Pittsburgh is home to a number of reputable nursing programs. These include traditional four-year institutions like Chatham University, University of Pittsburgh, and La Roche University, as well as specialized schools of nursing at institutions like UPMC St. Margaret, Heritage Valley Kennedy, and West Penn Hospital. With a plethora of options, the city’s prospective nursing students can be assured of a high-quality, hands-on nursing education.

There are three distinct pathways to enter the nursing profession. Fresh entrants to the industry can pursue a brief certificate program that prepares them for licensure as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). An alternate, lengthier path into the nursing profession is as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). To become an LPN, candidates must complete a 12- to 18-month certificate program and pass the NCLEX-PN, a national licensure examination. LPNs can earn up to $46,000 annually in Pittsburgh, about 50% more than CNAs.

The third and most rigorous path into the nursing profession is as a registered nurse (RN). RNs administer many healthcare activities independently and often supervise LPNs and CNAs. Aspiring RNs typically complete either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). RNs are well compensated in Pittsburgh, earning a median annual salary of around $60,000.


For our 2024 rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on nearly 3,000 nursing schools and campuses throughout the United States. 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 licensure examination

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. #1: University of Pittsburgh

    Pitt Nursing earns high marks from U.S. News & World Report for both its master’s and doctoral programs. Pitt is also consistently ranked among the top five nursing schools nationwide in research funding from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to its graduate offerings, the school teaches traditional and accelerated bachelor’s degree programs, and its BSN students have passed the NCLEX exam at a 90% first-try rate over the past decade. Pitt Nursing has approximately 100 fulltime faculty, 98% of whom hold doctoral degrees. The School of Nursing was recently ranked among the top twenty globally by QS World University Rankings.

  2. #2: Duquesne University

    The School of Nursing at Duquesne University is recognized for creating Pennsylvania’s first BSN program in 1937 and the nation’s first online nursing PhD program in 1997. Duquesne has been designated an NLN Center of Excellence four consecutive times since 2008. In addition to its flagship BSN program, the university offers undergraduates an innovative five-year dual degree program in biomedical engineering and nursing. Duquesne’s BSN graduates have maintained a 91% first-time NCLEX pass rate over the past decade, including a 95.5% pass rate for the most recent graduating cohort. The School of Nursing also provides graduate programs at the master’s, post-master’s certificate, and doctoral levels, including both DNP and PhD options.

  3. #3: Robert Morris University

    Robert Morris University’s Department of Nursing educates several hundred students annually. The school’s BSN graduates consistently pass the NCLEX licensure examination at an impressive rate. In fact, the NCLEX pass rate for first-time test takers has exceeded 90% in six of the past seven academic years. RMU’s doctoral nursing graduates also perform extremely well on standardized tests, with a 96% pass rate on the nurse practitioner certification exam in one recent year. Students enjoy a low 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio in clinical settings. Over 50% of undergraduates take advantage of the school’s well-established study abroad options.

  4. #4: Carlow University

    Founded in 1948, the Department of Nursing at Carlow University prides itself on innovation, integrating art and science with a high-touch and high-tech approach. The school offers a range of undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs including a dual-degree MSN-MBA option. Carlow’s BSN students have maintained an NCLEX pass rate of 92% over the past decade. In fact, in two of the last four years, 100% of the Department of Nursing’s BSN graduates passed the NCLEX exam on their first attempt.

  5. #5: Chatham University

    Chatham University offers RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP programs in nursing. The RN-to-BSN option is designed for practicing RNs and offered online through the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. Chatham’s graduate nursing program includes specialty tracks in education and leadership / management. The school redesigned its online MSN program in 2013; modeled after the DNP program, it offers three tracks: leadership, education, and informatics. In 2015 the school introduced its first international track in the MSN program and had 21 Chinese nurses learning at Chatham.

  6. #6: Saint Vincent College

    Saint Vincent College offers two innovative and collaborative programs in the nursing arena. At the undergraduate level, the college has partnered with Carlow University to deliver the Carlow BSN program on the Saint Vincent campus. Students complete all coursework in Latrobe, beginning clinical nursing courses during their sophomore year. Clinical rotations take place at a variety of regional sites, including nearby Excela Health locations and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. At the graduate level, Saint Vincent College teams up with Excela Health to deliver a nurse anesthesia program. The Excela Health School of Anesthesia recently transitioned this offering from a 27.5-month Master of Health Science in Nurse Anesthesia to a 36-month Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice.

  7. #7: La Roche University

    La Roche University offers several educational pathways through its Nursing Department. At the undergraduate level, La Roche conducts online RN-to-BSN and RN-to-MSN degree completion programs. A school nurse certificate is also available for BSN-prepared RNs or those who are currently enrolled in La Roche’s RN-to-BSN program. At the graduate level, the university recently launched an entry-level MSN program, which provides an accelerated path to RN licensure for students who already hold a baccalaureate degree in a non-nursing field. La Roche’s MSN program has specialty tracks in nursing administration, nursing education, and clinical nurse leader. Graduate students can also pursue a post-master’s certificate in any of these fields.

  8. #8: UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing

    Since graduating its first class in 1887, UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing has educated more than 4,000 men and women. The school has been recognized as an NLN Center of Excellence multiple times for its diploma program in registered nursing. Typically 100-200 students graduate from the program each spring, posting solid NCLEX pass rates as high as 97% in recent years. UPMC Shadyside maintains an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio in most clinical courses, and the school offers both parttime and fulltime study options. Over the past several years, graduates from UPMC Shadyside have achieved close to a 90% job placement rate.

  9. #9: United Career Institute

    United Career Institute has served students and employers in southwestern Pennsylvania for more than thirty years. The school offers a direct-admittance LPN program that may be completed in just twelve months at campuses in Mount Braddock and Irwin. The curriculum prepares graduates to take the NCLEX-PN licensure examination and to work in a wide range of healthcare environments, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, nursing homes, and community or home health agencies. Over the past decade, approximately 200 LPN graduates have taken the NCLEX exam with a stellar 96% first-time pass rate. In fact, the past six cohorts each scored a perfect 100% NCLEX pass rate. United Career Institute offers a dozen partial scholarships, covering up to 15% of tuition for qualified applicants. Alumni are also eligible to receive brush-up training to upgrade their skills at no cost.

  10. #10: West Penn Hospital School of Nursing

    West Penn Hospital School of Nursing is an institution of many firsts. It was the first nursing school in the nation to admit male students, and one of the first to receive accreditation from the National League for Nursing. More recently, West Penn Hospital was the first hospital in western Pennsylvania to receive Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a recognition achieved by only 6% of healthcare facilities nationwide. The School of Nursing has graduated nearly 6,000 students over its storied history. The school’s RN diploma program consists of 435 theory hours and 945 clinical hours. Clinical experiences take place in a variety of settings including emergency departments, a long-term mental health facility, and several community treatment centers. The school graduates 35-50 newly minted nurses each year. Over the past decade, these graduates have averaged an 89% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination.

  11. #11: California University of Pennsylvania

    California University of Pennsylvania has tailored a number of educational programs to help nurses achieve their goals. For RNs with an ADN or a diploma, Cal U offers a 100% online RN-to-BSN program that transfer students can complete in three terms full-time or four terms part-time. RNs seeking an MSN degree may choose from a nursing administration and leadership track, a nursing education track, and a 54-credit MSN/MBA dual degree. A 24-credit MBA in nursing is also available for nurses who already hold an MSN in nursing administration. For students with no prior nursing education or experience, Cal U offers educational partnerships with Community College of Allegheny County, Heritage Valley Kennedy School of Nursing, and Washington Health System School of Nursing.

  12. #12: UPMC Mercy Hospital School of Nursing

    Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893, UPMC Mercy Hospital School of Nursing has graduated more than 6,000 nurses since its inception. The school’s sponsor, UPMC Mercy, is Pittsburgh’s only faith-based healthcare provider. The school offers a hospital-based registered nursing diploma, with patient interactions starting as early as the first week of the program. Students gain an extensive range of clinical experiences at UPMC Mercy, which holds designations as a Level I Regional Resource Trauma Center and a Primary Stroke Center. Graduates have performed very strongly on their licensure exams, with a first-time NCLEX pass rate as high as 93% in recent years. They have also secured employment in the field, with a typical job placement rate of approximately 90%.

  13. #13: Slippery Rock University

    Slippery Rock University is home to one of the earliest online nursing programs in a traditional, regionally accredited university. The school’s Department of Nursing offers an RN-to-BSN program that consists of 39 credits across nine mandatory nursing courses, two nursing electives, and two support courses (Statistics for the Social Sciences and Medical Health Care Ethics). Two flexible eight-week sessions per semester enable full-time RNs to focus on one course at a time. Part-time RNs may accelerate the program by taking three or more courses per semester. Graduates of the Slippery Rock RN-to-BSN program enjoy a 100% job placement rate, with 86% of graduates employed full-time in nursing and 14% employed part-time.

  14. #14: Seton Hill University

    Seton Hill University is a Catholic liberal arts institution that offers more than 100 degree programs, minors, and certificates across five schools. Launched in 2019, the Daniel J. Wukich School of Nursing offers a BSN program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The program provides two pathways: a traditional prelicensure BSN and an RN-to-BSN completion option. Graduates boast a 98% placement rate in either employment or graduate school. Clinical experiences take place in highly regarded local healthcare institutions including Allegheny Health Network, Excela Health, Uniontown Hospital, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The school also offers on-campus clinical experiences in its state-of-the-art Boyle Health Sciences Center.

  15. #15: Washington Health System School of Nursing

    Washington Health System School of Nursing was founded in 1897 and proudly claims over 4,000 alumni. The school currently provides a diploma program that requires 16 months for nursing coursework, or 20 months including prerequisites. The school also plans to relaunch a 12-month LPN-to-RN bridge program in the upcoming year. Washington Health System School of Nursing is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and fully approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. The school graduates a tight-knit cohort of 25-40 students annually. These RN candidates have averaged a 94% first-time NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. The diploma program also routinely boasts a 70-80% on-time graduation rate.

  16. #16: Citizens School of Nursing

    Citizens School of Nursing is sponsored by Allegheny Valley Hospital, part of the Allegheny Health Network. The school conducts a two-year diploma program over five semesters that include 435 theory hours and 945 clinical hours. The curriculum includes eight elective courses in the natural sciences, humanities, and nursing that may be completed at either Penn State University or Westmoreland County Community College. Citizens School of Nursing is known for its low student-to-teacher ratio and its spacious facilities at a convenient new location in the Pittsburgh Mills mall. The diploma program typically graduates 60-90 RN candidates annually. Over the past decade, these students have achieved an 87% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination.

  17. #17: UPMC St. Margaret School of Nursing

    UPMC St. Margaret School of Nursing has prepared nurses to serve in northeastern Allegheny County for more than a century. UPMC St. Margaret is a community-based teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. The hospital provides evidence-based care for more than fifty municipalities in the surrounding area. The School of Nursing conducts a 16-month diploma program with impressive student outcomes. Graduates have achieved an 86% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam over the past decade. They can also take advantage of UPMC St. Margaret’s partnership with Chatham University to transition seamlessly into the university’s RN-to-BSN degree completion program.

  18. #18: Heritage Valley Kennedy School of Nursing

    Heritage Valley Kennedy School of Nursing began offering a three-year nursing diploma in 1901. Today the school’s RN diploma program takes as little as 20 months of fulltime study to complete. The program offers a strong clinical component through the school’s affiliation with Heritage Valley Health System. Class sizes are small with individualized instruction; indeed, each cohort is typically just 15-25 students. Graduates have achieved a strong 89% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam over the past decade. The classes of 2018 and 2019 each scored a perfect 100% NCLEX pass rate. Graduates from Heritage Valley Kennedy School of Nursing can transfer into a baccalaureate degree program at several local colleges and universities, including a seamless transition with California University of Pennsylvania to complete the BSN curriculum in just 12 months.

  19. #19: Butler County Community College

    Butler County Community College is a regional post-secondary institution with six locations, 35 career programs, and 22 certificate programs in areas ranging from business to STEM. A long-standing partnership with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education allows students in twelve associate degree programs to transfer to any state college or university with junior standing. The Shaffer School of Nursing and Allied Health conducts a fully accredited ADN program that takes two years to complete. A three-year option is available for recent high school graduates and individuals with fewer than 12 earned college credits. Coursework covers essential topics like microbiology, pharmacology, and nursing fundamentals. BC3’s ADN program prepares 40-60 students annually for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam, with impressive results: Over the past decade, these graduates have averaged a 90% first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate. Butler County Community College also recently launched a three-semester practical nursing certificate that prepares students to provide direct patient care and to function as effective healthcare team members. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-PN licensure examination and, upon successful completion, to seek employment in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other community-based healthcare settings.

  20. #20: Lenape Technical School

    Lenape Technical School was the first comprehensive career and technical center in the state of Pennsylvania. The school offers training in sixteen vocational areas including practical nursing. LPN students can complete the program’s 1,554 clock hours on either a fulltime or a part-time basis. The curriculum progresses through four distinct levels of coursework, preparing students to sit for the NCLEX-PN national licensure examination. Lenape Technical School graduates between sixty and ninety LPN candidates annually. Over the past decade, these students have averaged a 90% first-time NCLEX pass rate. Successful graduates can assume entry-level nursing positions in a range of healthcare settings including physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient facilities, home health agencies, long-term care facilities, and schools.