20 Best Nursing Schools in North Carolina – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

A 2018 study from Georgetown University speculates that by the year 2025, North Carolina will have the second-largest nursing shortage in the U.S. Seventy of the Tar Heel State’s 80 rural counties have been designated “medical deserts”—a term used to describe a populated area that’s more than an hour’s drive from an acute-care hospital. This creates multiple opportunities for graduates of accredited nursing schools in North Carolina, particularly those who are interested in providing primary care services to underserved populations. While the competition for jobs may get fiercer in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, the pressing need for nurses in medically underserved areas will continue to exist providing ample employment opportunities for nurses in the Tar Heel State.



(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the North Carolina State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in North Carolina offering BSN programs.)

1. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

About UNC School of Nursing: The American Health Council, which is a select group of the nation’s top health care professionals, calls the UNC School of Nursing one of the best in the U.S. Whether your interests are in practice or in research, this nursing school in NC will teach you to be a fearless advocate on behalf of people in need. The school is proud of the diversity of its student body and is committed to valuing cultural differences in the populations its students will one day serve. Carolina Nursing was one of the first academic centers in the U.S. to pursue nursing research as a field of study; current projects include investigations into maternal/newborn nursing care, health literacy and health disparities in minority populations.

The nursing school is headquartered in Carrington Hall, which is located in the Chapel Hill campus’s Health Education Center. Students learn clinical assessments and basic bedside skills at the Education-Innovation-Simulation Learning Environment where they participate in scenarios inspired by real-life hospital situations. Clinical rotations take at hospitals, ambulatory care clinics, community agencies and other health care providers throughout Orange and Durham Counties.

Financial Aid: The UNC School of Nursing offers 30 scholarships to qualified undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, both the nursing school itself and the University of North Carolina maintain lists of external scholarships for which nursing students may be eligible. Submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form will determine your eligibility for needs-based federal and state grants and loans.

2. East Carolina University, Greenville

About ECU College of Nursing: If your vision of health care is one in which health care professionals work collaboratively as part of the same team, then you may be interested in what the ECU College of Nursing has to offer. As part of ECU’s Health Sciences Division, students at the College of Nursing share a health sciences campus as well as educational opportunities with ECU students studying medicine, dentistry and allied health sciences. The college was one of the first proponents of the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses model, which offers concurrent enrollment to students in nearby community colleges. The National League for Nursing has recognized the ECU College of Nursing as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.

The Health Sciences Building contains classrooms as well a Learning Resource Center, where students have access to sophisticated educational software that’s specifically programmed to their learning needs. Students also participate in regularly scheduled sessions at eight Concepts Integration Labs where they can be trained in basic evaluations and procedures in a low-risk environment that utilizes high-tech manikins. Once they have honed their clinical skills, students go on to clinical placements throughout Greenville and the surrounding communities. As a student here, you may also have the opportunity to participate in study abroad programs in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Finland.

Financial Aid: ECU sponsors an assortment of endowed scholarships for nursing students; to learn more about them, log onto the scholarship application portal at https://ecu.academicworks.com/. Nursing students may also be eligible for state and federal financial aid if their FAFSA forms indicate need.

3. Duke University, Durham

About Duke University School of Nursing: Nursing programs in North Carolina at Duke University are among the best in the nation according to “U.S. News and World Report.” This school is the only one in the nation to have been awarded three Center of Excellence designations simultaneously by the National League for Nursing. Whether you’re interested in learning how to shine as a clinician or how to discover new frontiers as a cutting-edge researcher, you’ll acquire the necessary education to start an outstanding career.

Duke’s Center for Nursing Discovery is a world-class simulation environment where hands-on experiences in a safe, supportive environment will prepare you for clinical rotations at some of the best hospitals in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area. You’ll also have the opportunity to work alongside classmates at the university’s medical school and other medical professional learning centers as you provide urgent care services at the Duke Inter-Professional Education Clinic. If public health nursing interests you, the Duke University School of Nursing offers immersion experiences: Some of these partnerships—with community agencies like Durham Housing Authority, Families Moving Forward and Urban Ministries—are local while others are international and take place in countries like Tanzania, Nicaragua and Barbados.

Financial Aid: The School of Nursing offers a number of scholarships specifically for nursing students who are pursing undergraduate and graduate degrees. The school also maintains an extensive database of external scholarships. Students may qualify for needs-based federal and state aid as well, depending upon the information they submit with their FAFSA forms.

4. University of North Carolina, Greensboro

About UNCG School of Nursing: UNCG’s nursing school was founded in 1945 as an academic program for female World War II veterans who’d served in the nursing corps with a diploma and who wanted to go on and earn a baccalaureate degree. It’s another one of the nursing colleges in North Carolina that gets high marks from “U.S. News and World Report.” This school adheres to the philosophy that health is a state of equilibrium that describes the relationship between a patient and his or her environment. Nursing science is one of many environmental factors that affects patients, according to this model.

At present, nursing instruction takes place in four buildings scattered across the campus. The School of Nursing Simulation Center for Experiential Nursing Education, which is located in the Moore Building, features four customized simulation suites and five high-fidelity simulators. A new 180,000-square-foot Nursing and Instructional Building is scheduled to open in 2020; this facility will contain 14 classrooms, 39 labs and nine research suites. Once clinical bedside skills and assessments have become second nature, students go on to pursue rotations at Caswell Family Medical Center and other outstanding medical facilities throughout northwestern North Carolina.

Financial Aid: Nursing scholarships are available for upper division and graduate students. A separate UNCG School of Nursing scholarship application will need to be filled out. Needs-based financial support from federal and state agencies is awarded on the basis of information submitted in the FAFSA form.

5. University of North Carolina, Wilmington

About School of Nursing @ UNC Wilmington: Students at the School of Nursing associated with the University of North Carolina campus in Wilmington are a force to be reckoned with in New Hanover County: They offer health screenings and health education at numerous community events as well as at Myrtle Grove Middle School. This is a great nursing school to attend if you’re interested in learning about the positive impact an engaged nurse can have on his or her community.

The School of Nursing, which is part of UNC Wilmington’s College of Health and Human Services, is housed in the $33-million, 80,000-square-foot McNeill Hall. McNeill Hall’s second and third floors are taken up by a 10,000-square-foot simulation learning center, which contains high-fidelity manikins that are programmed to respond realistically to a variety of medical situations. The simulation lab is equipped as a virtual environment that mirrors hospital and ambulatory care facilities. After students have learned the basics of patient care and assessment, they will take part in clinical rotations at hospitals, ambulatory care clinics and community agencies throughout coastal southeastern North Carolina.

Financial Aid: UNCW nursing students are eligible to apply for the merit-based scholarships the university offers to select entering freshmen. Additionally, the university maintains a list of external nursing scholarships for which students may qualify. Students who are interested in obtaining federal and state grants and loans will need to file a FAFSA form with the university’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

6. Winston-Salem State University, Winston Salem

About Division of Nursing @ WSSU: In 2018, the nursing program at Winston-Salem State University was awarded $1 million from Blue Cross to help further its mission to address nursing shortages across the Tar Heel State. The journal “Diverse: Issues In Higher Education” has recognized this nursing degree in NC as number one in North Carolina when it comes to providing talented African Americans with a gateway into the nursing profession. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse generalist with the skills to rise to any professional challenge that comes your way, this program can definitely give you the tools to do just that.

Students have the opportunity to hone their bedside skills in two no-risk virtual hospital settings; one of these simulation labs is located on the second floor of the Progressive Care Building on campus while the other is located at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Once they are comfortable and confident with fundamentals, nursing students pursue experiential learning experiences at local and regional medical facilities. The nursing division is also exploring a relationship with Hubei University of Chinese Medicine, which—when fully implemented—will give students the opportunity to study abroad in China.

Financial Aid: Nursing students entering as freshmen may be eligible for the university’s merit scholarships if they meet the criteria. Winston-Salem State University participates in the federal Title IV program, so students may qualify for federal aid upon submission of a FAFSA form.

7. Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte

About Presbyterian School of Nursing: The Presbyterian School of Nursing was founded in 1898 to provide nursing staff for Charlotte’s then-fledgling Presbyterian Hospital. It became part of Queens College—now Queens University—in 1971. Though the school and the university are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, both are open to students of all religious denominations. If you’ve earned an associate degree in nursing from any community college in North Carolina, you may be eligible to participate in an accelerated nursing degree program at the Presbyterian School that’s specially designed for working professionals.

The Patient Simulation Lab is a three-room, seven-bay facility where nursing students learn basic skills like IV insertions and blood draws by practicing on METI ECS simulators that are programmed to respond realistically. Charlotte is home to some of the premier health care systems in the U.S., and this school maintains clinical partnerships with many of them, ensuring that you’ll have a wide range of diverse learning experiences if Presbyterian is your choice.

Financial Aid: While Queens University doesn’t offer any nursing-specific scholarships, there are a number of freshmen and transfer student awards as well as adult undergraduate scholarships for which nursing students may qualify. By completing and submitting the FAFSA form, students may also discover other types of state and federal financial aid for which they may qualify.

8. Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs

About Hunt School of Nursing: Gardener-Webb University is affiliated with North Carolina’s Baptist State Convention. Education here has a Christian focus, so nursing is looked upon as both a profession and a service calling. The Hunt School shares its facilities with physician assistant and exercise science programs, so nursing students have plenty of opportunity to learn the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in health care.

High-tech simulation labs that have been set up to resemble critical and acute health care environments provide nursing students with invaluable opportunities to learn fundamental assessment and patient care skills. Gardner-Webb is located in Boiling Springs, which is easy driving distance from both Charlotte, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina; and clinical rotations are scheduled at prestigious health care facilities in both these cities as well as in smaller hospitals, clinics and community agencies closer to Boiling Springs.

Financial Aid: While Gardner-Webb offers no institutional scholarships for aspiring nurses, its Office of Financial Planning will work with you to identify external scholarship opportunities for which you may be eligible. Completing and submitting a FAFSA form may qualify you for state and federal grants and loans if the information on your FAFSA form indicates sufficient financial need.

9. Western Carolina University, Cullowhee

About School of Nursing @ WCU: Before it was designated a regional university in 1967, Western Carolina University was previously a high school, an industrial school and a teachers’ training college. Its School of Nursing focuses on educating professionals who know how to rise to health care challenges in underserved areas. As a provider of health care education in a rural setting, this school of nursing teaches students how to make the most of the resources they have on hand; to that end, students become familiar with the “Coordination and Care Transitions Model,” which teaches students how to mobilize patients’ families as the patients themselves navigate the labyrinth of appointments, medications and follow-up care. The university sponsors a unique “Catamount Gap” experience for graduating high school seniors who think they may be interested in nursing but who haven’t entirely made up their minds yet.

Along with classrooms, the Health and Human Sciences Building contains a sophisticated virtual hospital environment that’s been dubbed “Simulamen Laboratorii Regional Hospital”; this space contains medical equipment as well as interactive manikins that are programmed to react to stimuli in realistic ways. Another high-fidelity nursing simulation lab exists at Western Carolina University’s Biltmore Park campus. Nursing practicums take place at hospitals and clinics throughout the community.

Financial Aid: WCU offers a number of institutional scholarships, some of which may be of interest to nursing students. Candidates must submit a general scholarship application by February 1st for consideration. Students may also be eligible for state and federal financial aid as determined by the information they submit on their FAFSA form.

10. University of North Carolina, Charlotte

About UNC Charlotte School of Nursing: UNC Charlotte’s School of Nursing receives accolades from “U.S. News and World Report” for its commitment to teaching compassionate and competent nursing care. The university recently began a partnership the software company Tresata that aims to transform Charlotte into one of the nation’s healthiest cities by 2025. The School of Nursing as well as the other disciplines affiliated with UNC Charlotte’s College of Health and Human Services will have important roles to play in this partnership if it is to succeed.

Students learn and perfect clinical nursing skills in the Learning Resource Center, which is located on the third floor of College of Health and Human Services Building. This learning environment is set up to mirror hospital, home and primary care settings. Realistic manikins that are programmed to simulate physiological responses to stress let aspiring nurses practice without fear of making potentially dangerous errors. Charlotte is recognized throughout the U.S. as a health care hub where many of the nation’s most innovative health care facilities are located; and UNC Charlotte nursing students have the opportunity to pursue clinical rotations at some of the best, including Carolinas HealthCare Systems and Novant Health.

Financial Aid: UNC Charlotte makes several institutional scholarships available to students who are studying nursing. You will have to log onto the university’s Ninerscholars Portal to view them all. Scholarship applications are due March 15 for the following fall and spring semesters. Eligibility for state and federal grants and loans through Title IV funding is determined by the responses submitted on students’ FAFSA forms.


(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the North Carolina State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in North Carolina offering ADN programs.)

1) Cape Fear Community College - Wilmington

A career in healthcare is promising and what better than nursing to enter this field, which is always in high demand. Cape Fear Community College has played a significant role in creating a workforce of dynamic nurses in NC, and evidently, so, its 1,300 RN graduates are providing nursing care across the state. You can enter the two-year associate in nursing as a new student or as an LPN graduate with at least one year of direct patient care experience. The 69-credit curriculum prepares you to take the NCLEX-RN and work as an entry-level nurse at a variety of clinical settings, including acute, chronic, extended, and community.

2) Johnston Community College – Smithfield

If you are looking for a satisfying, secure, and in-demand career within the healthcare sector, then you can consider becoming an RN in North Carolina. Known for its consistently high pass rates on the NCLEX-RN, Johnston Community College offers this opportunity to aspiring registered nurses with two options; a traditional and bridge track. To be eligible for this program, non-nursing students must hold an active CNA certification and complete courses in algebra, biology, and chemistry with a minimum grade “C.” The traditional track starts in fall each year and admits around 30 to 50 students. Once enrolled in the program, you will be going through extensive on-campus theory classes and clinical rotations at various sites.

3) Forsyth Technical Community College - Winston Salem

If you are someone with good critical thinking, problem-solving, organizational, and communication skills, then you have the inherent qualities to become a successful nurse. Forsyth Technical Community College’s nursing education caters to a wide range of nursing students. Its ADN program can be completed in the traditional format or the LPN to RN bridge format, and for those seeking baccalaureate education, there are also two dual enrollment tracks, ADN/BSN for new students and LPN to BSN option for LPN graduates. The college combines classroom lectures, hands-on practice at the simulation lab, and varied clinical experiences to deliver coursework that centers on providing competent nursing care to patients of all age groups.

4) Robeson Community College – Lumberton

Robeson Community College prepares registered nurses with three kinds of associate in applied science degrees; traditional Associate in Applied Science (AAS), LPN To RN Advanced Placement option, and Paramedic to RN Degree option. The two-year traditional AAS is open to new students from a non-nursing background while the LPN to RN is for individuals with at least one year of practical nursing work experience, and the Paramedic to RN is designed for those with a minimum of one-year experience as a paramedic. Robeson’s nursing curriculum trains graduates to function as an efficient member of an interdisciplinary healthcare team, providing safe and quality nursing care by using evidence-based practice, informatics, and quality improvement. The college also offers an Associate in General Education Nursing that is typically meant for individuals who plan to pursue a Bachelors's degree in Nursing.

5) Gaston College – Dallas

Completing your nurse training at Gaston College, one of the largest community colleges, can well equip you with the knowledge and skills required to provide professional nursing care to a diverse population. This RN program in North Carolina can be taken in the traditional or LPN to RN bridge format. Traditional program students require completing a Nurse Aide course to be eligible. Spanning across two years, the 71-credit coursework includes courses in nursing, science, and fine arts. To enhance practical skills, the college provides extensive clinical training at affiliated clinical sites in Gastonia, Lincolnton, Kings Mountain, Charlotte, Hickory, and Shelby.

6) Surry Community College – Dobson

Today, registered nurses are a vital part of any patient care team, making their position in the healthcare field a rather invaluable one. Surry Community College’s ADN program prepares you for a career as a registered nurse with a curriculum that includes courses in sciences, nursing science, and liberal arts. You learn to practice holistic nursing by being a member of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. The use of evidence-based nursing and healthcare informatics is also emphasized in the coursework. Upon completion of the program, you will be eligible to take the NCLX-RN exam and explore various job opportunities within the healthcare system.

7) Mitchell Community College - Statesville

Mitchell Community College is currently offering two options for aspiring RN's to earn an associate degree in nursing. The first one is the 72-credit traditional ADN degree option for high school graduates, while the second one is the 55-credit Paramedic to Associate Degree Nursing option specifically designed for licensed paramedics, who have completed their associate degree in Emergency Medical Science. The overall goal of both these ADN degree options is to ensure graduates are capable to provide quality, safe, and holistic patient care. The coursework covers subjects such as family health concepts, holistic health concepts, complex health concepts, and health system concepts. Due to a limited number of seats being available, admission to both these ADN options is quite competitive.

8) Wake Technical Community College - Raleigh

As with the rest of the country, the demand for registered nurses is growing across the state of North Carolina. To meet this rising demand, Wake Technical Community College offers a traditional Associate Degree in Nursing for individuals who have completed their high school education as well as an LPN to RN Advanced Placement option for Licensed Practical Nurses who want to further their career. Both these programs require completing 72-credits to graduate. The traditional ADN provides students with the knowledge and skills required to provide quality nursing care in a dynamic environment, while the LPN to RN bridge program builds upon the existing practical nursing knowledge to ensure you develop the required skills to efficiently function as a registered nurse.

9) Western Piedmont Community College - Morganton

Western Piedmont Community College trains you with the required skills, knowledge, and practical experience to provide evidence-based nursing care to patients. Nursing courses are offered in sequential order, and you need to score a minimum C in each nursing course in order to advance from one course to the next. As part of your curriculum, you will undergo clinical training at a variety of healthcare settings where you will acquire valuable real-world patient care skills. You are required to earn a minimum of 66 credits to graduate, post which you can take the NCLEX-RN.

10) Fayetteville Technical Community College – Fayetteville

If you are someone who wants to make an impact within the community by becoming a member of the interdisciplinary healthcare team, then you can consider Fayetteville Technical Community College’s two-year nursing program in NC. Spread over four semesters, this degree covers subjects that will ensure you gain strong patient care knowledge and skills. Students will also be provided a valuable opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to real-world practice during the clinical training part of the curriculum. Post-completion of this degree you will be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN, which you are required to pass to practice as an RN in North Carolina.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

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