The best Pennsylvania nursing schools offer a variety of programs for new nurses and working nurses interested in career advancement. With its dense population and big urban centers, there’s a lot of demand for nurses throughout Pennsylvania, and anyone interested in becoming a nurse in Pennsylvania has some of the best nursing schools in the nation to choose from. Schools in Pennsylvania for nursing can prepare you for any of the specialties of nursing, or to be a registered nurse.
To figure out which of the nursing schools in Pennsylvania is best for you, it is important to understand what your real needs are. Do you need night classes? Do you need online options? Do you need to live on campus? Once you pick out a few schools you like, it is a good idea to visit them and meet with people involved with the Pennsylvania nursing schools you are considering. Take a list of questions with you, and it is a good idea to write down the answers for future reference. The best nursing schools in Pennsylvania will be accredited, which most employers require.
How We Ranked the Best Nursing Programs in Pennsylvania
Nurses need to know their degree will have a real value, so Nursing School Hub features only reputable, accredited nursing schools in our ranking of the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania. We have ranked programs with data from IPEDS and Niche, including tuition rate, student reviews, and graduate salary.
1. Villanova University
Villanova University’s Fitzpatrick Nursing College offers a variety of nursing degree programs from the baccalaureate to doctoral level. Among the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, Villanova offers several academic tracks to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which includes a transfer, accelerated (2nd degree), and a traditional academic path over four years. Villanova’s graduate-level nursing degree options include gerontology, family nurse, nursing education, or pediatric practitioner tracks. Additionally, Villanova University offers a Ph.D. in Nursing, a Doctor of Nursing, or a Nurse Anesthesia doctoral path.
Villanova University is an Augustinian Catholic institution of higher education that was founded in 1842, making it the oldest Pennsylvania Catholic higher learning institution. This space-grant university is home to nearly 11,000 students. Villanova University is named to honor Saint Thomas of Villanova.
Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD
2. Duquesne University
The Nursing School at Duquesne University is one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, offering nursing degrees from the bachelor’s to doctorate level. Duquesne’s nursing school is one of only fourteen schools in the nation that is endorsed by the AHNCC – the American Holistic Nurses Credential Corporation and accredited by the CCNE. Duquesne University offers three paths to a BSN degree – a traditional path, a 2nd-degree path, and a dual degree path that offers a BSN and Biomedical Engineering baccalaureate degree in only five years. The university offers three online programs – a Ph.D. in Nursing, Ph.D. in Nursing Ethics, and an MSN in Forensic Nursing. MSN degrees are offered in six specialties.
Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit (DU) was established as the Pittsburgh Catholic College in the late 1870s. Duquesne University maintains a campus in Pittsburgh and an international location in Rome. More than 9,250 students attend classes offered on the school’s 45+ acre campus or online.
Programs: BSN, MSN, PhD
3. La Salle University
La Salle University’s Nursing & Allied Health Sciences School offers some of the top nursing programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These best nursing programs in Pennsylvania from La Salle University are CCNE accredited. La Salle’s BSN program boasts a first-time pass rate of the NCLEX-RN exam of 94.64%. La Salle offers several baccalaureate nursing pathways, depending on where the student begins. In addition, La Salle University offers two DNP programs, one with a specialty in Nurse Anesthesia. The MSN programs offer ten concentrations which include public health, family nurse, gerontology, administration, or psychiatric mental health practitioner.
La Salle University was established in the mid-1860s and named to honor St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle. The school is affiliated with the Christian Brothers Roman Catholic Church and severs more than 5,050 students. La Salle University is organized into three primary colleges/schools in the areas of business, nursing & health sciences, and arts/sciences – with programs available online, on-campus, or hybrid delivered.
Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP
4. Drexel University
The Nursing & Health Professions College at Drexel University offers an array of CCNE-accredited nursing programs that include. Degree programs at the bachelor’s, graduate, and doctoral levels. Among the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, Drexel University offers three BSN options – a traditional, an RN to BSN completion program, and an accelerated 2nd career entry point. Drexel’s graduate nursing programs are organized as MSN advanced role programs or MSN nurse practitioner programs, both offering various concentrations to students. Finally, Drexel offers three doctoral levels for nursing – DNP, DNP -Nurse Anesthesia, or Ph.D. in Nursing.
Drexel University was established in the early-1890s by financier Anthony Drexel. This private research institution of higher education serves a student body that exceeds 24,150 undergraduate and graduate students from its Philadelphia campus and online. Drexel University is well-known for its cooperative education programs that allow for 1.5 years of paid employment.
Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD
5. University of Scranton
The University of Scranton’s Nursing Department is recognized to be one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, offering nursing degree programs from the baccalaureate level to the doctoral level. The University of Scranton’s BSN and MSN degree programs are CCNE accredited, with an accelerated MSN and combo dual BSN and MSN degree program also available. The doctoral-level programs from the University of Scranton include a DNP and a DNP program with a concentration in Nurse Anesthesia.
The University of Scranton was established in 1888 and administered by the Lasallian Brothers until the early 1940s when the Society of Jesus begin managing the school. More than 5,350 students attend classes on the school’s urban campus or online. The University of Scranton offers about 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs on its distance learning platform and on-campus.
Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP
6. Saint Francis University
Saint Francis University’s Health Sciences & Education School offers two Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs – the traditional (rated first in the nation – with a 100% pass rate for NCLEX-RN for six years running), plus an online RN to BSN (and MSN). Saint Francis University is one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, Saint Francis University offers a distance-learning-based Master of Science in Nursing program (MSN) with three academic tracks – Leadership Education, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Post-master’s Family Nurse Practitioner.
Established in the mid-1840s, Saint Francis University operates as a private institution of higher education that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The university’s 550+ rural acre campus in Loretto is home to more than 1,550 graduate & undergraduate students vying for the more than 30 academic degrees offered by Saint Francis University. The land for Saint Francis University was donated by Pittsburg’s first bishop, Michael ‘O’Connor.
Programs: BSN, Online BSN, Online MSN
7. Cedar Crest College
Cedar Crest College’s School of Nursing offers several academic degree programs in nursing that include CCNE-accredited BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees. Cedar Crest College is considered to be one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania and offers three undergraduate nursing degrees – for RNs, a traditional path, and an accelerated BSN degree. The MSN programs available from CCC include nurse administrator, gerontology, nurse educator, and lifespan nurse practitioner. Additionally, Cedar Crest College offers three BSN to DNP programs in nurse anesthesia, gerontology, and family and individuals.
Cedar Crest College was established by the United Church of Christ as an all-women’s school but operates on an independent basis academically and allows men to pursue various degree and certificate programs. The college’s suburban campus in Allentown is home to approximately 1,900 graduate and undergraduate students. Cedar Crest College offers more than 50 academic majors through its various baccalaureate degree programs.
Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP
8. Messiah University
The Nursing Department at Messiah University is among the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, offering an array of CCNE-accredited nursing programs. Messiah University offers a traditional BSN and an RN to BSN degree. In addition, Messiah University provides students with MSN degrees (with concentrations in nurse education and nursing administration), a dual MSN with an MBA degree, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nursing Leadership and Family Nurse Practitioner. Finally, MU offers two post-BSN certificates in nursing management or nursing education.
Messiah University was established as a bible school & missionary training institute in 1909. Messiah University was established by the Brethren in Christ Church but currently operates as a nondenominational school with a student enrollment that exceeds 3,250 graduate or undergraduate students. Messiah University offers a variety of international study abroad programs during both the May and January terms.
Programs: RN to MSN, BSN, MSN/MBA
9. Carlow University
Carlow University is recognized to be one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, offering a four-year BSN, a 2nd career BSN, or an online RN to BSN degree program, plus a variety of graduate-level degrees that are available on-campus and online. Carlow University’s MSN in Education & Leadership, Women’s Health, and Family Nurse Practitioner are available entirely online or on the school’s Pittsburgh campus. Additionally, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is available online, as is the MSN – Master of Business Administration dual degree program.
Carlow University was established in 1939 by the Sisters of Mercy – Roman Catholic Church. The university is organized into three colleges/schools that offer its 1,300+ students degrees in health & wellness, leadership & social change, or learning and innovation. Carlow University maintains three local campuses – the Greensburg, Cranberry, and Oakland campuses.
Programs: RN-to-BSN, BSN, MSN, MSN-MBA, DNP
10. Waynesburg University
Waynesburg University’s Nursing Program offers, as one of the best nursing programs in Pennsylvania, a BSN degree – a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) program, an RN to BSN degree, a BSN for 2nd-degree students, and a Master of Science in Nursing degree program that is both CCNE accredited. Nursing students have had a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX-RN exam for eight years since 2008. College Factual recognizes Waynesburg University as the best value school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Waynesburg University is a private institution of higher education that was established by the Presbyterian Church in 1850. The university’s suburban campus in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania (the most southeastern county in PA) is home to approximately 1,750 undergraduate and graduate students and is located roughly fifty miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Waynesburg University offers students nearly 75 academic concentrations from which to choose.
Programs: BSN, MSN
How Do I Choose a Nursing School in Pennsylvania?
Some junior colleges offer an introduction to nursing programs, and some have nursing assistant programs and LPN programs that can be completed. The programs can build on each other. A junior college certificate will likely be transferrable to a four-year school, and you will have already completed some requirements for an RN, To become an RN you will need a four-year degree and a nursing program.
Advanced nursing beyond that requires a Master’s degree. Credits are transferable in state institutions, but make sure the college you are considering has that option as well. Find out about internships and practical training that is normally required by employers.
Any of the Pennsylvania nursing schools would allow you to earn the degree you need to get a job as a nurse. Finding the one that fits you best is the harder part.
What is the Job Market for Nurses in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania nursing jobs should be plentiful for several years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2016 to 2016 officials expect a 13 percent increase in the number of nurse jobs in Pennsylvania. This includes 19,000 new positions. Nursing jobs in Pennsylvania should also increase by replacing those that retire or leave the profession. LPNs and nursing assistant jobs should also be plentiful as the bureau projects a 9.2 percent increase through 2026. Pennsylvania travel nurse jobs should also increase.
The area around Philadelphia has the fourth-highest number of registered nurses of all the metropolitan areas. There are 70,000 RNs in that area. Among the top 10 metropolitan areas, RNs in Philadelphia is seventh in the level of pay. The Bloomsburg-Berwick metropolitan area has the largest concentration of Pennsylvania nurse jobs with 2,880 jobs. That area is far above the national average in the percentage of the population employed in the medical field.
Travel nurse jobs in Pennsylvania are always needed when there is a shortage of nurses. Nurses with Pennsylvania travel nursing jobs fill in at hospitals and other facilities. Jobs for travel nurses are expected to increase by 16 percent until at least 2024. Travel nurses have a lot of flexibility, including how many hours they work. This results in a lot of variance in salaries.
While it is expected to improve, in 2020, there were 54,000 more jobs than nurses in Pennsylvania. Now would be a good time to start a nursing program to become qualified for a nursing job in Pennsylvania.
How Much Do Nurses Make in Pennsylvania?
Nursing salary in Pennsylvania averages $33.57 per hour which is $69,820 per year. Nursing salaries in Pennsylvania are higher in larger cities and less in rural areas or in small cities. Pennsylvania nurse salaries in Philadelphia average $79,980, while nurses in Bloomberg-Berwick average $70,680. The national average for registered nurses is $73,000. The lowest paying jobs are in the western non-metro area of the state, which averages $58,000. Travel nurse salary in Pennsylvania averages $100,000 or more, and have a lot of flexibility as to how much they work.
Nurse practitioners are at an advanced level of nursing and have the highest Pennsylvania nursing salaries. They can practice medicine almost as much as a doctor can. Payment is below the national average for nurse practitioners. The average nurse practitioner salary in Pennsylvania is $98,000, while the national average is $107,000. Bloomsburg-Berwick has the highest nurse practitioner salary in Pennsylvania at $111,000.
LPN’s are very close to the national average of $47,710, with an average of $47,070. Montgomery has the highest salary for LPNs at $54,000. Nurse assistants make less but it varies a lot.
Nurse anesthetists have the highest Pennsylvania nurse salary with an average salary of $162,000. The national average is $169,000. An Anesthetist in Lebanon could make $184,000, and the same job in Allentown pays $149,000.