- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed July 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed August 18, 2017: Classification of Expenses, Boston College, http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/controller/pdf/ClassificationofExpe.pdf; Classification of Expenses, Central Michigan University, https://www.cmich.edu/fas/fsr/OAC/AccSvcs/AccFAQs/ACCfundsusedatCMU/Pages/Classification_of_Expenses.aspx; Nursing, Chipola College, http://www.chipola.edu/instruct/Health-Sciences/index.htm; RN/BSN Advanced Placement Option, Mississippi University for Women, http://www.muw.edu/nhs/bsn/rnbsn; Accelerated Pathways, College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati, http://nursing.uc.edu/academic_programs/accelerated_programs.html; Academics, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, http://www.mccn.edu/academics; Program: Registered Nursing, A.S., Florida Gateway College, http://catalog.fgc.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=3&poid=207&returnto=133; Program: Nursing, B.S., Florida Gateway College, http://catalog.fgc.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=7&poid=918&returnto=437; Nursing, Southern Adventist University, http://www.southern.edu/academics/academic-sites/nursing/; Nursing, Texas Woman's University, http://www.twu.edu/nursing/; School of Nursing, South Georgia State College, http://sgsc.edu/academics/asn.cms; Online Education, Bryan College of Health Sciences, https://www.bryanhealthcollege.edu/bcohs/admission/online-education/; Nursing, Molloy College, https://www.molloy.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/nursing; Degree Outcomes, RN to BSN Online Program, Capella University, https://www.capella.edu/online-degrees/bachelors-rn-to-bsn-completion/degree-outcomes/; MSN Graduate Learning Outcomes, California State University Long Beach, https://web.csulb.edu/colleges/chhs/departments/nursing/programs/MSNGraduateLearningOutcomes.htm;
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- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Interested in online nursing programs or traditional nursing degrees? Each day that a nurse faces tends to bring new and interesting hands-on challenges and the feeling of helping people for a living can be a benefit beyond measure. If you're thinking about a nursing career, here's information that can help you get on track with a nursing degree program.
You can begin work as a registered nurse (RN) before earning your bachelor's degree, although paths to advancement in the field typically require a four-year degree. Whether you're a working RN with clinical experience or not, the best schools and colleges for nursing degrees can help you take the next step.
Clinical sections of RN training typically must be done in person, but the academic portions of nursing degree programs or nursing graduate programs can often be found online or through other distance education methods. Read on to learn more about the best schools for nursing and career data for registered nurses. You can also find info on top nursing degree programs, whether BSN programs, MSN programs, or a DNP degree, plus a few tips about financial aid and professional organizations.
Best Colleges for Nursing Degree Programs 2017-18
We scored hundreds of nursing degree programs nationwide in eight categories, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Click the button for details about our methodology, and take a look at our list of the ten best nursing schools and colleges for nursing degrees.
Our No. 1 school boasts the second-lowest tuition among the ten best schools for nursing -- a modest $3,120 for the 2015-16 academic year -- and funnels a considerable portion of its institutional revenue back into the programs it offers. Just three other schools on our list reserved a higher percentage of spending for instructional expenses than Chipola College.
This Marianna, Florida, institution also features an open enrollment policy, which ensures that applicants won't be denied the ability to pursue an education based on past academic performance. The accredited nursing program at Chipola offers degree programs at the associate (ADN) as well as the bachelor's level (BSN).
This institution, located in the northeastern Mississippi city of Columbus, has study plans available for nurses at all levels of their careers. Associate, BSN, master's (MSN) and doctoral nursing degrees can all be earned here, and only two other schools in our top ten graduated a higher percentage of nursing students in 2015.
Mississippi University for Women is also one of the top schools for online nursing degrees, with 63 percent of enrolled students taking at least some of their coursework in the virtual classroom. The RN to BSN program at MUW -- an option for working registered nurses with clinical experience who want to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing -- is offered in a hybrid format that splits time between online and traditional classrooms.
Just three other schools on our list had a higher graduation rate than the University of Cincinnati, where flexibility and student services were the standout statistical categories. Not only did nearly 39 percent of the student body have at least one online course on their schedule in 2015, but students with scheduling concerns can take numerous classes on campus at night or on weekends, which could be good for those working on gaining clinical experience.
The University of Cincinnati was the largest institution to make our list, awarding nearly 10,000 degrees in 2015. It also covered more nursing-specific subjects than any other school in our top ten, and aspiring nurses who hold a bachelor's degree in a different subject can choose accelerated pathways toward a BSN or MSN degree in nursing.
Mount Carmel College of Nursing only offers nursing programs, so nursing students here have the highest possible percentage of like-minded classmates in the student body. This Columbus, Ohio, school also posted the second-highest graduation rate among schools that made our top ten and spent the third-highest percentage of its expenses on instructional matters.
The degree plans at Mount Carmel offer a range of scheduling plans to help students fit their nursing training into their busy lives. The Second Degree Accelerated Program (SDAP) for students who already hold a bachelor's degree takes just 13 months to complete, and the online RN to BSN program requires just 44 credit hours of study and can be earned via a full- or part-time degree program.
Our No. 5 school took the No. 1 spot for affordability in this analysis, charging students an average of just $3,100 in 2015-16. Florida Gateway College also features an open enrollment policy and offers weekend and evening courses for non-traditional campus-based students.
Despite not offering a fully online nursing degree as of 2017, FGC does provide a substantial catalog of online courses that includes pathophysiology and nursing theory. More than 55 percent of students enrolled at Florida Gateway College in 2015 took at least some of their coursework online. Nursing degree programs at both the associate and bachelor's degree level are available at this Lake City, Florida school.
Southern Adventist University reported a student-faculty ratio of 15:1 in 2015, giving Southern a solid position among the schools offering nursing programs that made our list. Its proportion of graduates that earned nursing degrees also put it right in the middle of the pack among our ten best schools for nursing -- 35.7 percent of the degrees awarded in 2015 went to aspiring nurses.
On-campus flexibility was an important part of the score that put Southern on our list. Not only were weekend and evening classes available, but the Tennessee school provides placement services for alumni who are registered nurses once they finish their nursing degrees. Southern offers nursing degrees at all levels, including a joint Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Business Administration (MSN/MBA) for aspiring healthcare administrators.
This medium-sized institution in the northwestern part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area takes a place among the best colleges for online nursing degrees, posting the second-highest percentage of enrolled students who took at least some of their classes via distance education and offering an RN to BS program entirely online. In-person students can take advantage of a BS program with a major in nursing that requires only weekend and evening attendance on campus.
The Denton school also offers a wide range of graduate programs in nursing, including a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in nursing science and a master's in nursing health systems management. A post-bachelor's certification in health care informatics is also available.
Tuition and fees expenses at South Georgia State College placed at No. 3 among the best schools that made our list, coming to an average of just over $3,200 for the 2015-16 academic year. The School of Nursing at SGSC offers three degree plans: a licensed practical nurse to registered nurse (LPN-RN) pathway, an associate degree in nursing and an RN to BSN program. The RN to BSN track is offered in a hybrid format, combining online and on-campus classes.
This Douglas, Georgia, institution with nursing degree options from ADNs to BSN programs has an open enrollment policy, admitting 100 percent of applicants in 2015. SGSC also took the No. 6 spot among our ten best schools for nursing degrees in terms of the prominence of nursing programs in its catalog.
This small school in Lincoln, Nebraska, posted the highest graduation rate of all schools that made our top ten and spent the second-largest proportion of its budget on institutional and academic support expenses in 2015. The proportion of its graduates who earned nursing degrees in 2015 was nearly 85 percent, so students can count on having numerous fellow nurses among their peers when working on their nursing education.
Bryan College of Health Sciences was also one of the best colleges for online nursing degrees, offering no fewer than five hybrid degree programs from BSN programs to graduate programs -- RN to BSN, MSN, RN to MSN, a post-masters certificates in nursing and an education doctorate with an emphasis in nursing education. Around 31 percent of students at Bryan took at least some online courses in 2015.
The student-to-faculty ratio at this medium-small institution on Long Island in New York was 10:1 in 2015, which suggests that students at Molloy College have considerable opportunity to interact in a one-on-one or small-group environment when working on their nursing program. The average student-faculty ratio for national universities was 16:1 in 2016.
The graduation rate at Molloy was third-highest among our top ten schools, an achievement for which that availability of personalized time with faculty may be owed partial credit. Nursing students at Molloy have a wide range of programs to choose from, including dual degree programs, an LPN to BS track and a minor in the growing field of gerontology.
Nursing Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Some nursing jobs may be available to candidates with less than a bachelor's degree, but having a solid formal nursing education in your background can open the door to advancement. Here are a few of the hottest careers for nurses with nursing degrees.
Career outlook for nursing
Rapid job growth can be found all across the health care industry, and nursing is certainly no exception, which could be a good indicator for those looking to work or study full-time or part-time as a nurse. Check out this rundown of the career outlook for aspiring nurses and the nursing practice to see if options from a nursing BSN degree program to a DNP nursing degree program could be up your alley.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||$77,360||55,580||24%|
|Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides||$27,110||2,393,040||23.4%|
Financial aid and scholarships in nursing
Fortunately for those working on their nursing education, a wide range of scholarships are offered to undergraduate nursing students such as those looking to enroll in a BSN program or earn a DNP degree. Many of the available aid packages are specific to certain nursing specialties like emergency, long term care and behavioral health nursing, while others, like the Nurses Make a Difference Scholarship, are open to all nursing students in the nursing practice.
Reapplication required for renewal.
Q&A with an expert
Are there significant differences between RN training in diploma programs vs. associate degree programs or online nursing programs?
Yes. Not all diploma programs offer college level classes and not all are two-year or four-year or offer online nursing progams. In today's environment it is important to confirm the diploma program you are considering is affiliated with an accredited college and awards college credit for the work you do whether full-time or part-time, or for BSN program or others.
Which nursing degree would you recommend to new nursing students seeking a nursing education today? Is it a good idea to go straight to nursing schools for a BSN or MSN programs or should they spend some time hands-on working as an RN first, whether full-time or part-time or something in between?
Either is OK — it depends upon their end goal. Many nursing students are second career or returning students, so a degree in a non-nursing field positions them well for a direct entry advanced practice program if nurse practitioner is the goal.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015