Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Virginia
To have a long, successful career as a nurse, the first step is to enroll in an accredited nursing program. It’s important to note that where you get your degree can be equally important.
To become a registered nurse (RN), students need to be eligible for, take, and pass the NCLEX-RN. However, many nursing employers are beginning to prefer candidates that have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). This four-year degree also prepares students for the NCLEX-RN.
In terms of quality education, Virginia is among the top states for nursing students. It features some of the most well-known programs in the nation, many of which are at an affordable price. By studying at a school in Virginia, students will also increase their chances of getting a nursing position in Virginia as well as all the states that require a compact license.
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 Virginia nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Virginia
While factors like tuition and location are important, it’s important to note that some schools offer special programs. Online options, bridge programs, and accelerated programs are excellent options depending on where you’re currently at in your career.
Because everyone’s expectations from a nursing school are different, these Virginia schools are ranked in no particular order.
Annual Tuition: $37,751 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.2%
Marymount’s campus extends over three locations in the northern part of Virginia, so students have different options for where they earn their BSN. All locations are close to Washington, DC, so students interested in government and history should feel right at home. The quality of Marymount’s nursing program is also worth mentioning, and while the cost is higher than in other schools, students will get to enjoy a private, Catholic education.
In-State Annual Tuition: $14,878 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.1%
Most of the nation knows UVA as NCAA basketball champions, but nurses know the school for its top-tier nursing program. Whether you’re looking to enroll in UVA’s traditional BSN program or transfer into the program in from another school, you’re setting yourself up to earn a degree from one of the top Universities in the nation. You’ll also have a chance to learn at one of the best hospitals in the nation while studying, so you’ll have no shortage of experience when you apply for work.
Annual In-State Tuition: $13,119 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 81.9%
George Mason University is among the top nursing schools in the nation, and a degree from here is sure to garner respect. For in-state students, the low cost, quality education, and high NCLEX pass rate are sure to draw attention. However, the BSN program is incredibly competitive, and George Mason highly encourages all applicants to have a backup plan.
Annual Tuition: $26,198 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.7%
As a historically black university, Hampton University is rich in tradition and culture among one of the most respected schools in the nation. On top of the school’s prestige, the nursing program for students interested in a BSN is highly regarded. There are plenty of ways to complete a BSN at Hampton University, so most prospective nurses are sure to find a program that fits their needs.
Annual Tuition: $40,590 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 81.8%
If you’re looking to start your nursing career right after graduating, Eastern Mennonite University may be the best option. According to the school, 100% of their 2018 graduating nurses were offered jobs prior to completing their degree. Also, as a small, private school, Eastern Mennonite University gives nursing students the chance to study in small, focused classes. This is a great option for students interested in studying in a small community.
In-State Annual Tuition: $13,092 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.9%
James Madison University is a large, public school based in Harrisonburg. Because it’s public, Virginia residents can take advantage of the school’s incredibly low in-state tuition. The tuition rate, with the high NCLEX pass rate, is sure to get plenty of nursing students’ attention. Unfortunately, JMU has a high student-to-faculty ratio for general education classes however, the nursing program does boast a relatively low 1:10 faculty ratio for nursing students.
Annual Tuition: $41,880 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 75.5%
Yes, the University of Lynchburg is a private school with a high tuition rate. But nursing students who apply to the BSN program will benefit from small class sizes and an incredibly high NCLEX pass rate with previous years reaching a stellar 100% pass rate. Unfortunately, in recent years the NCLEX pass rate has dropped significantly but the program has taken dramatic steps to raise the score. According to the nursing department, students suffered as a result of the pandemic and did not have access to many of the great benefits of attending the University of Lynchburg. Graduates also tend to find jobs at premier hospitals in Virginia immediately after finishing their degree, although a BSN from the University of Lynchburg is sure to open doors across the nation.
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,800 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88%
At first glance, the ultra-low in-state tuition of Old Dominion University sticks out. Combined with the decent NCLEX pass rate, the affordability of Old Dominion is sure to attract plenty of BSN students. However, the true strength of Old Dominion’s nursing school is its graduate program. Old Dominion offers an impressive eight different MSN programs including,
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist/Educator
- Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Nurse Midwifery
So, if you’re interested in earning an MSN or DNP after your BSN, this is an excellent school to accomplish both.
Annual In-State Tuition: $9,684 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.9%
For a public school, Radford University has low enrollment in comparison to some of the other Virginia state universities. This means smaller class sizes while taking advantage of in-state tuition, two huge pluses for students interested in a BSN. Radford’s nursing program is best for students that want to begin a nursing career right after earning their degree. The curriculum focuses on preparing nurses for a wide variety of jobs – probably part of the reason nearly every nursing student in their graduating class passed the NCLEX.
Annual In-State Tuition: $15,642 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 87.2%
Virginia Commonwealth University, better known as VCU, has one of the nation’s top graduate programs for nursing both in the classroom and online. However, this doesn’t mean their BSN program isn’t also exceptional. One popular option at VCU is their second degree BSN, reserved for students that already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. These students can earn their BSN in just over two years, and at the in-state tuition cost, this makes the BSN highly affordable. The program is also ranked in the top 4% of nursing undergraduate programs nationwide by U.S. News and World Report.
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.
It’s also important to remember that tuition doesn’t always cover room and board, books, clinical uniforms and supplies, as well as transportation to and from clinical sites. You should take these factors into consideration when determining which program best fits your needs.
Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),
- Virginia nurses make an annual mean wage of $76,680, which is below the national average of $82,750. However, Virginia also has some of the lowest costs of living in the country.
Once you’ve looked at the top nursing schools in Virginia, you’ll want to start the process of getting your BSN.
Here are the steps to getting your BSN:
- Start by applying to your preferred schools. Even if you have one school that you like more than any other, you should always apply to more than one school. You never know if a school will give you additional financial aid in the form of scholarships or grants!
- Next, contact each school’s admissions office. Their admissions representatives know the school’s application process and requirements better than anyone else. This will give you an idea of what you need to complete prior to applying, and how best to apply to a school and the nursing program.
- Find out what you need to finish to get into the nursing program. Just because you get accepted into a school doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a spot in the nursing school! Be prepared to complete additional paperwork and courses on top of the school’s admission requirements.
- Finally, get your materials together and apply. After talking with admissions, you should know everything you need to complete the application. If you don’t know, it’s safe to assume that you’ll need a GPA of at least 2.5 in Virginia, along with a college admissions essay and two letters of recommendation.
- Submit your application(s). Once your applications are finished, then the last step is sending them in! Every school has its own application requirements, so make sure you have everything you need. Commonly required materials include:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Important considerations when comparing schools
Many students get caught up in the tuition rate or prestige of schools. While these are important factors, you should be considering much more before applying to or attending any school.
When comparing schools, consider things like:
- Annual tuition and total program cost (nursing programs may cost more)
- Private vs. Public (public schools offer in-state tuition)
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Cost of living on-campus or in the area
- Distance from hospitals for clinicals
- School and nursing program acceptance rate
- Length of the program (accelerated or traditional)
- Program outcomes
- Accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accreditation is particularly important to pay attention to. Accreditation means that the school is recognized for its academic quality. There are multiple types of accreditation, and some employers will only look at your application if the school you attended was accredited by the right accrediting body. Accreditation can also impact your chances of receiving federal student aid.
These are the two most important types of accreditation for BSN programs to look for:
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
While it may seem small, a school lacking either of these accreditations may not be worth the time or money it costs to earn the degree.
Getting a License in Virginia
To become a registered nurse (RN) in Virginia, you need to:
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Have 500 hours of supervised client care
- Complete a criminal background check
- Apply for nursing certification
Getting licensed in Virginia is pretty straightforward. Most Virginia schools will require 500 supervised hours to earn a BSN, and each program should adequately prepare you to take and pass the NCLEX. So, completing your BSN in Virginia will satisfy most requirements to become an RN.
Virginia may not be the highest paying state for nurses, but its nursing schools are among the best in the US. There are plenty of nearby states that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, too, so a degree in Virginia should satisfy the needs to become licensed in many other states. For locals and out-of-state students, a nursing degree obtained in Virginia is an excellent way to get your nursing career started.