Our mission at Nursing Schools Almanac is to provide aspiring nurses a detailed, comprehensive, and analytical resource for selecting their future nursing school. An integral part of this effort is our annual rankings of the top nursing schools in the country.
To provide a comprehensive view, we collected a wealth of data on over 3,200 nursing schools and campuses nationwide. We then assessed each of these institutions on three critical dimensions.
1. The institution’s academic prestige and perceived value (50% of overall score)
“Prestige” and “value” are notoriously difficult concepts to quantify. To be rigorous in our approach, we considered several quantitative measures including:
- Graduates’ ability to repay their student debt in a timely manner
- Professional designations (e.g., National League for Nursing Center of Excellence™)
- Grant funding for nursing research from the National Institutes of Health
- Other established methodologies (e.g., U.S. News & World Report’s MSN and DNP rankings)
2. The breadth and depth of nursing programs offered (15% of overall score)
We considered the full range of undergraduate and graduate nursing programs offered by each school, including degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Graduate programs were weighted more heavily, although we also recognized program breadth (e.g., offering baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral nursing tracks). Finally, we awarded points for program size – since, all else equal, programs with higher enrollment play a larger role in combatting the nation’s nursing shortage.
3. Student success, particularly on the NCLEX national licensure exam (35% of overall score)
Nursing is highly regulated, with a mandatory licensure or certification exam for most roles. Student performance on these tests provides a standardized metric for assessing the quality of instruction across schools. We relied most heavily on first-time NCLEX exam pass rate: this test is uniformly required for RN and LPN licensure, and most state boards of nursing report the results annually. We also considered APRN certification tests administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, and similar organizations.
After we evaluated each nursing school on these three dimensions, we weighted the individual scores into one overall score and we ranked all nursing schools accordingly. We then published a granular review of our results, including:
- The top 100 nursing schools in the United States
- The top 75 public, private, and vocational nursing schools
- The top 50 nursing schools in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Plains, the Southeast, the Southwest, and the West
We are thrilled to provide this detailed and accurate resource to aspiring nurses throughout the country. At the same time, we strive continually to improve our efforts. If you have any suggestions for future versions of our annual nursing school rankings, please do let us know!