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For our 2019 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 Washington | Seattle, WA
The University of Washington School of Nursing has been a top-rated nursing school by U.S. News & World Report for twenty years. UW offers the full breadth of nursing degrees: traditional and accelerated BSN programs, an MS in clinical informatics and patient-centered technologies, a PhD in nursing science, and 11 DNP tracks. Students can also pursue graduate certificates in areas ranging from palliative care to nurse-midwifery. UW’s graduating BSN class of 130-150 students annually has passed the NCLEX exam at a strong 93% first-try rate over the past decade.


#2: Washington State University | Spokane, WA
The 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 over the past decade. In graduate study, WSU offers two MSN tracks (nurse leader, nurse educator), 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.


#3: Gonzaga University | Spokane, WA
Gonzaga University’s School of Nursing & Human Physiology offers a variety of baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs. Undergraduates can pursue a traditional prelicensure BSN. Admission occurs during freshman year and is highly competitive. Not surprisingly, BSN students perform exceptionally well on the NCLEX licensure exam, posting a 91% first-time pass rate over the past decade. Gonzaga’s MSN program is offered entirely online, featuring three entry points (traditional, post-ADN, second master’s) and three specialty tracks (health systems leadership, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner). The university offers two doctoral nursing programs: a doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP) ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News & World Report, and an online DNP.


#4: Pacific Lutheran University | Tacoma, WA
The School of Nursing at Pacific Lutheran University offers a top-tier MSN program with several entry points and specializations. Entry points include the traditional post-BSN program, an RN-to-MSN pathway for nurses with a bachelor’s degree in another field, and an entry-level program for non-nurses. Students can specialize as either an advanced generalist or a clinical nurse leader. The entry-level MSN program is select, admitting just 20-30 candidates each year, and its students have maintained an exceptional 96% NCLEX exam pass rate over the past decade. The School of Nursing also offers two BSN pathways – traditional and LPN bridge – as well as a DNP program that prepares aspiring family nurse practitioners and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners. Approximately 80 BSN graduates annually have averaged a 93% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade.


#5: 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 a traditional upper-division nursing major, an MSN program, and a recently launched DNP program. Undergraduates have enjoyed a solid NCLEX pass rate of 88% over the past decade. MSN students can choose from two specialty pathways (clinical leadership in practice, nurse educator), and DNP students can choose from three specialty pathways (clinical nurse specialist, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner).


#6: University of Washington Tacoma | Tacoma, WA
UW Tacoma has two programs for aspiring nurses: an RN-to-BSN offering and an MSN degree. The RN-to-BSN curriculum supports registered nurses in their professional development with a broad range of relevant coursework. Popular courses include Clinical Nursing Phenomena; Diversity, Health, & Inequities; Ethical Issues in Healthcare; and Genetics, Genomics, & Nursing Practice. The MSN program has two curriculum options: leader in healthcare delivery and nurse educator. This 47-credit-hour program may be completed in just seven quarters, which includes two quarters of fieldwork.


#7: Seattle University | Seattle, WA
The Seattle University College of Nursing offers a unique nursing curriculum that combines local and international nursing education. Students may take single academic courses abroad or enroll in a short- or long-term study abroad experience. Locations run the gamut from South America to Africa to Australia. The college offers a four-year BSN program as well as traditional and non-nurse immersion pathways to a DNP degree. Prelicensure students perform well on the NCLEX exam: over the past decade, 88% of BSN students and 94% of graduate immersion students passed the exam on their first attempt. Graduate students can choose from several nurse practitioner specializations, nurse midwifery, or advanced community public health nursing.


#8: University of Washington Bothell | Bothell, WA
The School of Nursing & Health Studies at the University of Washington Bothell offers both BSN and master of nursing (MN) programs. The BSN degree has two tracks: a traditional RN-to-BSN program for transfer students who have already completed an ADN and hold an active RN license, and a first-year entry RN-to-BSN program for university freshman students. This dual-enrollment program between UW Bothell and the nursing program at Everett Community College allows students to graduate with an ADN from EvCC and a BSN from UW Bothell. Both BSN tracks have hybrid and in-person options. The university’s MN program is offered in a hybrid format, meeting twice per month on Fridays with self-directed online activities during the remaining weeks.


#9: Northwest University | Kirkland, WA
The Mark and Huldah Buntain School of Nursing offers a unique program that sends every nursing major to another country for a month of experiential learning. Recent classes have traveled to India, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, and several countries in Africa. Each undergraduate cohort of 48 students is instructed with top-notch equipment in a robust network of local hospitals such as Providence, Swedish, Seattle Children’s, Evergreen, and Overlake. Over the past decade, these BSN students have achieved an excellent 91% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam. In addition to the traditional undergraduate degree, Northwest University also offers online RN-to-BSN and MSN programs.


#10: Walla Walla University | College Place, WA
Walla Walla University offers a traditional undergraduate prelicensure program leading to a BSN degree. Students spend the first two years of the program at the university’s College Place campus, where they complete general studies, nursing cognates, and nursing courses. The final two years are centered at the Portland nursing campus, where students integrate advanced nursing coursework with clinical experience. Walla Walla University graduates a BSN class of approximately sixty students each year. These students have consistently outperformed state and national averages on their licensure exams, posting a 93% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. The class of 2018 passed the exam at an impressive 96% rate.


#11: Western Washington University | Bellingham, WA
Western Washington University has an RN-to-BSN program that blends online and face-to-face coursework. Exclusively offered as a transfer degree, the RN-to-BSN curriculum delivers 45 upper-division credits through class meetings held one full day per week. The program may be completed in four quarters on a full-time basis or eight quarters on a part-time basis. Students learn concepts in the classroom during the first half of the curriculum, and then they apply these concepts through practice experiences in the second half of the curriculum. WWU graduates have been hired at many local medical centers including Skagit Valley Hospital, Providence Medical Group & Hospital, and PeaceHealth General Hospital.


#12: Saint Martin’s University | Lacey, WA
Saint Martin’s University is one of fourteen Benedictine colleges and universities in North America, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. The university enrolls 1,300 students across dozens of programs in four academic colleges. The College of Arts and Sciences offers a baccalaureate nursing program with two tracks: traditional prelicensure and RN-to-BSN degree completion. Students enjoy small class sizes, receive mentoring from faculty who are practicing nurses, and conduct clinical experiences in community and acute care settings. The nursing program at Saint Martin’s is CCNE-accredited.


#13: Bellevue College | Bellevue, WA
Bellevue College serves nearly 30,000 students across more than 200 bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, and certificate programs. The school offers three nursing pathways: a nursing assistant certificate, an associate’s degree in nursing, and an RN-to-BSN degree completion program. The ADN curriculum prepares students for entry-level registered nursing practice, while the RN-to-BSN curriculum builds upon the academic foundations and experience of the ADN-prepared nurse. Bellevue College graduates 50-75 students annually from its ADN program, with an excellent 93% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade.


#14: Centralia College | Centralia, WA
Founded in 1925, Centralia College is the oldest two-year public college in the state of Washington. The school offers a highly competitive associate of applied science-transfer (AAS-T) degree that prepares students for initial licensure as a registered nurse. The six-quarter curriculum covers critical nursing, science, and general education topics. Graduates are prepared not only for the NCLEX licensure examination, but also for future transfer into a baccalaureate nursing program. Centralia College admits one cohort of twenty-four nursing students each fall. Over the past decade, these students have averaged an 87% first-time NCLEX pass rate. The past two graduating classes scored a 92% and 95% NCLEX pass rate, respectively.


#15: Columbia Basin College | Richland, WA
Columbia Basin College has served the Tri-Cities and surrounding communities for over sixty years. The Health Sciences Division offers a prelicensure associate’s degree in nursing and a postlicensure RN-to-BSN completion program. Classroom instruction, laboratory exercises, and simulations are conducted at the college’s Health Science Center in Richland. These are complemented by clinical experiences through a range of local healthcare partners. The ADN program graduates approximately fifty students annually. These students have enjoyed phenomenal outcomes including a 90% graduation rate, a 96% NCLEX pass rate, and a 94% employment rate over the past three years. Columbia Basin College’s RN-to-BSN program can be completed in just four quarters of study. Most coursework is delivered online, allowing professional nurses to balance work, academic, and family responsibilities. Some courses require an occasional face-to-face meeting for group projects.


#16: Seattle Colleges | Seattle, WA
Seattle Colleges provide workforce education, technical training, transfer degree pathways, and career-focused baccalaureate degrees to nearly 50,000 students annually. The colleges’ nursing programs are administered by Seattle Central College but conducted at all three campuses, including North Seattle College and South Seattle College. Aspiring nurses can pursue either an associate’s degree in nursing or a nursing assistant certificate. The CNA program takes just one quarter to complete. It prepares graduates for entry-level positions in a variety of healthcare settings. The ADN is a traditional two-year curriculum that combines nursing theory, general education, laboratory exercises, and clinical practice. Across the three campuses, Seattle Colleges graduate approximately 80-100 ADN students annually. Over the past decade, these RN candidates have scored an 89% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination.


#17: Shoreline Community College | Shoreline, WA
Designed in consultation with industry professionals, Shoreline Community College’s nursing curriculum is widely recognized as one of the state’s best. Students may earn an associate of applied science-transfer (AAS-T) degree over six or ten quarters. The six-quarter program features a traditional college schedule, with flexible start dates in the fall, winter, or spring. The ten-quarter program offers a lower course load for students with significant time constraints; it admits a new fall cohort once every two years. Shoreline Community College graduates 80-100 nursing students annually, with an exceptional 94% first-time NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. Graduates have a number of BSN completion options in the surrounding metropolitan area, including Olympic College and the University of Washington Bothell.


#18: Lake Washington Institute of Technology | Kirkland, WA
Lake Washington Institute of Technology is the only public institute of technology in the state. The school offers nearly 150 degrees and certificates in more than forty areas of study. Aspiring nurses can pursue either a nursing assistant certificate of completion or an associated of applied science-transfer degree. CNA students are prepared to sit for the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program, while AAS-T students are prepared to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination. The AAS-T program chooses students on a competitive basis called Selective Admission, with unique qualification requirements and application deadlines. These students have enjoyed excellent outcomes, including a 92% program completion rate and a 92% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade.


#19: Everett Community College | Everett, WA
Everett Community College’s nursing program has prepared students for licensure since 1941. The program awards an associate of applied science-transfer (AAS-T) degree and prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN national licensure examination. Most AAS-T graduates will eventually continue their studies and earn a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing. Indeed, thanks to the college’s partnership with University of Washington Bothell, students can pursue a BSN degree right on the EvCC campus. The AAS-T program typically graduates between 100 and 125 students annually. These graduates have enjoyed excellent outcomes. Over the past decade, nursing students have averaged an impressive 94% NCLEX pass rate. The most recent class also achieved a 93% program completion rate and a 100% job placement rate within nine months of graduation.


#20: Whatcom Community College | Bellingham, WA
The Aspen Institute has recognized Whatcom Community College as one of the top nine community and technical colleges in the state, as well as one of the leading community colleges in the nation. The school offers a two-year associate’s degree in nursing that prepares students for initial licensure and immediate employment in the field. ADN graduates can also complete a BSN degree in just one additional academic year at any accepting university in Washington. Whatcom Community College enrolls a new cohort of thirty nursing students each fall. These students have consistently enjoyed exceptional outcomes. The five most recent ADN classes have averaged a 97% program completion rate, a 96% first-time NCLEX pass rate, and a 94% employment rate within six months of graduation.


#21: Pierce College | Puyallup, WA
Pierce College serves more than 20,000 students across eighty degree and certificate programs. One of the school’s most popular programs is nursing. Pierce College offers an associate’s degree in nursing with a traditional two-year curriculum and an LPN-to-RN transition pathway. The college also conducts a nursing assistant certificate with both a generic course map and an Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) course map. Historically, the ADN program has graduated approximately thirty students annually. Each of the past three graduating classes scored a perfect 100% pass rate on the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. ADN graduates can transition seamlessly into the BSN program at either the University of Washington Tacoma or Saint Martin’s University. Pierce College also holds articulation agreements with a number of other four-year institutions including Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle Pacific University, and Washington State University.


#22: Heritage University | Toppenish, WA
Heritage University is a private institution with a flagship 23-acre rural campus located on the Yakama Indian Reservation. The university also conducts upper-division classes on the campuses of Columbia Basin College and Yakima Valley College, providing students in each community a convenient baccalaureate pathway. In the fall of 2015, Heritage University enrolled its first cohort of nine students in a prelicensure BSN program. The curriculum emphasizes advancing the health of multicultural communities in rural environments through excellence in nursing education, service, practice, and community-based research. Graduates are prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. In the fall of 2018, Heritage University admitted a larger BSN cohort of 24 students to address the worsening nursing shortage in rural hospitals, community health centers, primary care settings, and schools.


#23: Skagit Valley College | Mount Vernon, WA
Skagit Valley College was founded in 1926 as Mount Vernon Junior College, an adjunct to the city’s Union High School. Today the college serves more than 4,000 students at its main campus in Mount Vernon and its auxiliary campus on Whidbey Island. The school’s nursing program has a presence on both campuses. Skagit Valley College offers several prelicensure pathways including a two-year fulltime associate’s degree in nursing, a two-year part-time LPN-to-RN bridge program, and a unique nursing assistant education certificate with an AIDS focus. Across both associate’s degree tracks, the college typically graduates 50-70 students annually. These candidates for RN licensure have averaged a 91% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. ADN graduates enjoy seamless transfer into the BSN completion program at many local institutions, including Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle Pacific University, University of Washington, and Washington State University.


#24: Highline College | Des Moines, WA
Highline College offers both a traditional associate of applied science (AAS) nursing degree and a bridge option that grants advanced placement to licensed practical nurses. Candidates must first complete a nursing assistant certificate program before applying to the AAS program. The traditional curriculum requires two years of fulltime attendance, while the LPN-to-RN bridge program requires one year of study. Students gain hands-on practice through supervised clinical experiences in hospitals, long-term care settings, and community health agencies. Across both pathways, approximately eighty students graduate annually from the AAS program. Over the past decade, these students have averaged an 88% pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam. The class of 2018 scored a 95% NCLEX pass rate, a 100% program completion rate, and a 100% graduate placement rate.


#25: Edmonds Community College | Lynnwood, WA
Edmonds Community College enrolls 10,000 students annually across more than 120 associate’s degree and professional certificate programs. The school offers both a brief nurse assistant certificate and a 21-month practical nursing certificate. The CNA program consists of just five prerequisites, a patient care skill class, and a clinical externship. Graduates are prepared to take the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program examination. The LPN program admits only students who already hold a valid CNA license. The curriculum is conducted on a part-time basis, with one start date each fall quarter. Launched just a few years ago, the LPN program has typically graduated about twenty students annually. These practical nursing candidates have averaged a 92% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination.