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Top 10 Nursing Schools

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, Duke University, 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.

Financial Aid

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.

Acceptance Rates

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.

Job Placement

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 by 2020.

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!

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