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For our 2020 rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on over 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.

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#1: University of Virginia | Charlottesville, VA
The University of Virginia School of Nursing was recently ranked among the top four percent of nursing schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers an impressive breadth of program options including prelicensure BSN, RN-to-BSN, seven distinct MSN tracks, two DNP entry points, and a PhD in nursing science. UVA graduates a prelicensure BSN class of approximately 90 students each spring. These candidates have averaged an 89% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination over the past decade. UVA’s direct-entry clinical nurse leader students have performed even better on the licensure exam, with a 94% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. Several recent CNL cohorts have scored a perfect 100% pass rate.


#2: James Madison University | Harrisonburg, VA
The School of Nursing at James Madison University has a number of unique offerings for nursing students, including international study abroad opportunities in Costa Rica, Spain, Tanzania, and Malta. JMU offers a broad range of nursing programs, from traditional BSN and RN-to-BSN pathways to MSN and DNP degrees. A chronic illness minor is also available. Undergraduates have posted a 92% pass rate on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam over the past decade, including a stellar 97% pass rate in 2018. JMU’s graduate nursing students can pursue concentrations in clinical nurse leader, nurse administrator, nurse midwifery, and three nurse practitioner roles (adult-gerontology primary care, family, psychiatric-mental health).


#3: George Mason University | Fairfax, VA
George Mason’s College of Health and Human Services houses the forty-year-old School of Nursing. The school has produced so many successful graduates that one in three nurses practicing in the DC metropolitan area is a GMU alumnus. Baccalaureate pathways include traditional BSN, accelerated second degree BSN, RN-to-BSN, and two co-enrollment programs. Over the past decade, prelicensure BSN students have averaged an 86% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination. GMU also offers MSN concentrations for aspiring nurse educators, nurse practitioners, and nursing administrators; an RN-to-MSN bridge program; post-master’s certificates for aspiring nurse educators and family psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners; and both types of doctoral nursing degrees (DNP and PhD).


#4: Virginia Commonwealth University | Richmond, VA
The VCU School of Nursing boasts a state-of-the-art Clinical Learning Center with a skills lab and two intensive care simulation suites. The center was recognized in 2010 as a Laerdal Center of Educational Excellence. VCU also provides nursing students with 45,000 square feet of classrooms, auditoriums, and research laboratories. The university offers three BSN pathways (traditional, accelerated, RN completion), five MSN concentrations, and both doctoral nursing degrees (DNP and PhD). VCU graduates approximately 150 prelicensure BSN students each year, who have passed the NCLEX exam at an impressive 93% first-try rate over the past decade.


#5: Marymount University | Arlington, VA
The Malek School of Health Professions houses the Marymount University Department of Nursing. Each year, approximately 50 students graduate from the school’s traditional BSN program, while another 80-100 students complete the accelerated BSN program. Across these two pathways, graduates have passed the NCLEX-RN licensure exam at a strong 91% rate over the past decade. Marymount University also offers a hybrid online RN-to-BSN program, an MSN degree with a family nurse practitioner focus, and an online DNP program that requires just one on-campus component per semester. Clinical experiences and internships take place at some of Virginia’s leading healthcare organizations.


#6: Eastern Mennonite University | Harrisonburg, VA
Eastern Mennonite University offers both undergraduate and fully online graduate programs in nursing. The undergraduate BSN program offers six different pathways including a traditional four-year curriculum, an entry option for transfer students, two second degree pathways (traditional, accelerated), and two bridge programs (LPN-to-BSN, RN-to-BSN). The university graduates approximately forty prelicensure BSN students each year, with a solid 88% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. At the graduate level, EMU offers an MSN degree with two concentrations (leadership and management, leadership and school nursing), a school nurse certification program, an MSN/MBA dual degree, and a DNP program that prepares nursing professionals to lead within dynamic healthcare systems.


#7: Jefferson College of Health Sciences | Roanoke, VA
Jefferson College of Health Sciences was the oldest hospital-based college in Virginia and an academic pillar of Carilion Clinic. In 2019, Radford University incorporated the college into its own administration to create the new Radford University Carilion. Undergraduate students can select from two prelicensure programs (traditional and accelerated) and an online RN-to-BSN program. The traditional program follows a four-year curriculum, while the accelerated program is a 16-month track for students who hold a baccalaureate degree in a non-nursing discipline. Traditional BSN students have achieved a solid 87% NCLEX pass rate since the program’s launch, while accelerated BSN students have posted an excellent 93% NCLEX pass rate. Graduate nursing students can pursue an MSN degree with family nurse practitioner and nursing administration tracks.


#8: Radford University | Radford, VA
Radford University School of Nursing has an average enrollment of over 600 students. Approximately 300 are in the lower division, 280 are in the upper division, and more than 50 are in the doctoral program. The school offers a traditional BSN degree in two locations (Radford and Roanoke), a 100% online RN-to-BSN program, and DNP concentrations in family nurse practitioner, nurse executive leadership, and psychiatric-mental health. BSN graduates perform exceedingly well on the licensure exam: the main Radford campus posted a perfect 100% NCLEX pass rate in 2018, while Roanoke students passed the exam at a stellar 96% rate. The university’s DNP program is specifically tailored towards rural care scenarios.


#9: Old Dominion University | Virginia Beach, VA
The School of Nursing is the largest of five professional schools in ODU’s College of Health Sciences. In addition to BSN, MSN, DNP, and graduate certificate programs, the school offers a unique concurrent enrollment option. This pathway enables qualified students to complete associate of applied science (AAS) requirements, take the NCLEX-RN exam, and then earn the BSN degree with just one or two additional semesters of study. ODU’s prelicensure BSN graduates have consistently earned high marks on the NCLEX-RN exam, with 90% passing on the first attempt over the last decade.


#10: Shenandoah University | Winchester, VA
Shenandoah University’s Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing recently launched a unique volunteer opportunity called Project FIRST (Free Individual Risk Factor Screening & Treatment). The project serves uninsured and underserved members of several local counties, targeting individuals at risk of developing or living with chronic diseases. The university offers a breadth of nursing pathways including a traditional BSN, an accelerated BSN, an RN-to-BSN completion program, a Veteran-to-BSN bridge program, four MSN specializations, the corresponding post-graduate certificates, and a DNP curriculum with both BSN and MSN entry points. Across its two campuses in Winchester and Ashburn, Shenandoah University produces 100-150 prelicensure BSN graduates annually. For seven consecutive years, these students have achieved an NCLEX-RN first-time pass rate between 84% and 90%.


#11: Sentara College of Health Sciences | Chesapeake, VA
Sentara College of Health Sciences offers a master’s entry to nursing practice (MENP) pathway, one of only two such programs in the state of Virginia that allow students with a non-nursing baccalaureate degree to enter nursing practice at the master’s degree level. The college also offers two pathways to the BSN degree: a traditional prelicensure program and an RN-to-BSN degree completion program. Since its launch in 2009, the traditional BSN has an excellent track record of student success. Graduates have scored a stellar 94% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam, including a perfect 100% pass rate in 2018. The 30-credit-hour RN-to-BSN program opened in 2010 and has a current enrollment of around 300 students.


#12: Liberty University | Lynchburg, VA
The Liberty University School of Nursing offers degree programs at all levels. Undergraduate options include a residential BSN for individuals with no nursing experience and two online pathways for working nurses (RN-to-BSN, RN-to-BSN-to-MSN). Approximately 150 students graduate annually from the residential BSN program, and they have achieved an excellent 91% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. Graduate students can pursue three MSN specializations (nursing administration, nurse educator, nursing informatics), two dual degree options (MBA, MSHA), and two nurse practitioner roles in the DNP program (family, psychiatric-mental health). Liberty University also leads a summer nurse camp for high school students where attendees learn basic nursing skills, obtain CPR certification, and participate in team-building activities.


#13: Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing | Richmond, VA
Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing is a private nursing school affiliated with the Catholic, not-for-profit Bon Secours Health System. The college offers two pathways to a BSN degree: a traditional prelicensure program and an RN-to-BSN degree completion program. Traditional BSN students are required to fulfill general education requirements prior to entry, enabling them to complete the core nursing curriculum in just five semesters. Graduates of the traditional pathway have posted a phenomenal 98% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam since the program’s inception. They also enjoyed a 94% job placement rate and a 97% retention rate during the 2017-2018 academic year. The RN-to-BSN pathway is designed for working professionals and delivered 100% online for maximum flexibility. Most students take two courses per semester and complete the program in two years; others take just one class at a time and complete the program in four years.


#14: University of Lynchburg | Lynchburg, VA
University of Lynchburg was founded in 1903 as Virginia Christian College, with an initial enrollment of 55 students. Today the school serves approximately 3,000 students representing 38 states and 15 foreign countries. The School of Nursing offers two prelicensure pathways: a traditional undergraduate major and an accelerated second degree for individuals with a non-nursing baccalaureate. The BSN curriculum builds upon the university’s liberal arts foundation with nursing coursework and clinical experiences in a range of healthcare settings. Across both pathways, University of Lynchburg graduates approximately 40-50 BSN students annually. These graduates have averaged an 88% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination over the past decade, including a stellar 98% first-time pass rate in 2018.


#15: University of Mary Washington | Fredericksburg, VA
The University of Mary Washington was founded in 1908 as Fredericksburg’s State Normal and Industrial School for Women. Today the school serves a coed population of 4,400 students across more than sixty majors and programs of study. The nursing program is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. The university offers two nursing pathways: an RN-to-BSN completion program conducted both online and on-campus, and a unique 1+2+1 dual degree plan. Dual degree students attend both the University of Mary Washington and Germanna Community College for the first three years; during senior year, students attend only UMW. This competitive program accepts just 15-18 students each fall.


#16: Longwood University | Farmville, VA
Founded in 1839 as Farmville Female Seminary Association, Longwood University is the third-oldest public university in Virginia and one of the 100 oldest institutions of higher learning in America. Longwood University offers nursing students two pathways to the BSN degree: a traditional prelicensure program and an RN-to-BSN completion program. The school blends classroom theory, applied simulations, and hands-on clinical experiences to immerse its students in the real world of healthcare. Community and service-learning experiences are woven throughout the programs. The traditional prelicensure program graduates a close-knit cohort of 25-40 students annually. These students have averaged a 90% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam since the program’s inception. Each of the past three graduating classes has scored a perfect 100% first-time NCLEX pass rate.


#17: Centra College of Nursing | Lynchburg, VA
Centra Health was the first health system in central Virginia to achieve Magnet designation for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The designation was first conferred in 2005 and reaffirmed in 2010 and 2015. Housed within this system is Centra College of Nursing. The college offers four educational programs: a nurse aide certificate, a practical nursing certificate, an associate’s degree in nursing, and an RN-to-BSN completion pathway. All programs emphasize patient-centered care, collaboration within the medical team, and healthcare delivery in the fast-paced modern environment. The LPN program typically graduates 20-40 students annually, with an 88% NCLEX-PN pass rate over the past decade. The ADN program graduates 30-80 students annually, with a similarly strong 86% NCLEX-RN pass rate over the past decade.


#18: Riverside College of Health Careers | Newport News, VA
Riverside College of Health Careers offers an AAS degree in professional nursing and a diploma in licensed practical nursing. Both programs feature a traditional day division as well as an evening / weekend division for working students. Through Riverside Medical Group, the school boasts close affiliations with a vast network of hospitals, primary care practices, women’s health practices, and retirement communities. Riverside students perform very well on their licensure tests: over the past decade, the school has posted a 91% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-RN exam and an 88% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-PN exam. Recent graduates of the professional nursing program have also enjoyed a 92% or higher job placement rate in the field. Riverside’s concurrent enrollment program with Old Dominion University provides an additional pathway for aspiring RNs who seek a baccalaureate nursing degree.


#19: Chamberlain University | Arlington, VA
Chamberlain University’s Arlington campus offers a prelicensure BSN program with no prerequisites that may be completed in just three years of fulltime study. The university also offers a unique military-to-BSN pathway for students who wish to transition from a military healthcare role to a civilian registered nursing role. Students receive hands-on experience in the Chamberlain SIMCARE Center as well as clinical settings, allowing them to refine their nursing skills while working alongside faculty, mentors, experienced nurses, and peers. More than 100 students graduate from the Arlington prelicensure BSN program each year. These students have averaged an 81% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination since the program’s launch earlier this decade.


#20: Southside College of Health Sciences | Colonial Heights, VA
Southside College of Health Sciences traces back its roots in nursing education nearly 125 years. Today the college offers a prelicensure associate’s degree program in professional nursing. Coursework covers nursing theory, the physical and social sciences, and the role of the nurse as provider and manager of care. The program also incorporates cutting-edge instructional technologies to prepare students for positions in the most advanced healthcare settings, including community agencies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and physicians’ offices. The college typically graduates between thirty and sixty new nurses annually. Over the past decade, these graduates have averaged a 90% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination, including a perfect 100% pass rate in 2016.


#21: Hampton University | Hampton, VA
Hampton University is one of the country’s top historically black universities, with students representing 49 states and 35 territories and nations. The School of Nursing is home to the first baccalaureate and oldest continuous nursing program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Undergraduates can pursue several BSN pathways including traditional prelicensure, accelerated second degree, LPN-to-BSN bridge, and RN-to-BSN degree completion. Students in the school’s prelicensure pathways have scored a 92% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination over the past three years. Graduate nursing students can pursue an MSN, DNP, or PhD degree. The DNP program is delivered in a 100% online platform with three campus residency sessions.


#22: Randolph-Macon College | Ashland, VA
Randolph-Macon College serves 1,500 students across more than fifty areas of study, including nursing. The college’s prelicensure BSN program offers direct entry as a freshman. Students receive career support through the EDGE program, which offers nurse externship and residency opportunities. The nursing program also boasts a cutting-edge clinical learning center with simulation, health assessment, and skills learning labs. Nursing clinical experiences take place in some of the most reputable healthcare systems in the country. Graduates are prepared to assume the responsibilities of a registered nurse upon successful completion of the NCLEX-RN national licensure examination.


#23: Mary Baldwin University | Staunton, VA
Mary Baldwin University was the first college in Virginia to create a program for adult learners to earn their degrees later in life. The school also established one of the first dozen doctoral programs of occupational therapy in the nation. The university’s School of Nursing is part of Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences. Programs are designed to meet the needs of working nurses, with a curriculum delivered 100% online at a flexible pace. Students can pursue an RN-to-BSN completion pathway, a traditional post-baccalaureate MSN, or an accelerated RN-to-BSN-to-MSN track. The MSN degree offers three concentration options: patient safety and healthcare quality, master of healthcare administration (MHA) dual degree, and master of business administration (MBA) dual degree.


#24: Averett University | Danville, VA
Founded 160 years ago as a Baptist women’s college, Averett University now serves a coed population of nearly 1,500 students from 34 states and 20 countries. The School of Nursing offers a traditional prelicensure BSN program, an MSN degree for aspiring family nurse practitioners, and a post-master’s certificate for aspiring emergency nurse practitioners. The university also conducts an online RN-to-BSN program for working nurse professionals through its Graduate and Professional Studies division. Averett’s state-of-the-art simulation lab allows students to practice physical and communication skills in a realistic work environment. Graduates of the traditional BSN pathway have achieved an 86% NCLEX pass rate since the program’s recent launch, including a perfect 100% pass rate for the class of 2018.


#25: Bluefield College | Bluefield, VA
Bluefield College is a small Christian liberal arts institution. The school’s 1,000-person student body is enrolled in more than forty academic programs from art to youth ministry. The School of Nursing offers several options for registered nurses to expand their education and credentials. At the undergraduate level, Bluefield College has an online RN-to-BSN completion program. Clinicals are completed in the student’s local community and may include hospitals, hospice agencies, and home health agencies. Graduate students can pursue an MSN degree with a concentration in either family nurse practitioner or leadership / education. The college also offers a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner certificate. The MSN curriculum is delivered in a hybrid format, with practicums at sites that care for the rural poor.


#26: Henrico County / St. Mary’s Hospital School of Practical Nursing | Henrico, VA
The Henrico County / St. Mary’s Hospital School of Practical Nursing prepares LPNs to provide safe, effective, and culturally competent nursing care across the lifespan. The 18-month program consists of two sections. Practical Nursing I covers anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and the foundations of nursing. Practical Nursing II covers adult care, family care, mental health care, and nursing leadership. Students in the program enjoy consistently excellent outcomes. Over the past decade, graduates have averaged a 95% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam, including a perfect 100% pass rate in 2018. The job placement rate for graduates has also held steady at 100% since 2015.


#27: University of Virginia’s College at Wise | Wise, VA
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise opened in 1954 on farm property with 109 fulltime students. Two-thirds of those students were Korean War veterans. Today the institution serves more than 2,000 students across 31 majors, 36 minors, and 17 teaching licensures. The College at Wise offers a prelicensure BSN curriculum that requires four years of fulltime study. Students first complete a 64-credit-hour liberal arts and pre-nursing core, followed by formal admission to the 66-credit-hour nursing program. The college graduates a small cohort of approximately twenty BSN students annually. Over the past decade, these students have averaged an 86% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-RN national licensure examination.


#28: Northern Virginia Community College | Springfield, VA
Northern Virginia Community College is one of 23 colleges within the Virginia Community College System. The college offers both a one-year practical nursing certificate and a two-year associate’s degree in nursing. Nursing students enjoy access to a dedicated nursing lab and a state-of-the-art simulation lab. The practical nursing program graduates 15-20 students annually. LPN graduates have scored a stellar 93% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-PN licensure exam since the program’s launch. The associate’s degree program graduates approximately 150 students annually. ADN graduates hold an impressive 88% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam over the past decade.


#29: ECPI University | Five Virginia campuses
ECPI University graduates more new nurses each year than any other Virginia school. The university’s College of Nursing offers an LPN certificate and an associate’s degree in nursing at five convenient Virginia locations: Newport News, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach. The Newport News campus also conducts an online RN-to-BSN degree completion program. Across its Virginia campuses, ECPI University graduates approximately 300 LPN candidates and 300 ADN candidates annually. These students have posted an 82.4% NCLEX-PN pass rate and an 82.1% NCLEX-RN pass rate, respectively, over the past decade. Graduates from the class of 2018 posted even stronger pass rates: 91.5% on the NCLEX-PN exam and 87.0% on the NCLEX-RN exam.


#30: Virginia Beach School of Practical Nursing | Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach School of Practical Nursing offers an 18-month LPN curriculum that provides students the opportunity to earn CNA certification after the first nine months. Students learn in the school’s state-of-the-art laboratory and conduct clinical experiences at local hospitals. The highly competitive program graduates a small cohort of 12-15 students annually. Over the past decade, these graduates have scored an amazing 97% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-PN licensure examination, including six consecutive years with a perfect pass rate.