Methodology

Our Best Nursing School rankings are based on data published by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. Schools are ranked in descending order of their graduates' median net monthly income one year after finishing a nursing degree at an associate, bachelor's or master's level. Net monthly income is calculated by subtracting graduates' median monthly debt payment from their median monthly earnings. These data are provided by College Scorecard.

Eligibility

In order to be eligible, the programs in question had to be accredited by at least one of the following nursing accreditation agencies:

To be considered for our Best Nursing Schools rankings, schools needed the following information reported in College Scorecard:

  • Median salary for the program level of the list
  • Median salary sample size
  • Median debt for the program level of the list
  • Median debt sample size

For all schools, we manually researched their degree programs to confirm the existence of degrees before ranking them. If a school had a salary reported but no existing degree program, it was excluded from the list. Additionally, if a program's median salary, earnings count, median debt, or count were "privacy suppressed" by the Department of Education, the school was not eligible to be ranked.

To be considered for our Best ADN, Best BSN, and Best MSN rankings, schools need to meet the aforementioned data reporting criteria and offer at least one campus-based or hybrid program at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level, respectively. For the Best BSN list, programs are eligible if they prepare students for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam and are available to students without an RN credential or prior bachelor’s degree.

To be considered for our Best Online RN to BSN Program rankings, schools need to meet the aforementioned data reporting criteria and offer at least one fully online RN to BSN program. To be considered for our Best Online MSN Program rankings, schools need to meet the aforementioned data reporting criteria and offer at least one fully online MSN program.

To be considered for our Best BSN by State and Best MSN by State rankings, schools need to meet the aforementioned data reporting criteria and offer at least one campus-based, hybrid, or online program at the program level of the ranking list. When a school has campuses in multiple states, it is eligible to be ranked in the state where its main campus is located.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for online rankings if the amount of in-person work required was limited to two weeks or less. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.

Data Sources

Program data including available degrees and details about program coursework were collected from official school websites, reflecting data for the 2019-2020 school year. These data were collected in November 2019 - April of 2020.

Median monthly salary and median monthly debt payment were collected from the U.S. Department of Education via the College Scorecard website. These data were published in November 2019 and reflect median debt and median salary for graduates one year out of college for the graduating classes of 2016 and 2017 (the latest data available).

Program tuition was collected manually from the schools’ official websites and reflects data for the 2019-2020 school year or the latest available data.

Programmatic accreditation and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. NCES data are updated annually. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until they have been approved, so the most current available data will not be for the most recent academic year.