Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Florida
Florida is home to some of the top nursing programs in the nation, as well as various high-paying and secure career opportunities. That's why we've ranked the best nursing schools in Florida to help you decide which is right for you.
This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,
- NCLEX pass rate
- Acceptance rate, when available
- Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible
Our selection panel includes 5 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.
- Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
- Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
- Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN
- Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN
- Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Florida nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Florida
Annual In-State Tuition: $6,380 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.93%
Students eligible for in-state tuition would have a hard time not including the University of Florida on their list of schools. Florida has a well-respected BSN program, as well as a DNP and Ph.D. program. Students can’t earn their MSN at Florida, but they do have a BSN to DNP program – something to note for students looking to get a doctoral degree. On top of the high-quality education, you’ll get to enjoy the vibrant student life in Gainesville!
Annual Tuition: $43,520 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.44%
Often considered one of the best universities in the South, Jacksonville University offers everything a student should expect from a private school. The cost might be a little high, but nursing students have plenty of options at Jacksonville University. Aside from their traditional BSN program, Jacksonville has an online RN to BSN degree option. Also, on-campus students can enroll in their RN to MSN program, skipping straight to a graduate degree – an excellent option for current registered nurses (RNs).
Annual Tuition: $55,440 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91%
Another private school with an excellent reputation, the University of Miami may be more expensive than other options, but for good reason. With BSN, MSN and DNP programs available (as well as plenty of specializations), most nursing students will be able to find a program for them at the University of Miami. Each program also prepares students to pass any exams after graduation, with the majority of BSN students passing the NCLEX on their first try.
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,616 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%
It’s tough to beat the low tuition costs of public Florida schools! Aside from the low in-state tuition, two of the highlights at Florida State University are the accelerated BSN and MSN Nurse Leadership programs. The accelerated BSN is full-time and year-round, but degrees are completed faster, and it shows dedication to employers. The MSN Nurse Leadership program is nationally ranked and prepares nursing students to become leaders in the workplace. For students interested in starting their career ASAP, FSU is worth taking a look at.
Annual In-State Tuition: $6,410 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.08%
Based in Tampa, the University of Florida is perfect for students looking to study in a busy urban area. USF is also a good choice for nursing students that want to be prepared for work right after graduation. Over 90% of nursing degree graduates at all levels are employed at graduation, and nurses typically begin their careers with above-average salaries. USF is also the top school in Florida for research funding, something graduate-level nurses might be interested in.
Annual Tuition: $34,500 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92%
For a private, not-for-profit school, Nova Southeastern University has an incredibly low tuition rate – and it helps that most students receive some form of financial aid. The entry BS in Nursing is the highlight of Nova Southeastern University’s nursing school. This program can be completed in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, or Miami, so the choice is yours! Nova prepares nurses for their professional careers, and they have plenty of graduate-level options to choose from, too.
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,954 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97%
One of the most affordable options on this list, the University of Central Florida prides itself on having accessible nursing programs, especially for online students and veterans. However, this doesn’t take away from the quality of their undergraduate and graduate nursing programs for students who study on-campus. The traditional BSN is still the highlight of this robust program, and all recent grads passed the NCLEX on their first try. Taking into account the price and outcome, UCF should be on any Florida residents’ list.
Annual Tuition: $52,900 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.44%
Based in Lakeland, Florida Southern College is among the smallest schools on this list with just over 3,000 total students. Florida Southern doesn’t offer many degree options for nurses, but the programs they do offer are noteworthy. Their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is "a leadership-focused program designed to prepare graduates to design and lead system-level improvements," according to the website. With their MSN program, nurses can become a nurse practitioner or nurse educator. In fall 2020, Florida Southern will add an MSN/Administrative Leadership track and certificate option. There’s also a direct-entry BSN which boasts an impressive 94.44% NCLEX pass rate for recent grads.
Annual In-State Tuition: $21,730 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%
In the historic city of Jacksonville is the University of North Florida, another part of the Florida public school system. A little over a decade ago, the nursing school was selected as the flagship program at the University of North Florida. The result has been four BSN track options, including an accelerated BSN, and four graduate degree tracks. The attention they give to all nursing students is difficult to match, and with incredible in-state tuition, UNF is a school any Florida native should add to their list.
Annual In-State Tuition: $23,997 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 89%
With over 54,000 students, you’d be hard-pressed to find many schools larger than Florida International University anywhere in the nation. While FIU has a strong BSN program, the biggest draw is its Nurse Anesthetist program. Students who become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) through the program are also given an MSN, opening doors to many different areas to continue their careers. FIU is also Florida’s only public research school, another draw for graduate students.
4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition
Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each individual student depending on various factors including,
- Transfer credits
- Completed competency exams
- Amount of credits taken per year
- Financial aid awards
Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.
Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),
- Florida employs 187,920 nurses, the fourth highest in the nation.
- There are 21.84 employed nurses for every 1,000 jobs in Florida, higher than the national average.
The only downside to Florida is the annual mean wage for nurses; in May of 2021, nurses in Florida earned a mean wage of $72,000, lower than the nation’s mean wage of $77,600.
However, the wage nurses might earn depends on where they live. According to the BLS, nurses in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach earned a mean wage of $74,220, while nurses in Panama City earned just $68,820.
With high nursing employment across the state, nurses should be able to find a job in whatever area they want, whether it be a metropolitan area or a small coastal town.
Picking the best schools for your situation is the first step to earning a BSN and becoming a nurse. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential schools, you’ll want to take a closer look at each school, the nursing program, and the potential outcomes.
In order, you’ll want to:
- Get in touch with each school’s admissions offices. The admissions office will tell you what the requirements for the university and nursing program are. This is an important step to find out if you’re eligible for the program.
- Meet the nursing school requirements. Nursing programs often have their own admissions process separate from the university. You may be required to submit additional resources, such as letters of recommendation or volunteer experience.
This step is critical. Don’t apply to a school where you won’t be eligible for the nursing program.
- Submit your application(s). Even if you only have one dream school, apply to more than one university. One school may offer a scholarship you can’t resist!
When applying, items you’ll need to submit include:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Again, see what other requirements each school and nursing program has. Gather your materials early on, too – it will make the application process much easier!
If at any point you feel confused or lost, contact an admissions representative. Their job is to help you through the application process.
Important considerations when comparing schools:
Your dream school just accepted you! But you’ve found out that the nursing program has a low admissions rate, and you might not be eligible to join the program.
Scenarios like this are more common than you’d think. That’s why taking multiple factors into account is the best way to ensure you’re going to the right school.
Factors you should look at when comparing schools include:
- Annual tuition and total program cost (these can be different)
- Cost of living at or near the school
- Acceptance rate (both for the school and the nursing program)
- Length of the program (is it accelerated for four-year?)
- Nursing program outcomes
- Distance from hospitals (will you have to commute for clinicals?)
- Scholarships or grants offered by the school
- Accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accreditation is how schools can prove that their programs are high-quality. If a school is unaccredited, you may not be eligible for forms of financial aid. Nurses also might be turned away from potential employers if their degree is from an unaccredited school.
The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
If a school is accredited by one of these institutions, then their nursing program adheres to strict national standards.
Getting a License in Florida
Florida is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), so becoming an RN in Florida means you’re also eligible to work as a nurse in 37 other states and two territories.
To become an RN, you’ll need to:
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal background check and submit your fingerprints
- Apply to become a nurse via the Florida Board of Nursing
If you complete a BSN from an accredited Florida university, you should be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. After that, you’ll just need to submit some extra information and pass a background test. Then you’re set to begin your nursing career!
>> Related: The Complete Guide to Nursing in Florida
As one of the top employers for nurses, there are plenty of opportunities available in Florida. However, to give yourself the best chance of finding a high-paying job, you’ll want to earn a BSN from an accredited school. Once you complete your BSN, you’ll be on track to become an RN and start a long, successful nursing career!