Wisconsin Nursing Schools and Programs

February 24, 2022 , Modified on April 27, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Wisconsin has more than 30 ADN and BSN programs. This guide to the best nursing schools in Wisconsin will help you find the right program for you.

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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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Wisconsin Nursing Schools and Programs

Wisconsin employs about 63,000 registered nurses (RNs). Those interested in earning a nursing degree can choose from more than 30 nursing schools in Wisconsin that offer associate degree or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs.

This guide can help you find the best nursing program in Wisconsin for your career goals and background. Read on for more about Wisconsin nursing schools, earning your RN license, and the salary and job outlook in Wisconsin.

The Best Nursing Schools in Wisconsin

The best nursing program in Wisconsin for you is the one that matches your needs. This guide provides data to help you identify the best fit for your career goals and budget.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Wisconsin, 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.

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How to Choose a Nursing Program in Wisconsin

With so many nursing schools in Wisconsin, it can be hard to choose. Factors to consider include cost (tuition, expenses, and financial aid); program quality; admission requirements and acceptance rates; the clinical placement process; and program logistics. If you plan to attend online, see if you can get clinical placement in your community.

Because unaccredited schools can be a poor bargain, this guide only lists accredited nursing programs in Wisconsin.

Why Become a Nurse in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, which means that you can apply for a multistate license after you graduate from a nursing school in Wisconsin and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). A multistate license is valid in any of the 37 participating states.

The pass rate for the NCLEX-RN exam in 2019 for nursing programs in Wisconsin was 90.3%, slightly higher than the national average of 88%. The admission rate for BSN programs ranges from 50-70%.

Wisconsin has a slightly lower cost of living than the national average, and nursing salaries are below the national average.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Wisconsin

More than 63,000 RNs work in Wisconsin, mostly in hospitals. Wisconsin's cost of living is below average (95.5 compared to the national index of 100), and the average RN salary is slightly below the national average.

The average RN salary in Wisconsin is $74,760 versus $80,010 nationally. However, the average nurse practitioner (NP) salary is $113,030, close to the national average of $114,510, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job growth for nurses is slower than in the nation as a whole. The BLS projects that between 2018 and 2028, RN jobs could grow by 7.8% and 23% for NPs in Wisconsin, compared to a national growth of 12.1% for RNs and 28.2% for NPs.

By 2030, the U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) projects a surplus of 6,200 nurses for Wisconsin.

HRSA developed these projections before the COVID-19 pandemic, so this figure does not account for nurses leaving during and after COVID-19.

Madison and Milwaukee are both homes to several prestigious hospitals and health systems, including academic medical centers. If you want to live in a smaller city, La Crosse, Racine, and Oshkosh all have midwestern charm with easy access to bigger cities and Wisconsin's 15,000 lakes.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in Wisconsin
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary for RNs
Madison $82,330
Milwaukee — Waukesha — West Allis $76,750
La Crosse — Onalaska $76,270
Oshkosh — Neenah $72,400
Racine $72,360
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Wisconsin

For a nursing license, you must complete an approved nursing program in Wisconsin or another state, pass the NCLEX-RN, and complete a criminal background check.

Wisconsin is one of the few states that does not require continuing education to renew your RN license. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), however, must submit proof of continuing education.

RN Requirements

To earn an RN license in Wisconsin, like RN requirements in all states, you must earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a BSN degree and pass the NCLEX exam.

When you apply to the state board of nursing, you must also sign up for a criminal background check. Only graduates of state-approved nursing schools in Wisconsin can apply online. All other applicants must print out materials from the state board of nursing. The application fee is $72; the NCLEX-RN registration fee is $200.

APRN Requirements

To apply for APRN licensing in Wisconsin, you'll need a master of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice; confirmation of your RN license in an NLC state, degree, and board certification; and proof of at least 45 contact hours in clinical pharmacology or therapeutics within the last five years.

Once you apply to the state board of nursing, you must pass an open book jurisprudence (law) examination. If you plan to prescribe independently, you must submit proof of malpractice insurance. The fee is $132.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Wisconsin


How much money do nurses make in Wisconsin?

NPs earn an average salary of $113,030 in Wisconsin, according to the BLS. For RNs, the BLS reports an average of $74,760.

How do I become a nurse in Wisconsin?

To earn a Wisconsin nursing license, you must earn an ADN or a BSN degree, pass the NCLEX-RN, and complete a criminal background check.

An associate degree typically takes two years and a BSN takes four years to complete, but the BSN is more valuable if you plan to earn a master's degree. Many employers require or prefer a BSN for higher-level positions.

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

It takes about two years to earn an ADN and four years to earn a BSN. If you attend a participating nursing program in Wisconsin, you can apply online.

Once you apply for your license, it may take up to 30 days to process a completed application.

Is Wisconsin a nurse compact state?

Wisconsin participates in the nurse licensure compact. This means that when you graduate from nursing school in Wisconsin or another participating state, you can apply for a multistate nursing license. A multistate license is valid in any of the 37 NLC 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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