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 1,900 of the institutions surveyed were public, including community and technical colleges, four-year 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: 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 Maryland | Baltimore, MD
University of Maryland’s School of Nursing (UMSON) teaches nearly 1,700 nursing students each year. Indeed, the school is responsible for educating 40% of Maryland’s nursing workforce. UMSON is ranked #8 among graduate nursing schools by U.S. News & World Report and #21 in research funding by NIH. The school graduates 200-250 bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) students annually, and these students have passed the NCLEX exam at an impressive rate of 92% over the past five years. UMSON has 154 faculty members (136 of whom are full-time), engages with more than 300 preceptors, and offers students location access to four reputed medical centers and institutes.
#3: 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 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.
#4: University of Michigan | Ann Arbor, MI
University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) offers the #7 MSN program in the country according to U.S. News & World Report, with nursing administration, adult-gerontology, and nursing informatics specialties all ranked in the top ten nationally. BSN graduates from UMSN display exceptional NCLEX pass rates, as high as 97% in some recent quarters. In addition to a wide range of nursing courses, the school provides innovative opportunities like its Global Health Concentration. Students benefit from state-of-the-art clinical simulation labs and partnerships with some of the best preceptors in the country.
#5: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center | New Orleans, LA
The School of Nursing at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSU Health) offers a broad range of traditional BSN, MSN, and DNP degree programs. Non-traditional degrees are on the menu as well, including a registered nurse (RN)-to-BSN degree completion program and the Career Alternative RN Education (CARE) BSN. The CARE BSN is designed for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in another field. Recently named a Center of Excellence™ (COE) by the National League for Nursing (NLN), LSU Health produces approximately 175 BSN graduates annually who have posted outstanding NCLEX-RN pass rates of 95% or better for six consecutive years.
#6: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Chapel Hill, NC
The UNC School of Nursing was the first in the state to offer a four-year BSN, an MSN degree, a nurse practitioner program, and a PhD in nursing. The school, which also offers RN-to-BSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate programs, ranks #21 in the nation on two separate U.S. News & World Report lists (best MSN programs, best DNP programs). The traditional BSN program graduates a class of approximately 175 students annually, who have passed the NCLEX licensure exam at a rate of 95% or better in every year since 2010.
#7: East Carolina University | Greenville, NC
East Carolina University has garnered three consecutive designations as an NLN COE. The ECU College of Nursing offers traditional BSN, accelerated BSN (ABSN), and RN-to-BSN pathways, plus the innovative Eastern North Carolina Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses program. This initiative dually admits students to ECU and one of six local community colleges that partner with the university. The College of Nursing’s 250 annual BSN graduates consistently pass the NCLEX exam at a rate of 95% or better, including a phenomenal 98% pass rate during 2015. ECU also offers a breadth of graduate nursing options including MSN, DNP, and PhD programs.
#8: University of Massachusetts Medical School | Worcester, MA
UMass Medical School has been consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the leading medical schools in the nation for primary care education. UMMS’s graduate school of nursing, accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), offers master’s degrees, post-master’s certificates, and doctoral degrees. It stands out as the only publicly funded nursing school in the commonwealth with a sole focus on graduate education. It is no surprise, then, that their direct-entry MSN program has boasted an exceptional NCLEX pass rate of 97.6% over the past seven years.
#9: Ohio State University | Columbus, OH
Designated an NLN Center of Excellence™ in 2014, Ohio State’s College of Nursing has educated over 12,000 nurses since its inception. The college places a strong emphasis on research and patient-centered practice across its various program offerings. Ohio State’s online MSN is currently ranked #4 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Several of its offline programs have garnered top-30 rankings, including the traditional MSN, nursing-midwifery MSN, and DNP tracks. The school graduates 200-230 students annually from its four-year BSN program, with excellent first-time NCLEX pass rates of 93-96%.
#10: University of North Carolina at Greensboro | Greensboro, NC
The UNCG School of Nursing has earned three consecutive COE designations from the National League for Nursing. The school offers three undergraduate pathways: traditional four-year BSN, RN-to-BSN, and BSN as a second degree. UNCG graduates about 100 prelicensure BSN students annually, who have achieved a strong NCLEX exam pass rate of 92% over the past five years. The school’s online MSN program is ranked in the top 50 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. UNCG also offers a dual MSN / master of business administration (MBA) degree and very selective DNP and PhD programs.
The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs. Many of them are taught online.