Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in South Carolina
Nurses who are just starting their careers want to live in an area with plenty of work. States with low costs of living are also ideal.
To find the starting positions, nurses should earn a bachelor's in nursing science (BSN). Not only does a BSN make you eligible to take and pass the NCELX-RN exam, but many hospitals prefer to hire nurses that have a BSN over those that are registered nurses (RNs) with no relevant college degree.
But where you earn your BSN can have a huge impact on your career. The school you study at can connect you with potential careers. Also, some states have specific requirements to become a registered nurse, and local schools typically satisfy those requirements.
To start going down the right path, students will want to pick the best nursing school for their personal career goals.
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 South Carolina nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in South Carolina
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,398 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.22%
The 3,700 students enrolled last year was the biggest group ever for USC Aiken, which is a relatively young state school. Founded in 1961, USC Aiken has quickly turned into a full university that offers programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. However, the only options in the nursing school are a traditional BSN or an RN to BSN. With a low in-state cost and a high NCLEX pass rate for graduates, this is an ideal school for South Carolina natives looking for a small, affordable university.
Annual Tuition: $26,130 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 98.36%
Anderson University is located in the city of Anderson, known by locals as the “Friendliest City in South Carolina.” Anderson University, or AU, might be private, but U.S. News and World Report ranks it as one of the best value schools in the South. The nursing program is one of the most advanced in the region and is home to the nation’s only cadaver lab designed specifically for nursing students. Graduates also have a high NCLEX pass rate.
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,344 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92%
Despite only having 2,000 students, USCB is still a full-fledged university, offering 30 programs, small class sizes, and an impressive 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Despite being such a small school, USCB offers various BSN options for students, including a traditional BSN, RN to BSN, and Honors BSN. The Honors BSN allows for direct entry from high school, removing any doubt for applicants. However, students must have the academics for the USCB’s Honors Program.
Annual In-State Tuition: $34,300 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.75%
Medical University of South Carolina began as a private medical school but has since established itself as one of the top medical schools in the nation. Most students at MUSC are pursuing a graduate or doctoral degree, although some undergraduate options are available. Nursing students can choose from an RN to BSN or an accelerated BSN. Both options also lay the groundwork for a graduate education and translate seamlessly into MUSC’s graduate nursing program. If you’re eligible for one of the BSN programs, this is an excellent way to get a head start on a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
Annual In-State Tuition: $15,374 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.44%
Perhaps best known for their Championship Football team, Clemson University is also known as one of the premier colleges in the South. With nearly 20,000 undergraduate students, you’d be joining a lively campus with plenty going on. However, nursing students may be spending more time completing their BSN. Unlike most traditional BSN programs, students can enter the program as freshmen, transfer in, or enter the program after their freshman or sophomore year. RN to BSN and accelerated BSN options are also available.
Annual In-State Tuition: $12,288| NCLEX Pass Rate: 99.47%
The University of South Carolina is often considered one of the best all-around colleges in South Carolina. The campus in Columbia is home to nearly 35,000 students, many of whom are from other states or countries. Nursing students have two options at USC: a traditional BSN and an online RN to BSN. Current RNs can complete the online BSN in just 12 months, all while continuing to work. Almost every nursing student passed the NCLEX last year, an excellent sign for future students.
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,700 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
One of Lander University’s goals is to offer high-quality programs that lead to high-demand jobs, and nursing is no exception. Three nursing programs are available at Lander: a traditional BSN, an online RN to BSN, and a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) with a focus on clinical nurse leadership. Over the past five years, graduates of the traditional BSN have had a 95% pass rate on the NCLEX or higher, including a perfect pass rate from last year’s class.
Annual Tuition: $25,000 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Considered one of the top schools in the region both for value and quality, Newberry College places a focus on academics, personal growth, and civic values. Founded in Lutheran traditions, students at Newberry are highly encouraged to volunteer and grow spiritually. Religion isn’t tied into the nursing program, which boasts an impressive 100% NCLEX pass rate for recent graduates. An online RN to BSN is also available, and current RNs can finish this degree in less than a year.
Annual In-State Tuition: $11,208 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.37%
The University of South Carolina Upstate is another quickly-growing public school. Currently home to 6,000 students, USC Upstate has been ranked as one of the top public schools in the region. Students interested in a BSN will be committing to a four-year track that does not guarantee acceptance into the program. After two years of study, students will apply to the upper-division courses — and admission is not guaranteed by USC Upstate. However, students that do get in will earn a BSN from one of the top universities in South Carolina.
Annual In-State Tuition: $16,236 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 86.15%
Located in Florence, South Carolina, Francis Marion University has small class sizes that average just 20 students. There is no shortage of options for nursing students. Francis Marion offers three BSN options (traditional, RN to BSN, and RN to BSN for veterans) along with five graduate-level degrees. The traditional BSN is a 2+2 program, meaning two years of lower-division courses must be finished before students can apply for upper-division courses. So, two years of schooling must be completed before students find out if they’re accepted into the nursing school.
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),
- South Carolina nurses earn a median wage of $64,940.
- South Carolina is home to 44,350 and employs more nurses per capita than the national average.
South Carolina may not be the highest paying state for nurses, but the cost of living in SC is lower than the national average, according to BestPlaces.
Also, because South Carolina employs more nurses per capita than the national average, recent graduates may have an easier time finding a position in-state than elsewhere.
Even if you don’t want to work in-state, South Carolina is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), meaning a nursing license in South Carolina will transfer to most states.
Students should always plan on applying to multiple schools of varying type and size. While public schools can be more affordable, private schools may offer financial aid to remain competitive. Also, while a large school may seem fun, smaller schools might have a higher admission rate for the BSN degree.
After you’ve selected schools you’re interested in, the next steps are to:
Contact each school’s admissions offices. If you have any questions about the admissions process, admissions officers can answer them. Their jobs are to help students with the application process. They can even help you find out if you’re meeting the nursing school’s admissions requirements.
Make sure you meet the nursing school requirements. Yes, nursing schools often have their own set of requirements! Nursing schools tend to have stricter requirements than the university they’re a part of, so simply meeting a university’s admissions standards may not be enough.
Submit your application(s). Once you’ve gathered all your materials, the last step is to submit your applications. Some schools use the Common App where you submit one application to multiple schools. Make sure you’re submitting everyone you need for each school.
Required materials typically include:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Schools may also request other information, such as volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, or even grades for specific courses.
Important considerations when comparing schools:
When a school reviews and accepts your application, you’ll receive a letter in the mail. This is a big step for future college students! However, students often receive multiple acceptance letters, meaning they’ll need to pick which school to attend. The school you choose will have an impact on your future career as a nurse, so consider what each school is offering and how it correlates with your goals.
Other factors you’ll want to consider include:
- Annual tuition and total program cost (these can be different)
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Fees associated with the school and/or program
- Commute to hospitals for clinicals
- Cost of living on-campus versus off-campus
- Acceptance rate (both for the school and the nursing program)
- Unique aspects to each program
- Accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accreditation is a way of standardizing quality for schools and programs. Schools can either be accredited regionally or nationally, so make sure each school you apply to has either a national or regional accreditation. Nursing programs can also be accredited, and you should not apply to an unaccredited nursing program.
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 doesn’t have one of these two accreditations, you may not be eligible for federal financial aid and could have a hard time finding work as a nurse.
Getting a License in South Carolina
As mentioned before, South Carolina is part of the eNLC, meaning a license in South Carolina is also accepted in most states. To be part of the eNLC, South Carolina must adhere to minimum nursing standards. Fortunately, any prerequisites you need to become a nurse in SC should be satisfied after you earn a BSN and pass the NCLEX.
To get a license in South Carolina, you’ll need to:
- Submit proof that you earned a degree from a board-recognized program
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal background check, submit your fingerprints, and pay an application fee
- Apply online through the South Carolina Board of Nursing
Accredited nursing programs should qualify as a board-recognized program, as should all accredited programs in South Carolina, including the schools on our list. However, it’s smart to verify online that your selected school meets South Carolina Board of Nursing’s standards.
With thousands of nursing jobs and some of the best nursing schools in the region, South Carolina is an excellent place for nurses to earn a degree and start a career. Not only are schools affordable for in-state students, but some are nationally recognized for their quality. If nurses want to move away from South Carolina, their license with transfer to most states thanks to the eNLC.
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