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Top 10 Best Nursing Schools of 2024

17 Min Read Published August 7, 2023
10 Best Nursing Schools in 2024 | Nurse.org

When you plan to become a registered nurse (RN), the nursing school and degree program you choose will play a role in your future career. With so many options, how do you pick the best nursing school?

In this guide, we explore the best nursing schools in the US, as well as how to research nursing schools, how to find the qualities most important to you, and how to select programs that match your wants and needs.

Best Nursing Schools Compared

School

Tuition

Online Options?

Accelerated Options?

Bridge Options

Duke University

$50,516 per year

No

Yes

No

Georgetown University

$61,872 per year

BSN-No Graduate-Yes

No

No

Johns Hopkins University

$66,168 per year

BSN-No Graduate-Yes

No

No

New York University

$58,168 per year

No

Yes

No

University of Pennsylvania

$56,212 per year

BSN-No Graduate-Yes

Yes

No

University of Michigan

$16,404 per year (in-state)

$55,002 per year (out-of-state)

BSN-No Graduate-Yes

No

No

University of California -Los Angeles (UCLA)

$23,856 per year

Hybrid DNP

No

No

University of Washington

$16,324 per year (in-state)

$54,320 per year (out-of-state)

No

Yes

No

Emory University

$57,120 per year

No

Yes

No

University of Maryland

$9,635 per year (in-state)

$39,597 per year (out-of-state)

BSN-No Graduate-Yes

No

No

>> Related: The Top Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program in Every State

Top 10 Nursing Schools in the US for 2024

With nearly 1,000 baccalaureate programs and plenty of ADN programs, picking the best of the best is no simple task. When selecting the top 10 nursing programs in the U.S., we considered factors including:

  • Program outcomes
  • NCLEX pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Program quality
  • Accreditation (all ranked schools have ACEN or CCNE accreditation)

Based on this methodology, these are the top 10 nursing programs in the nation:

1.) Duke University

Annual Tuition:  $50,516| NCLEX Pass Rate: 99%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

Recognized as one of the best research schools in the world, Duke University offers some of the top nursing programs. The School of Nursing at Duke only offers only one-degree choice for undergraduate nurses: an accelerated BSN.

To enroll in this program, applicants first need to complete a non-nursing bachelor's degree. However, the program takes 16 months to complete, requires only 58 credits, and students gain 800 hours of clinical experience before graduating. Outcomes for the program are highly positive too.

Duke is perhaps best known for its graduate programs, including multiple MSN and doctoral programs. Nurses interested in becoming nurse anesthetists would be interested in knowing that Duke boasts one of the top programs for nurse anesthesia in the nation

2.) Georgetown University

Annual Tuition: $61,872 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.88%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes for graduate; no for BSN

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

As one of the oldest private institutions in the nation, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. has an established, well-respected nursing program.

The BSN uses direct entry, meaning current high school students find out if they've been accepted into the BSN program before enrolling at Georgetown. By graduation, BSN students will have earned over 850 hours of clinical experience at locations across Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area. The direct-entry nursing program with hands-on clinical experience in the first year of study. Georgetown also offers an honors program for BSN students.

Graduate students also have plenty of nursing options at Georgetown. The university has an excellent nurse-midwifery/women's health nurse practitioner MSN that takes just over two years to complete. Those wanting to earn a DNP can skip a master's degree with the BSN-DNP program, available in both a part-time and full-time format.

3.) Johns Hopkins University

Annual Tuition: $66,168  | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%

Traditional: No

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Graduate nursing programs sometimes come with heavy amounts of research, and John Hopkins University is perhaps the best research university in the world. The highly-esteemed school doesn't offer any undergraduate nursing programs, though it does have an MSN for non-nursing majors.

Anyone who earned a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field can enroll in the MSN, and graduates excel on the NCLEX. It is a basic MSN degree, so students interested in becoming an APRN will need to continue their education. 

After completing the MSN and getting some professional experience in clinical settings, many nurses continue to earn a DNP at John Hopkins. The university has 13 different DNP options, each of which leads to a specific career outcome. 

4.) New York University

Annual Tuition:$58,168 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88.3%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

Based in New York City, New York University is truly a global university with over 21,000 international students and students coming from 120 different countries and campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai and 12 other international locations. Students come from around the world to earn a top-ranked education.

NYU's Rory Meyers College of Nursing offers nursing students plenty of undergraduate options with a traditional BSN degree, second-degree transfer BSN, RN-BSN, and accelerated 15-month BSN. The traditional BSN program is a 128-credit curriculum that incorporates 44 credits of liberal arts courses, 20 credits of science and prerequisite courses, and 64 credits of nursing core and clinical courses.

Of course, a top-ranked institution also has plenty of great graduate programs. Nurses can choose from two master's programs, a DNP, or Ph.D. Students can also specialize in their graduate education. 

5.) University of Pennsylvania

Annual Tuition: $56,212 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.6%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League University, is among the oldest universities in the nation. The school boasts an impressive 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio, excellent for nursing students looking for a personalized education. Ranked as one of the best nursing programs in the world, Penn Nursing focuses on research throughout all programs. 

Penn's BSN has students learn in a state-of-the-art simulation lab, and students enter a mentorship program to improve their experiential learning. Penn even operates several study abroad programs for undergraduate students. Undergraduate students also can secure a minor in a variety of fields including, but not limited to, nutrition, global health, and nursing & health services management minor. 

Penn also offers MSN and DNP options, with popular specializations including nurse-midwifery, nurse anesthesia, and two pediatric care routes. There are also administrative graduate degrees for those looking to enter leadership positions and post-grad certificate programs for MSN-prepared nurses.  

6.) University of Michigan

Annual Tuition: $16,404 per year (in-state) | $55,002 per year (out-of-state) | NCLEX Pass Rate: 98.06%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Located in the college town of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan is one of the best places to earn an undergraduate education. The BSN degree builds off over 100 years of nursing education experience, and over 13,000 UM nursing alumni work around the world.

The school sets up two options for entry: direct entry for first-year students and a sophomore transfer program. Either way nursing students complete more than 1,000 hands-on clinical hours. 

UM's MSN is among the best available, with concentrations available in eight different areas. All eight specialties lead to a specific APRN position, and MSN graduates boast a near-perfect pass rate on every exam each year. UM offers multiple programs and allows students to complete programs on a two or three-year track. 

The MSN combines learning in UMs Clinical Learning Center with different clinical sites across the region. If students want to continue their education, they can study the same subjects at the doctoral level

7.) University of California (UCLA) Los Angeles

Annual Tuition: $23,856  | NCLEX Pass Rate: 84%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Hybrid DNP

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Known for producing high-caliber graduates who become leaders in their fields, the University of California Los Angeles is among the best institutions of higher education in the West.

Nursing courses in the university's BSN degree program lay the foundation to either enjoy a productive nursing career or to continue on and earn a master's degree.

UCLA's MSN options are arguably the best programs in the nursing school. Each MSN degree leads to an APRN specialty while emphasizing leadership, a great combination for nurses looking to advance their careers. After choosing a population specialty, MSN students then choose a sub-specialty in the field.

UCLA also has a DNP that takes as little as two years to complete and comes in a hybrid format. UCLA boasts world-renowned faculty, and 15 are Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing. Faculty members have received major grants from the National Institutes of Health, and been inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame

8.) University of Washington

Annual Tuition: $16,324 per year (in-state) | $54,320 per year (out-of-state)  | NCLEX Pass Rate: 78.72%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

Located in Seattle, the University of Washington has several unique benefits for nursing students.

First, all students get to complete clinicals at dozens of sites across the region, including top-ranked hospitals like Seattle Children's Hospital. Second, nursing students can select innovative programs like the accelerated BSN with early DNP admission, best for non-nursing graduates who want to quickly earn their doctoral degree.

While the school does have a traditional BSN, it doesn't have an MSN option; however, UW does have 10 DNP tracks that lead to APRN roles, such as pediatric clinical nurse specialist, nurse-midwifery, and adult gerontology acute care.

Most of the DNP programs take three years to complete, and students graduate with more than enough clinical experience to sit for their certification exams. 

9.) Emory University

Annual Tuition: $57,120 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 98%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

Home to one of the world's best healthcare systems, Emory University of Atlanta, Georgia, is a great choice for nursing students at any level. Ranked as the #2 undergraduate nursing school in the US 2022-2023 Best Colleges rankings by U.S. News and World Report, Emory University provides a top education to nursing students. 

The renowned private school has three options for undergraduate nurses: a direct-entry BSN for current high school students, a sophomore entry for current Emory or Oxford College students, and a transfer program for those with at least 60 credits. 

Emory also has plenty of graduate-level options for current nurses and non-nursing students. The MSN-pre licensure degree leads to RN certification, though the program is still awaiting regional accreditation approval.

The other MSN programs are accredited and lead to nine different APRN roles. All MSN tracks come in full-time and part-time formats, so nurses can continue working while earning their graduate degrees. 

10.) University of Maryland

Annual Tuition: $9,635 per year (in-state) | $39,597 per year (out-of-state)  | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.33%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Located in Baltimore, the University of Maryland is a leader in innovation and research.

The university teaches over 41,000 students each year, and its location near Washington, D.C., and other major cities makes it ideal for nursing students and future nurses. There are over 2,100 students in the nursing program coming from 21 states. 

UM's BSN emphasizes nursing leadership and uses state-of-the-art facilities to teach students. The program takes as little as two years to complete, though students first need to complete two years of introductory courses.

Nurses interested in becoming APRNs would enroll in one of UM's DNP programs. Each DNP comes with a specialty, with popular options including nurse anesthesia, neonatal nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nursing.

The university also has plenty of other graduate-level nursing degrees great for nurses interested in leadership, research, or administrative roles. 

Show Me Nursing Programs

The Next 10: Honorable Mentions

Considering there are nearly 1,000 baccalaureate nursing programs in the United States, picking only 10 means we’ve discussed only the top 1% of the nation’s nursing schools. 

These next 10 schools didn’t make our top 10 list, but they came close:

Choosing the Best Nursing Program for You

Where you complete your RN program can help shape your future career in nursing and other health sciences. Your undergraduate degree can also influence which advanced practice degrees you choose to pursue later.

First, you have to choose between a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program. More and more employers require new nurses to have a BSN, though many will also hire ADNs who agree to complete their BSNs over the next couple of years. Typically, large Magnet hospitals and level 1 trauma centers will require individuals to have a BSN prior to gaining employment. 

You’ll also need to consider the economic side of each degree–in some cases, it may be more affordable to get your ADN so you can start working as a nurse, then enroll to get your BSN online and qualify for employer tuition assistance; but in other cases, it may actually be faster and more affordable to go straight for your BSN if that’s your ultimate goal.

>>Related: ADN vs BSN: What Nursing Degree Should You Get?

Then you’ll have to decide whether to enroll in a large or small nursing school, an accelerated or four-year degree, and much more. Each factor can influence your career.

Any given program might not work for some students but could be perfect for you. Nursing schools are intentionally different to best educate specific students. 

Of course, where you’re starting from matters, too. If you already have a liberal arts degree, you’d have a head start with the general education requirements of a bachelor’s degree in nursing and you can enroll in an accelerated BSN program. If you’re a practicing LPN, you can find special accelerated programs to earn your RN degree.

The demands of your current life will also influence your choices.

For many prospective students, finding the best program for you will be more important than finding the best-rated schools in the nation as measured by guides like ours or others. 

Show Me Nursing Programs

Evaluating Nursing Schools? Ask These 4 Questions

Once you know what type of program (BSN or ADN) you're looking for, the next step is to start evaluating nursing schools. There are four questions you should ask as you’re deciding on your nursing school.

1.) Where do you want to study, live, and work?

Most nurses will obtain a license from the state where they completed their program. If there's a specific state, county, or city you want to work in, consider finding a school in the area. If you're unsure, you can always obtain a multi-state license after you complete the program.

2.) What housing situation do you want?

Depending on where you study, housing can end up being a significant cost. If you decide to move away from home to earn your degree, you'll need to figure out where to live. Fortunately, you have a few options.

University housing, such as dorms or apartments, provides a location close to your courses. However, university housing is often more expensive than off-campus housing.

Off-campus housing lets you live nearly anywhere you want. You may be further from campus, but this could place you closer to clinicals.

If you live off-campus, you'll need to pick the best neighborhood for your situation. Busy cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles can be expensive, and living in the suburbs could be the most affordable option. 

College towns like Chapel Hill in North Carolina and Ann Arbor in Michigan tend to have the most choices for student housing off-campus. 

3.) What do I need to get admitted into nursing school?

Nursing programs require you to get admitted to the college/university and the nursing school. Nursing schools often have stricter requirements for entry.

4.) Is the nursing program I'm interested in good?

Just because a school offers a nursing degree doesn't mean it's a quality nursing degree. 

First, make sure every school and nursing program you apply to is accredited. Any nursing program you apply to should be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing and Education (CCNE). If you don't choose an accredited nursing program, you CANNOT sit for the NCLEX and earn an RN license. You'll likely have difficulty finding a nursing job after graduation. 

Second, check out student outcomes. A nursing school may have a low tuition rate and be accredited, but the NCLEX pass rates could leave something to be desired.

FAQs 

  • What is the #1 nursing school in the US? 

    • Duke University is currently rated as the #1 nursing school in the U.S. 
  • What is the #1 nursing school in the world? 

    • The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) is currently ranked as the best nursing school in the world. 
  • What is the easiest college to get into for nursing? 

    • Community colleges are generally considered easier to get into than university nursing programs. 
  • How hard is RN schooling? 

    • RN programs can be very rigorous and require a minimum GPA. 
  • How long does it take to become an RN? 

    • You can become an RN through an associate’s degree program (ADN) in as little as 2-3 years. 

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