Nursing is an exciting and challenging career. Nurses often enjoy helping other people,
have an interest in human sciences and an innate caring nature. The first step to starting
a nursing career is to earn a degree in nursing. While the minimum required degree to
become a registered nurse is an associate's degree, the bachelor's degree is the gold
standard. Choosing which nursing school to attend can be a daunting task and many
different factors should be considered.
Types of Nursing Schools
U.S. News ranks colleges and universities on an annual basis on a variety of criteria.
Individual educational programs, such as nursing programs, are also ranked. According
to U.S. News, the top 10 nursing schools in 2011 were Johns Hopkins University,
University of Pennsylvania,
University of Washington,
University of California-San Francisco,
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill,
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor,
Oregon Health and Science University,
University of Pittsburg and
Yale University respectively.
U.S. News rankings can be an excellent guide for choosing top nursing schools. A number
of criteria are used to judge the quality of the nursing programs including strength of
the faculty, graduation rates and data measuring 16 indicators of academic excellence.
The reputation of the program is also given consideration, reflecting the opinion of
those in a position to judge the quality of the academic program. Consideration is also
given to the amount of available financial aid to students, retention rates, faculty
resources and alumni-giving rates.
The reputation of a school can be an indicator of the quality of the nursing program.
Nursing programs with good reputations are often able to recruit top faculty which can
help ensure a quality nursing education. Graduating from a reputable nursing program may
also give the new nurse an advantage over other applicants when applying for a job or a
graduate school program. The best nursing schools often have excellent reputations and
produce graduates that are well-prepared to enter the nursing field.
Graduation And Retention Rates
Graduation rates reflect on the quality of a nursing program. Retention rates tie in
closely with graduation rates, as they reflect the ability of the school to keep students
for the duration of the program. The ability of the school to ensure its students graduate
speaks to the expertise of the faculty and the available support systems for students.
A good nursing program will support its students, offering academic advisement, tutoring
and access to faculty. Students can take advantage of these services to ensure they don't
fall behind in classes and graduate on time.
The availability of financial aid can be an important factor in choosing a nursing school.
Scholarships and loans can be essential to a student's success. Not having to pay for the
full tuition amount allows the student to focus on studies instead of having to work. Many
private colleges and universities, while more expensive than their public counterparts,
have generous financial aid packages available to their students that can offset some, if
not all, of the tuition costs. Students can also search free online scholarship databases
such as www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com.
Choosing a school that is accredited is important to ensure a quality nursing education.
Most states require that students graduate from an accredited school prior to granting
licensure as a registered nurse. The two main accrediting bodies are the American Association
of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission
(NLNAC). Accredited nursing schools must meet rigorous academic standards prior to being
granted accreditation status. Accreditation helps to ensure the quality of the nursing
program and to maintain standards of education for the profession.
Knowing the acceptance rates of a nursing program can help the student prepare for
the admission process. Nursing schools with a high acceptance rate allow most students
into the program, which could mean they have lower admission standards or that they
have fewer applicants. Schools with low acceptance rates allow few students into their
programs. These schools are very competitive, meaning they have high academic standards
and many applicants. For students interested in the top nursing schools, they are likely
to encounter a highly competitive admissions process with low admittance rates.
Some schools offer the added benefit of job placement to graduates. Job placement
services can be beneficial when the workforce is competitive and there are few jobs
available to new nurses. The number of available nursing jobs has varied over the
decades with periods of nursing shortages. Depending on the job market, job placement
may be beneficial. Currently there is a nursing shortage with an abundance of available
nursing jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing field is
expected to grow 26 percent faster than average, with an expected 711,600 jobs added
Choosing a nursing school is the first step in starting a nursing career. Each student
must weigh the importance of the qualities of different nursing programs to determine
the best fit. For some, location and availability of financial aid may be important,
while for others, they may be more concerned with reputation and quality of faculty.
No matter what is important to a potential nursing student, they should take advantage
of resources such as U.S. News rankings that can provide valuable data and insight to
help them come to a decision. Once a school is chosen, students can be on their way
to an exciting and challenging career as a nurse!