Top South Carolina Nursing Schools and Programs

by NurseJournal Staff

This guide provides prospective nursing students with information about the best online nursing programs in South Carolina, including exam and licensure requirements, salary and job statistics, and additional resources.

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

This guide provides prospective nursing students with information about the best online nursing programs in South Carolina, including exam and licensure requirements, salary and job statistics, and additional resources. The programs listed here typically offer online courses, with required clinical training hours completed in person at local healthcare facilities. Distance learners can often arrange clinical experiences near their homes and even at their current workplaces.

South Carolina nursing students interested in becoming registered nurses (RNs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPN), and nurse practitioners (NP) can consult our guide for step-by-step instructions on how to join the field.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in South Carolina?

The federal Department of Health and Human Services ranks South Carolina fourth among U.S. states projected to experience a nursing shortage by 2030. To help alleviate the shortfall, nursing schools and leaders in the profession lobbied the state legislature for funding to increase salaries for nursing faculty to train aspiring nurses. Some healthcare organizations offer scholarships to nursing students who commit to working for them after graduation.

A bill making its way through the state legislature -- the Nursing Degree Opportunity Act -- would enable nursing schools to create degree programs for military veterans with healthcare backgrounds.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in South Carolina

Nurses across the country generally need to take similar steps to receive licensure. This process involves earning an accredited degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN. However, since licensing occurs at the state level, individual states may maintain additional steps or unique requirements. We detail the requirements for licensure in South Carolina below.

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

    In South Carolina, you will need, at minimum, an accredited undergraduate degree in nursing to become an RN. This can either be a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). If you plan to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or NP, you will likely need to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN). If you plan to conduct research, teach nursing, or take on advanced clinical leadership roles, you should look into completing a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Nurses have demanding work schedules, and online nursing programs in South Carolina allow working students to pursue their education while continuing to work. Prerequisites for online nursing degrees vary by program, but undergraduate degrees often require a high school diploma, or its equivalent, and a minimum GPA. Graduate nursing programs require the successful completion of an undergraduate degree. Many programs, especially those leading to advanced degrees, also require an in-person clinical component. On average, it takes 1-2 years to earn an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, 2-3 years to earn a master’s degree, and 3-6 years to earn a doctoral degree.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    All of the online nursing degrees listed above will prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, though students must contact the South Carolina Board of Nursing to receive official authorization to sit for the exam. The test costs $200 for U.S. residents, and participants have a maximum of six hours to complete the exam. Most nursing schools in South Carolina recommend that students take 2-3 months to study for the NCLEX-RN. Passing this exam or becoming licensed by the South Carolina Board of Nursing does not guarantee that you will find a job as a nurse, but possessing the skills to pass the exam certainly improves your prospects.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in South Carolina

Nursing students need to earn at least an associate degree to become licensed in South Carolina. Earning a higher degree, such as a bachelor's or master's, generally corresponds to an increase in salary. Working nurses benefit from the flexible study options of online programs.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in South Carolina?

While curriculum focuses vary by degree type, school, and program, ADN and BSN programs typically include both general education and nursing classes, while MSNs and DNPs tend to focus on a specialty area, such as gerontology or oncology. We have compiled a list of common course offerings for a BSN below.

Fundamentals of Nursing

This course introduces basic nursing skills through simulation and lab experiences. Students develop and master practical applications of theoretical content, including safety practices, cultural diversity, and critical thinking.

Health Assessment

With a focus on health assessment throughout the lifespan, this class teaches students how to differentiate between abnormal and normal findings, interview patients and take health histories, and employ assessment techniques.

Pharmacology

This class delves into administering medication to patients and includes such topics as safety, dosage, adverse side effects, intervention, and maintenance. Students learn about major drug classes and categories of prototype drugs.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Online nursing programs in South Carolina tend to follow a hybrid or blended delivery model with most coursework offered online. However, students must log clinical hours and take exams in person. Completion time varies based on the degree. Generally, an ADN takes 1-2 years, a BSN four years, an MSN 2-3 years, and a DNP 3-6 years. Some schools offer accelerated degrees that take 12-18 months to earn.

More than 30 online nursing programs in South Carolina offer nursing degrees at all levels. Online programs work well for nurses who already have positions at healthcare facilities and return to school to advance their careers. The flexibility of distance learning allows them to keep working while pursuing degrees. The option of an accelerated program appeals to those without work commitments who want to streamline their education. Online admission requirements typically mirror those of on-campus programs.

Nursing Licensure in South Carolina

South Carolina nursing licensure offers several advantages. The state belongs to the nurse licensure compact (NLC), which allows licensed South Carolina nurses to practice in other member states under a single license. The South Carolina Board of Nursing confers RN, LPN, and NP licenses, along with approving nursing programs in the state. South Caroline contracts with Pearson VUE to manage CNA certification. Each license type imposes specific requirements, as detailed in the next section.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

CERTIFIED NURSE ASSISTANT Aspiring CNAs enroll in state-approved programs that include lecture-based education and clinical training. CNA training, usually offered at community or technical colleges, typically leads to associate degrees. Within 24 months of completing the CNA program, graduates register for the NNAAP exam. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and skills evaluation at Pearson VUE testing sites. After passing the exam, CNAs become certified and listed on the South Carolina nurse aide registry. South Carolina does not require CNAs to earn continuing education credits to renew their certification. They must submit proof that they worked as a paid CNA for eight hours or more within the two-year renewal period. If a CNA's certification lapses for less than two years, they retest; if lapsed for more than two years, they must begin the training and exam process all over again.

South Carolina Licensure Requirements

  • Education: ADN
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: None required
LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE Each LPN must complete a state-approved practical nursing program that combines classroom learning with laboratory experience and clinical hours. LPNs typically earn an ADN within one year of full-time study and two years part time. Graduates register for the practical nursing exam with Pearson VUE and must submit a separate application to the South Carolina Board of Nursing to take the exam and apply for licensure. Each candidate must provide fingerprints for a criminal history investigation, along with a passport photo, birth certificate or passport, proof of residency, academic transcripts, and a notarized affidavit. The NCLEX-PN exam includes multiple-choice questions, as well as fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, and other types of questions. Candidates who fail the exam can retake it after 45 days. Once licensed, LPNs can meet renewal requirements by completing 30 hours of continuing education or by one of three other methods: national certification or recertification, academic training, or employer certification.

South Carolina Licensure Requirements

  • Education: ADN or BSN
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: 30 hours every two years or one of the alternatives listed below
REGISTERED NURSE South Carolina RNs need an undergraduate degree in nursing from a state-approved, accredited program. Once they complete their training, candidates must register with Pearson VUE and take the NCLEX-RN exam within three years. The primarily multiple-choice test covers health promotion and safe and effective care, among many other topics. Graduates must also apply for authorization from the Board of Nursing to take the exam. Licensure applicants then submit fingerprints for a background check and academic transcripts. After passing the NCLEX-RN exam and obtaining their licenses, RNs with ADNs typically find entry-level nursing positions. Many ADN holders gain work experience while earning their BSNs from online RN programs in South Carolina. RN-to-BSN programs span about two years. Like LPNs, RNs log 30 hours of continuing education for license renewal or qualify with national certification or recertification, academic training, or employer certification.

South Carolina Licensure Requirements

  • Education: ADN or BSN
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: 30 hours within the licensing period or an alternative listed below
NURSE PRACTITIONER The Board of Nursing licenses NPs under the category of APRNs. NPs must hold at least an MSN, along with an RN license. They focus their studies and specialize in such areas as emergency nursing, geriatrics, family medicine, oncology, or pediatrics. Some NPs pursue DNPs, which tend to appeal to those interested not only in treating patients, but also in teaching, research, or advanced clinical leadership. NPs do not take a uniform exam like the NCLEX. They test according to the requirements for national board certification in their specialty area. Credentialing organizations include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board. Exam formats and renewal requirements vary by organization. License renewal requires maintenance of national board certification. Certification renewal periods and continuing education requirements also vary by organization. NPs with prescriptive authority must also log 20 continuing education hours in pharmacotherapeutics.

South Carolina Licensure Requirements

  • Education: MSN or DNP
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: Varies by national certification specialty
  • Renewal Frequency: Every even year by April 30th
  • Continuing Education: Typically 30 hours per year for national certification

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in South Carolina FAQ

WHAT NURSING FIELD MAKES THE MOST MONEY? In South Carolina, nurse anesthetists earn the highest average salaries ($164,480), followed by NPs ($99,910). Top-paying positions include those in outpatient care centers and home healthcare services.
CAN SOMEONE BECOME A NURSE IN TWO YEARS? Yes. With the exception of NPs, who need advanced degrees, graduates can become licensed after completing two-year nurse training programs to find positions as CNAs, LPNs, and entry-level RNs.
DOES AN ONLINE NURSING DEGREE HAVE THE SAME VALUE AS AN ON-CAMPUS DEGREE? Yes. Degrees do not specify whether a student studied online or on campus. The requirements for distance learners typically equal those of traditional programs, and both program types lead to licensure.
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO NURSING SCHOOL IN SOUTH CAROLINA? It depends on the school. Accepted students to University of South Carolina's nursing program held a 3.48 GPA on average. Clemson's 2018 entering class scored 1220-1370 on the SAT.
IS SOUTH CAROLINA A NURSE COMPACT STATE? Yes. South Carolina belongs to the NLC, which allows RNs and LPNs to practice in compact states under their South Carolina licenses, unless they permanently relocate to other compact states.

South Carolina Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

While statistics like job growth and salaries rely on several factors, the tables below summarize the current mean wages and growth projections for the U.S., South Carolina, and its neighbors. South Carolina faces aprojected shortfallof more than 10,000 RNs over the next decade. Even though a nursing degree does not guarantee a job or a particular salary, the anticipated shortage will likely lead to employment.

For RNs, specific locales with the highest concentration of jobs, such as the Upper Savannah region, also pay competitive salaries. South Carolina's coastal resorts, including Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, may offer travel nurse opportunities to help mitigate staffing shortages. These temporary assignments often include housing.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in South Carolina, by Type

Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $25,390 15.4%
Licensed Practical Nurse $40,890 11.9%
Registered Nurse $64,940 18.6%
Nurse Practitioner $99,910 38.8%

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

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
North Carolina $25,570 $44,610 $64,850 $104,100
Georgia $25,870 $41,690 $68,950 $106,750

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


Although CNAs in South Carolina make less money than the U.S. annual mean wage for the occupation, they do bring home nearly equal salaries to their counterparts in Georgia and North Carolina. A strong job growth projection of 15.4% in the state outpaces the 11.5% national average and the 5% average for all occupations. By contrast, North Carolina's projected CNA job growth totals only 8.4%.

Licensed Practical Nurse


LPNs fare worse in South Carolina compared to the average for LPNs across the country, taking home mean annual wages of about $6,000 less per year. They also earned lower salaries than LPNs in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina in 2018. However, increased job growth and shortages could lead to higher salaries, and South Carolina's job growth projections reach much higher than the national average for all occupations. Georgia and North Carolina's projections equal those of South Carolina.

Registered Nurse


South Carolina RNs earned higher mean annual wages than North Carolina RNs in 2018, but less than those in Georgia or the national average. However, South Carolina's strong projected job growth of 18.6% exceeds the average for all U.S. states. While South Carolina's anticipated nursing shortage should continue to provide opportunity, RNs with BSNs or certification specialties, such as gerontology, may land positions more readily than those with ADNs and in other specializations.

Nurse Practitioner


In South Carolina, NPs function as primary care providers and specialists in collaboration with physicians. These advanced duties, which mirror those of physicians, usually come with higher salaries. South Carolina NP wages lag behind the annual mean wage for all U.S. states, as well as North Carolina and Georgia. However, South Carolina's projected job growth for these professionals beats the U.S. average and compares to neighbors Georgia and North Carolina.

Nursing Resources for South Carolina

  • SCNA provides its members with federal and state advocacy, job listings, publications, and news briefs. The association also maintains the Code of Ethics for Nurses and offers professional development tools.
  • This organization hosts meetings twice a month to share ideas and information relevant to the NP profession. It also offers continuing education and networking opportunities, along with job postings.
  • This state agency licenses LPNs, RNs, and APRNs, and works to maintain safe practices and competency in the nursing profession. The board posts a list of state-approved nursing programs, in addition to continuing education resources.
  • SNA-SC, as the state branch of the National Student Nurses' Association, offers nursing students information and resources, including career networking, educational and leadership opportunities, and scholarships and awards.
  • This foundation promotes high standards in healthcare and the nursing profession through research awards, grants, and scholarships for working nurses and students in the field.

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