More than simply a job, nursing is a sacred calling. Nurses meet people at their most vulnerable moments and are often the front line in health care. It takes a heart of gold, compassion, and strength in addition to an outstanding education. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN degree) is a great launch point for a stellar career in nursing and often leads to becoming a registered nurse (RN) or advancement within that position.
While a bachelor’s degree is not needed to sit for the NCLEX-RN test that licenses professional nurses, it can improve RNs’ job prospects. The vast majority of hospitals, for example, require at least a BSN degree for their RNs. In addition, RNs with bachelor level educations are paid more than those with an associate degree in nursing (ADN).
Registered nurses are an integral part of most healthcare facilities. They have a number of duties that include:
All states and territories of the United States require registered nurses to have a nursing license. To get this nursing license, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN).
Other requirements vary from state to state with each state’s board of nursing providing the specific requirements. These often include things such as a criminal background check and drug screening as well as certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).
There are two main BSN programs that provide the needed classroom and clinical hours for certification as an RN. These are the Direct Entry BSN and the RN to BSN programs.
Direct-Entry BSN Programs
Considered the gold standard in nursing education, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year degree and is often the minimum required for hospitals for a nursing position. Direct-entry means that the student does not need any previous nursing education or licensure to enter the program. The majority of accredited BSN programs – direct-entry or otherwise – are found at traditional universities and colleges. Courses often include Clinical Pharmacology, Pathophysiology, Nursing Informatics, and more.
RN to BSN Programs
If you have your ADN and are a licensed RN who is looking to take your nursing career to the next level, an RN to BSN program is the next step. These programs are generally less than two years and are often offered online to allow busy RNs to fit it into their schedule.
The future of nursing continues to shine brightly with wages and growth of the field expected to continue to increase as we move into the next decade and beyond. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (BLS OOH), the nursing field is expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. This rate is much faster than the average rate of job growth and surpasses that of nearly every other field.
Based on the same source, as of May 2018, the median annual wage for a registered nurse in the U.S. was $71,730. Furthermore, the lowest 10 percent of RNs earned roughly $50,800 with the highest 10 percent earning more than $106,530. Based on the setting, the median annual wages for RNs vary slightly with government, hospital, ambulatory healthcare services, nursing or residential care facilities, and educational services being the top industries. As of May 2018, the median annual wages for RNs in these industries were reported by the BLS OOH were:
The first step towards a promising career in nursing is choosing the right school. To that end, we have researched and rated nursing schools offering BSN programs.
The small picturesque community of Berea in Kentucky is home to Berea College. Their BSN program is offered amid a historic and artistic community. With small class sizes, low tuition, and a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate they offer the best BSN program available today.
The Long Beach campus of California State University offers nursing students several options. In addition to their traditional BSN, they also offer an RN to BSN program designed for students who already hold an RN license. Moreover, they offer MSN, MSN to DNP, and DNP programs to help students further their nursing education.
Longwood University can be found in the small town of Farmville in Virginia. They offer both a traditional direct-entry BSN as well as an RN to BSN program for those who are already working as registered nurses. They offer small class sizes, moderate tuition, and a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate that propelled them to the third spot on this list.
Located in Provo Utah, Brigham Young University offers a BSN program that utilizes a clinical simulation laboratory that allows students to practice nursing skills prior to working with actual patients. In addition, their global health course provides students with the chance to travel areas like Ghana, Finland, Ecuador, and the Czech Republic.
The University of Tennessee campus in Martin Tennessee offers a traditional BSN program that is available on campus and online. In addition to small class sizes, low tuition, and a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate they offer a chapter of Sigma Theta Tau (Pi Tau Chapter), an international honor society for nursing.
Texas State University is located in San Marcos, Texas and offers its traditional BSN program through the St. David’s School of Nursing. This program admits 100 students each year and offers moderate class sizes and tuition coupled with excellent NCLEX-RN pass rates.
Saint Francis University – found in Loretto, Pennsylvania – offers a direct entry BSN program as well as an RN to BSN program. They offer small class sizes with an even smaller student to faculty ratio of 8 to 1 in a clinical setting. In addition, nursing students and faculty regularly volunteer at clinics for underserved populations.
Offering a traditional direct-entry BSN as well as an RN to BSN program, Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California lands in the eighth position. In addition to these undergraduate degree options, they also offer an MSN program should students choose to further their nursing education.
The University of Kentucky is located in Lexington, Kentucky. They offer a traditional BSN, an LPN to BSN program, and an RN to BSN program through their College of Nursing. Moderate class sizes and tuition coupled with solid NCLEX-RN pass rates propel this institution to a top ten spot on this list despite what seems to be a rather standard graduation rate.
West Virginia Wesleyan College is located in the picturesque community of Buckhannon, West Virginia in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. In addition to their bachelor degree programs, they offer MSN programs that allow nurses to further their careers.
California State University – Stanislaus is located in sunny Turlock, California. Their nursing programs include RN to BSN, LVN to BSN, and ADN to BSN tracks. Low tuition and moderate class sizes are their saving grace with slightly low graduation rates and NCLEX-RN pass rates.
Ohio Northern University is located in Ada, Ohio. They offer a BSN program and an RN to BSN completion program. Their RN to BSN program is one year in length with students meeting once weekly for four terms, in addition to two clinical experiences.
Saint Anselm College is located in Manchester, New Hampshire. They offer a BSN program and an RN to BSN program. They offer the latest in simulation technology via a state-of-the-art simulation lab. In addition, they offer small class sizes, a higher than average graduation rate, and perfect NCLEX-RN pass rates that help to balance out their rather high tuition costs.
Located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Western Kentucky University offers a BSN program, an RN to BSN program, and a second-degree BSN program. The second-degree BSN program allows students with a prior bachelor’s degree to become an RN in only four semesters and is separate from the RN to BSN program.
West Virginia University is located in Morgantown, West Virginia. They offer a BSN degree that requires students to log 1,100 clinical hours, 950 of which must take place in an Academic Medical Center with Level I Trauma designation.
Spring Hill College is the oldest Catholic college in the southeast and the third oldest Jesuit college in the United States. Their BSN program is offered with small class sizes and boasts a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate that helps balance their lackluster graduation rate and moderate tuition costs.
Western Carolina University – located in Cullowhee, North Carolina – offers a pre-licensure BSN program, an accelerated BSN program that allows students with a prior bachelor’s degree to obtain a BSN degree, and an online RN to BSN program. Their programs are also offered at Biltmore Park Towne Square in Asheville, North Carolina where nursing is one of the few majors offered.
San Diego State University offers a traditional direct-entry BSN, an RN to BSN program, and an LVN to BSN track. In addition, they have an MSN program for those who wish to go beyond the BSN. Their low tuition and moderate graduation rate balance out a slightly low NCLEX-RN pass rate and large class sizes to land it in the top 20 of this list.
Duke University is located in Durham, North Carolina. The Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) is unique in that their only BSN program is an accelerated BSN (ABSN) designed for adult learners with a prior bachelor’s degree. Students enjoy small class sizes coupled with a higher-than-average graduation rate and moderate NCLEX-RN pass rates and tuition costs.
Eastern Kentucky University is located in Richmond, Kentucky. EKU offers a traditional BSN program, an RN to BSN program, and a second-degree BSN program. They also have a wide variety of post-graduate options for those who want to continue their education after graduating with their BSN degree.
The University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa. Their College of Nursing offers a BSN program and an RN to BSN program. In addition, they also offer an extensive graduate program.
Gardner-Webb University is located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina through The Hunt School of Nursing. Their BSN programs include a traditional track and an RN to BSN program that boast small class sizes and a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate. Moreover, should a student choose to advance beyond the BSN, they offer specialized MSN programs (focusing on either administration, education, or family nurse practitioner), and a DNP program.
The Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania offers a traditional direct-entry BSN as well as an online RN to BSN program. They offer students moderate graduation rates, student to faculty ratios, and tuition costs as well as strong NCLEX-RN pass rates.
The Victoria campus of the University of Houston offers both a traditional direct-entry BSN as well as an RN to BSN degree track. Their standing on the upper half of this list is due in large part to their low tuition and NCLEX-RN pass rates that are close to the national average.
Located in Canyon Texas, West Texas A & M University offers multiple BSN programs. These include a traditional direct-entry BSN program, an LVN to BSN degree option, and an RN to BSN program. Furthermore, they have an RN to MSN program for those RNs that wish to further their careers beyond the BSN.
Muskingum University is found in New Concord, Ohio. Their Bachelor of Science in Nursing is offered with small class sizes and a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate for a moderate tuition cost.
The Channel Island campus of California State University is located in Camarillo, California. Their BSN program boasts a solid NCLEX-RN pass rate and low tuition costs but has a slightly lower than average graduation rate and large class sizes.
With small class sizes and a near perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate, Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois lands at the twenty-eighth position on this list. Their BSN program is a direct-entry program that requires a full-time commitment from students.
Colby-Sawyer College is situated in New London, New Hampshire. They offer a BSN program and an MSN program. Colby-Sawyer has a partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), which allows students to do the majority of their clinical rotations onsite at their facility. They also actively seek the graduates of Colby-Sawyer for employment.
Carlow University is a private liberal arts institution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They offer small class sizes for their BSN program and a solid NCLEX-RN pass rate. In addition, they have an average graduation rate and moderate tuition costs. For those who wish to go beyond the BSN, they offer an MSN program and an MSN to DNP track.
Waynesburg University – in its namesake Waynesburg, Pennsylvania – lands in the thirty-first position on this list. In addition to their BSN program, they offer an MSN and MSN to DNP. They provide small class sizes, high NCLEX-RN pass rates, and moderate tuition costs.
Georgia College and State University call Milledgeville home. In addition to advanced graduate level nursing degrees, they offer students a direct-entry BSN track. Their moderate standing in all categories – tuition, graduation rate, student to faculty ratio, and NCLEX-RN pass rate – landed them a tied spot on this list.
The University of South Carolina is found in Columbia, South Carolina and has been rated number one in the nation by US News and World Report for their online education Master’s programs. They offer a traditional direct-entry BSN program and an RN to BSN program, in addition to a wide variety of post-graduate options.
Morehead, Kentucky is the home of Morehead State University. They have a variety of nursing options with their BSN programs being their highest level of nursing education. They offer both the traditional pre-licensure program as well as the post-licensure RN to BSN program.
The Chico campus of California State University offers both a BSN and MSN program. Their lower tuition costs balance out an average NCLEX-RN pass rate and low graduation rate providing an excellent opportunity for those wanting to earn their BSN.
Sunny Coral Gables is home to the University of Miami. For a bachelor’s level of education, they offer a traditional BSN program, an accelerated BSN program, and an RN to BSN program. Their post-graduate programs for nursing are highly awarded by US News & World Report with their DNP rated #38 and their MSN rated #40 in their respective divisions.
The University of Southern Indiana – in Evansville, Indiana – offers a BSN program and an RN to BSN program. Their nursing programs are unique because they partner with certain nursing units within local hospitals known as Designated Education Units (DEUs) that allow students to spend a chunk of their clinical practice with the same staff to provide consistency in the progression of their clinical skills.
College of Coastal Georgia is located in Brunswick, Georgia. Their nursing department offers both a direct-entry BSN as well as an RN to BSN track. They offer low tuition and strong NCLEX-RN pass rates although their graduation rate is rather dismal.
Decorah, Iowa is the home of Luther College. They offer an RN to BSN program and a direct-entry program. The direct-entry program allows a high school senior to apply for entrance into the program during their freshman year of college.
The Bethel University Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in McKenzie, Tennessee is a direct-entry program. They offer students moderate tuition costs and a perfect NCLEX-RN pass rate that balances out their rather large class size and low graduation rates.
Harding University in Searcy, Arizona offers both the traditional pre-licensure (traditional direct-entry) and post-licensure (RN to BSN) Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs that many others on this list do through the Carr College of Nursing. Cohorts begin each fall and spring term with application deadlines of March 1 and October 1 respectively.
The main campus of the University of New Hampshire is located in Durham, New Hampshire. Their nursing department boasts a simulation lab with extensive clinical equipment for their BSN and graduate level nursing students.
At Florida Atlantic University – in Boca Raton, Florida – the nursing department offers a BSN program, an RN to BSN program, and freshmen direct-admit program. The latter allows high school seniors to apply for the nursing program and gain entrance into the nursing program in their first year of college.
Montana Technological University is located in Butte, Montana. They offer two BSN programs – a pre-licensure and a post-licensure. Their nursing program is the first four-year nursing program to be approved by Montana in the past 78 years.
Waterloo, Iowa is home to Allen College. One of the most outstanding factors of this institution is that it focuses entirely on healthcare education. They offer both a traditional and accelerated BSN program.
The city of Jacksonville in Illinois is home to MacMurray College. They offer a BSN that boasts small class sizes, good NCLEX-RN pass rates, and moderately low tuition. These factors outweighed their rather lackluster graduation rate to land them on this list.
Western Governors University is situated in Salt Lake City, Utah. They offer a pre-licensure BSN program and an RN to BSN program. WGU is a non-traditional university and their education is based on competencies meaning their approach allows for consideration of work experience and past education to avoid unnecessary repetition.
Kennesaw State University is located in its namesake community of Kennesaw, Georgia. They offer both a traditional BSN as well as an accelerated RN to BSN track. In addition, those wishing to further their education can utilize their MSN program.
Baylor University is located in Waco, Texas. Their nursing programs are offered through the Louise Herrington School of Nursing which offers both undergraduate and graduate options. They offer a traditional BSN program and a FastBacc BSN program. The FastBacc program is a second-degree program that allows students to earn their BSN degree in one year. In addition, they offer several graduate level tracks that include a BSN to DNP track, direct-entry MSN program, and an MSN to DNP degree track.
The final spot on this top 50 list goes to The University of Tampa who offers a BSN program and an MSN program. Their BSN program is highly competitive with students accepted for fall, spring, and summer semesters.
Our methodology began with obtaining NCLEX-RN exam pass rates for BSN programs state by state through several methods. Once this data was obtained, we filtered out the programs with the following characteristics:
Once non-qualifying programs had been filtered, the ranking process began to determine the order of the schools on this list; all institutions were evaluated on shared standards. Those standards are based on the most current information available from reliable sources such as government agencies and the school’s own website. The factors that these schools were evaluated on include:
If you represent a school that is on this list and you disagree with your listing, please contact us so that we may address your concerns. Likewise, if you represent a school that you feel should be included in this list but is not, please bring it to our attention.