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    Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in West Virginia

    Aside from the gratification that comes with saving lives and helping others, registered nurses (RN) also enjoy high employment and wages. However, nobody can become an RN overnight. First, they need to earn a nursing degree.

    While RNs can complete an associate degree program, many hospitals prefer candidates that earn a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN). While a BSN takes longer to complete, graduates tend to earn higher wages than non-BSN holding nurses.

    We explore the top nursing programs in West Virginia, including tuition rates, and the career outlook for nurses in West Virginia. 

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    Methodology

    This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,

    • Reputation
    • NCLEX pass rate
    • Tuition
    • Acceptance rate, when available
    • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible 

    Nurse Panel

    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 West Virginia nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

    Top 10 Nursing Schools in West Virginia

    1. West Virginia Wesleyan College

    Annual Tuition: $32,058 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 83.33%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    West Virginia Wesleyan College is a private school located in Buckhannon. The college is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and students -- including those earning a BSN -- might need to take some religious courses. As a small college with just under 1,300 students, the BSN program is tiny compared to other programs, graduating just 18 students in 2019. As a result, admission into the program can be difficult. Aside from the BSN, WV Wesleyan has a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). 

    2. American Public University System

    Annual Tuition: $11,200 (based on per-credit tuition rate) | NCLEX Pass Rate:  N/A

    Traditional: No

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    The American Public University System is a large school that focuses on online education. The school conferred nearly 104,000 degrees in the past 25 years, and 87% of its students are working adults. Current registered nurses fall under the working adult category and can easily obtain a BSN through the online RN-BSN program. Courses in the program last eight weeks, with two courses every semester. Other online options include an MSN and an online RN-MSN, though these also require additional contact hours. Unfortunately, American Public University does not offer an on-campus BSN, even though they're based in West Virginia. 

    3. Fairmont State University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $7,738 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $16,814 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 89.02%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: Yes

    Based in the small city of Fairmont, Fairmont State University provides students with affordable education, especially if they're WV residents. Fairmont State has two nursing programs: an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a BSN. The BSN is relatively new and just recently secured programmatic accreditation, so no nurses have graduated from the program yet. However, the ADN has strong outcomes and an NCLEX pass rate above the national average, so that could serve as a gauge for the quality of the BSN. 

    4. West Virginia University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $8,976 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $25,320 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.44%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: Yes

    Bridge: No

    West Virginia University is a large, comprehensive university system that educates nearly 30,000 students. The main campus in Morgantown serves 27,000 students and offers a variety of nursing programs. The main option is the traditional BSN, which recently saw 114 of 117 graduates pass the NCLEX on their first try. The other two options, the accelerated second degree BSN and an online RN-BSN, have similarly strong outcomes. WVU also has an MSN, DNP, and a Ph.D. in nursing. Some of the nursing programs are also available on the campuses in Beckley, Potomac State, and WVU Tech.

    5. Shepherd University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $15,568 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $36,448 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.96%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: No

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Based just a short drive from Baltimore and Washington D.C., Shepherd University provides higher education to West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Of course, only West Virginia residents receive in-state tuition. Of the nursing programs available, the two main options are the BSN and an RN-BSN. The BSN has strong outcomes, including a high NCLEX pass rate for recent grads. The RN-BSN option isn't online, so current RNs looking for a flexible education may want to look elsewhere. 

    6. West Liberty University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $8,580 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $16,820 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.44%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: Yes

    Bridge: Yes

    As the oldest institution of higher education in West Virginia, West Liberty University has plenty of experience providing quality education. This includes educating nurses, as West Liberty has one of the best nursing programs in the region. Undergraduate nursing options include a traditional BSN, an online RN-BSN, and an accelerated second-degree BSN. Students complete clinicals in WV, but the location near Pittsburgh, PA, and Steubenville, OH, opens doors for a nursing career outside of West Virginia. 

    7. Wheeling Jesuit University

    Annual Tuition: $29,290 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: Yes

    Bridge: Yes

    With just over 1,100 students, Wheeling Jesuit University, also known just as Wheeling University, is among the smallest schools in West Virginia with a nursing program. However, the small student body size helps give Wheeling University an impressive 11:1 student to faculty ratio, and the average class has just 16 students. Wheeling University has three undergraduate nursing programs: a traditional BSN, a 16-month second-degree BSN, and an online RN-BSN. Not many students are admitted to the BSN each year, but all who graduated in 2019 passed the NCLEX on their first try. 

    8. University of Charleston

    Annual Tuition: $27,614 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.45%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Located on the banks of the Kanawha River in Charleston, the University of Charleston offers a prime location with views of the state capitol building. As a private school, the 2,600 students in attendance don't receive in-state tuition, though many secure financial aid. The University of Charleston offers two nursing degrees: a traditional BSN and an online RN-BSN. Clinicals through the undergraduate program include rotations in trauma centers, a children's hospital, and more. Admission into the BSN program can be competitive, but the results are excellent. 

    9. Davis & Elkins College

    Annual Tuition: $29,960 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Founded in 1904, Davis & Elkins College is a small, private school that enrolls just 805 students. While students don't have access to in-state tuition, about 90% of students receive some form of financial aid. Currently, Davis & Elkins has two nursing programs: an ADN and an online RN-BSN. The ADN recently saw all students pass the NCLEX on their first try, and graduates can then work toward a BSN while starting their nursing career. The college recently added a traditional BSN, so applicants would be among the first students in the program. 

    10. Marshall University

    Annual In-State Tuition: $8,412 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $19,266 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.8%

    Traditional: Yes

    Online: Yes

    Accelerated: No

    Bridge: No

    Founded in 1837, Marshall University has grown over the years to become one of the most important public schools in West Virginia. Marshall teaches nearly 9,500 undergraduate students, including 2,350 out-of-state students. The School of Nursing offers a pre-licensure BSN and an online RN-BSN, as well as multiple graduate programs. The pre-licensure BSN is available at both the Huntington and Pt. Pleasant campus, both of which saw impressive NCLEX pass rates from the class of 2019. Pre-licensure clinical settings include Cabell Huntington Hospital, Hershel Woody Williams Veterans Administration Medical Center, and St. Mary's Medical Center. 

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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 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)

    • West Virginia nurses earn an annual mean wage of $61,780, which is lower than the national average.
    • West Virginia employs 19,930 RNs, the second-most per-capita in the nation. 

    West Virginia doesn't pay the highest wages -- only states like Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi pay lower mean wages. However, nurses in some areas can earn more. For example, RNs in the Huntington-Ashland area earn a mean wage of $63,000. 

    The good news is that West Virginia employs many nurses -- 28.61 nurses for every 1,000 workers -- more than every state except for South Dakota. That means plenty of nursing positions for future nurses. 

    Nurses who plan on working in West Virginia may not earn the highest wages, but there are plenty of opportunities available. 

    Next Steps:

    Spend some time reviewing different nursing programs to see which ones fit your wants and needs. After selecting some nursing programs you're interested in, you'll want to get in touch with each school and learn more about the application process.

    Here are the next steps broken down:

    Contact each school’s admissions offices. The admissions office is in charge of all things applications and admissions. Get in touch with each school's admissions office to learn more about their admission requirements. 

    Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Yes, nursing schools have their own admission requirements, and they're often stricter than those set by the college or university. See what you need to do to get your nursing school application considered.

    Submit your application(s). Once you've learned more about your eligibility and determined everything you need for your application, the final step is to gather your materials and send them in!

    Common application requirements include:

    • High school transcript (GPA)
    • ACT and/or SAT scores
    • College entrance essay(s)
    • Letter(s) of recommendation

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    Important considerations when comparing schools: 

    Some time after you send in your applications, you'll begin receiving acceptance letters in the mail. However, your work isn't done -- next, you need to determine which school and nursing program is best. There are tons of factors to consider, including:

    • Annual tuition/nursing program cost
    • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
    • Cost of living on-campus or in the area
    • Distance from home
    • School and nursing program acceptance rate
    • Length and type of program
    • Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
    • Accreditation (regional and programmatic)

    Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation  

    Accreditation means a school and/or program meets a specific set of standards set by nationally-recognized bodies. In West Virginia, make sure any college you apply to is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Make sure each nursing program has programmatic accreditation, too. 

    The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

    Getting a License in West Virginia

    Fortunately, getting an RN license in West Virginia is pretty straight forward. As a part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), nurses with an RN license in West Virginia can easily earn a license in other eNLC member states. 

    To get a license in West Virginia, you'll need to:

    • Study at a nursing school approved by the West Virginia Board of Nursing
    • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
    • Pay an application and criminal background check fee
    • Apply through the West Virginia RN Board

    Conclusion 

    West Virginia is one of the top employers for RNs per capita, and the current nursing shortage can help new RNs find a great position. There are plenty of great public and private nursing schools in West Virginia, so students have plenty to choose from. After graduating, West Virginia nurses benefit from the eNLC and can easily earn an RN license in most other states. 

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    References:

    BLS

    West Virginia RN Board

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    Nurse.org

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