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Pennsylvania Nursing Schools and Programs

| NurseJournal Staff

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Pennsylvania is projected to have a surplus of nurses by 2030, making the job market more competitive. As a result, graduates of the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania will be in a better position to compete for these openings.

RN employment
RN Job Growth
Annual Salary for Pennsylvania Nurses
Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact State?

Why Attend a Nursing Program in Pennsylvania

While the number of registered nurse (RN) jobs in Pennsylvania is projected to increase to 160,300 by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of available nurses is also projected to increase to 168,500, a 5.1% excess. Therefore, nurses from the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania will have a competitive advantage.

Additionally, the demand for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is projected to exceed supply by 27.8%, so nursing programs in Pennsylvania for LPNs will likely be an attractive option too.

Pennsylvania is not a right-to-work state, so nurses working at a union hospital must typically join that union.

Nursing Program Requirements in Pennsylvania

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.9%
State Nursing Board: Department of State Board of Nursing


The state's Board of Nursing oversees nurse licensing. Pennsylvania does not participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact; nurses with a license from another state seeking to practice in the state must hold a Pennsylvania license.

Licensing requires graduating from an accredited program or completing the appropriate certificate course, passing the National Council Licensure Examination for LPNs or RNs (NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN, respectively), and filing an application. The NCLEX is a national examination endorsed by all states, but a conviction for certain crimes may prohibit applicants from receiving a license. The state's Board of Nursing lists accredited nursing programs in Pennsylvania.

Certified Nurse Assistant

Community colleges and specialized training facilities offer CNA programs. Students must successfully complete the program and pass the state examination. CNAs work under RN supervision to assist patients with moving, eating, bathing, and other basic tasks and perform other supporting duties.

CNA Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED; application form or essay; recommendations
  • How Long to Complete: 130 hours
  • Accrediting Bodies: State Department of Education

Pennsylvania Licensure Requirements:

Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, health systems, private practices, clinics, and residential care. They assist patients, perform basic testing, monitor vital signs, and perform related tasks under the supervision of an RN.

LPN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED; application essay or statement; recommendations
  • How Long to Complete: One year
  • Accrediting Bodies: State Board of Nursing

Pennsylvania Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: LPN certificate program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: 30 hours
Registered Nurse

RNs must have either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), though for many positions, the BSN is required or strongly preferred. RNs work with physicians or nurse practitioners (NPs) in hospitals, private practices, standalone healthcare facilities, residential healthcare programs, clinics, and other settings. They administer treatments, educate patients, and conduct diagnostic testing, though they are not authorized to diagnose or prescribe treatments.

RN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED; 3.0 GPA preferred if not required; successful basic coursework in math and sciences
  • How Long to Complete: Two years for an ADN; four years for a BSN
  • Accrediting Bodies: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Pennsylvania Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: ADN or BSN
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: 30 hours
Nurse Practitioner

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have earned at least a master of science in nursing (MSN) and passed the certification exam for their specialty. Other APRN roles include certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, and certified registered nurse anesthetist. In Pennsylvania, NPs are required to work in collaboration with a physician but have autonomy to diagnose conditions, order treatments, and act as primary care providers.

NP Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: BSN or an RN-to-BSN bridge program; 3.0 GPA preferred or required; recommendations; essay or statement
  • How Long to Complete: Two years for an MSN; three or more for a doctorate
  • Accrediting Bodies: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education; Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

Pennsylvania Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: MSN or doctor of nursing practice
  • Exams: Varies by specialty
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: 30 hours

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Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Pennsylvania

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Pennsylvania's cost of living index is 104, higher than the national average. Additionally, employment for RNs is projected to grow 12.5% between 2018 and 2028 and even higher, 26.5%, for NPs.

However, while the number of RN jobs in Pennsylvania is projected to increase to 160,300 by 2030, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports, the number of available nurses is projected to increase to 168,500. As the competition for nursing jobs might grow, graduates of the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania will have a vital advantage.

Nursing Level Median Salary Projected Job Growth
Certified Nurse Assistant $32,260 10.3%
Licensed Vocational Nurse $49,890 12.3%
Registered Nurse $72,970 12.5%
Nurse Practitioner $104,020 26.5%
Sources: BLS and Projections Central

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Pennsylvania

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Registered Nurses

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

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for NPs
Williamsport $126,340
Reading $118,280
Philadelphia - Camden - Wilmington $110,660
Gettysburg $110,530
Scranton - Wilkes-Barre - Hazleton $107,910
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions


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

It takes two years to earn an ADN and four years to earn a BSN. However, many employers require or strongly prefer the BSN for higher-level positions.

How do I become an RN in Pennsylvania?

To become an RN in Pennsylvania, you must graduate from an accredited program, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, meet legal/criminal background criteria, and apply to the state's nursing board. You do need to attend a nursing program in Pennsylvania necessarily, as Pennsylvania allows licensure by endorsement (by attending an accredited program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam).

What is the best nursing college in Pennsylvania?

Finding the best nursing school in Pennsylvania depends on the type of program you are interested in, among other factors. For instance, Pennsylvania State University has the best RN nursing college in Pennsylvania. It also has the best RN-to-MSN program in the state. The best LPN nursing program in Pennsylvania is at Allegheny College of Maryland with campuses in Everett and Somerset. View other top-ranked Pennsylvania nursing programs on NurseJournal.

How much is nursing school in Pennsylvania?

Public nursing schools in Pennsylvania are almost always cheaper for in-state students. A CNA program usually costs approximately $1,100. An LPN program might cost around $22,000, while a BSN program could cost $35,000 or more per year. MSN and doctoral programs are typically the most expensive totalling $40,000 per year or more approximately. However, most programs do offer financial aid.

Resources for Nurses in Pennsylvania

  • The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, part of the Department of State, oversees nurse licensing at all professional levels; approves nurse education programs; establishes state standards of practice; and oversees disciplinary actions for state violations. The website also shares state and federal updates to nurses.
  • The Pennsylvania Licensing System, also part of the Department of State, is a statewide system that can be used to apply for, renew, and check on the status of licensing across all licensed professions in Pennsylvania, including nursing. It also allows consumers to verify licensure for individuals or organizations and check disciplinary records.
  • The Pennsylvania State Nursing Association conducts advocacy at the state level; provides professional development, including continuing education and conferences; publishes the Pennsylvania Nurse journal; hosts networking events; and manages an online career center. Members can join the PSNA only or select a joint American Nurses Association/PSNA membership option.
  • The Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania is part of the National Student Nurses' Association. It manages awards and scholarship programs, offers educational programs in leadership and advocacy, hosts an annual convention, and publishes a newsletter. It is divided into seven regions, though members can participate in activities in any region.

Nursing in Surrounding States

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