The Final Word on America's Top 10 Nursing Schools


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:

Tera Rowland
Contributor Tera Rowland

Tera Rowland is the vice president of Soliant and has worked in the healthcare staffing industry for almost 20 years in public relations, social media, marketing and operations. In addition to Soliant, Tera worked at the Mayo Clinic as an internal communication manager and for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the American Staffing Association. Also, Tera has served on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum as part of the communication committee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations as well as a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of North Florida and has been published in the Huffington Post, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare Traveler Magazine, and Scrubs Magazine. Make sure to read the rest of Tera's blogs!