Thinking About Nursing? Here are the Top 10 Nursing Programs in the U.S.
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
If you’re considering a career in nursing, you’re in luck. This is an in-demand, growing field with many career prospects. Depending on the level of education you attain, it can also be quite lucrative.
As a nurse, you’ll play an integral role in the healthcare industry and patient care. Successful nurses have strong communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills; are empathetic; have an exemplary attention to detail; and are adaptable and quick on their feet.
There are numerous programs and career paths for aspiring nurses. Read on to learn about some of the best in the field.
Common Paths in Nursing
There are several different degrees and titles in the world of nurses. You’ve probably heard of the most common: LPN, RN, and NP.
High school graduates may earn a practical-nursing diploma to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). While you may be involved in some aspects of patient care with this license, your options will be more limited than those with more advanced degrees.
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) requires at least an associate’s degree in nursing, which you may obtain at a vocational school or community college. Many RNs receive a bachelor of science in nursing. This type of nurse performs a range of duties, including monitoring patients, creating records, ordering and interpreting tests, communicating with families, and assisting physicians.
If you’re interested in pursuing a broader range of career paths, including private practice or teaching future nurses, you should think about becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). At this level, you may prescribe medicine, diagnose acute illnesses, monitor long-term patient care, order tests, and serve as an independent healthcare provider. NPs enjoy more autonomy than RNs and work alongside doctors to provide patient care.
Careers for Nurses
While hospitals and clinics are common settings for nurses, you may end up working in a range of places, such as schools, psychiatric wards, prisons, private homes, summer camps, military locations, hospices, blood banks, and many others. Your particular occupation may vary as well. Nurses may work on case management, research, occupational health, legal consultancy, insurance, and public health, to name a few.
There are also many specialities nurses can choose, though some require further training or certification: pediatrics, psychiatrics, home health, midwifery, surgery, anesthesiology, NICU, specific illnesses such as HIV/AIDs, and many, many others.
Top Nursing Schools
Below, we’ve listed some of the top-rated nursing programs in the United States. While many of these schools offer both a BS and MS in nursing, they are grouped by the degree with which they are more commonly associated. Some offer other degrees as well, such as a doctoral degree in nursing (DNP or PhD), which enables nurses to take on leadership roles, teach and conduct research in the field.
Master of Science in Nursing
- Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina, offers nine programs, including an ABSN (accelerated bachelor of science in nursing), MS, DNP (doctor of nursing), and non-degree options. Student enjoy customizable programs in collaboration with faculty.
- Well-known for its prestigious medical school, Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University also has a highly regarded nursing school, which offers seven programs. Students have the opportunity to study, intern, and volunteer at one of JHU’s hospitals, as well as local hospitals and clinics.
- As evidenced through its 2017 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, the University of Washington, located in Seattle, emphasises diversity and inclusion in its nursing school, which offers a BSN, ABSN, MS, DNP, and PhD.
- Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia boasts small classes and offers clinical placement to its students. Along with traditional programs, the nursing school also has joint programs and dual degree options.
- The nursing school at New York’s Columbia University shares collaborations with other school in the Medical Center, including the dental, public health, and medical schools.Programs include the 15-month Masters Direct Entry (accelerated), MS (Nursing Anesthesia Program), DNP, and PhD.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Georgetown University in Washington, DC offers leading experiential learning facilities. Students participate in hands-on-clinical coursework during their first year.
- At the University of Maryland, Baltimore, students are taught by experienced nurses and exposed to lab and clinical settings. They have the opportunity to intern at hospitals and other clinical settings.
- Portland’s prestigious Oregon Health and Science University has just 40 undergraduate slots available in the School of Nursing. The curriculum focuses on critical thinking and judgement in healthcare.
- The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia boast near-100% graduation a post-graduation employment rates. Many graduates go on to pursue their MS in one of 20 available programs available at the School of Nursing.
- Located in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota offers several special features, including guidance through the NCLEX examination needed to become an RN.
Tips for Nursing Applicants
Admission to nursing programs at most levels is highly competitive, so you must excel academically and research the requirements for the programs to which you’re applying. In this field, volunteer work and community service go a long way, especially if you’re helping out in a healthcare capacity. Some programs even require a certain number of hospital or clinic volunteer hours.
Keep track of which schools have rolling admission; you’ll want to apply as early as possible to the ones that do.
Think about becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant prior to nursing school. Not only does this show programs that you’re serious about and committed to the profession, but you’ll also have a head start on the knowledge and skills you’ll need in your career.
Finally, make sure you prepare extensively for your interview. Have solid answers as to why you want to become a nurse, and think of plenty of examples to illustrate your skills and experiences. These answers will also serve you well for your essay and other aspects of your application.
If helping people is your calling and you want to turn it into a career, be sure to check out So You Want To Make A Difference: Strong College Options for Public Service.
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.
Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.