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Private Nursing Schools in the United States

Nurses are healthcare workers dedicated to treating and educating both individuals and communities. There are many private nursing schools across the United States. Students interested in pursuing a nursing degree should consider several factors when selecting a program.

Students looking to select a private nursing school should first look at all routes to a degree and then decide which makes the most sense for them. Tuition costs are higher at private schools, but students may benefit from smaller class sizes or opportunities to specialize in a specific field of nursing.

Top 10 Private Nursing Schools

The following list includes a number of private schools that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing. These schools have all been ranked among the top 20 graduate nursing programs by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate, $49,536; Graduate, $31,068
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral Graduate, $48,710
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate, $49,241; Graduate, $47,590
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate, $47,750; Graduate, $38,592
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4-year, Private Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate, $46,314; Graduate, $38,800
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's, Doctoral Graduate, $42,280
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 4-year, Private not-for-profit Certificate, Master's, Doctoral Graduate, $43,620
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate, $44,560; Graduate, $41,137
Rush University Chicago, IL 4-year, Private not-for-profit Certificate, Master's, Doctoral Graduate, $32,608
Yale University New Haven, CT 4-year, Private not-for-profit Certificate, Master's, Doctoral Graduate, $38,700

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); School websites

School Selection Criteria

It's possible to become a licensed nurse after completing an associate's degree in nursing; however, there are few private 2-year universities offering nursing as a degree, and students who ultimately want to attend graduate school will need to get their bachelor's in nursing. Further considerations when choosing a private nursing school include the following:

  • Students pursuing a nursing degree at any level should make sure the program they're researching meets all National Council Licensure Examination requirements.
  • Students who wish to move into a nursing management position will want to choose studies that eventually lead to a master's degree.
  • Nursing students wishing to focus on a single area of their field should find a master's degree program pertaining to their field of study, such as HIV/AIDS nursing, dermatology nursing, or genetics nursing.
  • Some schools offer programs that enable students to work towards their master's degree while finishing their bachelor's degree.

Certificate Programs

The most basic nursing programs provide the nursing training that students need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). Students in these programs take basic scientific and medical coursework, and they complete a supervised clinical practicum.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs prepare students for the NCLEX exam that they need to pass in order to become registered nurses (RNs). Topics of study include basic medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, psychology, medical administration and nursing procedures. Practical clinical experiences are also included in the curriculum. After completing one of these programs and earning RN licensure, students may enroll in an RN to BSN program in order to gain their bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Like ADN programs, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs provide the training necessary for RN licensure. The first two years of the program include the same general education and basic biomedical coursework as ADN programs, but in the remaining two years, students have the chance to gain more extensive clinical experience and take more advanced courses in health promotion, disease prevention, holistic health management and health policy. At some schools, students can enroll in an accelerated program that confers both a BSN degree and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in only five years.

Master's Degree Programs

Depending on the school, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs may be available in several formats. Some are designed for students who have earned a bachelor's degree in another field and want to transition their careers toward nursing. Others are for experienced nurses who want to advance to management positions in the field or specialize in a particular topic, such as midwifery or nurse anesthesia. There are also programs that offer an MSN in conjunction with a related degree, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH).

Doctoral Degree Programs

At the doctoral level, nurses can earn either a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing. DNP programs are intended for nurses who want to pursue advanced studies related to clinical care and nursing leadership; students must complete a certain number of clinical hours in addition to a scholarly project. In total, these programs take about five semesters of part-time study to complete.

In contrast, PhD programs are for nurses who want to enter academia. Over the course of four to five years of full-time study, PhD candidates conduct advanced research leading to a dissertation in a particular area of interest within the field of nursing. They also gain teaching experience so that they can hold positions as nurse educators in the future.

Post-Graduate Certificates

In order to become an advanced practice nurse, also known as a nurse practitioner (NP), students must complete a post-graduate certificate program. Unlike RNs, NPs can practice independently, and they can prescribe medications. While general NP programs are available, there are also specialized programs that train students to become family nurse practitioners (FNPs), pediatric primary care nurse practitioners (PNPs), or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHs), among other possible specialties.

Many highly regarded private schools offer undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates in nursing. Some schools offer areas of specialization, or accelerated programs that allow students to work towards completing a master's and bachelor's degree at the same time; the student's long-term career goals should be considered when selecting a nursing program.

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