Which college has the best nursing program in North Carolina is debatable and a little subjective. The more important question perhaps is which one is the best fit for you and your goals in nursing. The best nursing programs in North Carolina are the ones that fit you best, and that could be different for every person. There are plenty of traditional programs at fine universities and colleges around the state, and there are also the best online nursing programs in North Carolina.
There are several things to consider when choosing the best nursing program in North Carolina for your needs. One of those is whether to go to a traditional school or to seek the best online nursing programs in North Carolina. Types of instruction, class size, clinical requirements, accreditation, are the major things that should be taken into consideration.
How We Ranked the Best Nursing Schools in North Carolina
To rank the best schools for nursing in North Carolina, Nursing School Hub editors considered accredited, trustworthy community colleges, colleges, and universities of all kinds that offer nursing degrees. Programs are ranked by factors including cost, reputation, and variety of offerings.
1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing is among the best nursing schools in North Carolina. Carolina Nursing offers a full complement of top-ranked programs for students at every stage of their nursing career — from pre-licensure undergraduate programs to Master’s, DNP, PhD, and post-degree opportunities — and now offers online degree options for their Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Post-Graduate Certificate programs. UNC Chapel Hill’s nursing school is recognized as the best public school of nursing in the nation, and has been named a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.
The Chapel Hill Campus within the University of North Carolina was founded in the late 1780s and is the state’s flagship school. Approximately 29,970 students attend classes on-campus and online offered by UNC Chapel Hill.
Highlight: UNC Chapel Hill is recognized among the oldest of all institutions of higher education in the United States.
2. Duke University
The School of Nursing at Duke University is recognized among the best schools for nursing in North Carolina and beyond, according to US News and World Report. Students can enroll in an accelerated BSN program, MSN programs (with twelve academic specialties), and both DNP and Ph.D. degrees in nursing from one of the best nursing schools in North Carolina. Duke’s nursing school, among the best nursing schools in North Carolina, was established in the 1930s and is recognized for many of its quality, innovative nursing programs at various academic levels.
Duke University (Duke U) is a private university that was initially founded by the Quakers and Methodists in 1838. The school operates campuses throughout the world, with its main campus in Durham, North Carolina.
Highlight: It is noted that Duke University employs nearly 40,000 employees, making it the second largest of all employers in the state.
3. East Carolina University
The College of Nursing at East Carolina University is recognized as a Center of Excellence and one of the best schools for nursing in North Carolina. The undergraduate degrees offered by the best nursing schools in North Carolina include traditional, accelerated as well as RN to BSN academic tracks. East Carolina University also offers graduate nursing degrees as follows – nine academic tracks for the MSN program, five DNP academic specialties, and a research-oriented Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.) program. These nursing degree programs are accredited by the CCNE, with approval by the state’s Board of Nursing.
East Carolina University is a research higher learning institution that was established in 1907. The university’s urban campus (and online distance learning platform) is home to approximately 29,050 students.
Highlight: ECU holds the distinction of being the fourth largest of all schools in the state of North Carolina.
4. Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University’s Nursing Department offers three nursing programs from one of the best schools for nursing in North Carolina. Available from one of the best nursing schools in North Carolina, Appalachian State University offers a BSN in Nursing degree program, an RN to BSN transition degree, and an online MSN degree that prepares nurse educators. Students graduating from Appalachian State University’s online MSN degree program are eligible to sit for the Certified Nurse Educator Exam. App State also offers global health programs for those students interested in traveling abroad.
Established in 1907 as a public university dedicated to training teachers, Appalachian State University’s campus in Boone now serves approximately 29,050 students. Appalachian State University is a member school of North Carolina’s university system.
Highlight: The campus of Appalachian State University is at an elevation of 3,300+ feet, making it one of the highest elevations of any campus that is located to the east of the Mississippi River.
5. Western Carolina University
Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing is ranked among the best nursing schools in North Carolina, with a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered online and on-campus. Provided by one of the best schools for nursing in North Carolina, WCU offers three online nursing programs as follows – RN to BSN, MSN Nurse Leadership, or MSN Nurse Educator. Additionally, the on-campus programs include several BSN degrees (traditional, accelerated, and RN to BSN) and graduate degrees, including MSN (Educator, Leadership, FNP) and DNP in Nurse Anesthesia.
Western Carolina University (WCU) is a member school of the state’s university system that was established in 1905 as an academic academy. The university’s campus is home to approximately 12,150 students and is located near the Tuckasegee River near Sylva and Asheville, NC.
Highlight: Western Carolina University is the 5th oldest of all members schools within the University of North Carolina’s system.
6. University of North Carolina at Wilmington
The Health & Human Services Division at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington offers several nursing degree programs and certificates from one of the best nursing schools in North Carolina. UNC Wilmington offers a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN), a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP). Additionally, as one of the best schools for nursing in North Carolina, UNC Wilmington offers several academic options in clinical research at the bachelor’s & master’s degree and post-baccalaureate certificate levels.
The Wilmington campus of the University of North Carolina was established in 1947 as a junior college to educate those soldiers returning home from World War II. The school now operates additional facilities that cover more than 600 acres and serves approximately 17,350 students.
Highlight: UNC Wilmington became a four-year school about fifteen years later.
7. Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville State University’s School of Nursing is considered among the best schools for nursing in North Carolina and offers a variety of programs at various academic levels. Among the degree offerings from one of the best nursing schools in North Carolina includes a traditional BSN track and an RN to BSN track. Additionally, FSU offers an MSN in Patient Safety and Quality Degree program that can be completed online. The CCNE accredits Fayetteville State University’s nursing degrees.
Established in 1867, Fayetteville State University is a member school of the state’s university system with a student enrollment that is approximately 5,950 students.
Highlight: Fayetteville State University is recognized as an HBCU regional school, the second oldest state-run higher learning institution in NC, that is also a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
8. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s School of Nursing is ranked as one of the best schools for nursing in North Carolina, offering CCNE-accredit degree programs across various academic levels. Among the best nursing school in North Carolina, UNC Charlotte offers two baccalaureate level programs (a BSN or an RN to BSN), the Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) with three clinical specialties, or a Doctor of Nursing Practice with an academic emphasis in Nurse Anesthesia. Additionally, UNC Charlotte offers several post-graduate APRN nursing certificate programs in adult gerontology and Family Nurse Practitioner across the Lifespan.
The Charlotte campus at the University of North Carolina was established as an academic division of UNC in 1946, which later became an independent school several years later. UNC’s Charlotte’s school operates several campuses, which are home to approximately 30,050 students vying for the more than 190 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered by UNC.
Highlight: UNC Charlotte is organized into nine academic divisions and is recognized as the largest of all schools in the greater Charlotte metro area.
9. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Nursing School is considered among the best nursing schools in North Carolina, with a variety of nursing degree programs to meet the needs of nursing professionals. At the bachelor’s level, as one of the best schools for nursing in North Carolina, UNC Greensboro offers a pre-license, BSN as 2nddegree, active-duty military BSN, or RN to BSN degree programs. At the graduate level, the Greensboro campus of UNC offers a Ph.D., DNP (Nurse Anesthesia or Adult gerontology/PCNP), and MSN degrees with academic tracks in Nursing Education or Nursing Administration.
The Greensboro campus at the University (UNCG) was established as an industrial and teacher’s school in 1891. UNCG is home to approximately 19,550 students studying for nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Highlight: The University of North Carolina’s Greensboro campus maintains one of the country’s largest modern American Art in its Weatherspoon Museum on-campus.
10. Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University’s Health Sciences School/Nursing Division is recognized among the best schools for nursing in North Carolina, offering various academic nursing programs that lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) programs. Among the nursing degrees provided by one of the best nursing schools in North Carolina are a traditional BSN, an accelerated BSN, and three academic paths that lead to a BSN (from RN, Paramedic, or LPN). WSSU’s nursing programs have received CCNE accreditation.
Winston-Salem State University(WSSU) was founded in 1892 and is recognized as an HBCU school. The school’s urban campus in Winston-Salem (and the school’s distance learning options) serves approximately 5,050 students.
Highlight: Winston-Salem State University holds the distinction as the number one HBCU higher learning institution in North Carolina.
How Do I Choose a Nursing School in North Carolina?
Many schools offer different levels of education, which qualifies you for different types of nursing degrees or jobs. The degrees include:
- Associate’s degrees are two-year degrees that one can use to get a job as a medical tech, or it can be used as a step towards a higher degree.
- Bachelor’s degrees qualify a person to become a registered nurse. This is a typical four-year college program.
- Master’s degrees are needed for those who want to go from nursing to become a medical practitioner.
- Doctoral degrees are generally required for teaching at the college level, and administrative jobs.
How is the Nursing Job Market in North Carolina?
The medical field is booming nationwide and North Carolina is no exception. Nursing jobs in North Carolina are available in many fields or specialties. North Carolina nursing jobs are expected to continue to grow as the entire medical industry is. There are also a lot of nurse practitioner jobs in North Carolina, and this is expected to continue to grow as the need for doctors increases. Travel nursing jobs are a relatively new specialty, but this too is growing in the state.
A registered nurse is the most common kind of nurse, and many of them have specialties. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says registered nursing jobs in North Carolina should grow by 19 percent through 2024. North Carolina nursing jobs growing fast in the south, trailing only Georiga and Texas.
North Carolina nursing jobs are expected to continue to grow at all levels of nursing. A conservative estimate is 1.57 percent per year through 2026. That should translate to 7,060 new nursing jobs in North Carolina each year for the near future.
Nurse practitioner jobs in North Carolina are expected to be the most in-demand job related to the medical or nursing field. The U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics predicts the number of nurse practitioner jobs will increase by 36 percent through 2026. Nurse practitioners are a step above nursing and just barely a step below being a doctor. Nurse practitioners may also prescribe medication in the state.
Travel nursing jobs in North Carolina are also expected to increase. Travel nurses are registered nurses who work with staffing agencies to provide temporary staffing for hospitals and other medical facilities. This job requires a lot of travel, and that can be positive or negative. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 118,000 new positions available over the next several years. Some are also predicting there will be fewer new nurses than there are job openings, which will create even more demand for travel nurses.
How Much Do Nurses Make in North Carolina?
While there is a lot of demand for nurses in the state, the salary for nurses in North Carolina is relatively low compared to the rest of the nation. Even so, a nursing salary in North Carolina is still a good-paying job and the cost of living is generally lower than the rest of the nation. A North Carolina nurse’s salary will also vary a lot by type of job and the kind of degree that is held.
An entry-level RN in North Carolina should make about $50,000 per year, and there are usually pay increases as one gains more experience. Considering all registered nurses regardless of experience, the average goes up to $64,000. The totals are below the national average but the salary for nurses in North Carolina is expected to grow at an average rate.
The North Carolina Dept of Commerce found a big difference between people with associates degrees and those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in nursing as far as nursing salary in North Carolina. People with an associate’s degree averaged $22 per hour, while those with a higher degree were averaging $33 per hour. Nurse practitioners can expect to make around $115,000 per year.