20 Best Nursing Schools in Pennsylvania – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Hospitals throughout Pennsylvania are finding it difficult to fill their nursing vacancies despite the fact that in 2017, the state had approximately 180,000 nurses in its registry. Staffing shortages owe as much to high turnover rates among nurses as they do to the statewide increase in older and more chronically ill patients. Experts say the Keystone State’s nursing shortage is likely to escalate in coming years, which means graduates of accredited nursing schools in Pennsylvania should have plenty of employment opportunities. While nursing salaries throughout the Keystone State are lower across the board than the national average, employers are catching on. Salaries at hospitals in the metropolitan Philadelphia area and Lancaster County are often in the six-figure range.



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

1. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh

About School of Nursing @ University of Pittsburgh: “U.S. News & World Report,” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the college ranking specialty website “College Choice” all agree: The School of Nursing at University of Pittsburgh is one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania and the nation. The nursing care you learn to provide at Pitt will be guided by compassion and informed by the very latest evidence-based nursing research. The school was founded in 1939 to help provide medical staff for escalating military actions throughout Europe and Asia. Today, the school has been designated a National Institute of Nursing Research and is one of the top recipients of NIH-funded nursing research.

Victoria Hall houses classrooms, computer labs, an anatomy lab and a state-of-the-art simulation lab where nursing students practice basic bedside skills using adult, geriatric and pediatric manikins. Students have the opportunity to participate in supervised learning situations in some of the Pittsburgh’s finest health care facilities, including a Level 1 trauma center, a children’s hospital, a cancer center, community hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers. The nursing school also maintains research and educational partnerships with health care providers in China, Cambodia, Bhutan, Thailand, Belize, Switzerland, Italy and the UK.

Financial Aid: The University of Pittsburgh makes numerous scholarship opportunities available to its undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Specific scholarship criteria and submission deadlines vary by scholarship. The university is also a Title IV partner, so submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form may help students qualify for federal and state grants and loans.

2. Villanova University, Villanova

About M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing: Are you an independent thinker who understands that at a time when health care is evolving rapidly, critical thinking may be just as important as clinical assessment when it comes to nursing skills? Then the M. Louis Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova University may have a lot to offer you. The National League for Nursing has chosen this nursing school in PA to be a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. Though Villanova University admits students from all religious backgrounds, its nursing school reflects the values of the Augustinian friars who founded the university. Students are taught to deliver care with love, mindfulness and compassion. The school is associated with a number of community health initiatives like the Center for Global & Public Health and the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education.

The college is located in Driscoll Hall on the main campus; the building’s 75,000 square feet are allocated among classrooms, seminar rooms, reading rooms, computer laboratories and high-tech simulation centers. The Office for Nursing Research and Evaluation is also located in Driscoll Hall. Once they attain competence in nursing fundamentals, students go on to participate in clinical rotations at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center and other prestigious health care providers throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Financial Aid: Six Villanova scholarships are specifically designed for graduate nursing students. Undergraduate nursing students may qualify for the IBC Nurse Scholars Program or one of Villanova’s other numerous scholarships and awards. Villanova’s Office of Financial Assistance may also be able to match you with federal and state aid once you’ve submitted a FAFSA form.

3. Duquesne University, Pittsburgh

About School of Nursing @ Duquesne University: The School of Nursing at Duquesne University is another provider of nursing degrees in PA that’s been honored by the National League for Nursing as a Center of Excellence. The school was jump-started in the 1920s by the Catholic Hospital Association of Pittsburgh whose members believed that nurses needed more education than existing hospital-based diploma schools could provide. Today, Duquesne’s nursing school consistently ranks among the top U.S. nursing schools in ratings from “U.S. News & World Report.” The school has also been cited as one of the most military-friendly nursing schools.

The school’s administrative offices are in Libermann Hall, as is its Learning and Simulation Center. This simulation center has been designed to help students learn experientially; it’s equipped with computerized manikins who exhibit a range of human physiologic responses, including heart sounds, lung sounds, bowel sounds and pupil dilation. After they learn the fundamentals, students go on to clinical placements at acute care hospitals, behavioral health facilities and community clinics throughout Pittsburgh. These facilities include Allegheny General Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, UPMC Mercy Hospital and the Allegheny County Health Department.

Financial Aid: Duquesne was founded by a Catholic order that believed education should be available to all worthy students regardless of their ability to pay. The university offers 18 scholarships to nursing students. Nursing students may also be eligible for other endowed awards as well. Duquesne has its own Financial Aid application, which you will have to submit in addition to the FAFSA form if you want to apply for scholarships and other types of state and federal financial support.

4. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

About School of Nursing @ University of Pennsylvania: If you’re interested in attending the best nursing school in the world, apply to the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For three years in a row, this school has ranked at the top of publisher Elsevier’s QS World University ratings for nursing. The school is a leader not only in education but also in research. Five highly regarded research initiatives are located here: the Office of Nursing Research, the Center for Global Women’s Health, the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing and the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health. In 2014, the School of Nursing was the recipient of approximately $480 million from the National Institutes of Health, making it the most highly funded nursing research center in the U.S.

In 2001, when the Matias J. Brunner Laboratory and Nursing Simulation Center first opened, it was the first virtual learning environment specifically designed for nurses in the U.S. For clinical placements, the school partners with world-famous hospitals such as Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and The Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. The school also offers a number of concurrent master’s programs for students who want to attain a degree in law, bioethics or business administration in addition to a nursing degree.

Financial Aid: Eligibility for institutional scholarships and grants is determined by the information contained in FAFSA forms. Students may also qualify for federal and state financial aid.

5. Drexel University, Philadelphia

About Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions: At Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, experiential learning is highly valued; students have ample opportunities to put theory into practice at the many clinics and wellness centers the college administers. The school is the parent organization behind the Bayada Award, an annual event that honors technological innovation in nursing education and practice.

The 2,300-square-foot clinical space on the 10th floor of the college’s main building at 1601 Cherry Street in downtown Philadelphia can be easily transformed to resemble a variety of acute care environments. Students also have access to 10 simulation suites. Student nurses learn clinical skills side by side with college colleagues who are studying to become physician assistants, physical therapists or behavioral health therapists. After they’ve mastered the fundamentals, Drexel’s nursing students complete clinical rotations at hospitals, emergency clinics, intensive care settings, community agencies and other health care sites throughout Philadelphia.

Financial Aid: Drexel University donors have endowed 13 scholarships specifically for nursing students. There is no separate application process; recipients are chosen by the College of Nursing and Health Profession in consultation with the Office of Financial Aid. By filling out and submitting a FAFSA form, students may also be able to establish eligibility for state and federal grants and loans.

6. Pennsylvania State University, University Park

About Penn State University College of Nursing: The education you receive at Penn State University’s College of Nursing will prepare you for any professional nursing role you want to tackle whether on a med/surg floor or in a critical care unit. One of the college’s primary missions is to help remedy the nursing shortage that’s hit the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania so hard in recent years. The school is also a research center; its Center for Nursing Research supports a number of faculty investigative projects into subjects like metal health policy, sexual violence on college campuses, surrogate decision making and inflammatory mediators of stress.

The Clinical Simulation Center is located inside the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Here, you’ll get the chance to perfect your bedside skills and to practice interdisciplinary collaboration because you’ll learn alongside students from Penn’s medical and physician assistant schools. Clinical practicums are scheduled at Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, The Meadows Psychiatric Center and other health facilities within a 50-mile radius of Hershey and University Park.

Financial Aid: The College of Nursing funds several scholarships, and students are also encouraged to apply for more general scholarships if they meet scholarship criteria. Grants, loans and work-study are available to students whose FAFSA submissions determine eligibility.

7. Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia

About Jefferson College of Nursing: Thomas Jefferson University was founded in 1825 as a medical school. It was one of the first medical schools in the U.S. to be associated with a teaching hospital, and in 1891, the school started a nursing program to train auxiliary medical personnel for its teaching hospital. This nursing college thinks it’s time to rewrite the rules where nursing education is concerned. At Jefferson, you’ll learn the transdisciplinary skills that will help you excel in fast-paced, 21st century health care environment.

Jefferson’s Nexus Learning model stresses critical thinking and decision-making skills. Students learn the clinical skills necessary to become successful nurses through a combination of didactic classroom learning and standardized nursing simulation scenarios that utilize sophisticated technology. As students progress through the program, they’ll be confronted with increasingly challenging scenarios. Most clinical rotations take place at Jefferson Health, a Philadelphia health care system whose facilities include Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience and Jefferson Methodist Hospital in south Philadelphia.

Financial Aid: Donor scholarships are one of the types of financial support that the Jefferson College of Nursing makes available to students. Upon submission of a FAFSA form, students may also qualify for Pell Grants, loans and work-study awards through federal and state funding.

8. The University of Scranton, Scranton

About Department of Nursing @ The University of Scranton: University of Scranton is another one of the nursing colleges in Pennsylvania that was founded by a Catholic teaching order. The university’s nursing curriculum maintains a commitment to the Jesuit goal of “cura personalis” or concern for the whole person. Nursing students are required to perform 40 hours of service to others as a condition of graduation. Nursing coursework draws deeply upon national nursing practice standards and the latest trends in the delivery of health care. Class sizes are small, and instructors go to great lengths to integrate classroom theory with hands-on experiences. Students also have the opportunity to participate in faculty research.

The university’s new nursing simulation lab opened in August 2016. Here, students are exposed to challenging scenarios in simulated hospital and outpatient environments. Three of Scranton’s finest hospitals are located within three blocks of the university’s campus, and as part of their clinical rotations, students may be assigned these hospitals’ ICUs, ERs, ORs and other specialty units.

Financial Aid: The McLean Scholarship for Nursing and Physician Assistant Majors, the Making a Difference Award and The Edward J. ’81 & Barbara A. Steinmetz Scholarship are three of the nursing-specific scholarships the University of Scranton offers. Nursing students are also encouraged to submit a FAFSA form so that they can be evaluated for state and federal financial aid eligibility.

9. Widener University, Chester

About School of Nursing @ Widener University: At Widener University’s School of Nursing, you’ll be given the ammunition you need to lead the charge toward tomorrow’s health care. After all, the university was a military college until 1972. Dynamic learning experiences strike precisely the right balance between classroom lectures and experiential learning that takes place in a variety of laboratory and real-world settings. The school offers evening and weekend classes for students who’ve set their hearts upon attaining nursing degrees but who are juggling demanding schedules.

The School of Nursing is headquartered in Founders Hall, an historic, 35,000-square-foot facility that features classrooms as well as the Center for Simulation and Computerized Testing. Students learn clinical skills, critical thinking and the importance of teamwork in nine cutting-edge simulation rooms, configured to mirror a pediatric suite, maternity suite, two nurse practitioner rooms, a trauma suite, a health assessment lab and a hospital laboratory. Clinical rotations are scheduled at some of the nation’s finest medical facilities, including Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Cooper University Hospital and Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

Financial Aid: While Widener University has no scholarships that are specially earmarked for nursing students, it offers a number of merit-based and needs-based scholarship awards, and nursing students are encouraged to apply to these. Students may also be eligible for state and federal needs-based aid depending upon the information contained in their FAFSA forms.

10. Robert Morris University, Moon Township

About School of Nursing and Health Sciences @ Robert Morris University: “Military Times” ranks Robert Morris University as one of the best in the nation for veterans looking for educational opportunities that will put them on the road to success. The university is making a focused effort to attract other members of under-represented groups into its undergraduate and graduate nursing programs as well. The School of Nursing and Health Sciences is committed to teaching students how to be excellent communicators as well as expert clinicians. Nursing coursework builds on a liberal arts foundation, thereby reinforcing the truth that nursing is both an art and a science.

The Regional Research and Innovation in Simulation (RISE) Lab is used both by nursing students and by students who are studying for a degree in simulation management. The RISE Lab is housed in the new 37,000-square-foot Scaife Center, which is located off campus in Moon Township, and features high-fidelity rooms that mimic a real hospital infirmary. Once students have mastered the clinical skills necessary to function smoothly in a hospital setting, they’re assigned to clinical rotations at hospitals, ambulatory care centers and community health agencies throughout western Pennsylvania.

Financial Aid: While Robert Morris doesn’t offer any internal scholarships specifically for nursing students, the Office of Financial Aid maintains an extensive database of external scholarship opportunities and will assist you in identifying those that are right for you. You may also apply for state and federal loans and grants by filling out and submitting a FAFSA application.


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

1. Northampton County Area Community College – Bethlehem

A registered nurse plays a vital role in a healthcare team, and the increasing demand for this position in the state of Pennsylvania makes this career a promising one. Northampton County Area Community College’s RN program equips you with the professional skills and knowledge that kick starts your nursing career. The program takes four semesters to complete and is offered in fall and spring. If you are currently working, you can even opt for the evening/weekend schedule that is offered every even year. The curriculum combines general education and nursing courses, and to hone your practical skills, extensive clinical experiences are provided at a variety of healthcare settings.

2. Pennsylvania College of Technology – Williamsport

Earning your RN degree from Penn College of Technology can get you ready to work as an entry-level nurse in diverse clinical settings such as acute care, home health agencies, state and federal facilities, and long-term care facilities. The specialized didactic courses in various areas of nursing, coupled with clinical training at the college’s advanced simulation labs and a variety of clinical sites, aid in producing graduates that are well versed with patient care and can efficiently communicate and collaborate with members of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. This nursing program in Pennsylvania is open to non-nursing students as well as LPNs who are keen on advancing their education.

3. Community College of Allegheny County – Pittsburgh

To become an RN in Pennsylvania, Community College of Allegheny County offers a two-year associate degree in nursing. LPNs with an active license in PA and who pass the competency test are awarded eight credits for their past nursing education. To earn your degree, you must complete 68 credits in liberal arts, sciences, and nursing. The nursing coursework mainly covers concepts of nursing practice, evidence-based drug therapy, adult and family health concepts for nursing, and leadership & management in nursing. Should you transfer to a four-year college for a BSN degree, you will able to transfer smoothly due to the college’s articulation agreements with several colleges and universities.

4. Mount Aloysius College – Cresson

Mount Aloysius College’s 50 years of quality nursing education is apparent from the fact that the college’s nursing graduates form a major part of the local nursing workforce. Its well-rounded ADN program that offers a fine balance of liberal arts and nursing education is one of the highly regarded two-year nursing programs in Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, you can take the licensure exam and work as an entry-level nurse or go on to pursue a BSN; either way, the well-designed curriculum serves you well. Should you choose to work upon graduation, you can easily find employment in hospitals, physician offices, home health care services, nursing care facilities correctional facilities, and schools, where most of the program graduates are successfully offering compassionate nursing care.

5. Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences– Lancaster

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences enjoys the recognition of being more than a century old nursing school. One of the few RN programs in PA that boasts of a guaranteed 100% placement rate, the college offers several paths to RN aspirants. There is a traditional two-year track, a three-year weekend/evening option, and an ASN to BSN track for non-nursing students. The program is also open to LPNs who by-pass the first year and enter directly into the second year. Irrespective of the path you choose to become an RN, you will be well trained to offer evidence-based nursing care to a diverse patient population.

6. Community College of Beaver County – Monaca

To keep up with the growing demand for registered nurses in Pennsylvania, the Community College of Beaver County offers a 70-credit associate degree program in nursing. The rigorous five-semester curriculum is a combination of both nursing and general education courses. As part of the training, you will gain valuable real-world experience by working in a variety of well-known healthcare organizations located within the Allegheny, Lawrence, and Beaver county areas. Upon graduation, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and take up work as an efficient care-provider, or can further your education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

7. Community College of Philadelphia – Philadelphia

Community College of Philadelphia's 64-credit A.A.S. degree in Nursing comes with three admission options. The Traditional option is for new students with no college-experience, the Post Baccalaureate Accelerated option is for students who have earned their bachelor's in a non-nursing major, and the Advanced Placement option is for LPN's who want to transition into an RN. Apart from extensive on-campus classroom learning, you will spend quality time working under the guidance of experts at healthcare facilities in the Philadelphia region, where you will gain valuable practical experience. Upon graduation, you can either take up work as a direct patient-care provider or can easily transfer your credits and pursue a BSN at colleges such as Bloomsburg University, Excelsior College, Drexel University, Jefferson University, Eastern University, and the University of Phoenix.

8. Montgomery County Community College - Blue Bell

If you are interested to serve patients by becoming a registered nurse, then the nursing program at MC3 can be given a thought. This nursing program in PA is available in both the part-time and full-time formats, thus providing added flexibility to working professionals. The full-time option will take you five-semesters, while part-time students will take nine-semesters to graduate. The 70-credit curriculum involves intensive didactic learning in the classroom, practical exposure at the simulation and skills suite, and real-world clinical experience at a variety of healthcare settings in the Montgomery and Bucks county areas. Post-completion, you can pass the NCLEX-RN exam and start working or transfer your credits towards a bachelor’s degree.

9. Harrisburg Area Community College – Harrisburg

Harrisburg Area Community College, through its associate degree in nursing, aims to train graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge required to provide direct care to patients and their families across their lifespan. This 68-credit program comes with a full-time as well as a part-time option. The full-time program can be completed in four consecutive semesters, while as a part-time student, you will spend a total of eight semesters to earn your degree. The coursework covers nursing centric subjects such as nursing practice concepts, health assessment concepts for nursing practice, holistic health concepts for nursing practice, adult health concepts for nursing practice, family health concepts for nursing practice, and leadership & management concepts for nursing practice. This nursing school in Pennsylvania also offers a dual-admission option, wherein HACC’s associate degree graduates can earn their BSN at Millersville University or Eastern Mennonite University within 12-18 months.

10. Butler County Community College – Butler

Butler County Community College’s associate degree prepares graduates to efficiently use the latest techniques and technology to provide holistic nursing care. The 70-credit program comes with a two-year as well as a three-year option. The two-year option works best for students who have earned at least 12 college-level credits, whereas the three-year option is apt for students applying directly out of high school with fewer than 12 college-level credits. Upon passing the NCLEX-RN, graduates of this program can take up work at a variety of healthcare settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, surgical centers, Home health agencies, schools, rehab centers, and long-term care centers.


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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