Top Nursing Schools and Programs in Rhode Island

by NurseJournal Staff

Rhode Island is showing the best practice in terms of addressing nursing shortages. With high salary opportunities for nurses across disciplines.

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

In this guide, readers can explore four types of nursing programs, including opportunities for registered nurses (RNs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and nurse practitioners (NPs). Online nursing programs feature the same core concepts and instructors as on-campus opportunities with differences in program delivery and flexibility.

Students interested in online nursing programs can refer to this guide to explore common coursework, information about nursing licensure, salary and employment data, and resources for nurses in Rhode Island.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Rhode Island?

Students have many online nursing degree programs to consider across the United States. In Rhode Island, aspiring professionals can pursue online nursing degrees with a clear pathway to successful careers after graduation. Rhode Island features high salary opportunities for nurses across disciplines, along with high employment levels. During their curriculum, learners focus on cultivating the skills and knowledge needed to transition into the field seamlessly after graduation.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Rhode Island

Across the many types of nursing, aspiring nurses follow the same basic process to achieve their professional goals, beginning with education or training. Many candidates earn an online nursing degree, which combines hands-on study with convenient, web-based coursework. Graduates then go on to pursue state licensure. All prospective nurses must pass the NCLEX before they can work with patients.

  • 1. Choose the Path That's Right for You

    LPNs are qualified to work in the state after one year of training. However, nursing is like most other occupations -- with better education comes more job opportunities and increased pay. All nurses fall into either the "practical" or "professional" categories, depending on whether or not they hold a degree. Students who enroll in an online nursing school Rhode Island earn credentials from basic certifications to master's and doctoral degrees. Many LPNs work in nursing homes, while nurses who graduate from online RN-to-BSN programs in Rhode Island staff ERs and maternity wards. Online nursing degree-holders with a master of science in nursing (MSN) often teach, or earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and work as primary care providers.
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    After choosing an educational path, students should select a program. Whether you are seeking an online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program in Rhode Island or want to pursue a master's degree, educational opportunities abound. Before selecting a school, be sure to check program prerequisites and ensure that you meet all admission guidelines. Many online nursing programs in Rhode Island require each candidate to hold a relevant degree, an unrestricted nursing license, and complete at least one statistics course. Other points to consider include program length, school location, and internship or practicum requirements. Some online nursing degrees allow distance learners to complete hands-on coursework at local healthcare facilities, while others assign specific medical institutions.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Once you earn a degree from an online nursing program in Rhode Island, you must pass the NCLEX to enter the workforce. Some nursing curricula closely adhere to standardized exam material, while others combine concepts featured on the test with coursework stressing decision-making and critical thinking. Before sitting for the exam, applicants must provide proof of attending a nursing school in Rhode Island and state residency. They must also submit to fingerprinting and a background check. When you apply to take the test, the state of Rhode Island determines your eligibility based upon your submitted information. Every aspiring nurse must spend a significant amount of time studying for the exam, and many students at nursing schools in Rhode Island take at least two months to prepare for the NCLEX. The test takes about five hours, which includes a computer-based segment and two 10-minute breaks.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Rhode Island

Across the nursing field, most occupations require a candidate to hold an associate degree at minimum. Earning a nursing degree can provide graduates with more opportunities and higher earning potential in the field.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Rhode Island?

Degree-seekers encounter different course topics depending on the school and nursing degree. Some of the most common undergraduate nursing courses are listed below.

Nursing of Children and Families

During this course, degree-seekers learn how to provide quality nursing care for children, families, the community, and the individual. The course explores health promotion and growth and development.

Fundamentals of Nursing Practice

In this course, learners focus on building the essential skills needed for successful nursing practice, emphasizing skills in cognition. During the course, enrollees explore clinical and simulated elements.

Contemporary Professional Nursing

Degree-seekers enrolled in this course focus on the major topics related to nursing professional development, emphasizing management and leadership, factors that facilitate professional achievements, and issues in contemporary nursing.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Students pursuing online nursing programs in Rhode Island can take advantage of flexible program formats that enable them to continue working while earning their degrees. Nursing programs feature online formats across associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, along with online RN-to-BSN programs.

Online programs typically feature fully online course components with clinical aspects completed at an approved location near the student. Program length depends on the degree, but online students usually complete their requirements in the same amount of time as on-campus enrollees. Some colleges and universities might offer online learners the chance to pursue accelerated programs.

Program length depends on the degree, but online students usually complete their requirements in the same amount of time as on-campus enrollees.

Across colleges and universities, online nursing programs feature the same rigorous curriculum as on-campus opportunities, along with the same experienced instructors. Graduates of online nursing programs hold the same quality of education as on-campus graduates.

Nursing Licensure in Rhode Island

Students interested in nursing can consider many opportunities, focusing on different levels of care and exploring different patient populations. In Rhode Island, nurses must meet different licensing requirements depending on the type of nursing they pursue.

The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education regulates licensing opportunities in the state to ensure that all licensed nurses practice at the same high quality of healthcare. NPs in Rhode Island experience full-practice environments, with state practice and licensure laws allowing them to evaluate and diagnose patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications and controlled substances.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Graduates of nursing programs must meet different licensing requirements, depending on the level of practice and type of nursing. Readers can explore the requirements and how they vary depending on the discipline in the table below.

CERTIFIED NURSE ASSISTANT Before individuals can work as CNAs in Rhode Island, they must each complete an accredited, board-approved training program. Learners develop the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to provide basic nursing care in entry-level positions. Training programs also prepare students to complete licensing exams upon completing the program requirements. Each CNA student must complete a minimum of 100 hours of training in the classroom, laboratories, and clinical settings, which provides them with the exposure they need to easily transition into the field after completing the program and passing the exam. Before entering a training program, students must obtain a high school diploma or pass an entrance exam. Rhode Island features nearly 50 board-approved training program options. The Rhode Island Department of Health requires CNA candidates to pass the knowledge and skills evaluations through the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program.

Rhode Island Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Department of health-approved training program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in training program
  • Exams: National Nurse Aide Assessment Program CNA exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: N/A
LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE In Rhode Island, students can explore LPN program opportunities at community or technical colleges, often satisfying the requirements within three semesters or one year of full-time study. During LPN programs, learners explore entry-level nursing competencies throughout their coursework with additional clinical experiences. These programs explore pharmacology, nursing across the lifespan, and anatomy and physiology. Students should ensure accreditation status and board approval before enrolling in LPN programs. After completing their programs, LPN candidates must pass the NCLEX-PN exam, demonstrating their competencies and abilities to practice entry-level nursing care as an LPN. These nurses must complete 10 continuing education credits every two years to maintain their licenses.

Rhode Island Licensure Requirements

  • Education: LPN degree program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Completed during degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN and obtain CPR card
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: 10 continuing education credits during every two-year renewal period
REGISTERED NURSE RN candidates can either earn an ADN or a BSN. While both degrees meet the prerequisites for RN licensure, many employers, especially hospitals, prefer to hire RNs who hold bachelor's degrees. Many nursing programs at the bachelor's level allow learners to consider specialization opportunities, enabling them to learn more about a specific patient population. Upon completing their nursing degrees, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. RNs in Rhode Island must renew their licenses every two years and satisfy the required 10 continuing education credits.

Rhode Island Licensure Requirements

  • Education: ADN or BSN
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: 10 hours of continuing education during each two-year licensing period
NURSE PRACTITIONER Nurses interested in pursuing advanced practice roles as NPs in Rhode Island must first earn a graduate degree in nursing, most often at the master's level. The nursing board in Rhode Island regulates advanced practice nurses in the NP, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse anesthetist roles. Eligible NP candidates must hold an active RN license and a master's degree in nursing. Across master of science in nursing programs, degree-seekers can often pursue specializations in the NP discipline and sub-specializations that allow them to focus on a particular patient population, including geriatrics, women's health, and neonatology. After completing their master's program, each NP candidate must pursue national certification in a specific area of nursing. Rhode Island recognizes the following patient population focus areas for certification:
  • Women's health/gender-related
  • Psychiatric/mental health
  • Pediatric
  • Neonatal
  • Family and individual across the lifespan
  • Adult/gerontology

Rhode Island Licensure Requirements

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  • Education: Graduate nursing degree, NP program preferred
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Satisfied during the degree program
  • Exams: None; must obtain national certification in chosen specialty area of nursing
  • Renewal Frequency: Every other year
  • Continuing Education: 10 continuing education hours during every renewal period
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Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Rhode Island FAQ

HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE WHAT NURSING FIELD TO GO INTO? Choosing which field of nursing to enter into should depend on the individual's intended patient population, the level of education they want to complete, and the salary opportunities they want to pursue.
DOES AN ONLINE NURSING DEGREE HAVE THE SAME VALUE AS AN ON-CAMPUS DEGREE? Yes. Across Rhode Island, online nursing programs typically feature the same course content and instructors as on-campus counterparts. These programs expose students to the same rigorous content and allow them to pursue the same career opportunities after graduation.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN RN LICENSE IN RHODE ISLAND? Obtaining an RN license in Rhode Island can take 2-4 years, depending on the degree level. Candidates who opt for ADNs can obtain licensure within two years, while those who pursue BSNs take around four years.
IS RHODE ISLAND A GOOD STATE FOR NURSES? Rhode Island features some of the highest salary opportunities for nurses across all levels of practice and disciplines, making it a viable state for nurses. Additionally, professionals experience high employment levels across the state.
IS RHODE ISLAND A NURSE COMPACT STATE? Rhode Island belongs to the nurse licensure compact (NLC), which allows nurses to practice in other compact states without having to earn additional licensure. Most of the states surrounding Rhode Island do not belong to the NLC, making Rhode Island unique.

Rhode Island Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

While salary and job growth information depend on many factors, nurses and aspiring professionals can review the data below to better understand average salary amounts for different types of nurses in Rhode Island, along with figures for nearby states and the country.

Salary opportunities differ depending on the specific type of nursing and amount of experience. In Rhode Island, nurses across disciplines and levels can earn high salaries, including the highest salary opportunities in the nation for LPNs.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Rhode Island, by Type

Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $24,110 7.2%
Licensed Practical Nurse $38,230 7.3%
Registered Nurse $59,470 12.9%
Nurse Practitioner $95,970 30.4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Rhode Island, by Type

Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $31,340 5.0%
Licensed Practical Nurse $59,130 1.0%
Registered Nurse $78,420 6.8%
Nurse Practitioner $109,290 17.3%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Certified Nurse Assistant


CNAs working in Rhode Island earned annual mean wages slightly higher than the U.S. figures for the occupation in 2018, with Rhode Island CNAs taking home $31,340 and U.S. annual mean wages for CNAs at $29,580. CNAs in Rhode Island earned annual mean wages slightly beneath the nearby states of Massachusetts and Connecticut, which both count annual mean wage amounts of around $33,000 for the occupation.

Licensed Practical Nurse


In Rhode Island, LPNs earn higher annual mean wages than nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. With mean annual wages of $59,130 for the occupation, LPNs in Rhode Island took home more than $10,000 more than the U.S. average for LPNs. LPNs in Rhode Island earn the highest salary amounts in the nation, followed by Massachusetts and Alaska. LPNs can explore opportunities in the junior college industry if they want to work in the top-paying industry for the profession.

Registered Nurse


With annual mean wages nearly $3,000 higher than the mean U.S. figures for the occupation, RNs in Rhode Island still earned slightly less than in nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. RNs seeking opportunities in the highest paying industry for the occupation should consider the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. General medical and surgical hospitals boast the highest employment levels for RNs.

Nurse Practitioner


In Rhode Island, NPs earned annual mean wages ($109,290) just slightly beneath the U.S. figures ($110,030) in 2018. BLS data indicates a projected job growth for NPs in Rhode Island of 17.3% from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations in the U.S. The personal care services industry features the highest paying job opportunities for NPs.

Nursing Resources for Rhode Island

  • RISNA functions as a constituent member of the American Nurses Association to promote, protect, and advance the nursing profession across Rhode Island. Members can access continuing education courses and seek professional development opportunities.
  • Dedicated to promoting the NP profession, this organization provides education and exposure to the public, legislators, and other health professionals to improve environments professional NPs and students.
  • The board provides opportunities for education and licensing opportunities in the nursing field, along with regulating the nursing profession in Rhode Island and ensuring all professionals practice at the highest quality.
  • This association aims to promote students' participation in nursing activities and help nursing students assume the specific responsibilities of RNs. SNARI provides members with access to programs that represent the nursing field in its most current state.
  • Members of this nonprofit association enjoy access to support for the school nursing profession, participating in events and conferences to promote networking and professional development.

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