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.
#21: Sonoma State University | Rohnert Park, CA
The Department of Nursing at Sonoma State University has educated more than 4,000 nurse professionals over the past forty years. Undergraduate pathways include a traditional four-year BSN program and an ADN-to-BSN Collaborative Nursing Education Continuum Model (CNECM) offered in partnership with Napa Valley College, College of Marin, Santa Rosa Junior College, Solano Community College, and Mendocino College. The university graduates 20-40 students annually from the traditional BSN program, with an impressive 96% NCLEX-RN exam pass rate since 2008. Graduate nursing students can pursue an MSN degree or a post-master’s certificate with an FNP emphasis.
#22: Loma Linda University | Loma Linda, CA
At Loma Linda University, students have access to the largest medical simulation center in the United States. They are also proximally located to Loma Linda University Medical Center, which hosts some of the nation’s largest clinical programs. Undergraduate pathways include the traditional BSN, accelerated BSN for non-nursing degree-holders, LVN-to-BSN, and RN-to-BSN. The prelicensure pathways have grown rapidly in recent years: LLU graduated over 150 new BSN-educated nurses during the 2014-15 academic year, with a solid NCLEX pass rate of 86%. The university also offers MSN tracks for aspiring CRNAs, nurse administrators, and nurse educators, in addition to DNP and nursing PhD programs.
#23: California State University, Los Angeles | Los Angeles, CA
Cal State LA’s MSN program consistently ranks among the best in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. The program has specialty tracks in nursing education and four NP fields. Existing MSN-holders can also pursue a graduate certificate in any specialty area. The school recently launched an innovative collaboration with the University of Michigan to attract underrepresented populations to their nursing and social work PhD programs. Cal State LA’s undergraduates have three options: traditional BSN, RN-to-BSN, and accelerated 15-month BSN (formerly the entry-level MSN program). Since 2008, traditional BSN students have enjoyed an NCLEX pass rate of 92%. Entry-level MSN students passed the exam at an impressive 96% rate, including several years with a perfect 100% score.
#24: San Diego State University | San Diego, CA
The SDSU School of Nursing combines classroom instruction with hands-on experience at several venues. Facilities include a media lab, a health assessment lab, a nursing fundamentals skills labs, and the Sharp Healthcare Human Patient Simulation Center. Undergraduates can pursue a traditional BSN degree or an RN-to-BSN completion program. SDSU graduates 150-250 traditional BSN students each year, with remarkably consistent NCLEX performance: each of the past eight classes has passed the licensure exam at an 88-93% rate. Graduate students can select one of three MSN concentrations: Advanced Practice Nursing of Adults & the Elderly, Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems, or Women’s Health & Midwifery.
#25: Westminster College | Salt Lake City, UT
Westminster College’s School of Nursing & Health Sciences accepts a class of 90 prelicensure BSN students each year. Since 2010, these students have maintained an impressive NCLEX pass rate of 92.4%. Popular BSN areas of study include community health, critical care, gerontology, leadership, medical / surgical care, obstetrics, pediatrics, and psychiatric care. The school also offers an RN-to-BSN completion program, master’s degrees for aspiring family nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, and an FNP graduate certificate. Westminster’s master of science in nurse anesthesia (MSNA) program is the only such curriculum in the Intermountain West region.
#26: Weber State University | Ogden, UT
Weber State University offers four pathways into the nursing profession: traditional ADN, LPN-to-ADN bridge, RN-to-BSN completion, and traditional MSN. Students in both ADN programs take the NCLEX-RN exam at the completion of their studies. The school produces 300-400 ADN graduates annually who have achieved an NCLEX-RN pass rate of 86% since 2010. Traditional ADN students may also take the NCLEX-PN exam at the end of year one; approximately 60-100 students choose to do so each year, with a near-perfect 99% pass rate since 2010. Weber State’s MSN program offers concentrations in nurse leader: executive, nurse leader: educator, and nurse practitioner. The school also awards post-MSN certificates in the first two areas.
#27: Washington State University | Spokane, WA
WSU College of Nursing has educated more than 8,000 nursing professionals since 1968. The school offers programs at five campuses in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, Walla Walla, and Yakima. Undergraduates may pursue a traditional BSN at three sites (Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Yakima) or a flexible RN-to-BSN program at all five. The college graduates approximately 250 prelicensure BSN students each year, with a solid 88% NCLEX pass rate since 2010. In graduate study, WSU offers three MSN tracks (nurse leader, nurse educator, individualized study), three DNP tracks (family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, population health nurse), and a nursing PhD program. All graduate programs support multiple entry points.
#28: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs | Colorado Springs, CO
UCCS’s Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing & Health Sciences is home to the #13 online MSN program in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. In fact, the school earned a perfect 100 score for its distance-learning student services and technology. The MSN program prepares students as primary care nurse practitioners, with two population foci: adult / gerontology and family. UCCS also offers an online DNP degree and four BSN pathways: traditional, accelerated, RN-to-BSN, and dual enrollment. The college graduates approximately 100 prelicensure BSN students each year, achieving an impressive NCLEX-RN pass rate of 92% since 2012.
#29: Seattle Pacific University | Seattle, WA
Seattle Pacific University’s School of Health Sciences has educated thousands of nursing graduates over the past eighty years. SPU students have access to clinical rotations at premier local institutions like Harborview Medical Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital. They can also engage in study abroad opportunities; past destinations have included Guatemala, Ireland, and Vietnam. The School of Health Sciences offers BSN and MSN programs, with both traditional and ADN entry options available for each. BSN students have enjoyed a solid NCLEX pass rate of 88% since 2010. MSN students can choose from three specialty pathways: clinical leadership in practice, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse practitioner (either adult / gerontology or family).
#30: Montana State University | Bozeman, MT
The Montana State University College of Nursing is the state’s largest supplier of baccalaureate-educated nurses. It is also the state’s sole provider of graduate nursing education. The college offers BSN, MSN, and DNP degree programs. BSN students can pursue a traditional, accelerated, or LPN-to-BSN pathway depending upon their educational background. Approximately 200 annual BSN graduates have maintained an 89% NCLEX pass rate since 2010, well above state and national averages. The MSN program prepares students for the CNL role with a focus on rural practice. The DNP curriculum offers two nurse practitioner specialty tracks.
The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs in the West region.