in North Carolina by reviewing the top nursing schools, degree and licensing requirements, salary projections, and the anticipated job growth in the state.

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The Top Nursing Schools in North Carolina
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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.

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.

Featured Online MSN Programs

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. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    East Carolina University offers an online nurse practitioner program in North Carolina. The degree includes two different tracks for master's nursing students: the neonatal and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (NP) concentrations. The full program comprises 43 credits, which full-time students can complete in five semesters. Part-time students may take seven semesters to graduate.

    Courses cover advanced topics, such as pharmacology and physical assessment. The online NP program includes one on-campus component each semester: a two-day intensive experience. Distance learners must also fulfill 550 clinical hours onsite at healthcare facilities during three clinical practicum courses. Students can arrange their practicum experiences at a location convenient to them.

    Campus: Greenville, North Carolina

    Type: Public

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

    Tuition: $349/credit for North Carolina residents; $994/credit for non-residents

    Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 2.7 GPA; current nursing license; one year of professional nursing experience; GRE or MAT scores; three recommendation letters; personal statement

    Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Program: MSN - Neonatal or psychiatric-mental health NP

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

  2. Western Carolina University
    Location

    Cullowhee, NC

    Located in Cullowhee, Western Carolina University runs a hybrid master's degree in nursing with a family nurse practitioner (NP) track. Students complete much of their coursework online, but they must also attend class on campus every Tuesday. Learners enroll in the 52-credit program full time, and they can graduate in 24 months. Learners can also opt to complete a project or thesis toward the end of the program.

    Students must also complete 640 hours of coursework onsite at a healthcare facility. Clinical hours start during the second semester, and master's candidates generally spend eight hours a week on their clinical obligations.

    Campus: Cullowhee, North Carolina

    Type: Public

    Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

    Tuition: $10,641/ year for North Carolina residents; $21,048/year for nonresidents

    Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; current nursing license; one year of professional nursing experience; three recommendation letters; personal statement

    Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months

    On-Campus Requirements: Yes

    Program: MSN - Family NP

    School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Other Top Nursing Programs in North Carolina

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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