Students looking for a rewarding, challenging, and in-demand career can find it in nursing.
While nurses have a chance to make a hands-on difference in the lives of others, from labor and delivery to geriatrics and every age in between, nurses also are needed now more than ever.
That demand is only expected to grow, too, thanks in part to the aging Baby Boomer generation requiring more medical care and many current nurses nearing retirement age.
The need for registered nurses, in particular, will be especially great in this decade, with an estimated 175,900 RN jobs estimated to open each year through 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections 2019-2029.
The job pays well, too: The median annual wage for RNs in May 2020 was $75,330, according to the bureau.
That leaves many openings for young nurses to step up, making now a better time than ever to join a college nursing program.
Nursing students can pursue associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing or diplomas from approved nursing programs. A 2010 Institute of Medicine report about nursing called for more baccalaureate-prepared nurses, and many schools have stepped up their efforts in their nursing programs to prepare their students better to meet the country’s needs.
Getting into a top-notch nursing school doesn’t need to be a challenge, either. These are the 10 nursing schools with the highest acceptance rates that are also ranked in the top 100 nursing schools nationwide according to Educationcorner.com
10. Missouri Western State University (St. Joseph, MO)
Missouri Western State University takes hands-on education to the next level. Students in the bachelor’s program in nursing learn in the campus’ Nursing Simulation Lab, which features equipment, mannequins, simulators and more to help students develop their skills. It’s even open for independent practice.
Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the bachelor’s program also aims to prepare students for their licensure exam with clinical courses that have small class sizes (10 students to one teacher), research projects and hands-on clinical practice in St. Joseph and Kansas City area healthcare facilities.
The school has options, too, for students who already have a diploma or associate degree in nursing and want to earn their BSN. The university teamed up with an area community college to give students flexible options for earning their BSN, with classes offered online, letting most students finish their degree within two years.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 100%
9. Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, FL)
Potential nurses have several options for study at Indian River State College, which has five campuses throughout Florida, plus several other educational sites in the state.
In the School of Nursing, students can pursue an associate degree in nursing, a certificate in practical nursing, or a certificate to become a nursing assistant.
Nursing Schools Almanac ranked Indian River #12 in its list of the Best Associate’s Degree in Nursing Programs in Florida. That program also is nationally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Current RNs, meanwhile, can continue their studies to earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing in the RN to BSN program. This 121-credit program builds on the nurse’s existing knowledge with 10 online lectures and clinical learning courses.
The college also is a bargain for Florida residents. As a state school, its tuition and fees for in-state residents came to just $2,764 for the 2019-20 academic year, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 100%
8. Weber State University Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing (Ogden, UT)
Celebrating 60 years of nursing education, Weber State University gives nurses of all kinds a chance to build on their skills as they move up the degree ladder.
The associate degree in nursing is the perfect starting place for those entering the field or for practical nurses looking to advance their careers.
Students eligible to take the licensed practical nurse board examination after completing one year of study, and after they finish the two-year program, students can move into the workforce or continue on to Weber’s bachelor’s nursing program. BSN grads will be eligible to sit for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing licensure exam.
The School of Nursing has a wide reach, too, offering classes at Weber’s Ogden and Davis campuses as well as online and hybrid (a mixture of online and clinical work) programs. The university also has nursing programs at three other schools: Bridgerland, Davis and Ogden-Weber technical college.
And there’s even more rungs on that degree ladder after that, with options to earn a master’s in nursing and a doctorate in nursing practice.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 100%
7. University of Texas at El Paso School of Nursing (El Paso, TX)
The multicultural setting of the University of Texas at El Paso gives students a chance to learn and practice their skills in an environment reflective of the country’s diversity. And nursing students seem to be interested in this school on the U.S.-Mexico border, as enrollment is higher than ever.
The program has a long history as well, founded as a training school for nurses in 1898, which the university later absorbed.
Its students not only benefit from classroom and clinical experience but research opportunities as well. Both undergraduate and graduate students have opportunities to team up with faculty for research in which they can “investigate and meet global healthcare needs,” according to the school.
The university offers a traditional bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as an online program for registered nurses to complete their BSN, and Nursing Schools Almanac ranked the program #25 in its 2021 list of the Best Prelicensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs in Texas.
One of its big draws, though, is its graduate programs for nurses looking to advance their careers. Options include master’s degrees in nursing administration and management, nursing education, and nurse practitioner studies. It has post-master’s and doctoral programs, too.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 99.8%
6. Tennessee Technological University Whitson-Hester School of Nursing (Cookeville, TN)
Students interested in hands-on, clinical work will find that and more at this rural university.
Tennessee Tech nursing undergrads spend more than half of the program in a clinical setting, experiencing different healthcare fields, such as pediatrics and mental health, so they can figure out what areas interest them.
Those bachelor’s programs – four-year, a second-degree, and RN to BSN options – earned Tennessee Tech the #3 spot on Nursing Schools Almanac’s 2021 list of the Best Prelicensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs in the state.
More than 95% of its BSN graduates pass the RN licensure exam on their first try.
Nursing students can begin their degree at several approved community colleges and then complete their clinical studies at Tennessee Tech, which also has graduate nursing programs.
The university recently stepped up its efforts to help the community, too, through Grand Challenge: Rural Reimagined. The program aims to use “the university’s unique assets to develop and support the success of rural areas throughout Tennessee” in the hope that it becomes a model for other colleges.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 97.4%
5. Southeast Missouri State University (Cape Girardeau, MO)
Located not far from the Mississippi River, Southeast Missouri State not only has a reputation for properly preparing its nursing students for their careers but also makes an effort to keep their education affordable.
The suburban university offers a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as a completely online RN to BSN program, accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The online program caters to working students by offering year-round classes and four-, eight-, and 16-week courses. BSN grads have a 100% pass rate for their licensure exams, thanks in part to the well-trained faculty, more than half of whom have doctorates.
SEMO also boasts low faculty-student ratios (1:8-9 in first-year lessons) and gives students hands-on experience in nursing specialties during clinical practice.
In-state tuition costs $8,033 in 2020-21, according to U.S. News & World Report, but 70% of students are eligible for the university’s scholarship program.
Those who qualify for Federal Pell Grants also are eligible for SEMO’s Will To Do Award, which covers any costs left over after the student’s grant and other scholarships have been applied.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 97.2%
4. Metropolitan State University College of Nursing and Health Sciences (St. Paul, MN)
Marking 40 years of nurse education in 2021, Metropolitan State offers programs at its St. Paul campus and several affiliated community colleges in the area and out of state.
Undergraduate offerings include the Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education Bachelor of Science in Nursing (MANE BSN) and the RN to BSN program.
Students in the latter program can take lessons entirely online or in a hybrid online/in-person setting, making it an excellent option for working nurses.
Students learn in a variety of settings, not just in the classroom but also in simulation labs and online. Taking courses in subjects such as biology and interpersonal communication gives them a strong foundation for more advanced subjects, including pharmacology, nursing leadership and evidence-based nursing practice.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education has accredited the BSN program, which also is endorsed by the American Holistic Nursing Credentialing Corporation, meaning grads can sit for the holistic nurse certification exam in addition to the regular RN licensure exam.
Metropolitan State offers a master’s in nursing and doctorate in nursing practice as well for students who want to continue their studies.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 96.7%
3. Missouri Southern State University (Joplin, MO)
This recently revamped nursing program is an affordable option for residents of Missouri and several nearby states.
This public university – ranked #6 in U.S. News & World Report’s list of top public colleges in the Midwest – offers just a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
During their clinical studies, Missouri Southern students gain real-world experience in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospices, schools, specialty hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
Alumni have proven just how well Missouri Southern prepared them, too, with 89% of nursing grads passing the NCLEX-RN on their first attempt.
In-state tuition and fees came to $7,462 in 2020-21, with out-of-state tuition costing about twice as much, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The school’s Lion Pride Tuition program, however, grants local tuition rates to students from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.
And, students have an excellent career outlook if they stay in Missouri after graduating: nearly 65,000 RNs work in the state and pull in a median annual salary of about $57,000.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 96.7%
2. Washburn University School of Nursing (Topeka, KS)
Washburn University places a strong emphasis on making a positive impact in the community with the help of its nursing students.
In its COACH program, the university gives students clinical experience while also helping people in need.
With the help of community partners, students help offer preventative health programs and health screenings in areas such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and nutrition.
And, by providing training and simulations of true-life scenarios to organizations such as hospitals, health agencies, and even fellow Washburn students, they get to pass on what they’ve learned.
Washburn offers three ways for students to earn a bachelor’s in nursing: the traditional four-year BSN program, an LPN-to-BSN program, and an RN-to-BSN program.
Students do their clinical training at more than 65 healthcare facilities in a variety of settings across Northeast Kansas. It also offers graduate nursing programs and a post-graduate APRN certificate program for nurses to build on their education.
The university is an affordable option for residents of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, too, as they all pay the Kansas resident tuition rate, which was $8,704 in 2019-20, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 95.5%
1. Wichita State University School of Nursing (Wichita, KS)
Students can finish their nursing degree in a little more than one year at Wichita State.
Located in Kansas’ largest city, the university offers an accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as a traditional BSN program and RN-to-BSN program.
The accelerated program is the only one of its kind at a state university in Kansas and helps “qualified students become qualified nurses in only 13 months.”
BSN students rack up more than 1,000 of clinical experience in addition to gaining experience in the lab and simulations.
They also prepare to move into the working world through a capstone program in which they team up with an RN for a five-week clinical rotation.
Students can actually gain two bachelor’s degrees if they join the Wichita State University Pathway to Nursing Program at Kansas State University.
They earn a bachelor of science from Kansas State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences plus a BSN from Wichita State’s College of Health Professions.
Acceptance rate into nursing program: 95.2%