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 included the following states within our West rankings: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. We evaluated each nursing school in the region 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: University of California, San Francisco | San Francisco, CA
For the past decade, UCSF School of Nursing has placed among the top two nursing schools in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The school’s master of science in nursing (MSN) program offers 15 specialty areas, including several clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and nurse practitioner (NP) roles. UCSF conducts a master’s entry program which prepares non-nurses for initial licensure; graduates have achieved outstanding National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) pass rates of 90-97% for eight years running. The university also has an online master’s degree in healthcare administration and interprofessional leadership, as well as doctor of philosophy (PhD) tracks in both nursing and sociology.
#2: University of Washington | Seattle, WA
UW School of Nursing has been a top-rated nursing school by U.S. News & World Report for twenty years. The school has three campuses, with a main site in Seattle plus satellite locations in Bothell and Tacoma. UW offers the full breadth of nursing degrees: traditional and accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs, two MSN specializations, a PhD in nursing, and 13 doctor of nursing practice (DNP) tracks. Students can also pursue graduate certificates in areas ranging from palliative care to nurse midwifery. UW’s graduating BSN class of ~140 students annually has passed the NCLEX exam at a strong 92.4% rate since 2008.
#3: Oregon Health & Science University | Portland, OR
OHSU School of Nursing is one of the state’s largest nursing schools, with an enrollment of 1,100 students across five campuses (Portland, Ashland, Monmouth, La Grande, Klamath Falls) and online. OHSU offers a traditional BSN at all five campuses, an accelerated BSN in Portland and Ashland with seamless MSN/DNP transition, and an RN-to-BSN program in Portland and online. Traditional BSN students have achieved an NCLEX pass rate of 90-95% in each of the past five years. Accelerated BSN students have fared even better, consistently posting 93-98% NCLEX pass rates. OHSU offers graduate specialties in nurse anesthesia, nurse midwifery, and four NP roles: family, adult gerontology acute care, psychiatric mental health, and pediatric.
#4: University of Portland | Portland, OR
University of Portland School of Nursing awards BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees. The baccalaureate program incorporates study abroad experiences in countries like Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Tanzania. UP produces approximately 200 BSN graduates annually who have averaged a solid NCLEX pass rate of 90% since 2008. The graduate program employs a convenient hybrid delivery model of monthly immersion weekends and online learning modules. UP offers an MSN degree with clinical nurse leader (CNL) and nurse educator (NED) tracks, as well as a DNP program with a family nurse practitioner (FNP) population focus.
#5: University of California, Los Angeles | Los Angeles, CA
UCLA School of Nursing has earned numerous national accolades. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the school #12 in the country for graduate nursing studies, and UCLA ranked #5 in 2015 NIH research funding for schools of nursing. Approximately 600 nursing students are enrolled across the university’s BSN, MSN, and PhD programs. The MSN program offers a direct-entry track for non-nurses which leads to CNL certification, as well as numerous advanced practice tracks in various NP and CNS specialties. UCLA students are well prepared for licensure: the school’s BSN graduates have maintained an 82% first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate since program launch, while direct-entry MSN candidates have passed the exam at an 88% clip.
#6: University of Utah | Salt Lake City, UT
The University of Utah College of Nursing produces 250-300 graduates annually across its many nursing programs. Prelicensure BSN students have achieved an impressive first-time NCLEX-RN exam pass rate of 94% since 2010. The college also offers an RN-to-BSN completion program for existing registered nurses (RNs); MSN focuses in care management, education, and informatics; and seven DNP subspecialties, including six NP roles and certified nurse midwife (CNM). The University of Utah’s distance PhD program has both BSN-to-PhD and MSN-to-PhD tracks. Indeed, the College of Nursing ranked #2 nationwide in 2015 NIH funding for nursing research.
#7: Western University of Health Sciences | Pomona, CA
The College of Graduate Nursing (CGN) at Western University of Health Sciences launched the nation’s first online curriculum for family nurse practitioners. The school also established the first DNP and direct-entry MSN programs in Southern California. CGN’s direct-entry MSN students have passed the NCLEX exam at a strong 93% rate over the past four years, including a 100% pass rate during the 2012-13 academic year. In addition to direct entry, the MSN program offers a bridge option for RNs with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). MSN students can choose to specialize as administrative nurse leaders, clinical nurse leaders, ambulatory care nurses, or family nurse practitioners. A post-master’s FNP certificate is also available.
#8: Samuel Merritt University | Oakland, CA
Samuel Merritt University has prepared professional nurses for a century. Undergraduates can enroll in either a traditional or accelerated BSN program. Across the two pathways, SMU graduates 350-400 BSN students each year who have passed the NCLEX exam at an 87% rate since 2007. Just as impressively, the school’s entry-level MSN program, which graduates 80-90 students annually, has a 90%+ NCLEX exam pass rate over that time period. MSN students may prepare for careers as a case manager, certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), or family nurse practitioner. The university also offers a DNP degree with an FNP specialization. All SMU nursing students have access to global medical mission opportunities as well as the Health Sciences Simulation Center, one of the region’s most advanced healthcare simulation facilities.
#9: University of San Diego | San Diego, CA
U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks USD's Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science in the top tier of graduate nursing schools. In fact, the most recent analysis ranked both the MSN and DNP programs #34 nationally. USD offers a direct-entry MSN option for non-nurses; this pathway graduates 30-50 new nurses each year and has maintained a 90% NCLEX pass rate since 2007. Existing nurses can pursue an MSN in eight different areas of emphasis, a DNP with two entry points (post-BSN, post-MSN), or a PhD with three entry points (post-BSN, post-MSN, post-DNP). In addition to a diverse collection of graduate offerings, Hahn provides the opportunity to participate in international mission trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
#10: Seattle University | Seattle, WA
The Seattle University College of Nursing offers a unique nursing curriculum that combines local and international nursing education. Students may take single academic courses abroad or enroll in a short- or long-term study abroad experience. Locations run the gamut from South America to Africa to Australia. The college offers a four-year BSN program, traditional and non-nurse immersion pathways to an MSN degree, and a post-master’s Health Systems Leader DNP. Prelicensure students from both the BSN and MSN immersion programs perform well on their licensure tests: since 2008, 88% of BSN students and 93% of MSN immersion students passed the NCLEX exam on their first attempt.
The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs in the West region.