EDUCATION
September 26, 2022

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’s degree in nursing (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.

Methodology

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

  • Reputation

  • NCLEX-RN 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 MSN, 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.

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

Top 10 Nursing Schools in Wisconsin

1. University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Annual In-State Tuition: $8,909| NCLEX Pass Rate: 99.10%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

As one of the top public schools in the region, the 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 resident should consider applying. 

2. Viterbo University

Annual Tuition: $39,786 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.29%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

Viterbo University is a small, private school with just 2,521 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. 

3. Edgewood College

Annual Tuition: $32,600 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.85%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

A liberal arts school founded in the Catholic Dominican tradition, Edgewood College has an incredibly low 7:1 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. The nursing program partners with more than 50 clinical sites for students including four major hospitals in Madison. 

4. University of Wisconsin - Madison

Annual In-State Tuition: $24,858 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.31%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

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. 

5. Concordia University Wisconsin

Annual Tuition: $32,770 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.86%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Concordia University is a private, Lutheran college located in Mequon and on the shores of Lake Michigan. Concordia focuses on service and giving back to the community as students completed 31,289 service hours during the 2021-2022 academic year. Along with a beautiful campus, based only 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. 

6. Marquette University

Annual Tuition: $45,860 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Among the top private schools in the region, Marquette University’s high 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 and large inner city hospitals. The undergraduate nursing program gives nursing students the chance to study abroad or earn an internship in Washington DC. Marquette also has an honors nursing program and students receive a BSN with Honors upon completing the degree. While this might not seem necessary, it can be very useful for students interested in advancing their education and applying to competitive graduate programs. 

7. University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Annual In-State Tuition: $13,656 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88.28%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

Home to 24,000 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 nursing program consistently ranks in the top 15% of nursing schools with graduate programs according to U.S. News & World Report. 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. 

8. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Annual In-State Tuition: $7,774 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.05%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is a nationally-recognized research school located 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. Most recently (2021), UWO  received the AAMN award for best school in recruiting and retaining men in nursing.

9. Carroll University

Annual Tuition: $35,360 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.30%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

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.

10. Milwaukee School of Engineering

Annual Tuition: $43,284 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.50%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

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.

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

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 $76,850. 

  • Wisconsin employs 62,860 nurses and employs more nurses per capita than the national average. 

Compared to the national mean wage of $77,600 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 $80,490, 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.

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

Next Steps:

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. 

Show Me Wisconsin Nursing Programs

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

  • School’s 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

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 licenses in Wisconsin work 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 an accredited 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 becoming a licensed nurse.

Find Nursing Programs

Infographic comparing the top nursing schools in Wisconsin

References:

BLS

BestPlaces.net

Wisconsin Board of Nursing

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