When you start researching your options for nursing school programs, it can quickly become overwhelming. Countless factors go into determining not only the objective quality of a program, but how appropriate it will be for your purposes, lifestyle, budget, and other considerations.
To figure out whether a school’s program is the right fit, we recommend researching and thinking about these specific aspects of each program:
School type and location
Many find it best to start by considering what type of school you prefer to learn at; would you prefer to receive your education at a large nursing school program at a big university, or a smaller program? Do you want to attend a closer school, or are you willing to travel further for a better program?
Program length and format
There are a wide variety of nursing program lengths and formats to consider. You may prefer traditional nursing programs, accelerated courses, or courses which primarily operate through online classes. If you’re willing and able to take on a more intense course load to complete your education sooner, make sure you find a program which can accommodate you. Similarly, if you have minimal time to spend on courses and need a slower paced education, that’s also important to accommodate.
Generally speaking, entry level nursing programs will earn you one of two distinct degrees: An ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or a BSN (Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing). With an ADN, you can begin your career as a nurse quicker, given the shorter education time, but a BSN can offer more flexibility and opportunity in the future.
However, you can also choose to enroll in a practical nurse program and break up your schooling to start working faster.
Those already in the nursing field will have different options to consider, such as pursuing an MSN or taking other advanced nursing courses. Depending on the specific course you’re seeking, your options may be significantly limited compared to the options for entry-level nursing education.
NCLEX pass rate
It’s not enough that you graduate from a nursing program. Before you’re ready for a career in nursing, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam, which means your nursing program must adequately cover the relevant materials for you to move forward. That makes the NCLEX pass rate for graduates a valuable statistic in assessing any nursing program; a low pass rate for graduates means people aren’t learning enough from the program to make it as nurses, even if the program is accredited.
Confirm that any nursing school you’re considering has been accredited by the appropriate organizations. That usually means the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing and Education, and/or the State Board of Nursing.
Learning how much hands-on clinical training you’ll receive in a given program can tell you a lot about the overall quality of said program. For this reason, even nurse training which is primarily online will feature practical segments you must attend in person.
While school rankings aren’t the most important consideration when choosing your nursing school program, it can be another point of data for making a tough choice. Highly ranked schools can offer additional opportunities.
Choosing a nursing program isn’t purely about choosing the best school on paper or the school with the highest ranking. Make sure you take the time to figure out what you need from your nursing education, and assess programs for how well they match you.