Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Wisconsin
Anyone who wants to become a nurse knows they need to attend nursing school. However, they may not know that the nursing school they choose will have a huge impact on their future.
For example, if you want to find a position as a nurse in Wisconsin, the best thing to do is to earn a bachelor of nursing science (BSN) in Wisconsin.
Not only will a BSN satisfy Wisconsin's requirements for a nursing license, but many hospitals and states are starting to require nurses to have a minimum of a BSN. Also, the right BSN program can connect you to potential nursing careers.
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
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Wisconsin nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Wisconsin
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,812 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 98%
As one of the top public schools in the region, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire provides an excellent education for the in-state tuition cost. Students pursuing a BSN have two options of study: on-campus in Eau Claire or at the Marshfield Medical Center in Marshfield. Both locations are staffed by UW - Eau Claire professors, so you can pick whichever site works best for you. UW - Eau Claire also has a high NCLEX pass rate, so any Wisconsin residents should consider applying.
Annual Tuition: $26,150 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95%
Viterbo University is a small, private school with just 2,610 students. However, with over 100 years of educating students, Viterbo is also one of the top schools in Wisconsin. The School of Nursing has a BSN and BSN completion program, and the traditional BSN has an impressive 100% job placement rate upon graduation. Nursing students also have the option to study abroad and still complete the degree in four years. Also, for a private school, Viterbo’s tuition is relatively low.
Annual Tuition: $27,530 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
A liberal arts school founded in the Catholic Dominican tradition, Edgewood College has an incredibly low 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of just 13. The small class sizes are likely part of the reason why Edgewood consistently sees every nursing student pass the NCLEX on their first try. For high school students worried about nursing school admissions, high school applicants with a GPA of 3.5 and an ACT score of 24 can gain guaranteed admission to the School of Nursing.
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,488 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97%
Perhaps the best-known school in the state, the University of Wisconsin - Madison has been educating students since 1848. Located on a 936-acre campus, any nursing students that attend Wisconsin are going to enjoy a large school. You can earn a BSN in nearly any way at Wisconsin, though the traditional BSN is the most popular program. The traditional BSN is a 2+2 program, meaning two years of nursing prerequisite courses before entering the two-year nursing program. Admission is highly competitive, but those accepted will study at an excellent school.
Annual Tuition: $29,450 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%
Concordia University is a private, Lutheran college located in Mequon and on the shores of Lake Michigan. Along with a beautiful campus-based a short drive from Milwaukee, Concordia also offers students a low 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and is ranked as the safest campus in Wisconsin. While the tuition is high, nursing students earn an average financial aid award of $16,603, cutting into the total cost of the program. BSN students also get access to a simulation lab and enjoy a high NCLEX pass rate.
Annual Tuition: $38,470 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95%
Among the top private schools in the region, Marquette University’s tuition rate is well worth the education. Founded in the Jesuit tradition, Marquette has a prime location in downtown Milwaukee, so students get to enjoy a city experience. The undergraduate nursing program gives nursing students the chance to study abroad or get an internship in Washington DC. Marquette also has an honors nursing program and receive a BSN with Honors upon completing the degree.
Annual In-State Tuition: $9,493 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 86%
Home to 27,000 students, the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee is one of the larger schools in the state. Roughly ¾ of graduates end up working in Wisconsin, which means UWM has an extensive alumni network for nursing school grads to tap into. Nursing options include a traditional BSN, RN to BSN, and an RN to MSN. The traditional program connects nursing students with more than 160 clinical agencies, and students have the option to study abroad in areas including Mexico, Kenya, South Korea, and China.
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,544 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 99%
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh nationally-recognized research school in Fox Valley. Part of the larger UW system, Oshkosh offers quality education with a low in-state tuition rate. The traditional undergraduate nursing program, the top nursing program at UW Oshkosh, has two options: a five-semester program or a year-round program with a hybrid of on-campus and online courses. From start to finish, students can earn their BSN in 3.5-4.5 years, depending on which option they choose.
Annual Tuition: $30,388 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Founded in 1846, Carroll University is the oldest institution of higher education in Wisconsin. Carroll is known for its Pioneer Core, a general education requirement that ensures all students receive a well-rounded education. After completing the Pioneer Core, nursing students can begin work on their BSN core courses. Along with 160 hours of clinical experience, Carroll University connects nursing students with internships at local healthcare facilities. Recent graduates enjoyed a 100% NCLEX pass rate, too, showing the quality of the program.
Annual Tuition: $37,719 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96%
While it may not sound like it, Milwaukee School of Engineering is home to an excellent nursing program. The traditional BSN program began in 1995, and the program uses some of the newest technologies in laboratories and classrooms. An accelerated second degree for current BS or BA holders is also available. Upon graduation, 95% of MSOE students find a job in their field or continue on to graduate school. The cost is high compared to other schools, but the outcome of the nursing program may be worth it to some.
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),
- Wisconsin nurses earn an annual mean wage of $71,470.
- Wisconsin employs 59,030 nurses and employs more nurses per capita than the national average.
Compared to the national mean wage of $75,510 for nurses, Wisconsin pays slightly lower than the national average. However, the cost of living in Wisconsin is slightly lower than the national average.
Also, urban areas in Wisconsin have higher mean wages. For example, nurses in the Madison area earn an annual mean wage of $79,810, well above the national average.
Areas with higher pay are also higher-employers for nurses. So, if you find a job in a larger Wisconsin city, you may earn a higher-than-average salary.
After spending some time researching schools you’re interested in, the next step is to move forward with applications. It’s important to send in your application before the deadline — late applications could mean you have to wait another year to begin college!
Here are the steps to applying for college:
Contact each school’s admissions offices. Schools sometimes have specific requirements you need to follow when applying. Admissions offices will tell you everything you need to know about the school’s application process, and they will be your point of contact if you have any questions during your application.
Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Nursing schools often have additional, stricter requirements for admission than colleges, and admission into a college does not guarantee admission into nursing school. Some requirements can be completed while you’re in college, though, so ask each admissions office what you need to complete before starting college.
Submit your application(s). After you’ve prepared your application materials, the final step is to send in applications! Remember, always apply to more than one school – who knows what scholarships might be made available after you’ve been accepted!
Materials to send include:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Additional materials may also be required by a school or nursing program. Always keep track of everything you need so you don’t submit an incomplete application.
Important considerations when comparing schools:
Every school offers something unique and special, and that can make comparing schools incredibly difficult. Fortunately, as long as you attend an accredited school, your future nursing career will be off to a good start. So, the best thing to do is pick the accredited school that works best for you.
When comparing schools, consider things like:
- Annual tuition and total program cost
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Cost of living on-campus or in the area
- Distance from hospitals
- School and nursing program acceptance rate
- Length of the program (accelerated or traditional)
- Type of program (traditional or online)
- Program outcomes
- Accreditation (regional and national)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accrediting bodies are government-recognized organizations that evaluate the academic quality of programs. When a school and/or program is accredited, it guarantees that the curriculum meets a minimum standard of quality.
The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation.
Getting a License in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) which means that nursing license in Wisconsin works in most other states (and vice versa). To be part of the eNLC, Wisconsin is required to meet certain standards for licensing nurses.
To get a license in Wisconsin, you’ll need to:
- Study at a nursing school
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal background check, submit your fingerprints, and pay an application fee
- Apply through the Wisconsin Board of Nursing
Every accredited BSN program satisfies the requirements to sit for the NCLEX, so completing your BSN puts you on track to become a licensed nurse.
Wisconsin is home to some of the top nursing programs in the nation, and state residents can take advantage of low tuition rates. After earning a BSN, nurses are prepared to become licensed, and that license is valid in most states. A nursing position in a metropolitan Wisconsin area pays above the national average, so nurses can enjoy a well-paying career in a high employment state.