The Final Word on America's Top 10 Nursing Schools

by Tera Tuten on August 30, 2010

Nursing School Students and TeachersWondering which nursing schools are tops to apply to, work at, or just get an acceptance to?

More to the point, wondering which list of top nursing schools to trust?

Don’t fret: We’ve got you covered.

After analysing more than 30 such rankings, we averaged the lists together, applying editorial common sense and other subjective judgements where of use and benefit in painting a more comprehensive picture of the nursing programs that stand-out.

Who’s top of the top?

Below is our ranking of rankings that shows who the best nursing school lists consistently pick, which ones are potentially over-hyped, and which ones make the cut more than you’d think:

University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

1. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

Followers of “top nursing school” lists may be horrified at this snubbing of the west-coast-based darling of such rankings in favour of a school that never vaults past #2. But ivy-league Penn’s nursing school ranks #1 for satisfaction on nearly every major survey site, including Its graduate program in nursing is ranked #3 and #2 in the country and its midwifery program ranks #2. For those reasons, we crown UPenn as the nation’s top nursing school.

University of Washington (Seattle, WA)

2. University of Washington (Seattle, WA)

This school has consistently ranked as the top nursing program in America across all major surveys for more than a decade (including Forbes and U.S. News & World Report.) Interestingly though, the school fails to make the grade with students, appearing in the top 10 or even 20 on few – if any – student review sites. Though students aren’t saying anything positive above and beyond other nursing schools, no one’s really complaining either. And its highly-sought-after graduates place fast and make good money out-of-the-gate.

3. University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

“We’re number three! We’re number three!!” The nursing school at University of California, San Francisco – and the teaching program at San Francisco General Hospital – ranked squarely in 3rd place on every list we surveyed. An achievement to be proud of… seriously.

John Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

4. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

One of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions ranked #4 across the board as voted by professional evaluators and students.

5. Oregon Health and Science University (Portland, OR)

Ducking in and out of most top 20 lists – never mind top 10 – Oregon gets our vote through decent student reviews and a 2007/2008 U.S. News & World Report #1 ranking for its school of midwifery: a critically important growing medical profession.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

6. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

Often in the bottom half of the top 10 in several important rankings, never more than 6, rarely less than 10.

7. Pensacola Christian College (Pensacola, FL)

Possibly our most controversial choice, the home of the mighty Eagles makes it on to our list of lists because of the simple fact that – after top choice University of Pennsylvania – Pensacola’s nursing school is the most-liked nursing program in America, according to student surveys such as It’s also the only other nursing school besides Penn to get an A-rating on said site.

Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)

8. Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)

Though not on a lot of Top 10 lists for its nursing school in general, Virginia Commonwealth ranks #1 on U.S. News & World Report for its anaesthesiology program.

9. University of Maryland, Baltimore (Baltimore, MD)

Benefiting from some of the same local teaching and research talent as its more-prestigious neighbor Johns Hopkins, U Maryland’s nursing program squeaks under the Top 10 line year over year.
University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

10. University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Who wants to move to Pittsburgh for anything (maybe a good hockey game or two)? Nevertheless, the Panthers round out our ranking of rankings of the top 10 nursing programs in America.

How we ranked the rankings

In choosing nursing schools by surveying other rankings of nursing programs, we gave more weight to the rankings that were created through a comprehensive professional review of standardized criteria. (At the same time, we took the lists that simply repeated those lists with a grain of salt.)

We also discarded lists that simply chronicled the largest nursing programs and highest number of degrees granted, keeping information such as % of job placements soon after graduation, amount of funding, student reviews, and average first-year salary after graduation.

Though rankings on these lists often move little over 2-3 years, rankings between different lists vary slightly-to-wildly. In addition to sampling dozens of lists, we looked at lists and their rankings across several years: 2007, 2008, and 2009.

In the end, you should choose the nursing program that’s right for you. But for what it’s worth, the above 10 schools offer some of the highest quality education, student life and post-grad support in the country.

FAQs on nursing school ranking criteria:

Top 50 nursing schools as voted by students:

U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of top health-related undergrad and grad schools:


{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Rosenman 09.15.10 at 9:39 am

I have to agree with the choice of University of Pittsburgh!! I have had several of my RN’s graduate from U o f Pitt, each and every one has excelled in their contracts – many extended. The skills and knowledge that these RN’s have coming out of school is superior.
Another plus — these RN’s do not mind the cold weather — always a plus!

Ron Washburn 09.15.10 at 9:52 am

Who wants to move to Pennsylvania is what I thought when I saw the University of Pennsylvania at number one, but seeing two PA nursing schools in the Top 10 makes me think there must be more to PA than the cold snowy image I have in my mind. Obviously they are doing something right for the nursing field. I wonder how many of our travel nurses came from the University of Pennsylvania or Pittsburgh?

Lukasz Wiezel 09.16.10 at 6:43 am

Go UNC! The University of North Carolina has many excellent programs for students to consider. I think the future of our healthcare professionals has a bright outlook, UNC has my vote. I cant remember the last time one of my RN’s didn’t get a position being a graduate of UNC’s school of nursing. Great academics and athletics, what else might you need from a top 10 contender?

Jonathan Tubbs 09.17.10 at 9:37 am

I would give my vote to Johns Hopkins University. It certainly is one of the most prestigious universities already, but also has one of the oldest nursing programs. The Nursing School founded in 1889, along with the Medical School in 1893 has produced some the finest medical professionals in the world.

In my own medical history I have encountered some Johns Hopkins graduates and I can only say I was nothing but impressed and confident in their care and diagnoses. I certainly wish I had listened in school as much as they did; but glad they already have done the work when they take care of me.

Rachel 09.27.10 at 5:25 pm

Pensacola Christian College’s mascot is the Eagles, not the Crusaders. Not sure where the author got Crusaders from.

Tera Tuten 09.27.10 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for letting me know, Rachel. I have updated the Pensacola Christian College information.

Ronda Yoder 09.27.10 at 7:33 pm

I’m very pleased to see that PCC made your top 10 list. I graduated from PCC 25 years ago, taught there for quite a while and graduated with advanced degrees from two top name nursing schools that, unfortunately, did not make it onto your list. Ironically, when I recently took an online course from a third university that is also not on your list, they had the most concern about my degree from PCC! Having worked with PCC students and grads, as well as grads from many other schools, I would have to say that PCC still has the highest quality undergraduate education program of any nursing school I’ve seen. I realize I’m probably biased, but that is the feedback I’ve received from any number of sources over the past 25 years as well.

Arlin Bekka 09.27.10 at 10:43 pm

Pensacola Christian College definitely does deserve to be in the top 10, let alone top anything. While they might have a descent nursing program, Pensacola Christian College is not Christian at all and does not display any attributes that a Christian should represent. I should know…I was forced to conform to all their ways for 2 whole years, but now I am free!

george 09.27.10 at 10:56 pm

Nice Arlin Bekka,

Maybe you could have finished and learned how to type while you were there… quite obviously you meant “doesnt” in your first sentence and your second meant “decent” and not descent 🙂 guess you didn’t cut it at any higher education facility. Oh well.

Heather 09.28.10 at 7:33 am

I agree that Pensacola Christian College belongs on the top ten list! My four years there were time and money well spent. I graduated with a BSN in 1997, and went on to receive an MSN degree from a prestigious nursing school that didn’t make this list. I now teach at another Christian college in the nursing program.

Heather 09.28.10 at 12:58 pm

Dr. Yoder! You were my psych instructor. Good to “see” you. 🙂

Tina Price 09.28.10 at 12:58 pm

It was exciting to see that Pensacola Christian College’s Nursing School made it on your Top 30 list! I am proud of my Alma Mater! I graduated from PCC’s BSN program 16 years ago. The Professors there have a heart for their students and strive to give them the best education. The classroom education and hands on experience have been invaluable. Finding, keeping and growing in my professional roles has never been difficult thanks to the training I received at PCC!

Mandy 09.28.10 at 1:14 pm

What verifiable data was used to make this ranking list? Did you include the academic atmosphere in your decision as well as the academics? I also wonder about #7 given some of the comments stating their degree was called into question by other schools. Is this still a problem when a student graduates there or transfers from there and needs credits transferred? I think more than the quality or likeability of the courses need to be considered when making a top 10 list, as the atmosphere and liveability for the student, and it’s standing in the academic community are vital.

paula pinto 09.28.10 at 3:04 pm

Awesome! Graduated in 1994 with a BSN. I have NEVER had a problem getting a job. I have worked in NY, MD, VA, and now in NC. I even had to turn down some jobs because other offers were better! Great college, OUT OF THIS WORLD Instructors who care.
By the way….the atmosphere=top quality, would beat out most colleges in that area. The liveability…..well, not sure what you mean here. I believe everyone has succesfully lived well while there. Good food, fresh air, good company, top notch dorms, modern facilities, & people who care….Hmmmm. Likeability of courses? Seriously….we all need to know the same material before passing boards whether we like it or not. Lastly, the standing in the community. The hospitals who take on nursing students for clinicals gladly welcome PCC student nurses! Maybe next time they take more in consideration PCC will be #1.

Robyn Griffiths Houghton 09.28.10 at 4:34 pm

I am so proud PCC made the list. When I was searching for a nursing school, I chose PCC because their rate for passing the nursing boards was 98%. I graduated in 1993 and have spent my nursing career at a top rated Children’s Hospital. I enjoyed my 4 yrs at PCC. I got a quality education from nursing faculty who truly cared about the success of their students. If you are looking for a “party school” or if you are not willing to follow rules, practice Christian values, or dedicate yourself to your education, then PCC is not the place for you. However, if you want a reasonably priced nursing education that will prepare you for success and leadership, then consider PCC.
Thanks to Dr. Hatfield and all of the men and women who have given of themselves to make PCC one of the top 10 Nursing Schools in America.

Diane O'Berry 09.28.10 at 9:12 pm

I am a PCC Nursing graduate as well! I graduated in 1996 and have never had any difficulty in finding a position. The nursing program was difficult – but very profitable. I knew I was well prepared when I graduated. I am proud of PCC for making the top 10 – I am only surprised that they didn’t before!

pam 09.28.10 at 10:38 pm

I was so happily surprised that PCC made it in top 10! I graduated from PCC’s nursing program in 1994. I can honestly say that I received the best education I could ever have dreamed of. I have no doubt in my mind that my nursing instructors were the best in this world! That is why this program made it to top ten. I am so thankful for my education! However, I strongly believe that the obsessive “sheltering” of being a student there in no way provided me with what I would face out in the real world. I had to learn this the hard way. Wow, what a shock that was!

Morgan Jones 09.29.10 at 11:12 am

I am a two time University of Washington graduate, BSN in 1992 and MSN in 1995. I had good experiences both times and learned what I needed to be successful in my career. I felt supported by faculty and many of the nursing school staff. BUT…the BEST nursing school is the one that you get into that teaches what you need to learn AND that you get out: graduate—where ever that school may be.

David Bain 09.29.10 at 2:27 pm

As the parent of a PCC Nursing Program graduate, I am extremely pleased with the education my son got t here. He graduated in 1998, began immediately working in Virginia Beach, Va and then got his Master’s at Old Dominion University. He is now a nurse practitioner in Williamsburg, VA. In addition to the quality education he got at PCC, you can’t beat the cost!

As far as being “sheltered” from the “real world” as one person commented, I am thankful for the Christian environment PCC provides. Both of my sons who attended there (the other was a graphic design major and is now the International Art Director for a major company), were mature enough to recognize that in every area of life, we have areas in which we can sacrifice our own freedom for a time for the greater long-term goal of getting a good education.

Both are my sons are well-adjusted men who are married with children and show know “ill-effects” of this “sheltering.”

Jessica Hauer 09.29.10 at 5:52 pm

Very cool! I am an even prouder PCC grad now . The education I received more than prepared me for the world on the “outside”, professionally and personally. For those that scoff at it’s strict rules, I say, no one holds a gun to your head and makes you stay. If u have the discipline to stick it out, you can take immense pride in that also. Also, a shout out to Dr. Yoder! You were tough but very good. Proud to know ya! 🙂

Marun 09.29.10 at 10:05 pm

I am just thrilled to see PCC make it in the top 10 list!! As a graduate of PCC back in 1999, I was more than prepared me for the world of nursing. The skill and knowledge base one attains far exceeds the new grads from other schools. Managers, co-workers, and supervisors have expressed their appreciation.
PCC expects their students to perform to the highest level. Yes, it was difficult and stressful, but that all prepares you to perform at your absolute best under ALL circumstances. Being employed in the ER, my skills and knowledge are used at their highest level. A HUGE THANK YOU TO MY ALMA MATER PENSACOLA CHRISTIAN COLLEGE.

sKy 09.29.10 at 10:34 pm

It’s true. PCC has a great nursing program and the atmosphere only serves to help those who are truly serious in acquiring an education. The ones who complain are usually the ones who will complain for the rest of their lives. If you cannot follow simple rules, what can you follow? What is a nurse without discipline and determination? Hospitals want PCC nursing graduates because they know they are getting great nurses. I’ve seen the nursing students. They’re some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.

Sarah (Simpson) Matney 09.29.10 at 11:31 pm

I too am very proud of my alma mater, Pensacola Christian College, where I received my degree in 1998. I am now a nurse manager of a pediatric hematology/oncology clinic, and can attest that my training at PCC completely prepared me for every aspect of my nursing career.

Garet Taylor 09.30.10 at 5:33 pm

My wife, Tracy (Christoff) Taylor is a 1995 PCC grad. She is back in the nursing world after not having to work for 12 years. After a year and a half, the facility where she works asked her to be the D.O.N. This does not happen by accident. She did have to turn down the offer, however. Too many other things like homeschooling on her plate. It is true that not all who go to PCC agree with the way things are done (myself included, who also happens to be a PCC grad), however, when it comes to education it’s pretty hard to disagree with the results….especially the nursing program. I am extremely proud of my wife!!

Sharron Clemons 12.21.10 at 4:25 pm

It’s true. PCC has a great nursing program and the atmosphere only serves to help those who are truly serious in acquiring an education. The ones who complain are usually the ones who will complain for the rest of their lives. If you cannot follow simple rules, what can you follow? What is a nurse without discipline and determination? Hospitals want PCC nursing graduates because they know they are getting great nurses. I’ve seen the nursing students. They’re some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.

Kristine 02.05.11 at 6:00 am

I am very excited to see PCC on the list and I am happy to see all the positive comments about the college. I am praying about going to Pensacola this Fall. I have applied and am working towards the next steps.

Any suggestions/advice?

Also, about the rules, ect. I kind of like the idea of a disciplined and high-standard atmosphere, I like what someone said that no one puts a gun to your head and forces you to go.
Any comments about the M.S.N.? thanks!

Academic Adviser 04.21.11 at 12:17 pm

How can you include a nursing school that isn’t even accredited??? Pensacola Christian College does not have institutional or program accreditation of any kind. This list is very misleading to prospective nursing students.
Please consider vital academic standards such as accreditation when compiling ranking lists in the future.

Aly 04.30.11 at 8:22 am

PCC is currently applying for accreditation. It is a vital standard; and that’s why I am finally considering going there for a nursing degree.

Academic Adviser 05.11.11 at 10:09 am

Aly – Yes, Pensacola Christian College has announced that it is applying for accreditation by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). Even if PCC is able to obtain TRACS accreditation, this accreditation, unfortunately, would mean nothing for the nursing program.

“There are two national organizations that accredit nursing education programs: The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). While not every nursing school and nursing program is NLNAC or CCNE accredited and a quality nursing education is possible without the mark of distinction, a degree from an institution accredited by one of these organizations ensures that you will be qualified to attend another accredited school of nursing, should you be interested in an advanced degree, for example an RN-to-BSN or Master’s degree. Also, some scholarships are only available to students attending accredited nursing programs.”

Program-specific accreditation is extremely important in many careers. My advice: apply to nursing programs that have the appropriate accreditation.


Alvin Sampson 08.17.11 at 12:27 pm

It’s nice to see a definitive Top 10 list come out for nursing schools. I have come across so many poorly constructed versions in my search for the premiere US nursing programs. It would also be helpful if someone could create a Top 10 for practical nursing programs as I cannot find a good list online.

jimbo 09.09.11 at 11:59 pm

@academic advisor,
isn’t accreditation a lot like a JCAHO or MAGNET status? does nothing but make the people in the club who haven’t realized they paid a lot of money for nothing? if one graduated from PCC they still get to take their state boards and they still get the title RN.

Chon 11.24.11 at 10:00 am

I was afraid nursing was my calling, but now that I am broken I am ready to heal people left and right. Does that make sense? Anyways, does the university name actually make a positive difference when obtaining a BSN degree? Your replies will be helpful in determining which route I should take in pursing a degree. Muchos Gracias.


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