The Top Nursing Schools in Pennsylvania

February 24, 2022 , Modified on May 10, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Learn about the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania and find other vital information about working as a nurse or attending nursing programs in Pennsylvania.

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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 Pennsylvania

With an excellent selection of nursing programs and one of the top NCLEX-RN pass rates in the country, there are many reasons to pursue a nursing education in Pennsylvania.

This guide covers the top nursing programs, how to get a Pennsylvania nursing license, and typical nursing salaries. Keep reading to learn more about the top nursing schools and programs in Pennsylvania.

The Best Nursing Schools in Pennsylvania

This guide helps you choose from the many nursing programs in Pennsylvania. The best school for you depends on your career goals, experience, and background.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania, 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 Nursing Programs

How to Choose a Nursing Program in Pennsylvania

When choosing the best nursing program for your needs, important factors to consider include tuition and other costs, the school's NCLEX-RN pass rate (an excellent measure of how well the school prepares students), program logistics, clinical placement options, graduation rate, and acceptance rate.

The programs listed in this guide include only accredited programs.

Why Become a Nurse in Pennsylvania

Nursing programs in Pennsylvania boast the eighth highest first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate, with a 91.7% pass rate compared to the national rate of 86.6%. This measure indicates that programs in Pennsylvania successfully prepare students for entry-level nursing careers. Current nurses may benefit from Pennsylvania's Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) status, which allows them to work in other NLC states.

Whether you want to practice in a rural setting, a historic city like Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh, one of the most successful reinvented cities in the country, attending nursing school in Pennsylvania can help you reach your goals.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Pennsylvania

As of 2020, registered nurses (RNs) in Pennsylvania can expect to earn a median annual salary of $72,970, slightly under the national median of $75,330, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For nurse practitioners (NPs), the median annual salary is $104,020, compared to $111,680 nationally.

Philadelphia is one of America's oldest cities and is home to some of its most famous historic sites. While also one of the country's largest cities at over 1.5 million, it's still known as a city of neighborhoods.

If you want a more agricultural setting, Chambersburg-Waynesboro has a population of approximately 150,000. The other cities on this list are also mid-sized, but within reach of either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, for when you want big-city attractions.

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Pennsylvania
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington $79,030
Chambersburg-Waynesboro $78,430
Harrisburg-Carlisle $76,240
York-Hanover $73,820
Lebanon $73,780
Source: BLS, 2020

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Pennsylvania

Every state has its own requirements for obtaining a nursing license, but they all include earning a nursing degree, passing the NCLEX-RN, and completing a successful background check. If you attend a nursing program in Pennsylvania, you apply for a license by examination. If you graduate from a school in another state, you must apply for a license by endorsement.

RN Requirements

To become an RN, you must first graduate from an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. An ADN takes two years and a BSN takes four years to complete, but the BSN is a more valuable and versatile degree. Many employers require or prefer the BSN for higher-level jobs, and it also positions you to enter a master of science in nursing (MSN) program to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

After you graduate, submit your application to the state board of nursing and register for the NCLEX-RN. If you attended nursing school in Pennsylvania, your application should include the state criminal history record check (CHRC). If not, you need to submit this separately. You must also have at least three credit hours in recognizing and reporting child abuse from an approved provider.

APRN Requirements

APRNs include nurse NPs, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists.

To become an APRN, you need a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. You also need a passing score on the applicable board certification examinations and to apply for a license from the state board of nursing. Applicants must complete a successful CHRC.

The requirements also include at least three credit hours in recognizing and reporting child abuse from an approved provider.

Other Top Nursing Programs in Pennsylvania

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Pennsylvania


How long does it take to get a Pennsylvania nursing license?

An ADN program typically takes two years and a BSN typically takes four years to complete. Applying for a new license in Pennsylvania can take up to 12 weeks, but the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing offers information on how to streamline the process and get your license as quickly as possible.

What is the salary range for RNs in Pennsylvania?

According to the BLS, the median 2020 RN salary is $72,970. The lowest 10% earns an average of $53,910, and the top 10% earns $99,870. Experience, education, workplace setting, responsibilities, certifications, and geography all affect salary.

Is Pennsylvania a nurse licensure compact state?

Pennsylvania joined the NLC in July 2021. A Pennsylvania nursing license is now a valid multistate license for any of the 37 participating states, and nurses from participating states can use their license in Pennsylvania.

What financial aid programs are available to Pennsylvania nurses?

You have a variety of financial aid options to attend nursing school in Pennsylvania, including scholarships, grants, and loans. If you commit to work in a designated underserved area in Pennsylvania after graduation, you may be eligible for scholarships or loan forgiveness. If you are already a working nurse in Pennsylvania, you are also eligible for certain financial assistance programs.

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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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