Understanding Program Rankings

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree allows you to learn more advanced nursing techniques and in some cases, specialize in one area of medicine. You can enter a BSN program if you’re a registered nurse with your associate’s degree, or you can join an LPN to BSN program to become a registered nurse. There are many different options, so how should you determine which BSN program to attend?

Who ranks BSN programs?

Program rankings can be a big help when it comes to finding a school. A number of publications and organizations rank college programs, and some specifically look at nursing degrees. The most popular of these rankings lists are U.S. News & World Report and the National Institutes of Health. Both publish annual lists of BSN programs that are accredited by national nursing associations.

How are programs ranked?

Each publication and organization has a different method for ranking BSN programs. Typically, school ratings are based on the following criteria:

  • Financial aid options
  • Professor experience
  • Student achievements
  • Percentage of students accepted
  • Average standardized test scores
  • Activities available
  • Class size

Nursing School Rankings

With the demand for qualified nurses greater than ever, many schools now offer a range of degree programs. From online, accelerated, to traditional campus programs, students have a variety of educational choices. The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, releases nursing school rankings each year. Visit the organization’s website to view rankings that are organized by state, hospital, medical school and more.

In addition to ranking criteria, make sure to do a self-assessment to verify the program meets your career goals. The following questions will help you gather the information needed to make the best decision:

  1. Do I have the time and financial resources required to be successful in the program?
  2. Have I investigated my options thoroughly through online research, visiting institutions and speaking with admissions representatives?
  3. What type of nursing job am I seeking when I finish the program, and does the school offer the specialization I’m interested in?
  4. Is the school accredited, and if so, by which accrediting body?

What else should I consider when choosing a program?

While it is important to check out some of the rankings used to compare BSN programs, this should not be the only way you look for the best program for you. Create your own ranking list of colleges, based not only on the characteristics listed above, but also on criteria that is important to you. Ask yourself the follow questions:

  • Does the school offer online classes?
  • What are the clinical hours required in order to graduate?
  • What percentage of students have jobs within six months of graduation?
  • Does the college have an alumni networking association?
  • How much is tuition and other student fees?
  • Does the school offer financial aid or scholarship programs?
  • How helpful are staff members?

Start by going online and doing some research. Visit social networking sites, forums, and other online resources that connect you with former and current students to learn more about each program you’re considering.

Keep in mind that the best program for you might not be a top-ranked program. The best programs on each list change from year to year, and what makes them the “best” may not correspond to what you’re looking. While the top-ranked BSN programs are definitely some worth considering, the best program for you is one that meets your personal criteria.


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