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Top Nursing Schools

Top Nursing SchoolsStudying to be a nurse could be a smart move particularly if you want to enter a field expected to have above average employment growth nationally between 2010 and 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nationwide job growth for both licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs, and registered nurses, or RNs, is expected to reach up to 22 percent and up to 26 percent, respectively, during that time. A number of changes are said to factor into that increasing need, according to the American Journal of Medical Quality. These include a growing elderly population, more nurses nearing retirement, increased numbers of people covered under new federal health insurance mandates, and an upcoming expected physician shortage. In all, some 260,000 additional nurses are expected to be needed by 2025, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Those wishing to enter the nursing field could pursue any number of degree programs. An associate degree is typically helpful to become an LPN and start a career in the nursing field. However, RN certification is generally needed for pay advancement and to work in any kind of independent role. Those wanting to work in administration, supervise others, or teach at a collegiate level may want to pursue even more advanced education. Students can now find programs offering them advancement from LPN to MSN or helping them progress from a bachelor’s degree to doctoral training.

U.S. News & World Report has compiled a list of top nursing schoolsfor online graduate nursing education based on faculty credentials and training. The top five schools in the 2012 list included the following:

1.       George Washington University, Washington D.C.
2.       Loyola University, New Orleans
3.       Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas
4.       Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn.

U.S. News & World Report also offers three other top nursing schools lists that ranks graduate nursing programs by student services and technology, student engagement and accreditation and admissions selectivity. 

Which nursing program is right for you?

You may have also heard of the phrase “licensed practical nurse,” or “LPN.” For most purposes, the LVN and LPN titles are used interchangeably and require similar academic training. Upon completion of your LVN or LPN program, you typically need to apply for and pass the NCLEX-PN exam, developed by The National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Completing an LPN or LVN training program does not guarantee employment as additional training; certifications or qualifications may be required.

Registered nurse training can begin with an associate degree, or ADN, which is most commonly offered by vocational schools and community colleges. Many nurses who complete an ADN program continue on to complete an RN-to-BSN program. Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) programs are traditionally offered at universities and colleges and typically take four years to complete, based upon class scheduling and student aptitude.

An MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) is required to work as an advanced practice nurse, according to the BLS.  These include positions of clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse–midwife and nurse practitioner. You can look for programs that can take you from RN to MSN or BSN to MSN to help with achievement of these goals. Doctoral level programs are also available for nurses. These are commonly known as the Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, and the Doctor of Nursing Science, or DSN.

Learn more about nursing careers

According to the BLS, registered nurses earned a national annual wage of $65,950 median in 2011, with the top 10 percent earning up to $96,630 nationally and the bottom ten percent earning $44,970 nationally in 2011 (, 2012). Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses earned a national annual wage of $41,150 median in 2011, with the bottom ten percent earning up to $30,650 nationally and the top ten percent earning up to $57,080 nationally in 2011 (, 2012)