Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Alaska
Alaska is by far the largest state in the nation by size, but with relatively few cities and colleges, students interested in becoming registered nurses (RNs) have relatively few options.
While aspiring RNs don't have the most choices available, online education allows current RNs to continue their education and earn a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN). A BSN goes a long way in helping nurses find higher-paying positions.
Before that, nurses in Alaska must first earn an associate degree. Fortunately, there are a few options available for students.
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 Alaska nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Alaska
Before reviewing the following schools, note that only the University of Alaska Anchorage and Charter College have campuses in Alaksa. The other schools that round out this list offer online nursing degrees to students across the nation, including those in Alaska.
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,053 (based on per-credit tuition rate) | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $21,180 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.1%
Perfect for students interested in city life while living close to nature, the University of Alaska Anchorage is a large, public school with nearly 18,000 students. The vast majority of students are Alaska residents and receive in-state tuition, though WUE students can also receive a tuition discount. The nursing program is comprehensive and offers undergraduate programs in 15 different locations. Available to students in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Kodiak, the BSN is the only traditional Bachelor's in Nursing program in Alaska. Students can also choose to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing then complete an online RN-BSN, all through the University of Alaska.
Cost of Nursing Associate Degree: $58,806 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Charter College is primarily an online school, though it does have satellite campuses across the U.S., including one in Anchorage. The Anchorage campus offers an Associate Degree in Nursing, a 19-month program that satisfies requirements to sit for the NCLEX. The most recent NCLEX pass rate reported that every student at the Anchorage campus passed the NCLEX on their first try. After becoming an RN, students can also complete Charter College's RN-BSN, which combines online education with some in-person clinical hours.
Annual Tuition: $10,080 (based on per-credit tuition rate) | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Purdue University isn't based in Alaska, but they have a large online school that allows students all over the world to earn or complete degrees. For current RNs in Alaska, Purdue Global's online RN-BSN program provides a flexible way to earn a BSN. Purdue Global has plenty of other online programs for nurses, including multiple graduate degrees. Students may need to complete some in-person clinical work for specific certifications, but some or all coursework can be completed online through Purdue.
Annual Tuition: $22,185 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma does not have an on-campus program available in Alaska. However, the University of Oklahoma's online RN-BSN is considered one of the best online RN-BSN programs. Students need to have an RN license (which they can earn in Alaska), and the rest can be completed remotely. The school has additional programs, including traditional undergraduate and graduate programs, but they require students to commute -- something that's probably not an option for Alaska nurses.
Annual Tuition: $10,550 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Aspen University is one of the top online schools for current RNs and has plenty of great degree options for Alaska nurses. The main option, the online RN-BSN, takes roughly 12 months to complete and offers accelerated courses to work around student's schedules. It isn't uncommon for students to continue working while earning their BSN. Aspen University also has plenty of RN-MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) options, some of which are available entirely online. There is a traditional BSN program, but it isn't available in Alaska.
Annual Tuition: $7,090 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Like other online programs, Western Governors University offers some on-campus programs, only none are available in Alaska. However, the online RN-BSN is among the best out there. Most RN-BSN students graduate in less than a year and a half, though nurses can complete this program at whatever pace they want. WGU is also one of the most affordable online options for current nurses.
Annual Tuition: $15,040 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Based in Washington State, Grand Canyon University is much closer to Alaska than most other online schools. However, their online programs are accessible anywhere, including Alaska. The online RN-BSN is designed for working nurses who want to continue their education, and most students graduate in around two years. However, students can complete the program in even less time if they'd like. Grand Canyon University also has traditional and accelerated nursing degrees, but only in-person students can enroll in these programs.
Annual Tuition: $21,230 (based on per-credit tuition rate) | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Chamberlain University only offers nursing and healthcare degrees, and while the BSN is currently available in 22 locations, none of those are in Alaska. Alaska RNs can enroll in the online RN-BSN, which takes just one year to complete when studied full-time. Tuition is higher than other online schools, but Chamberlain offers tuition discounts to some online RN-BSN students. For nurses with a BSN, Chamberlain also offers an online MSN option.
RN-BSN Program Cost: $9,600 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
Roughly 30,000 of Capella University's 38,500 students study online, and the average age for students is 39. So, it should come as no surprise that the main nursing program, the online RN-BSN, was created for busy adults. Some students complete the RN-BSN while continuing to work, while others use Capella's FlexPath, which allows students to complete the program in as little as nine months. After earning a BSN, students can also use FlexPath to earn an online MSN.
Annual Tuition: $12,736 (based on per-credit tuition rate) | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A
One of the most well-known online schools in the world, the University of Phoenix, also has some on-campus programs. Unfortunately, none of the on-campus programs are currently available in Alaska, though the online RN-BSN is. RNs with an associate degree can finish this program in just 14 months, and tuition is charged at a flat, per-credit rate. So, the more education you previously completed, the cheaper and faster this degree becomes.
4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition
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),
- Alaska registered nurses earn a mean annual wage of $89,301.
- Alaska employs 5,730 registered nurses, slightly lower than the national per-capita average.
The U.S. mean annual wage for RNs is $75,510, meaning Alaska RNs get paid well above the national average. In fact, according to the BLS, Alaska is the sixth-highest paying state for RNs. Location matters, too; registered nurses working in non-metropolitan areas of Alaska earn a mean average of $95,780 per year, better than nurses everywhere other than Hawaii and California.
Unsurprisingly, Alaska is not a high employer for nurses. Only 1,250 RNs work in the non-metropolitan area, one-third of the number of nurses working in the Anchorage area.
Regardless of your long-term nursing career plans, you should apply to every nursing program in Alaska. There aren't many, but this increases your chances of getting accepted into competitive programs. Here's how to approach the application process:
Contact each school’s admissions office. Every college has an admissions office that guides applicants through the admissions process. Get in touch with each admissions office early, and check with them if you have questions while putting together your application.
Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. On top of college admission requirements, nurses must meet strict nursing school requirements. Find out each nursing school's requirements early so you're prepared when it's time to apply.
Submit your application(s). The final step of the application process is to send in each application! Make sure you know when each college's application deadline is, and try to meet early application deadlines if there are any.
When you apply, be prepared to submit:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Important considerations when comparing schools:
If you're just starting out and don't yet have an RN license, you don't have many options in Alaska. Still, choosing the best option isn't as easy as picking the school closest to home. When comparing schools, consider the following:
- Total program cost, including in-state or out-of-state tuition and fees
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Cost of living on-campus or in the area
- School and nursing program acceptance rate
- Commute to school/hospital for clinicals
- Program length
- Program type (on-campus, online, hybrid)
- Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
- Accreditation (regional and programmatic)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accrediting bodies evaluate the academic quality of schools and select programs to determine whether they meet specific standards. When applying to schools in Alaska, make sure the school is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Be sure that the nursing program has programmatic accreditation, too.
The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation.
Getting a License in Alaska
Alaska isn't yet part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), though over 90% of Alaska nurses support joining the eNLC, so that could change in the future. Until then, the process of obtaining an RN license in Alaska is as follows:
- Study at an accredited and approved nursing school
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal background check and submit fingerprints.
- Apply through the Alaska Board of Nursing.
While cities are far apart and not many nursing programs are available, Alaska nurses earn incredibly high salaries. For nurses that currently have an RN license, plenty of excellent online nursing school options are available, and nurses with a BSN typically earn higher wages than non-BSN holding RNs. Alaska isn't part of the eNLC, but they could join at some point, and that could make finding a nursing position in Alaska even easier.