One of the most exciting aspects of a career in nursing is that there are many ways to practice and specialize. No two nursing career journeys are alike. But they all have a common denominator: nursing school.
Choosing the right scrubs can feel stressful enough (although we’re here to help ), let alone the right nursing school. But we’ll run through some of the top nursing schools in the US.
Before we begin, a word of advice: Go with the school that feels right for you. We all have different career goals, budgets, and geographical limitations, so it’s logical to consider these factors. There’s no shame in doing so either. Wherever you pursue your studies, we know you’ll make the most of your education and become the best nurse you can be.
Ten top nursing schools in the US
This list shows nursing schools ranked by the strength of their programs. But what makes the best undergraduate nursing schools? What about the top graduate nursing programs?
As you’ll see in the list, these designations often have to do with NCLEX pass rates, enrollment rates, the level of research funding a nursing college receives, and the breadth of specialization options.
Now that we’ve defined “best,” let’s dive into the list of best universities for nursing. And remember, no matter the ranking, the “best” school for you is the one you feel best about attending.
Duke University School of Nursing | Durham, North Carolina
- Why it’s great: Duke’s award-winning nursing program has an exceptional NCLEX pass rate and offers a range of degrees, including an accelerated BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), and a DNP (Doctorate in Nursing Practice).
Johns Hopkins University | Baltimore
- Why it’s great: With several designations of excellence, John Hopkins has highly rated MSN, DNP, and online nursing programs. It also boasts an impressive NCLEX pass rate.
New York University
- Why it’s great: New York University has a highly ranked adult-gerontology nurse practitioner program and excellent access to research funding. The BSN program is responsible for graduating more than 400 future nurses per year. The school has MSN, DNP, and other post-master’s certificate programs.
University of California, San Francisco
- Why it’s great: The UCSF School of Nursing has excellent access to research funding, several specialized master’s programs, and both types of nursing doctorates (DNP and PhD).
University of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia
- Why it’s great: The Penn Nursing School has tons of research funding, nurse practitioner (NP) specialties, and one of the top BSN programs in the U.S. Penn was the first Ivy League school to have a nursing program, and it now offers two doctorate programs in the field.
Emory University | Atlanta
- Why it’s great: Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing offers BSN, ABSN, MSN, PhD, and DNP programs, and it often ranks as one of the top 10 graduate nursing schools. A high NCLEX pass rate and excellent post-graduation hiring statistics contribute to Emory’s high esteem.
Indiana University School of Nursing | Bloomington, Ind.
- Why it’s great: This is another nursing school with a robust research program. It also boasts a high NCLEX pass rate, partnerships with in-state healthcare providers, and study-abroad programs.
University of Washington: School of Nursing | Seattle
- Why it’s great: Often rated one of the best nursing schools, UW features all standard nursing programs and an accelerated BSN. It also has a wealth of different DNP specialty areas and is known for preparing students well for the NCLEX (and their impressive pass rate reflects this).
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Why it’s great: The UNC School of Nursing offers a BSN, MSN, a nurse practitioner program, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing, among different post-master’s certificate programs. Consistently ranked well, this school has a near-impeccable NCLEX pass rate.
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center | New Orleans
- Why it’s great: LSU’s nursing program offers a variety of traditional programs plus a special BSN track for students who hold bachelor’s degrees in other fields. The school also offers two master-level specialties and 11 within its DNP program.
We feel like we’re on a roll, so why stop? Here are a few other universities (in no particular order) known for their nursing programs that we think are also worth checking out: the Ohio State University, University of California Los Angeles, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Case Western Reserve University, University of Texas and University of Virginia.
Nursing schools FAQs
What is the NCLEX?
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) determines whether an aspiring nurse is ready to practice. It tests four key knowledge areas: safe and effective care, maintaining and promoting good health, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.
What salary can I expect as a nurse?
While nursing salaries depend on the level of practice, in general, in the United States, annual salaries range from around $60,000 for registered nurses to more than $100,000 for some higher-responsibility, specialized roles that require a higher level of education and training.
What is the cost of nursing school?
Want to find out how quickly you’ll be able to pay off nursing school with the salary you plan to make? That sounds very responsible to us! Currently, in the United States, the average annual cost of nursing school is around $10,000 at a public university and $35,000 at a private school for a four-year program. If cost is a concern, be sure to look into financial aid programs (and student discounts!).