The Best Nursing Schools in the U.S.

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The best nursing schools are typically found at large research universities that have either their own medical school or close ties to area hospitals. Such programs are well situated to employ experienced instructors and provide students with meaningful clinical opportunities.

The programs listed here offer high quality bachelor of science in nursing degrees (BSN), and most also offer master's degrees and doctoral degrees that can lead to careers such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. There are many other excellent nursing programs in the U.S. that focus entirely on graduate education.

That said, the "best" nursing school for you will depend upon your professional goals, budget, and travel restrictions. You can become a nursing assistant with a high school diploma and nursing certification, and licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses generally need just a year of education beyond high school.

Within the nursing professions, more education generally leads to greater opportunities and higher salaries. Nurse practitioners frequently earn six-figure salaries, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is excellent. The difference in starting salaries between a bachelor of science and master of science in nursing degree can be over $40,000 a year.

Case Western Reserve

Case Werstern Reserve University

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Case Western Reserve has one of the smaller nursing programs on this list, with under 100 undergraduates completing the registered nursing bachelor's degree each year. Slightly more students complete graduate degrees annually. That said, Case Western's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing always does well in the national rankings.

Cleveland is a winning location for students in health professions, and Case Western students begin clinicals soon after arriving on campus and earn nearly two times the national average of clinical hours during their undergraduate experience. The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, and other premier health care facilities are readily accessible to Case Western students as they gain hands-on experience.

Case Western's nursing school emphasizes leadership and management, and students have many opportunities to collaborate with faculty and clinical agencies.

Duke University

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Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University's School of Nursing frequently ranks #1 or #2 in the country at the graduate level. The university does not offer a traditional four-year undergraduate nursing program, but students who have already earned a bachelor's degree in other fields can take advantage of the school's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, an intensive second degree program that takes 16 months to complete.

At the masters degree level, students can choose from eight majors. The Nurse Practitioner programs focused on gerontology and family are arguably the best in the country. Duke also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Ph.D. in Nursing for students who are interested in advanced work in the field, research, and university teaching.

Part of Duke University's strengths in nursing come from its partnership with Duke Health, the top-ranked hospital in North Carolina. Students have access to clinical experiences working with experts on everything from prenatal care to end-of-life care.

Emory University

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Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing consistently ranks among the top 10 in the country. The school enrolls over 500 students across the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs. Emory is a research powerhouse that brought in nearly $18 million of funding in 2018. The school's urban Atlanta location provides many benefits, and students can choose from over 500 clinical sites both in the city and across the globe.

For high school students looking to enter a four-year nursing program, Emory offers two options. You can enroll in Emory's main campus in Atlanta, or, if you're looking for an experience more like an intimate liberal art college, you can attend Oxford College for your first two years. Whichever path you choose, Emory wins high marks for the quality of its nursing degrees.

Molloy College

Molloy College
Molloy College. Courtesy of Molloy College

Molloy College is a bit easier to get into than many of the schools listed here, but the school consistently does well in national rankings of nursing programs. Although Molloy offers more than 50 academic programs, nearly half of all undergraduates study nursing. The college's Hagan School of Nursing offers degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level.

The Molloy undergraduate experience is grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, and the school has a strong humanistic philosophy of nursing. Students receive close mentorship thanks to the school's 8 to 1 ratio of students to clinical instructors, and the Long Island location has allowed it to develop 250 clinical partners to support students' hands-on learning experiences.

New York University

New York University

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Offering degrees from the baccalaureate to doctoral levels, New York University's Rory Meyers College of Nursing is the second largest private nursing college in the country. The 400+ students who earn a B.S. degree from the school have the highest median salaries of any program at NYU, and the program has an impressive job placement rate. Students will find a wide range of clinical opportunities in the New York City area, but the college also has an impressive global outlook. NYU Meyers has research projects in 15 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America, and it has portal campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University
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The Ohio State University is home to one of the nation's best public university nursing programs, and the school represents an excellent value, especially for in-state students. OSU has several options at the undergraduate level, including a traditional four-year program that leads to a BSN. For students who have earned an associate degree in nursing from one of seven Ohio community colleges, OSU's Path2BSN offers a smooth path to earning a bachelor's degree online. This type of program can be ideal for students with financial and geographical restrictions.

At the graduate level, students can choose from 11 specializations when earning a traditional master of science in nursing. OSU also offers a few online graduate programs such as the Master of Healthcare Innovation and Master of Applied Clinical and Preclinical Research.

University of Alabama

University of Alabama

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The University of Alabama's Capstone College of Nursing offers degrees at the baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral levels. Nursing is one of the university's most popular undergraduate majors, with nearly 400 students earning a degree each year. Students gain clinical experiences at health care facilities, home care settings, and schools throughout West Alabama.

The university takes pride in its Learning Resource Center (LRC), a facility that includes a computer lab, clinical practice lab, and simulation lab. Alabama's programs are heavily grounded in state-of-the-art technologies, and students will find many options for completing work online and working remotely.


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
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The UCLA School of Nursing offers five programs from the Bachelor of Science to the Ph.D. in nursing. The university's master's-level programs have the highest enrollments. The school places a heavy emphasis on research, and UCLA ranks 9th in the nation for research supported by the National Institutes of Health. The university has educational and research collaborations with numerous countries around the world, including China, Haiti, Sudan, and Poland.

UCLA's strong classroom and clinical training of nursing students is evident in their outcomes. A total of 96% of undergraduate students passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), and master's students had a 95% pass rate.

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Law School Quadrangle, University of Michigan
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The University of Michigan School of Nursing offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, but the traditional four-year baccalaureate program has the highest enrollments.

The University of Michigan is home to one of the nation's top medical schools, and the nursing school's location adjacent to the University of Michigan Medical Center and Hospital allows for excellent opportunities for clinical experiences. Other clinical settings across the state and the globe have ties to Michigan, and the School of Nursing places high value on experiential learning. Within the school itself, nursing students gain further hands-on experience in the Clinical Learning Center, where state-of-the-art mannequins help simulate real health care situations.

UNC Chapel Hill

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The UNC School of Nursing frequently ranks among the top 5 in the country, and among public universities it typically sits in the #1 position. North Carolina also has lower tuition than most states, so state residents will find it one of the best values in nursing in the entire country. Nursing is one of the more popular undergraduate majors at the university, with nearly 200 students graduating each year.

For students with interests in research and policy, UNC Chapel Hill is one of just two universities (Penn is the other) chosen to participate in the Hillman Scholars Program. A few exceptional students are chosen each year to participate in a program that accelerates the time to a Ph.D. and provides the training necessary to become an innovative and influential leader in the nursing profession.

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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Penn Nursing frequently ranks near or at the top of national rankings. The prestigious Ivy League school offers traditional four-year undergraduate nursing degrees, bachelor's second degree programs, eleven options at the master's level, and both Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and nursing Ph.D. programs.

Penn's Fuld Pavillion features high-tech simulation equipment including a wide range of mannequins. Penn also places great emphasis on mentorship. All nursing students work with a faculty advisor, and every first-year nursing student is paired with an upper-class peer mentor and an alum who is a practicing nurse. This latter partnership provides students with shadowing opportunities to learn about the nursing profession.

The University of Pennsylvania also excels when it comes to clinical practice. The School of Nursing works closely with the Perelman School of Medicine, and nurses, doctors, and students regularly go on rounds together to discuss patients.

Villanova University

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Nursing is the most popular major at Villanova University. The M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, like many of the schools on this lot, offers traditional bachelor's degrees, a second degree program, master's degrees, and both DNP and Ph.D. programs. Villanova does not have a hospital or medical school, but the university's location just outside of Philadelphia provides students with a wealth of clinical opportunities. The university if affiliated with over 70 hospitals and health agencies, as well as many community-based nursing options.

The university's undergraduate nursing program is grounded in the liberal arts tradition, so nursing students will take a range of courses in the humanities and sciences in addition to their nursing courses. The university takes pride in graduating ethical and broadly educated nurses.

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Grove, Allen. "The Best Nursing Schools in the U.S." ThoughtCo, Aug. 1, 2021, Grove, Allen. (2021, August 1). The Best Nursing Schools in the U.S. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "The Best Nursing Schools in the U.S." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 8, 2023).