For our inaugural rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on over 3,200 nursing schools and campuses throughout the United States. We evaluated each school on three dimensions:
- The institution’s academic prestige and perceived value
- The breadth and depth of nursing programs offered
- Student success, particularly on the NCLEX national licensure exam
We then combined these assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. For a detailed description of our assessment methodology and dimension weights, please see here.
#1: Duke University | Durham, NC
The Blue Devils garnered the top spot in our rankings with a stellar performance on all dimensions. Duke University holds two simultaneous designations as a Center of Excellence™ (COE) by the National League for Nursing (NLN). Graduates of the school’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program routinely pass the NCLEX-RN national licensure exam at a rate of 97% or higher. In addition, Duke’s master of science in nursing (MSN) program is currently ranked #4 in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
#2: Johns Hopkins University | Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins has held the NLN’s Center of Excellence™ designation since 2010. The nursing school boasts a diverse body of 1,200 students, with a healthy mix of both full-time and part-time enrollees. Each spring, Johns Hopkins graduates 250-300 students from its flagship prelicensure BSN program. These students have enjoyed an impressive 92.6% pass rate on the NCLEX-RN national licensure exam over the past five years. The school also has 500 graduate students across its MSN, doctor of nursing practice (DNP), doctor of philosophy (PhD) in nursing, and graduate certificate programs.
#3: University of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia, PA
Penn is the only Ivy League institution that offers a baccalaureate nursing degree. The school’s BSN program graduates 150-180 students annually, who earn excellent NCLEX-RN pass rates of 90-95% in most years. Penn was also the first Ivy to offer master’s and doctoral nursing degrees. Not surprisingly, U.S. News & World Report ranks the school’s MSN program #2 in the nation. Penn Nursing students have access to several world-class hospitals, two of which (Hospital of UPenn and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) are literally behind the school.
#4: University of California, San Francisco | San Francisco, CA
Like all of UCSF, the School of Nursing focuses its efforts on graduate education. Its master's entry program in nursing (MEPN) is a three-year course of study for aspiring nurses without any previous education in the field. The MEPN program graduates 50-80 new nurses each year, who consistently pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam at a rate of 90% or better. UCSF’s traditional MSN program has 20+ areas of specialization, from acute care to midwifery to genomics. The school also offers two PhD programs, one in nursing and one in sociology.
#5: University of Maryland | Baltimore, MD
University of Maryland is home to one of the nation’s largest, broadest, and most diverse schools of nursing. Indeed, 40% of the state’s entire nursing workforce holds a degree or certificate from UMSON. The school’s flagship BSN program produces 200-250 graduates each year, who typically pass the NCLEX exam at an impressive 90-97% rate. Another 70-100 students annually complete the clinical nurse leader (CNL) direct-entry master’s program; they have enjoyed similarly high NCLEX pass rates of ~92% over the past five years. UMSON also offers several MSN specialties and two doctoral nursing programs.
#6: University of Washington | Seattle, WA
Located on three campuses in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma, the University of Washington School of Nursing was recently ranked the #4 graduate nursing program by U.S. News & World Report. Approximately 140 students graduate from its flagship BSN program each year, consistently earning an NCLEX-RN pass rate of 90-96%. The school offers several MSN options including a specialization in community health nursing, which supports equitable health for multicultural communities. UW also offers a DNP program at its Seattle campus.
#7: New York University | New York, NY
The NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing (NYU Meyers) has been recognized as a Center of Excellence™ by the NLN since 2012. This may help to explain NYU Meyers’ popularity: its BSN program alone graduates over 400 students annually. The school also offers over a dozen graduate nursing programs. With new facilities on First Avenue and the eighth-highest level of research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s no wonder that NYU Meyers was recently ranked the #6 graduate nursing program by U.S. News & World Report.
#8: University of Michigan | Ann Arbor, MI
The University of Michigan School of Nursing offers a variety of master’s degree programs, including specializations in maternal health, child health, neonatal nursing, and geriatric nursing. Students at the University of Michigan have access to its North Campus Research Complex, which boasts 1.2 million square feet of research space and a research budget of $1 billion. With such resources, it’s no surprise that the School of Nursing has over 12,000 living alumni.
#9: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center | New Orleans, LA
The Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) School of Nursing was recently recognized as a Center of Excellence™ by the NLN for promoting the pedagogical expertise of faculty. The LSUHSC offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs that allow students to specialize in fields like adult health nursing, family practice nursing, and nursing science. Approximately 175 students graduate annually from the school’s BSN program, impressively earning a pass rate of 95-98% on the NCLEX-RN exam over the last six years.
#10: Rush University | Chicago, IL
U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Rush University College of Nursing in the top five across six graduate nursing specialties, including a #2 ranking in nurse anesthesia programs. Graduates of Rush’s direct-entry MSN program perform incredibly well on the NCLEX-RN exam, with pass rates of 95-99% each year since inception. The nursing programs at Rush University are led by a world-class faculty: over 75% of faculty members possess a doctoral degree. Many of Rush’s programs can be taken online, and the school offers flexible opportunities for those pursuing a degree part-time.
The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs. Many of them are taught online.