Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Georgia
The first step to becoming a nurse is getting an education, and the school where you earn your degree in nursing will have a big impact on your future nursing career.
Whether you’re looking to study in the South or are a local taking advantage of lower tuition, there are plenty of great nursing schools in Georgia. Each nursing school on this list adheres to the state’s standards for nursing, and earning an education in Georgia is the most straightforward way to end up with a nursing job in the state.
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, BA, CBC
- Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Georgia nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
>> Related: RN Salaries By State 2020
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Georgia
Nursing students should factor in both benefits and costs. While some schools seem more attractive at first glance, what matters, in the end, is whether you received your degree and are able to get a job. That being said, in-state students will have more choices and lower costs, so they can be a bit more choosy.
Now, let’s jump into our choices for the top 10 nursing schools in Georgia.
1. Georgia Southwestern State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $6,032| NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.88%
There’s no denying that the in-state tuition for Georgia Southwestern State University is a huge draw for nursing students. But the variety of programs is also worth noting. Aside from a traditional four-year program, GSW offers an accelerated 2nd year BSN, ADN, and LPN-BSN and an online RN-BSN program. The plentiful options, along with the impressive NCLEX pass rate, makes this a great destination for in-state students.
2. Emory University
Annual Tuition: $57,120 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 86.85%
Yes, the cost of Emory University’s tuition is sure to make some eyes pop. But this small liberal arts school's quality of education may be the best all-around of any school on this list. Employers recognize this, too; according to Emory, 88% of the graduates of their traditional BSN program were employed within three months of finishing their degree. So, for students looking for private education at a small school, Emory is one of Georgia’s best options.
There are three nursing pathways at Emory:
- Traditional BSN
- Distance Accelerated BSN
- In Emory Pre-Licensure Program: for students wanting to transition from a nationally ranked nursing program into an Accelerated Master of Nursing (MN) program
3. Georgia State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,948 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.57%
One of Georgia State University’s main pillars is social change. Thanks to the school’s location in Atlanta, students have the opportunity to impact a large, vibrant community in a positive way. Social change also plays a role in the nursing curriculum, and students will have a chance to work with children at local schools. For students that want to continue their education, Georgia State also offers a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) and doctor of nursing practice (DNP), along with an RN-MS program for existing nurses.
Georgia State University offers three BSN nursing pathways:
4. Mercer University
Annual Tuition: $51,140 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88.15%
With three locations across Georgia, Mercer University is one of the widest-reaching schools, which is impressive for a private school. Prospective nursing students also benefit from a private school, including smaller class sizes and more personal education. The most popular undergraduate nursing program, the traditional BSN, boasts one of the highest NCLEX pass rates in Georgia. While the tuition may seem high, many of Mercer’s students receive some form of financial aid.
Mercer University offers three BSN pathways:
5. Augusta University
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,664 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.05%
Named after the city where it’s based, Augusta University is best known as a large, public research school. While public research will most likely attract nurses pursuing their MSN or DNP, Augusta also has a strong BSN program. The BSN program can be completed on either of Augusta’s campuses (they have an additional location in Athens). Overall, Augusta offers an affordable, comprehensive nursing education.
6. University of West Georgia
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,476 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 82.43%
In terms of value and NCLEX pass rate of recent graduates, it’s tough to beat the University of West Georgia. While this school may not carry the same clout as other schools on this list, students interested in nursing are going to get everything they need to succeed. It’s also worth mentioning that UWG only offers one traditional BSN program. However, the BSN program is offered at two campuses. Carrollton campus offers a six-semester program and the Newnan campus offers an eight-semester program. For the price and results, this should be on all Georgia residents’ list.
7. Columbus State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,464 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 61.29%
Where many schools on this list are chosen for their traditional program, Columbus State University’s strength lies in its non-traditional nursing programs. Yes, the university offers a traditional BSN program and graduates boast an impressive NCLEX pass rate, but the online RN-BSN program is the real highlight. Grads of this online nursing program have a 100% employment rate, and the degree can be completed in just a year. Of course, this program depends on nurses already being licensed.
8. Kennesaw State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $6,898 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.47%
The most important thing to know about Kennesaw State University is that it’s among the 50 largest public institutions in the nation. In many ways, KSU feels more like a town of its own, something that prospective students should be aware of. Regardless of it’s size, the traditional BSN program is what future nurses are most interested in. But aspiring students with a non-nursing degree are also in luck! The university also offers an accelerated BSN that students can complete much more quickly than a traditional BSN. KSU has one of the state’s highest NCLEX pass rates for grads and affordable tuition for any in-state students. If you’re looking for a big school with a great nursing program, Kennesaw State University may be the best choice.
9. Georgia College & State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,508 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.45%
Georgia College & State University began as an education center for women. Today, GCSU has some of the top programs in the state, including its nursing programs. The school offers a traditional BSN program that has been preparing regisitered nurses for the last 25 years.. For a degree that mixes nursing education with liberal arts, this school is an excellent pick.
10. Georgia Southern University
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,464 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 82.61%
No, Georgia Southern University doesn’t have the best NCLEX pass rate for grads, but the tuition is incredibly low. Georgia Southern also is considered one of the top schools in the area, something that’s sure to go a long way in getting graduates their first careers as nurses in Georgia. The first step to starting that career is the BSN program, available at two different campuses in the southeast part of the state. Any nurses interested in furthering their education can do so at Georgia Southern, too.
Georgia Southern University offers three BSN pathways:
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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.
Georgia Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),
- As of 2021, Georgia employs 78,290 nurses, higher than most states.
- The annual mean wage for nurses in Georgia is $75,380, or $36.24/hr. While this is lower than the national average, Georgia has a lower cost of living than most other states. Pay for nurses may also be higher in denser urban areas like Atlanta.
One big advantage of studying in Georgia is the high demand for registered nurses. The Atlanta-Sandy Springs- Roswell metropolitan area is a top employer for registered nurses, according to the BLS.
There are so many factors involved in getting hired for your first nursing job and the school you choose can help determine your future career.
Show Me Georgia Nursing Programs
After you’ve reviewed the top nursing programs in Georgia, the next step is to start applying to different schools. You should always be prepared to apply to multiple schools, too, since you never know which school could offer you a scholarship.
- Get in contact with an admission representative from each school. They know the ins and outs of that school’s application process, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about the application process.
- Make sure you are eligible to apply to the nursing program. It’s also important to know that acceptance into a school does not guarantee acceptance into a nursing program. Nursing programs often have additional, often stricter, requirements for entry. Be sure you meet these prior to applying to a school or find out if you can satisfy the additional requirements prior to applying to the nursing program.
- Gather the required application materials and documents. It’s best to keep in contact with admissions representatives to ensure that you’re supplying everything that is needed. For example, many schools and nursing programs may require a minimum GPA of 2.75, and others require one or two letters of recommendation. Also, know that you typically apply to a nursing program a year into your college education, so some requirements can be completed after you’ve started your college career.
Remember: if at any point in the application process you feel lost or confused, contact the school’s admission representatives. They’ll walk you through everything you need to do.
Important considerations when comparing schools:
While a high NCLEX pass rate may seem attractive, it’s important to note that these pass rates typically only represent a recent graduating class. Just because 95% of students passed the NCLEX last year doesn’t guarantee the same results for when you graduate in four years.
This is why students should consider multiple factors prior to choosing which school to attend. Factors to consider include:
- Size of the school
- Tuition cost
- The acceptance rate to the university
- The acceptance rate to the nursing program
- NCLEX pass rate
- The school’s accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Nursing students who complete their studies at a non-accredited university will not be able to sit for the NCLEX and are not eligible to become licensed in their state.
The two nursing program accrediting organizations are,
- The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
These accrediting bodies ensure that all accredited nursing programs adhere to the same standard and criteria.
You should never feel pressured to pick a school just because it seems like a “good enough” college. You’ll be spending four years here, along with thousands in tuition. Be sure that you’re making the best pick for your personal goals.
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Getting a License in Georgia
To become an RN in Georgia, you need to:
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Complete a criminal background check
- Complete the Georgia Board of Nursing application
Compared to other states, Georgia doesn’t require as much from prospective nurses in terms of licensing requirements. However, if your goal is to become a nurse in Georgia, it’s still a smart decision to look at schools in the state. Faculty and staff often have local connections, and this type of networking can help you land your first nursing position!
Georgia is a top-employer for nurses, and there’s a growing demand for new nurse graduates in the workplace. There are plenty of great schools in Georgia to choose from, too, and each can lead to a successful nursing career.
>> Related: The Complete Guide to Nursing in Georgia