Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in North Carolina
There are plenty of reasons to consider a career in nursing. Not only is nursing a rewarding career, but it’s also projected to be one of the safest long-term career options.
In North Carolina, there are roughly 104,810 registered nurses (RN), which means that the state employs more nurses per capita than the national average. Making North Carolina an excellent place to begin and enjoy a long career in nursing.
While a BSN isn’t currently required to work as an RN, many of today’s hospitals are looking to only hire RNs with a BSN in the near future. So, at the very least it’s worth considering a BSN.
This is a nurse 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 North Carolina nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
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Top 10 Nursing Schools in North Carolina
Many of the schools in North Carolina are considered among the best in the nation, and their nursing programs are no exception.
On that note, here are the top nursing schools in North Carolina ranked in no particular order.
1. Appalachian State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,950 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.06%
Appalachian State University offers one of the most unique settings for a North Carolina school. Tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian State will situate you in a rural setting surrounded by nature. Of course, nursing students will be most interested in their BSN programs. In-state students can benefit from the low tuition rate, and the option of an online, or bridge program is ideal for non-traditional students or current RNs. With its high NCLEX pass rate, this school should be on most nursing student’s lists.
2. University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Annual In-State Tuition: $3,509.50 per credit hour | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.44%
One of the most recognizable research schools in the nation, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, often referred to as UNC, is famous for its excellence. North Carolina residents are likely going to apply here regardless of whether they’re interested in earning a BSN or not, but any prospective nursing student should take a closer look at UNC. The high NCLEX pass rate is great, but what sets UNC apart is the extensive alumni network, the school’s connections with local hospitals, and the clout that comes with a degree from UNC.
3. University of North Carolina - Charlotte
Annual In-State Tuition: $23,716 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 87.36%
Another school in the extensive UNC system, the University of North Carolina – Charlotte is an excellent low-cost option for earning a degree. Easily the most urbanized of any of the UNC schools, students will get to enjoy spending time in busy Charlotte, NC when they aren’t working toward their BSN. UNC Charlotte’s BSN program provides students with an all-around education which makes this ideal for nursing students that aren’t quite sure what field they want to be nursing in.
4. Western Carolina University - Cullowhee
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,211.08 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.67%
While many students outside of North Carolina may have never heard of Western Carolina University, it’s certainly worth considering. Consistently ranked as one of the top public undergrad programs in the nation, students at WCU get to enjoy a quality education in the small city of Cullowhee. Nursing students also get to enjoy studying at WCU’s state-of-the-art facilities, and with multiple options to earn a BSN available, students from all backgrounds can find a degree that works for them.
5. Duke University
Annual Tuition: $60,489 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 89.11%
Much like UNC, most of the nation knows about Duke University. Perhaps the top private school in the region, Duke is more expensive than other schools on this list – something that North Carolina residents are sure to notice. However, their BSN program may be well worth the cost. Duke may be the best option for nurses that are sure they will want to continue their education and earn an MSN or DNP, since those two programs are nationally recognized and the centerpieces of Duke’s nursing school. Duke also offers an accelerated BSN program that offers students the option to take Master’s level courses during their bachelor’s degree.
6. Fayetteville State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,694 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 79.69%
Beyond the incredibly low cost of a degree there’s plenty to like about Fayetteville State University’s nursing program. The quality of the coursework matches most other nursing programs in the US, and the small class sizes – Fayetteville State only has 6,500 undergraduate students – give students a more personalized education. Unfortunately, Fayetteville State’s NCLEX pass rate has dropped significantly over the past year, but this should not deter you from considering the program. While MSN degrees are limited, they do offer a nurse educator program that alumni take advantage of.
7. University of North Carolina - Greensboro
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,406 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.27%
One of the biggest draws for the University of North Carolina – Greensboro is its location. Thousands of students each year choose this school specifically for its Greensboro location – that, and for the low tuition cost for in-state students. Students interested in earning a BSN from UNC Greensboro have plenty of options, including their traditional program, an RN/BSN program, and one of the top online nursing programs in the US.
8. East Carolina University
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,325 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.88%
East Carolina University is a top destination for many North Carolina natives, in large part because of the in-state tuition and Greenville location. ECU also boasts a large student body of over 28,000, perfect for students looking for that big-school atmosphere. Any students interested in their BSN program have probably already noticed their impressive 94% NCLEX pass rate, too. Their non-traditional BSN degrees are flexible enough for anyone who is currently employed, so current workers in North Carolina may be interested in this program.
9. University of North Carolina - Wilmington
Annual In-State Tuition: $4,443 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 84.71%
As one of the younger schools on this list, it’s impressive that the University of North Carolina – Wilmington has developed such an impressive reputation. Of course, being part of the UNC system helps their cause. Being a younger school UNC Wilmington isn’t afraid to innovate, and its online BSN program is among the top in the nation. Of course, the majority of nursing students at UNC Wilmington will choose the traditional BSN option which boasts a great NCLEX pass rate for grads.
10. Winston-Salem State University
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,941 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 87.67%
A focus for Winston-Salem State University is getting students a career after graduating. Finding a job will be relatively easy for graduates of their BSN program. The traditional BSN touches on general nursing, as well as niche areas like mental health, newborn care, and pediatrics. This gives students an excellent all-around education, and by introducing students to so many forms of nursing, graduates may know exactly what they want to do with their career upon earning their BSN.
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.
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Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),
- Nurses employed in North Carolina make an annual mean wage of $71,200, which is lower than the national mean annual wage.
- North Carolina has a lower standard of living than most other states. Pay for nurses can also be higher in denser urban areas like Charlotte.
You may have a pretty good idea of what schools you’re interested in. That’s good, as creating a list of schools you want to apply to is the first step to getting your BSN.
Here’s what to do next:
- Begin your applications. Keep in mind that you should be applying to more than one school. Anything can happen, and you can increase your chances of getting into a school – and nursing program – by applying to multiple schools.
- Get in touch with admissions. Every school has an admissions office, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about the application process, the school’s nursing program, and any financial aid that you might be eligible for.
- Find out more about the nursing program. It isn’t uncommon for North Carolina schools to require 50+ hours of community service or work experience in a health-related field. Each school has its own requirements not just for admission, but for admission into its BSN program. Find out what you need to do to be eligible.
- Finish your application. Most schools require a minimum GPA, ACT and/or SAT test scores, and multiple letters of recommendation. You’ll know exactly what you need after speaking to an admissions representative, so all you need to do now is gather the materials and apply!
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Important considerations when comparing schools
It’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to attend the school with the most prestige. However, the “top school” might not have the top nursing program for your personal goals.
Prior to choosing a school, consider these factors:
- Tuition cost
- Quality of the nursing program
- Location of the school
- Size of the school
- The acceptance rate to the school
- The acceptance rate to the nursing program
- The school’s accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
A school’s accreditation should be critical in your selection process. Depending on the type of accreditation a school has, you may or may not be eligible to receive federal financial aid. Also, some potential employers may only be looking for candidates with degrees from schools with specific accreditations.
Any potential nursing program should be accredited by one or both of these bodies:
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
All schools on this list are accredited by one of these bodies, and there are plenty of other North Carolina nursing schools that meet these standards.
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Getting a License in North Carolina
To become a registered nurse (RN) in North Carolina, you need to:
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Complete a criminal background check
- Become a certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) – This is not required for all nursing positions but helps immensely when applying for a job in North Carolina.
While it isn’t yet required, many North Carolina employers are beginning to only accept nurses that have earned a BSN. So, to maximize your chances of finding a job as a nurse in North Carolina, earning a BSN is a smart decision to make.
North Carolina is a top employer for nurses, and there’s an ever-increasing need for more nurses. Nurses in North Carolina have an average age of 53, too, so as those nurses retire, more nursing positions are going to open. To increase your chances of becoming a nurse in North Carolina, earning a degree from a school in the state is a good first step.
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