Best Nursing Schools in the US

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nursing colleges

Nursing school rankings won’t tell you everything you need to know about the best nursing schools in the US, but they are an excellent starting point for finding the best undergraduate nursing programs. At a glance, they allow you to compare the relative quality of the best nursing schools in the US based on the following quality indicators:

  • Graduation rates
  • Student retention
  • NCLEX pass rates
  • Tuition
  • Employment rates
  • Faculty credentials and reputation

Rankings may also help by suggesting top nursing schools that provide better career opportunities. You may be surprised at some of the nursing schools on these lists that you may not have previously considered attending.

You can view these nursing rankings in two ways:

  1. Nursing School Rankings Overall
  2. Nursing School Rankings by Specialty

Choosing A Nursing School

As you search for a good nursing program, there are many things you should consider. Here are some key questions you should ask yourself before you select a school.

Should you choose an associates or bachelor’s degree in nursing?

The Institute of Medicine outlines the goal of increasing the proportion of higher nursing degrees to 80 percent in an effort to provide better-educated nurses to the whole medical profession. While an associates degree may be more affordable and easier to complete, it will give you a less comprehensive education and restrict your long-term earning potential. In the last decade, the number of registered nurses returning to school to continue their education has increased steadily.

How much clinical work is required for graduation?

The amount of clinical experience a nurse gains before graduation has a direct impact on their clinical confidence and decision-making ability early in their career. However, according to a Remmington College of Nursing in Orlando study, the increased demand for nurses nationwide has led to a rapid increase in the number of nursing students, which in turn, has made it harder for nursing schools to provide students with enough clinical experience.

When researching the best nursing colleges, it’s important to pay attention to the amount of clinical experience they offer and compare it to other programs. You’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How strong is the nursing school’s affiliation with major hospitals and clinics?
  • Do they comprehensively cover everything you want to study or are they limited in certain areas?
  • How much patient care experience will you get?

What kind of resources can you expect?

The number of resources that are available to you is an important factor in deciding which nursing school is right for you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the nursing school provide adequate resources including computers, science laboratories, and off-campus/clinical work?
  • How involved are school faculty members in the program?

The resources you have access to as a student can make a big difference in the quality of your training.

Before selecting a nursing school, find out more about the facilities and resources they have in comparison to other schools. The top nursing schools in the US tend to have higher quality resources.

How large are the classes?

When searching for a nursing school, an important factor to consider is the size of the classes. Ask yourself: How many students will you have to share facilities with and how much one-on-one time can you expect to receive with your professors and lab instructors?

A Journal of Nursing Education study showed that while class size may have no overall effect on test scores, student satisfaction is higher in smaller classes. Because of this, it’s worth determining the class sizes of each institution. Larger classes have the advantages of networking with more people and may have access to additional social groups or activities. On the other hand, smaller classes are generally preferred for the extra one-on-one time and the close community they can offer.

What type of academic and career counseling services does the school provide?

Nursing is a huge field and graduate nurses have a wide range of career opportunities to choose from, both within the medical field and in a variety of related industries. These include the financial sector, the drug industry, state and federal government, and various commercial enterprises. With so many choices available, it’s important to have access to careers advice and counseling to help you take the next step in your nursing career. You will want to make sure you choose a nursing school that offers high-quality career counseling as well as a wide range of clinical experience.

What is the school’s student placement rate for graduates of their nursing program?

Student placement rates vary by school, so it’s worth looking into the percentage of graduates that receive job offers by the end of their training. A 2013 survey of 515 nursing schools conducted by the AACN found that 59 percent of students graduating from bachelor’s programs and 67 percent of students graduating from master’s degree programs received a job offer by the time they graduated. When compared to the results of the National Association of Colleges and Employers survey of 38,000 graduates, of whom only 29.3 percent had a job offer at graduation, graduate placement rates in nursing are extremely high. However, there are still differences between the placement rates of different schools and it’s worth looking at these before making a final choice.

If you work, does the program offer a heavily structured or a more flexible environment?

Full-time study isn’t suitable for everyone, but many nursing schools in the US offer flexible programs that you can fit in with work, childcare, or other commitments. Some of these programs are even offered online, which will allow you in many cases to take courses on your own time and schedule.

If you are looking for a flexible graduate study program, take a look at the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs Rankings.

Nursing School Rankings

Before applying, it is a smart idea to look at ranking lists to determine the best colleges and universities where you can receive a nursing degree. College Atlas has recently updated its Top 100 Nursing Schools in the US List. This list ranks the top schools based on affordability, academic quality, accessibility, and NCLEX-RN board exam pass rates.

To learn more about your nursing degree options, whether you are interested in attending an online nursing school, a traditional nursing school, or a hybrid program, check out the Online Nursing Degrees, Schools, and Careers Guide.


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