An aspiring nurse has a promising outlook for career advancement. That’s because, with over one hundred nursing specialties to choose from combined with an overwhelming demand for nurses throughout the U.S., a new registered nurse (RN) is blessed with opportunity.
At the same time, studying to become a nurse takes several years of dedication and clinical practice. In fact, depending on the nursing school or program you choose, it typically takes anywhere from eighteen months to four years to become a registered nurse. Keep in mind, however, that these days, most healthcare employers want to see a bachelor’s degree with a related major in science. That’s why many nurses choose to pursue a four-year degree and receive a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Furthermore, you must complete and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse.
So what are the best options for ambitious nurses looking to get a jumpstart in their nursing career? While there are a variety of highly regarded colleges and schools for nurses, the following are rated as the top nursing programs in the country:
Top Ten Nursing Programs: Highly Regarded Colleges for Nurses
1. Duke University
What makes this college stand out: Nursing students have maintained a 98 percent first-attempt rate for passing the NCLEX over the past decade.
Duke University School of Medicine is located in the city of Durham, North Carolina. Residents of Durham are home to a mix of young and diverse professionals and families. It has plenty to offer for recreation, including restaurants, parks, and outdoor activities. Moreover, Durham is sometimes referred to as the “City of Medicine” and offers ample opportunities for healthcare professionals. Consequently, Duke University School of Medicine, located in the heart of Duke's Medical Campus, is currently ranked by the Nursing Schools Almanac as the #1 Best Nursing School in the United States. Duke University offers nursing students Master’s, Ph.D., and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees. Furthermore, Duke University School of Medicine offers accelerated nursing programs to students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Duke School of Medicine also boasts an extremely high graduation rate for nursing students, and students have maintained a 98 percent first-attempt rate for passing the NCLEX over the past decade. It’s clear why Duke University School of Medicine stands out from the rest as being one of the top nursing programs in the U.S.
2. Ohio State University
What makes this college stand out: It was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as having one of the top online Master’s in Nursing Programs.
If you are a nursing student looking for a fast-track nursing program online, Ohio State University is an ideal option. That’s because Ohio State University is a renowned public institution that offers nursing students (typically graduate level) online core classes that are recorded and archived so students can study on their own schedule. What’s more, Ohio State University also offers a BSN option for registered nurses who have only received their associate’s degree in nursing or a nursing diploma. Lastly, if you decide to study on campus, Ohio State University offers clinical rotations at some of the most prestigious hospitals and medical facilities in the metropolitan Columbus region. Top-ranked academics and a highly regarded online nursing program make Ohio State University a top choice for nurses looking to pursue their nursing degrees.
3. University of Alabama
What makes this college stand out: It offers academic excellence at lower tuition prices compared to other major public universities.
Birmingham—a city with good old southern charm, where local restaurants serve biscuits that are always warm, light, and fluffy—happens to be the home to one of the oldest and largest public universities in Alabama. University of Alabama, Birmingham, is considered a world-class medical research university and a highly regarded college for nurses. In fact, the University of Alabama, Birmingham, campus currently ranks #15 in Best Nursing Schools overall and #18 in Best Nursing Schools for Doctor of Nursing Practice. On top of that, UAB offers a competitive education at lower tuition prices compared to other universities across the U.S. To sum it up, UAB is an ideal choice for a nursing student who is seeking an exceptional education in healthcare, surrounded by the genuine hospitality of the south and plenty of cultural activities.
4. New York University
What makes this college stand out: NYU Rory Meyers College graduates more than 400 students each year who have successfully passed the NCLEX on the first try.
NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing continues to hold its spot as the #15 in Best Nursing Schools for Master’s and #23 in Best Nursing Schools for Doctor of Nursing Practice. What distinguishes NYU Meyers from the rest? Nursing students have been passing the NCLEX on their first try at 87 percent for the past decade. What’s more, the college is located in the heart of NYC and offers a variety of prestigious nursing programs tailored to fit every nursing specialty. Ultimately, NYU Meyers ranks high for its impeccable academic excellence in nursing and for giving nurses a strong foundation to excel in whatever specialty they choose.
5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
What makes this college stand out: It offers accelerated nursing programs, including a four-semester option for students who already have a bachelor’s degree and need to obtain their professional nursing degree fast.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is set in a diverse southern town and ranked as one of the best college towns and places to live in the U.S. UNC-Chapel Hill currently ranks among the top ten in the nation for Master’s of Science in Nursing programs and the top twenty best Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. The university is praised for its high pass rate for nursing students, with students passing the NCLEX at a 96 percent first-try rate over the past ten years. Nursing students looking for an outstanding nursing education, tradition, and culture should consider UNC at Chapel hill’s RN nursing programs.
6. Emory University
What makes this college stand out: Employment after graduation for nursing students is 82 percent, and students have landed jobs in over 500 clinical settings throughout the nation.
Emory University is a private nonprofit university nestled in the suburban neighborhood of Druid Hills, located just outside the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Emory University is the second oldest institution of higher education in Georgia. It also happens to be an elite medical school and ranks as #22 in Best Medical Schools for Research. Moreover, Emory University is considered a leading institution, maintaining high standards for education, research, and patient care. Emory University currently offers BSN, ABSN, MSN, and Ph.D., as well as DNP degrees. Emory University is an excellent choice for aspiring nurses looking for a strong education and big opportunities in the healthcare sector.
7. Boston College
What makes this college stand out: In 2020, 100 percent of students passed the NCLEX RN on their first try.
Boston College William F. Connell School of Nursing (CSON) has consistently ranked among the top best nursing programs in the country. Its prestigious ranking is due to its competitive liberal arts education and the fact that it offers a dynamic range of nursing specialty certifications. Additionally, BSN nursing students at CSON have maintained a 94 percent first-time NCLEX pass rate over the past several years. Regarded overall as a top-notch college for a rigorous and exceptional nursing educational experience, Boston College prepares nursing students to excel as compassionate leaders in the future of healthcare.
8. Union University
What makes this college stand out: It offers some of the best pediatric nursing programs at a small not-for-profit private institution.
Located in the small city of Jackson, TN, Union University is in the top 10 percent of the best nursing schools in the U.S. and sits in the top three in the state of Tennessee. But what distinguishes Union University from other nursing programs is the variety of advanced certifications and specialty degrees it offers. With over twenty-seven educational tracks to choose from, including BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees, Union University is a diverse and highly regarded college for nurses to pursue a nursing degree.
9. Vanderbilt, University
What makes this college stand out: It offers a Master’s of Imaging Science (MIS) that prepares healthcare professionals to address the increasing demand for imaging science and the need for clinical care in biomedical research.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine offers an elite nursing program ranked #13 among other renowned nursing programs throughout the U.S. and is regarded as one of the top Medical Schools for Primary Care. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, this first-rate university prepares graduate nursing students by offering direct-entry MSN programs, post-master certificates for advanced study for registered nurses as well as two doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and DNP). The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine provides nursing students with the skills, confidence, and advanced educational level to go out and be leaders in their field.
10. Johns Hopkins University
What makes this college stand out: It ranks #1 nationally for its esteemed master's and DNP programs.
Johns Hopkins University may be last on our list, but it is first on the nationwide list as one of the most highly esteemed universities for nursing programs in the U.S. Coincidentally, Johns Hopkins University has been ranked consistently over the years as the nation’s very best college for nursing. In fact, from 2019 through 2020, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine maintained its #2 ranking in the nation as the best research-oriented medical school. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins is a private research university that offers nursing students MSN, DNP, and online nursing programs. Additionally, graduates of Johns Hopkins University have a high employment rate, and nurses in Maryland are some of the highest-paid RNs in all of the U.S. To sum it up, Johns Hopkins University provides one of the most respectable nursing degrees in the nation to aspiring nurses and is set in a city that bears plenty of opportunities for employment in healthcare.
Choosing a Nursing Program
Ultimately, choosing a nursing program that fits your needs will depend on your nursing specialty, time commitment, and lifestyle. It will also be important to take into account your budget and to decide whether or not you will need financial aid to attend a nursing program. After narrowing down your choices and being accepted into a nursing program, all there is left to do is put your best foot forward and get ready to focus.
Oh, and we’d like to say congratulations! You are one step closer to becoming a leader in health care.