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How important are nursing school rankings?

Do I Need to Choose A Top Ranked Nursing School?

If you are preparing to attend nursing school, do you have a plan for choosing a university or college? Would you like to know how to choose a university with a high ranking? How important is it to look at rankings of various nursing programs?

Certainly any program you choose, whether it is an online program or a college in your geographic area the program should be accredited, and there are several accrediting agencies. Before looking at ranking you may want to make sure the nursing program is accredited.

Nursing Accrediting Agencies

  • The National League for Nursing (NLNAC) is actually an organization of nursing faculty and leaders of nursing education that promotes excellent quality of nursing education.
  • The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredits each type of nursing program, including master's, associate, bachelor and diploma level programs.
  • The Commission on College Nursing Education accredits baccalaureate and master's level programs.
  • The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Program (COA) accredits master and doctorate programs for Nurse Anesthesia Programs.
  • The American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation ACNM} only accredits Nurse-Midwives programs.

Ranking Agencies

When you know a program is accredited, then you may want to know how it is ranked with other schools. The US News & World Report ranks the specialities and the nursing school graduate and doctorate programs in a variety of ways.

They specifically rank master's and nursing speciality programs for nursing programs that have the NANAC accredited. The process they use is peer review evaluations. The programs are ranked between one and five, with five being outstanding.

They ranked 519 nursing programs in 2015 with doctoral and master's programs. The statistical survey received 259 rankings for master's level programs and 149 for ranking of doctoral programs.

Some of the ranking indicators used for the master's level programs include:

  • Faculty credentials
  • Faculty members who made outstanding participation
  • Faculty participation in the practice of nursing
  • Ratings of academic experts
  • Mean undergraduate GPA
  • Faulty resources
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Research programs (includes total research expenditure and the average research per faculty member)

The DNP program also includes the program size. Speciality nursing programs are solely ranked by school deans and deans of graduate studies. Nursing midwifery and nurse-anesthesia programs are based on separate assessments.

The top rated nursing graduate programs in alphabetical order for 2017 are available at:

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Jon Hopkins University
  • New York University
  • University of California-San Francisco
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


The top nursing doctorate programs are located at:

  • Case Western University
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • John Hopkins University
  • New York University
  • Rush University
  • University of Maryland-Baltimore
  • University of MichiganUniversity of Pittsburgh
  • University Washington
  • Vanderbilt

The National Institute of Health (NIH) rank programs according to the amount of grant money they receive. The funding of critical medical research are annually compiled. Recently the NIH quit providing a ranking table for this funding, but they have a Web-based program that allows you to see the grant money for each university's research. You would then have to make your own comparison. This would give you information about master's or doctoral programs.

As bachelor programs are not rated in the same way, you can choose a well-known university or online program that is accredited and have a very successful career. Job opportunities are plentiful in most cities and especially in rural areas in most state.

It is not possible to always choose a university program that is the highest ranked, and rankings tend to emphasize statistics. This does not address the subjective experience of attending any particular program.

You may be interested in the quality of student life and campus activities. Professor instruction is an important consideration as well, and it is important to visit the university of your choice to see if you find it meets your expectations. It is important to attend an accredited program, and as there are so many specialities it is important to be informed before making a decision.

Take some time to request information from the nursing schools below to learn more about your options for study.