Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Alabama
When looking for a position as a nurse, it can be easier to find a job in areas that have high nursing employment.
But standards for nursing employment are rising, and becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) isn't always enough to earn that job you applied for.
Many hospitals and facilities are looking for nurses with a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN). Also, many BSN programs lead to NCLEX-RN eligibility, so picking the right program can be a boon for your future career.
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 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.
- Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
- Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
- Kathleen Gaines, BSN, RN, BA, CBC
- Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Alabama nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Alabama
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,696 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.5%
With a student body of over 30,000, Auburn University’s student-to-faculty ratio of 19:1 is impressive. That low ratio means nursing students get to enjoy the big-school feel while still getting personal attention from professors. Auburn’s BSN program is broken into two parts: two years of pre-nursing coursework, then two years in the nursing program. In total, this program is designed to take five years to complete, or 10 semesters. It’s a good program, but the length could deter some applicants.
Annual Tuition: $29,402 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.4%
Established in 1841, Samford University is among the oldest schools in the US. Samford is also ranked as the top school in Alabama by The Wall Street Journal, so students can be sure the nursing program is top-tier. A high NCLEX pass rate and above-average job placement rate are two key things to know about the BSN. The Ida Moffett School of Nursing has been educating nurses for nearly 100 years, too. Students have to pay a private school tuition rate, but the quality and outcomes of the program may be worth it.
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,040 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.9%
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of the youngest schools on this list. However, UAB is also ranked as one of the best young schools in the nation, so in its 50 years, UAB has become one of the top institutions in Alabama. UAB’s traditional BSN is a four-year degree with a high NCLEX pass rate, something sure to get the attention of applicants. A second degree program is also available, and transfer students can bring in credits to cut the program time. Alabama residents also get to take advantage of low in-state tuition.
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,114 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.2%
Based in Florence, Alabama, the University of North Alabama is in the center of the South, close in proximity to Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia. On top of the in-state tuition, ⅓ of students receive financial aid from UNA, not including any federal financial aid students receive. For Alabama residents, the BSN program could end up being incredibly affordable. This four-year, 125-credit program prepares students for the NCLEX well, too, as seen by the high pass rate for recent grads.
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,500 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.1%
Jacksonville State University is relatively small for a public school with nearly 8,500 students enrolled. Near museums, state parks, and other outdoor activities, there’s no shortage of things to do in the area. Of course, future nursing students are probably more interested in the traditional BSN than area activities. Most nursing students apply to the program after a year or two of college, and JSU accepts new nursing students in the fall and spring. JSU also has an early acceptance program for select high-school students that guarantees admission into the nursing school before beginning college.
Annual Tuition: $35,794 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Based in Mobile, Spring Hill College is a private school and the most expensive college to make this list. However, with a perfect NCLEX pass rate for recent grads and a 95.4% job placement rate for grads within six months of earning a degree, the price is well worth it. The Spring Hill College Division of Nursing is considered one of the best in the South, and the BSN is no exception. Traditional BSN students may also choose a pre-med BSN track, perfect for anyone that is planning on continuing their education after completing their BSN.
Annual Tuition: $21,400 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
University of Mobile is a private, Christian school that integrates religion into its academics. While students may be required to complete some religion courses, most of the BSN will focus entirely on nursing. Applicants to the program must meet minimum academic standards and complete a background check, so admission can be tough. However, the 100% NCLEX pass rate for recent grads shows just how rewarding the program can be. University of Mobile also has an accelerated BSN for students with at least 63 college credits and an RN to BSN designed for working nurses.
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,548 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.7%
Founded in 1963, the University of South Alabama is another relatively young school. Over the past 56 years, USA has grown to include 15,000 students and in 1987 absorbed the former Providence Hospital. That old hospital is now home to the College of Nursing, home to some of the USA’s premier programs. The traditional BSN has an early acceptance program for current high school students, but the most interesting program is the accelerated BSN/MSN. This program lets current bachelor degree holders finish their BSN and MSN in just two years of full-time study.
Annual In-State Tuition: $9,640 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 80.1%
Based in Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, Auburn University at Montgomery is yet another young school that has grown into an excellent institution. Most classes as AUM have class sizes under 20 students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is a low 17:1. A large portion of AUM’s students receive some form of financial aid, too, on top of the in-state tuition. The BSN has two options: traditional or an online RN to BSN. Most students enter the pre-licensure BSN, a two-year program that begins after two years spent completing undergraduate and pre-nursing courses.
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,470 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.1%
Arguably the most famous school in the state thanks to its athletics, the quality of the University of Alabama’s academic programs is sometimes overlooked, including the nursing program. Offered through the Capstone College of Nursing, the BSN has options for current freshman, transfer students, and bachelor’s degree holders looking to earn a BSN. The traditional BSN track consists of four semesters of lower-division courses followed by five semesters of nursing school. On top of tuition, students will have to pay other fees, including travel expenses, CPR certification, and insurance.
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 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),
- Alabama nurses earn an annual mean wage of $59,470.
- Alabama employs 25.46 nurses per 1,000 residents, one of the highest rates in the nation.
Alabama is one of the lowest-paying states for nurses, well below the national mean annual wage of $75,510. However, Alabama is one of the cheapest states to live in, so the money goes a lot further in Alabama than other states.
Fortunately, Alabama is one of the top employers for nurses per capita. Currently, Alabama employs just under 50,000 nurses, and that number is projected to rise due to the national nursing shortage.
While nurses won’t get the highest wages in Alabama, they have a high chance of finding a well-paying position. And as nurses gain experience, they can specialize their career, leading to even higher-paying jobs.
Maybe you’ve decided Alabama is the place to earn your BSN, and maybe you’ve even picked out a few schools to tour. It’s best to pick multiple schools when applying to increase your chances of getting accepted and finding financial aid.
Once you’ve picked some schools you’re interested in, you should:
Contact each school’s admissions offices. Each school has an admissions office, and admissions counselors will tell you everything you need to know about applying. Schools often have specific requirements, so make sure you get in touch with the admissions office for every school you plan on applying to.
Make sure you meet the nursing school requirements. Nursing programs often have their own admissions requirements on top of the school’s requirements. These requirements are often stricter and require more materials, so make sure you have everything you need to apply to the nursing program.
Submit your application(s). Once you’ve gathered and prepared your application materials, all that’s left is to apply! Be sure to submit applications prior to the school’s deadline. Items you may need for your application include:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Nursing schools often have additional requirements such as volunteer experience or additional essays. Some requirements can be finished while you’re in college, so don’t stress if you don’t have all the prerequisites compete right now!
Important considerations when comparing schools:
Every school has its own set of benefits, and that makes choosing a school incredibly difficult — after all, this is likely one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make! As long as you’re choosing between schools with excellent programs, there might not be a wrong choice. So, choose the program that works best for you!
When choosing the best school for you, consider:
- Annual tuition and total program cost (these can be different)
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Cost of living on and off-campus
- Distance from hospitals (how long will commuting for clinicals take?)
- Distance from home (you’ll probably be traveling during holidays!)
- Acceptance rate (both for the school and the nursing program)
- Length of the program (accelerated or traditional)
- Accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
When a program is accredited, it means that an accrediting organization has verified the academic quality of the program. While it might not seem like a big deal, some employers only select nurses that graduated from an accredited nursing school, and you may not be eligible for federal financial aid if the school you choose is unaccredited.
The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Also, pick a school that is regionally accredited. While national accreditation isn’t bad, some employers and grad programs only accept nurses with a degree from a regionally accredited institution.
Getting a License in Alabama
On January 1, 2020, Alabama will become part of the Enhanced Nursing License Compact (eNLC). eNLC members accept RNs from other eNLC states, so a nursing license in Alabama will also work in most states.
Alabama follows eNLC standards, meaning you’ll be required to:
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal background check
- Submit fingerprints and verify your identity
- Apply through the Alabama Board of Nursing
Alabama is a top-employer for nurses per capita, though it is one of the lower-paying states for RNs. Alabama is also home to some great nursing schools, and nurses who study through a local school are on track to become a nurse in Alabama — and starting in 2020, 25 other states. So, even if you don’t plan on working in Alabama in the long term, it can be an excellent place to earn your BSN.