The best Washington state nursing schools offer a variety of programs for new nurses and career nurses returning to school. The state of Washington has been on a boom for quite a while now, and that boom has created a real need for nurses. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse in Washington State or getting a higher degree or specialization to make more money, you have some great options. There are a lot of Washington State nursing schools to choose from that could prepare you for a career in nursing.
A big part of picking among the best nursing schools in Washington State is having a good understanding of what you need before you begin your research. Figure out what you need to fit your lifestyle and your needs. Do you need night classes? Do you need distance learning or online classes? The best nursing schools in Washington state are ones that are accredited and that give you what you need. What might be good for one person in Washington state nursing schools may not be good for someone else
How We Ranked the Best Nursing Programs in Washington State
Nursing School Hub’s editors know prospective nurses want their degree to pay off, so we feature only accredited, trusted institutions. Programs are ranked according to data from IPEDS and Niche, including cost, potential salary, and student reviews.
1. University of Washington
The University of Washington’s Nursing School is ranked among the best nursing programs in Washington State by offering two BSN degree programs (a traditional and accelerated track), plus several graduate nursing programs. At the master’s level, the University of Washington offers an online MS in Clinical Informatics. The University of Washington offers both a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science, plus various specialties available through the school’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree options that include gerontology, family nurse practitioner, midwifery, pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, clinical nurse specialist, or health/systems leadership.
The University of Washington (UW) is a space-grant and sea-grant institution of higher education that was established in the early 1860s, early three decades before Washington reached statehood. The University of Washington is recognized as one of the oldest higher learning institutions on the U.S. west coast.
Programs: Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science (PhD)
2. Bellevue College
Bellevue College offers an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program accredited by the CCNE – the Comm. On Collegiate Nursing Education. Among the best nursing programs in Washington State, Bellevue College’s RN to BSN requires applicants to hold an unrestricted nursing license at application. Students are required to complete 180-185 quarter credits; however, 90 credits may be applied for an ADN program, plus another 45 credits for passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Degree candidates will complete their clinical requirements through the Clinical Placements of Northwest, which offers more than 200 healthcare systems and educational partnerships.
Founded in the mid-1960s, Bellevue College is a member (and the largest) school of the state’s community & technical colleges. With nearly 30,000 students on its 100-acre campus (and online), Bellevue College holds the distinction of being the third-largest institution of higher learning in the state.
Programs: RN – BSN
3. Washington State University
Washington State University offers some of the best nursing programs in Washington State. Washington State University offers its CCNE-accredited degrees from seven Washington state locations. The available nursing programs include an RN to BSN, a traditional BSN, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in population health, and both a Ph.D. in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice with concentrations in family nurse, population health, or psychiatric mental health. Several nursing program options from Washington State University are available online or through hybrid programs. Nursing students from Eastern Washington University and Whitworth University can complete their BSN at Washington State.
Washington State University (Wazzu) was founded as a land-grant school in 1890 and is considered among the oldest land grant schools in the American West. The school maintains several campuses – including a distance learning platform that serves more than 30,550 students. US News ranked Washington State University among the top public universities in the county.
Programs: RN to BSN, BSN, RN to MSN, MSN, DNP, PhD + Online options
4. Seattle University
Seattle University’s College of Nursing is recognized to be among the best nursing programs in Washington State, offering both academic degrees and certificate programs. Seattle University offers a BSN – a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program with entrances for traditional students and for transfer students. Additionally, SU offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program with several academic tracks in gerontology – acute care, gerontology nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. The school also offers two post-graduate certificates in nursing in the areas of primary care and acute care.
Seattle University was founded by the Jesuits as the Immaculate Conception Parish School in 1891. Seattle University is home to more than 7,050 students and is considered the largest independent institution of higher learning in the north and western sections of the nation. Seattle University’s campus covers more than 50 acres is located in downtown Seattle.
Programs: BSN, DNP, Certificates
5. Gonzaga University
The Nursing & Human Psychology School at Gonzaga University offers a variety of top-quality nursing programs and is recognized to be among the best nursing programs in Washington State. At the baccalaureate level, Gonzaga University offers a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program (BSN) for those students seeking RN licensure. At the graduate level, Gonzaga offers four online academic nursing degree programs. These include an online RN to MSN program, an online MSN program, an online 2nd Master’s Degree, an online DNP program for bachelor’s degree holders, or an online DNP or master’s degree holder.
Gonzaga University was established in 1887 and continues to be affiliated with the Society of Jesus. The school is named to honor Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. The university’s campus is situated alongside the Spokane River and is home to about 7,450 students. Gonzaga University is considered a ‘more selective school.
Programs: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Online Registered Nurse to Master of Science in Nursing (RN to MSN)
Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Online Second Master’s Degree (formerly Post-Master’s Certificate)
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – Post-Baccalaureate
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – Post-Masters
6. Pacific Lutheran University
The Nursing School at Pacific Lutheran University offers some of the best nursing programs in Washington State that are CCNE accredited. The nursing programs at the baccalaureate level offered by Pacific Lutheran University include an LPN to BSN degree – a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program & a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program. At the graduate level, Pacific Lutheran University offers an entry-level for nursing students without an RN degree, a BSN to MSN, or an RN to MSN for nurses who hold a baccalaureate degree in another discipline. PLU’s doctoral programs are available to those who currently hold a BSN, an MSN, or an MSN for a nurse who already holds an advanced practice degree.
Pacific Lutheran University was established as a private academy in 1890. The school is home to approximately 3,050 students. Pacific Lutheran University is organized into four colleges/schools offering programs in liberal arts, education, nursing, and communications.
Programs: LPN to BSN, BSN, MSN, DNP, ARNP cert
7. Seattle Pacific University
Seattle Pacific University’s Health Sciences School offers two of the best nursing programs in Washington State. Seattle Pacific University offers a CCNE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program (BSN) that requires the completion of 125 semester credits, of which at least 80 credits must be upper divisional coursework. Seattle Pacific University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program offers three academic tracks, a family nurse practitioner, a clinical nurse specialist, or an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner. Additionally, students can opt to study abroad in Thailand.
Seattle Pacific University was established in the early 1890s by the Free Methodist Church. The university’s Seattle campus is home to 3,550 undergraduate and graduate students. Seattle Pacific University is organized into six colleges/schools, offering degrees in business, arts/sciences, theology, education, psychology, and health sciences.
Programs: BSN, DNP
8. Walla Walla University
Walla Walla University’s School of Nursing offers one of the best nursing programs in Washington State with its Bachelor of Science degree program in Nursing (BSN) that offers small class sizes on either the university’s College Place or Portland campus. NCLEX-RN pass rate for first-time test takers for 2020 was 86.57%. This BSN degree from Walla Walla University offers two entry points – an RN or an LPN to BSN entry. The final two years of Walla Walla University’s BSN program must be completed on the Portland, Washington campus.
Walla Walla University was established in 1892 and offers programs at the associate, bachelor, and master’s degree levels. The school’s five campuses are home to approximately 1,775 students. Nursing students complete their clinical rotations and practicums at Adventist Health Portland.
9. Northwest University
Northwest University’s Mark & Huldah Buntain Nursing College offers several of the best nursing programs in Washington State. At the bachelor’s level, Northwest University offers an online RN to BSN and a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program. At the graduate level, Northwest University provides students with a convenient Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) that is available entirely online. NU’s MSN degree offers students four academic tracks – nurse researcher, nurse administrator, nurse educator, or nurse entrepreneur.
Northwest University is a private higher learning institution that was established in 1934. NU maintains two campuses – one in Kirkland and another in Salem, Oregon, that serve about 1,710 students. Northwest University began as a bible school that was founded by the Assemblies of God. Northwest University is ranked among the top 20 regional colleges in the western U.S., according to US News.
Programs: BSN, Online MSN, Online BSN
10. Olympic College
Olympic College offers a wide array of nursing programs, from nursing assistants to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) program. Offering degrees recognized to be among the best nursing programs in Washington State, Olympic College also offers a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN with preparation for an RN degree), a Nursing Associate in Technical Arts (ATA) degree, and a transitional program that offers LPN’s the opportunity to train and prepare for their NCLEX-RN exam.
Olympic College is a multiple-campus school that was established in 1946 as a junior college. The school’s campuses in Shelton, Poulsbo, and Bremerton serve nearly 13,000 students annually. Olympic College was named among ten finalists – a preeminent award for community colleges, in recognition of Olympic College’s academic performance and high achievement.
Programs: Nursing Assistant (NA)
Practical Nursing (LPN)
Nursing Associate’s in Technical Arts (ATA) / Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) (RN)
Transition to Associate Degree in Nursing ATA (LPN TO RN)
BSN (RN to BSN)
How Do I Choose a Nursing School in Washington State?
Some junior colleges offer programs that allow you to earn a certificate to be a nurse’s aide, and some can give you preparation for a four-year program in nursing. LPNs can also be certified in two years, but there are four-year programs as well. Registered nurses attend Washington State nursing schools to get a four-year degree before entering a nursing program. These all build on each other and can be stepping stones to more advanced nursing degrees such as licensed practitioners. The best nursing schools in Washington state are the ones that will prepare you for the career you want.
It is also important to visit Washington state nursing schools that you are interested in. Take a list of questions to ask school officials. With your questions, you can make the best choice among the best nursing schools in Washington state. Find out about internships and what practical training is offered. Also, make sure the school is certified because nearly all employers want graduates from those types of schools. Finding the one where you fit best is the real challenge.
How is the Job Market for Nurses in Washington State?
According to a study by the University of Washington’s school of medicine, over the next five years, there should be about the same number of nurses as there are nurse jobs in Washington State. The study said over the next 20 years the demand for nurses could outstrip the supply unless action is taken to get more people into nursing schools. Washington state nursing jobs should be available for several years.
The study projected a need for 89,000 nurses by 2031, and based on current trends there may be only around 70,000 by then. This means the job market should be good, as it is for most medical-type fields. Reasons for the shortfall include population growth, the retirement of RNs across the state, a rise in chronic illnesses, and more access to insurance.
The study advocated creating more opportunities for students to prepare for nursing jobs in Washington State, but if the economy is not good that may be difficult. It should make jobs readily available for those that graduate, however.
A shortage of nurses could also create more travel nurse jobs in Washington state. Travel nurses go around the state and fill in at hospitals and other medical facilities when they do not have enough people. This is a niche in nursing that tends to pay a little better than what stationary nurses make. Advanced degrees which create nurse practitioner jobs in Washington State may also see a rise as the need for doctors increases.
How Much Do Nurses Make in Washington State?
Nursing salaries in Washington state are more than the national average, as do most other people in the nursing profession. Big cities like Seattle tend to have better salaries than more rural areas, but the income level is good compared to the rest of the nation. Nursing salaries in Washington state could go even higher if an expected nursing shortage develops in the next 20 years. Like most jobs in the medical field, the pay is good. Registered nurses often work long hours, and it is a stressful job, which may account for the higher pay.
Registered nurse salary in Washington state average $79,000 per year, and the national average for Registered nurses is $73,000. The national average pay regardless of job is $50,000. In a survey of cities around the state, there was quite a range, with registered nurse salaries in Washington state ranging from a low of $67,000 to a high of $90,000.
The nurse practitioner’s salary in Washington State averages $115,000 in Washington, and the national average is $107,000. The range for nurse practitioners was even more striking, going from $96,000 to $150,000.
Licensed practical nurses average $53,000, and the national average is $47,000. Around the state, salaries ranged from $45,000 to $57,000.