A high demand for nurses in the United States has led to the creation of many nursing school programs. As professionals and students would attest, however, not all programs and schools are created equally. Indeed, you should thoroughly research a school before you begin to pursue a nursing degree.
If you are looking for the "best" nursing programs in the country, you will find that certain organizations have ranked schools based on important factors. However, no two lists are exactly alike, as said organizations use slightly different criteria for each list. Below, we will examine the two most widely recognized nursing school rankings from U.S. News & World Report and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as other resources. Each will shed more light on what makes a school noteworthy and how you should decide on which nursing program to pursue.
U.S. News & World Report
Each year, U.S. News & World Report releases a special set of college and university rankings. Entitled "America's Best Colleges", it collects many Top 100 lists. From "Best National Universities" to "Best Black Colleges", each list is created using a different set of criteria. Nursing students can look to this collection of rankings for nursing school-specific lists.
U.S. News & World Report offers several annual rankings for nursing programs, including a general list for "Best Nursing Graduate Schools". Other lists are more specific, ranking the best colleges for various nursing specialties. These specializations include nursing service administration, family nursing, adult nursing, pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, surgical nursing and psychiatric nursing.
U.S. News & World Report compiles college and university rankings through a unique process. The publication uses peer reviews to determine which schools have the best reputation. Also considered is how students scored on standardized tests, as well as how many students were accepted to a given college. Other factors include available faculty resources, tuition fees, alumni donation rates and graduation rates.
The latest edition of U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges" should be available at all major bookstores and your local library. You can also purchase an online edition through the publication's official Web site, which will grant you instant access to the many rankings from your home computer.
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, regularly contributes funds to hospitals, schools, businesses and other organizations in order to promote important medical research. Money is extended to schools and universities that have proven to be effective and reputable institutions. Each year, the NIH releases nursing school rankings, reflecting which schools received the most funding from the NIH.
The NIH extends millions of dollars to nursing programs each year. It is an unbiased, peer-review process that leads to approval for funding, which is why the annual school rankings are held in such high regard. To be given medical research funds by the NIH indicates that a college or university is making great strides within the medical community. Naturally, such schools should be worth consideration by potential students.
The organization's official Web site offers specific data in regards to annual award trends. There, you will be able to view rankings that are organized by state, hospital, medical school and more.
For those of you who are seeking an online undergraduate nursing degree, you should consult the college rankings at Online Education Database (OEDb). OEDb, an exhaustive guide to the nation's top accredited online schools, features colleges with online nursing programs on their well-executed rankings list.
The combination of factors used to compile OEDb's college rankings is unique and unbiased. The qualifying criteria includes acceptance rate, financial aid, graduation rate, peer Web citations, retention rate, scholarly citations, student-faculty ratio and years accredited. U.S. News & World Report combines similar metrics, though their process is more simplified.
The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review (TPR), not unlike U.S. News & World Report, publishes an annual guide to America's top colleges. Entitled "Best 366 Colleges", this guide offers rankings in many different categories, from "Best Classroom Experience" to "Best College Newspaper". These lists are compiled less scientifically than U.S. News & World Report's rankings, as TPR's annual guide is based on student feedback.
If you are in search of a more personable guide to America's best nursing schools, you should consult this annual collection of rankings. TPR has found that nursing is one of the top 10 most popular college majors amongst today's students and, accordingly, includes many colleges and universities with nursing programs in their annual guide. The latest edition of TPR's "Best 366 Colleges" can be purchased online or found locally at a major bookstore or library.
The rankings offered by StudentsReview.com are compiled from surveys taken by undergraduate and graduate students who have attended the schools in question. The site aims to provide "answers to the questions college students wish they had known to ask". By simply specifying a college major, state, degree level or social interest, users will have instant access to personalized college rankings.
Prospective nursing students, by selecting "nursing" as their major of choice, will be provided with a ranking list of the site's top-reviewed nursing schools. Though the methodology behind the site isn't as scientific as OEDb or U.S. News & World Report rankings, it will afford you the chance to really know how students feel about their alma mater. Detailed reviews are available on the site and a simple grading system allows students to vote on a school's overall performance, specific departments and campus social life.
Community College Week
Community College Week (CCW) is bi-weekly news source that focuses on two-year community, technical and junior colleges. Each year, CCW publishes a special report on the "Top 100 Associate Degree Producers". Also included with this report are specific rankings for popular college majors. The "Top 50 Associate Degrees: Nursing" [PDF] should be of interest to prospective nursing students who wish to earn a two-year degree.
The rankings offered by CCW are compiled using only one set of metrics — the total number of degrees awarded by each college. Though degree conferral is important when considering a school, you may wish to use these lists in conjunction with another resource, as you will want to know additional details about a college before enrolling. However, these rankings are important in that they uniquely focus on associate degrees and they break down numbers according to gender, which may be of great importance so some students.
Determining which nursing school to attend involves more than just referring to cold statistics. However, the rankings above should assist your search for the best nursing program. Naturally, the "best" program will differ from one student to the next, as each person will have different needs. No two colleges offer the same programs, amenities and atmospheres.
Before you use any college rankings to determine which school you attend, you should always research how the rankings were compiled. For example, a school's financial aid program may be of more important to you than student-faculty ratio. In that case, you may wish to rely on a list that favors financial aid data. Comparing several lists side-by-side may give you the best perspective on nursing programs, which is why we have offered a variety of resources above.