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.
#11: Brigham Young University | Provo, UT
BYU College of Nursing is home to nearly 400 nursing students from 38 states and four international countries. The college offers two degree pathways: a prelicensure BSN program for aspiring registered nurses and an MSN degree for aspiring family nurse practitioners. BYU awarded 118 baccalaureate degrees and 14 master’s degrees in the most recent academic year. These graduates achieved stellar test scores, including a 95% NCLEX exam pass rate and a perfect 100% pass rate on the American Nurses Credentialing Center FNP certification exam. In fact, the college’s BSN graduates have passed the NCLEX exam at a 95-98% pass rate for seven consecutive years.
#12: University of San Francisco | San Francisco, CA
The USF School of Nursing and Health Professions was the first California institution to offer a DNP for working nurses. The school also offers prelicensure BSN and MSN programs, an online MSN program with two entry points (post-ADN, post-BSN), and a traditional campus-based MSN program at several locations in the San Francisco and Sacramento metropolitan areas. USF’s combined “4+1” bachelor’s and master’s program culminates with an MSN-CNL, master of public health (MPH), MS in behavioral health, or MS in health informatics. Prelicensure students consistently perform well on their licensure exams: since 2007, 87% of BSN graduates and 90% of direct-entry MSN graduates have passed the NCLEX-RN exam on their first try.
#13: University of Colorado at Denver | Denver, CO
In 1965, the University of Colorado at Denver (CU) College of Nursing instituted the first nurse practitioner and school nurse programs in the United States. In 2005, the college became one of the first seven schools in the nation to launch the new DNP program. Today, the College of Nursing enrolls 950 students across a wide breadth of nursing degree and certificate programs. Undergraduates can pursue five BSN pathways: traditional, honors, accelerated, an integrated community college partnership, and RN-to-BSN. For an astonishing ten years in a row, the college’s 200-plus annual BSN graduates have passed the NCLEX exam at a 92% or higher rate. At the graduate level, CU offers eleven MSN specialty tracks, a distance-accessible PhD program, a DNP degree with a public health nursing (PHN) focus, and a dual DNP/MPH track.
#14: University of Hawaii at Manoa | Honolulu, HI
UH Manoa’s School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene (SONDH) is the only Hawaiian nursing school ranked by U.S News & World Report for its online MSN program. UH Manoa is also Hawaii’s only doctoral and research-intensive university. SONDH offers five BSN pathways including a traditional program for current university students, a high school direct entry option, and three RN-to-BSN programs. Graduate students can pursue an MSN, DNP, or PhD degree, again with multiple pathways accommodated including non-nursing bachelor’s, post-BSN, and post-MSN. Prelicensure students consistently pass the NCLEX exam at solid rates: over the past six years, BSN graduates achieved an 86% pass rate and direct-entry MSN graduates achieved an 85% pass rate.
#15: Azusa Pacific University | Azusa, CA
Azusa Pacific University School of Nursing has a nursing program for every career objective. Undergraduates can pursue a four-year BSN, an LVN-to-BSN bridge, an RN-to-BSN completion program, or the Two-Plus-Two BSN. The final option is a unique track designed for APU transfer students. Prelicensure BSN candidates have passed the NCLEX exam at a solid 84% first-time rate since 2007. The university’s MSN program includes a direct-entry pathway, and these students have demonstrated a similarly strong NCLEX pass rate of 86%. The MSN curriculum features specialties in nursing education, school nursing, two CNS areas, and four NP roles. APU also offers a DNP program, a nursing PhD program, and eight post-master’s nursing certificates.
#16: Pacific Lutheran University | Tacoma, WA
The School of Nursing at Pacific Lutheran University offers a top-tier MSN program with several entry points and specializations. Entry points include the traditional post-BSN program, an RN-to-MSN pathway for nurses without a BSN, and an entry-level program for non-nurses. Specializations include clinical nurse leader, nurse administrator, and clinical nurse educator. The entry-level MSN program is select, admitting just twenty candidates each year, and its students have maintained an exceptional 98% NCLEX exam pass rate over the past eight years. The School of Nursing also offers two BSN pathways – traditional and licensed practical nurse (LPN) bridge – as well as a DNP program that prepares aspiring FNPs. Approximately 75 BSN graduates each year consistently achieve NCLEX exam pass rates of 90-98%.
#17: University of Nevada, Las Vegas | Las Vegas, NV
The UNLV School of Nursing has a unique trimester system which allows students to complete the BSN program in just 16 months. UNLV typically admits 48 students into the program each trimester. Graduates of the BSN program consistently achieve exceptional NCLEX-RN exam pass rates of 93-99%, well above state and national averages for the past seven consecutive years. UNLV also offers MSN and graduate certificate specializations for aspiring family nurse practitioners and nurse educators; a DNP curriculum with post-BSN and post-MSN entry points; and PhD programs in nursing education and interdisciplinary health sciences.
#18: Regis University | Denver, CO
The Loretto Heights School of Nursing (LHSON) offers a broad range of nursing degree and certificate programs. Undergraduates can choose one of five BSN pathways: traditional, accelerated (for non-nursing college graduates), CHOICE (for individuals working in healthcare), RN-to-BSN, or RN-to-BSN/MSN. Across the three prelicensure pathways, BSN graduates have maintained a strong 92.2% NCLEX exam pass rate since 2012. The graduate nursing department provides MSN tracks in education, management, family nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner, as well as graduate certificates in most of these fields. LHSON also leads a two- to three-year DNP program that students may complete 100% online.
#19: California State University, Long Beach | Long Beach, CA
The CSULB School of Nursing graduates 100-200 new nurses annually through its prelicensure BSN program, which features both traditional and second-degree pathways. These students have enjoyed a stellar 95% NCLEX exam pass rate over the past eight years. CSULB also offers an RN-to-BSN completion program and a broad range of MSN degrees and graduate nursing certificates. MSN students can specialize in one of six nurse practitioner fields, advanced public health nursing, or nursing and health systems executive management. Certificates are also available for six NP roles: adult-gerontology acute care, adult-geriatric, family, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health, and women's health.
#20: Point Loma Nazarene University | San Diego, CA
The School of Nursing at Point Loma Nazarene University offers several unique opportunities. These include a study abroad program which Open Doors ranked #15 in the nation, the LoveWorks short-term mission program, and a Health Promotion Center which serves residents of City Heights, a low-income multicultural area of San Diego. BSN candidates can pursue a traditional, LVN-to-BSN, or RN-to-BSN pathway to their degree. The 50 annual graduates of the BSN program have consistently scored well on their licensure exams, with a strong 93% NCLEX pass rate since 2007. PLNU also conducts an MSN degree program with a general track and three CNS specializations: adult / gerontology, family / individual health, and pediatrics.
The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs in the West region.