Top Nursing Schools

Updated December 7, 2022

Earning an accredited nursing degree is a great way to enter the nursing field. Here, we list the top nursing schools. 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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Nursing schools train students in patient care, evidence-based practice, and nursing specialties. After earning an accredited nursing degree, graduates earn their RN license and pursue nursing careers.

A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) prepares graduates for high-paying careers in many nursing specialties. During a BSN program, learners gain hands-on clinical skills while strengthening their nursing leadership skills. Many BSN programs offer an accelerated RN-to-BSN path for current nurses and admit students new to nursing.

Our guide of nursing programs by state helps students find a nursing program that matches their schedule, budget, and goals.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Schools

Q. What is the difference between an RN and a BSN?

A registered nurse (RN) meets the requirements to become a nurse in doctors' offices and hospitals. A BSN meets the educational requirements to earn an RN license.

Q. What degree do I need to become a nurse?

A nursing diploma, associate of science in nursing (ASN), or BSN meet the requirements to become an RN. RNs with a two-year degree can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program to complete a bachelor's degree.

Q. What kind of nurses get paid the most?

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) report the highest salaries. Examples include nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. These nursing careers require a master's degree.

Why Get a Nursing Degree?

Nurses benefit from a positive job outlook. With a high earning potential and strong demand, nursing careers pay off. Prospective nurses can enter the field with a two-year degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing will add over 275,000 new jobs between 2020-2030.

Many nursing programs feature online classes, appealing to busy students and those who prefer a flexible schedule. Online nursing students complete coursework through a distance learning system while meeting clinical requirements locally. Students who find a fully online nursing program do not need to search nursing programs by state.

How Much Does a Nursing Degree Cost?

Nursing degrees cost $2,500-$100,000, depending on the degree level and school. Many nurses start their career with a two-year ASN or diploma at a community college or hospital. According to National Center for Education Statistics 2019-2020 data, community college tuition and fees average $3,380 per year. The cheapest community colleges in California cost $1,270 per year.

A four-year BSN averages $9,350 per year at in-state public colleges or $32,770 per year at private colleges. Besides tuition, nursing students pay for textbooks, living expenses, lab fees, and other nursing supplies.

How Much Do Nursing Degree Majors Make?

Nursing careers are in-demand and pay above-average salaries, making a nursing degree a good investment. With an ASN or BSN, graduates work as registered nurses. RNs earn a median annual salary of over $75,000. The BLS projects 9% job growth from 2020-2030.

Salaries vary by specialty, location, and experience. Some nursing specialties offer above-average nursing salaries. High cost of living states tend to pay more. Like other careers, nurses typically earn higher salaries as they gain experience. Advanced degrees increase nurses' earning potential. Nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists earn a median salary of $117,670 annually. 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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Courses in Nursing

Nursing classes teach foundational knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. Students take classes designed to build nursing skills. Courses in proven practice and health assessment train nurses to evaluate information, care for patients, and improve health outcomes. Many programs include specialized courses. Examples include pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, and medical surgical nursing.

Nursing programs require practicum hours and hospital rotations to strengthen clinical skills. Labs, simulations, and other experiential learning prepare nursing students for future careers. This section introduces common nursing courses.

  • Health Assessment

    Health assessment classes train nurses to examine patients. Students learn how to take a comprehensive health assessment using techniques that reflect client preferences and needs. Classes integrate medical terms, patient care methods, and assessment techniques. Nursing students learn how to assess patient health with an awareness of each patient's unique circumstances.
  • Community Health Nursing

    Learners examine population-level health and wellness issues, including diseases. Students strengthen their health promotion skills while learning proven disease prevention techniques. While studying individual and group approaches to health, students learn to improve health outcomes. The class focuses on applied community health skills and often includes clinical hours.
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing

    Nursing students strengthen their medical-surgical skills by treating acute, chronic, and complex medical conditions. Learners explore the roles of nurses in surgical settings, evidence-based patient care, and coordinating care in medical-surgical settings. The course prepares nurses for specialties requiring medical-surgical training, including critical care nursing. Other examples include emergency nursing and perioperative nursing.

Nursing Specializations

Nurses can specialize in emergency care, neonatal nursing, and cardiovascular care. Many nursing programs train learners in specializations. Students who do not find a nursing program with specializations can focus their education with electives and clinical training.

Specializing gives nursing students the knowledge and skills needed for focused career paths. Many nurses earn certifications in their specialty area. This section introduces possible nursing specializations.

  • Critical Care

    Critical care nurses provide emergency care for patients experiencing a serious injury or illness. Students do rotations in ICUs to strengthen their patient care and nursing skills. Nurses specializing in critical care become ICU nurses, emergency nurses, or critical care nurses.
  • Pediatrics

    Pediatric nurses care for children from birth through young adulthood. Within pediatrics, nurses train in primary care and specialized care. Students learn how to conduct health assessments on children. Courses cover educating parents about medical conditions and communicating with child patients effectively. The specialization prepares graduates to become pediatric nurses in doctors' offices, hospitals, and other medical settings.
  • Perioperative Care

    Perioperative care nurses, also called surgical or OR nurses, specialize in caring for surgical patients. They prep surgical rooms and assist surgeons during medical procedures. They also care for patients before and after surgery. BSN nursing students take electives in perioperative nursing. They complete rotations in surgical settings.

How to Become a Nurse

Nurses enter the profession with various educational backgrounds. Registered nurses earn their nursing license with an ASN or nursing diploma. Nurses can advance by earning a BSN. Prospective nurses can search nursing programs by state or enroll in an online program.

During a nursing program, learners study human anatomy, proven nursing practices, and patient care. In addition to coursework, nurses complete rotations in medical settings. After their nursing program, graduates take the NCLEX-RN exam to earn licensure.

RNs gain experience working in doctors' offices, outpatient clinics, and hospitals. With experience, nurses move into specialized and leadership roles. Nurses can also pursue graduate degrees.

Licensure for Nursing

Nurses must hold a state board-issued nursing license. Requirements vary by state.

RNs must complete an accredited nursing program with state approval. RN license candidates must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Some states require a criminal background check or drug testing. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing lists information on licensure requirements and nursing programs by state.

Besides RN licensure, nurses may also hold licensure as a certified nurse assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or APRN. These licenses feature different education and testing requirements. LPNs typically complete a 1-2 year program and take the NCLEX-PN exam. APRNs earn a graduate degree in nursing and pursue national certification.

Because the requirements vary by nursing degree and type, prospective nurses should research the licensure process in their state.

Top Nursing Schools

Top Nursing Schools
1University at Buffalo10013:11472%
2University of Iowa99.7516:12470%
3Stony Brook University98.2516:11769%
4University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill9813:1690%
5University of Michigan-Ann Arbor97.2512:11091%
6CUNY Hunter College96.511:11352%
7Allen College95.259:11675%
8SUNY at Binghamton94.2520:11681%
9Mount Carmel College of Nursing94.2512:11064%
10University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus93.514:11382%
11University of Connecticut92.516:1981%
12University of Washington-Seattle Campus9218:11084%
13Ball State University91.7515:1959%
14University of Kansas90.517:11060%
15University of South Carolina-Columbia9018:1973%
16Washington State University9015:1867%
17Rutgers University-New Brunswick89.7516:1881%
18University of Cincinnati-Main Campus89.7518:11860%
19Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus10017:1986%
20Clarkson College89.2511:1859%
21University of Utah8917:1562%
22University of Wyoming88.7515:1554%
23University of Minnesota-Twin Cities88.517:1878%
24George Mason University88.516:1567%
25Southern Connecticut State University88.514:1853%
26University of Mississippi8818:1561%
27South Dakota State University8817:1757%
28Madonna University87.7511:12150%
29East Carolina University87.2518:1559%
30Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health86.7512:1566%
31Temple University85.7514:1569%
32Winona State University85.7520:11257%
33University of Hawaii at Manoa85.7513:1556%
34University of Alabama at Birmingham84.518:1556%
35University of Missouri-Columbia8420:1569%
36William Carey University8415:1558%
37University of Kentucky83.7518:1561%
38Virginia Commonwealth University83.517:1759%
39University of Arizona83.2520:1860%
40University of North Dakota82.7519:1755%
41Illinois State University8219:1672%
42Missouri State University-Springfield81.7520:1555%
43University of Illinois at Chicago80.7517:1560%
44University of Massachusetts-Lowell80.2518:1854%
45Northern Arizona University80.2518:1652%

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Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

See All Posts 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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