Guide to Nursing School Rankings

Learn how nursing school rankings and reviews can help you with your nursing school search.

Learn The Importance of Nursing School Rankings

college boy in front of school symbolizes nursing school rankings

Nursing school rankings attempt to measure the caliber of individual nursing schools through comparisons based on numerous factors. To our knowledge, there are only two sets of rankings of nursing schools: U.S. News & World Report, and NIH Research Funding. Each provides basic information on programs that can guide you to more selective searches as you find nursing schools.

Nursing school ranking information complements the detailed research you should conduct on each nursing school of interest. Most students will find schools with the specific nursing programs they desire by focusing on a geographic area of their choice; subsequently, they will look at nursing school rankings information to understand some of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the nursing schools.

How are nursing school rankings determined?

The nursing school ranking system varies, but many are based upon the data collected from a survey designed by academic experts, including professors and advisors. This information is often a series of responses from a combination of students, alumni, school administrators, recruiters and executives. The information solicited can be factual or highly subjective. After the data is collected, the survey applies a complex formula that allows factors to carry more or less significance—the incoming GPA might be "worth" less than the job placement rate after graduation.

U.S. News & World Report Rankings

U.S. News & World Report ranks master's programs and specialties in nursing schools that have received NLNAC accreditation and uses a peer-review process at each institution; these respondents evaluate schools on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding) based upon predetermined criteria that indicate a school's overall quality.

NIH Funding

The National Institutes of Health rankings are based solely upon the total amount of research grant money allocated to individual nursing schools. NIH rankings are valued by research institutions, who believe they signify the high quality of school researchers, whose initiatives must be approved by a peer-review panel of experts. In order to develop superior research programs, many schools concentrate research efforts on a limited number of specific fields and recruit faculty members with experience in these areas.

What are some of issues around nursing school rankings?

If you do not have a short list of nursing schools in mind, ranking guides can provide useful starting points to compare programs. There are some questions about the validity of ranking information, however:

  • Rankings tend to emphasize statistics, and it is hard to put numbers on subjective experience.
  • There are many aspects of individual nursing schools that ranking guides cannot rate, including quality of student life, professor instruction and campus activities.
  • Even a guide that focuses specifically on nursing may not examine each individual department or specialty in depth.
  • Your individual needs and desires as a student may be entirely different from the areas focused on by ranking guides.

What should I ask when I look at nursing school rankings?

Before consulting any ranking guides, be sure to evaluate its credibility. Questions might include:

  • What criteria does the guide use to rank schools?
  • Ranking systems base their final lists on formulas that may have subjective standards: should a school's student-to-faculty ratio count for more or less than 20 percent?
  • Who judges the criteria: are they impartial third parties or schools and colleges that may have conflicts of interest?
  • Are the evaluators aptly qualified to estimate the quality of nursing programs? A survey respondent may be knowledgeable about one or two schools, but she may not be well-informed about the dozens of programs on the list.