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. Approximately 1,300 of the institutions surveyed were private, including vocational and career schools, liberal arts colleges, and universities. 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 National League for Nursing (NLN) has twice designated Duke University a Center of Excellence™ (COE): in 2013 for promoting the pedagogical expertise of faculty, and in 2015 for enhancing student learning and professional development. The School of Nursing ranks #4 in the nation among U.S. News & World Report’s top master of science in nursing programs, and it was the first school in North Carolina to offer the doctor of nursing practice degree. Duke also graduates 130-150 students each year from its accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program, who consistently enjoy stellar pass rates of 97% or better on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
#2: Johns Hopkins University | Baltimore, MD
The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is ranked #1 among graduate nursing programs and #6 among online nursing programs by U.S. News & World Report. It also holds a COE designation from the National League for Nursing. The school educates ~1,200 diverse students each year: 500 full-time and 700 part-time, 500 graduate and 700 undergraduate. JHU’s bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) students score excellent NCLEX pass rates of 90-96% each year. The school also offers a master of science in nursing (MSN), doctor of nursing practice (DNP), doctor of philosophy (PhD) in nursing, and several graduate certificates.
#3: University of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia, PA
The MSN program at Penn’s School of Nursing is ranked #2 in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and four of its nurse practitioner (NP) specialty tracks are ranked #1 in their respective categories. The school enrolls approximately 600 students across its undergraduate and graduate programs, and Penn is in the top tier of research-funded institutions according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Graduates of the BSN program have passed the NCLEX exam at a 91.7% rate over the past seven years. Students also benefit from 41 full-time faculty and two world-class hospitals in their backyard.
#4: New York University | New York, NY
NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing holds the #2 ranking from U.S. News & World Report for its NP gerontology program, the #8 ranking for NIH nursing research funding, and an NLN Center of Excellence™ designation. In its flagship BSN program, NYU graduates approximately 400 students each year who have passed the NCLEX exam at an 87% rate since 2010. With a strong focus on research, NYU also offers an MSN degree, post-master's advanced certificate programs, a DNP, and a PhD in Research Theory and Development.
#5: Rush University | Chicago, IL
Since its inception, well over 7,000 baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral students have graduated from Rush University’s College of Nursing. The college currently maintains a graduate enrollment of approximately 1,000, of whom 350 are full-time students. Rush’s direct-entry MSN students have passed the NCLEX exam at an exemplary rate of 97% over the past five years. The Rush University Medical Center provides a rich environment where students of nursing, medicine, and allied health sciences learn in an interdisciplinary and dynamic setting.
#6: Emory University | Atlanta, GA
The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University is home to nearly 550 students enrolled in BSN, accelerated BSN (ABSN), MSN, PhD, and DNP programs. The university is ranked #8 overall in graduate nursing by U.S. News & World Report, with three top-20 specialty programs. At the undergraduate level, Emory produces 150-plus BSN graduates annually who have passed the NCLEX-RN examination at an 88% overall rate since 2008. The nursing school has an impressive 82% employment rate immediately after graduation, and students have landed positions at more than 500 diverse clinical sites nationwide.
#7: Thomas Jefferson University | Philadelphia, PA
Jefferson College of Nursing enrolls almost 1,000 students across its nursing programs. Its 250 annual BSN graduates have achieved an admirable NCLEX pass rate of 90.2% over the past seven years. The school also has an extensive range of programs for graduate students, with many MSN specializations and doctoral programs. Students benefit from access to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, one of the top-ranked hospitals nationwide. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) recently recognized Jefferson for its quality patient care, nursing excellence, and innovations in professional nursing.
#8: Villanova University | Villanova, PA
Drawing on its Christian beliefs and values, Villanova University has provided nursing education for over sixty years. The nursing college currently has 716 students enrolled in its undergraduate program, and BSN graduates achieve a steady 85-90% pass rate on the NCLEX exam each year. Another 297 students are enrolled across Villanova’s MSN, DNP, and PhD programs. Twice designated a Center of Excellence™ by the NLN, the college boasts 7,000 alumni, 55% of whom live in the tristate area. The college also has 49 full-time and 40 part-time faculty, 82% of whom hold doctoral degrees.
#9: Vanderbilt University | Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) focuses solely on graduate nursing study. The university offers traditional and direct-entry MSN programs, 13 distinct post-master’s certificates for aspiring advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and two doctoral options (DNP, PhD). The direct-entry MSN program graduates ~150 new nurses annually who have passed the NCLEX exam at a 93% first-try rate since 2009. Vanderbilt’s APRN specialties run the gamut from family nurse practitioner (FNP) to nurse midwifery to nursing informatics. The MSN program also partners with Vanderbilt Divinity School to offer two innovative dual degrees.
#10: Georgetown University | Washington, DC
Georgetown University has educated more than 8,000 nurses since its nursing program was founded in 1903. The School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS) provides nursing education across two academic departments: the Department of Advanced Nursing Practice houses several MSN specialties, and the Department of Professional Nursing Practice leads the BSN, clinical nurse leader (CNL), and DNP programs. The school’s BSN students have a remarkable 97% NCLEX exam pass rate over the past eight academic years. Students at NHS further benefit from state-of-the-art facilities like the O'Neill Family Foundation Clinical Simulation Center and the Discovery Center.
The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs. Many of them are taught online.