Guide to Nursing School Rankings
The Internet is overflowing with nursing school rankings, but just how are these lists composed? Many of them are ranked according to statistical averages of class size, number of teachers with Ph.D. status, tuition and program costs, outside funding provided to the school, ethnic breakdown, etc.
When looking at rankings, keep in mind that many of them focus on different aspects of the schools, sometimes creating drastically different results. This simply means that you as a student must decide which factors are important to you.
Consider this: There are 2,000 nursing programs nationwide. Luckily, there are only two nationally recognized rankings for nursing schools, and each of them ranks schools based on very different criteria.
U.S. News and World Report’s rankings are perhaps the most widely known. These include rankings of Master’s in Nursing degree programs, as well as rankings for several nursing specialty programs such as nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist, to name a few.
The other nationally recognized ranking for nursing schools is the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) report on research grant funding. Each year the NIH report shows which nursing schools have been granted the most dollars for research projects.
U.S. News uses a peer-review process that surveys two or three deans, administrators and/or faculty members at each institution. These respondents evaluate schools on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding) based upon the quality of the institutions academic programs (a.k.a. input measures) and how well the school prepares students for their profession (a.k.a output measures). This list only reviews NLNAC (National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission) accredited schools. The information compiled is done in January of the year published but is based on data from surveys sent out the previous year.
The NIH rankings are based solely on research dollars granted to an institution. This type of ranking is valued by academic and research institutions as a sign of the quality of research staff (often the same as the teaching staff) employed by the school. This may be used as an indicator to students about the type of faculty and areas of focus at a particular nursing school.
The most important consideration to keep in mind is what is most important to you. Is it more important to you to attend a school highly ranked by academics as a quality institution, or are you more interested in a school that will provide ample opportunities for you to participate in hands-on research?
The bottom line is that while school rankings can be a helpful guide, they are just one of many criteria you should review. Other important factors to consider include: school accreditation, location, class size, length of program, nursing board passing rates, and cost. All of these factors, in addition to school rankings, will help you make the most informed decision in choosing the school that’s right for you.