Alabama is the 24th most populous state in the US and home to 48,850 registered nurses. This southeastern state dubbed the “Heart of Dixie” projects a need for 52,570 nurses by 2024 alone, which makes a nursing degree a great investment!
In addition to schools offering degree programs for students new to registered nursing, there are many options if you’re already a registered nurse and looking to make a career move up the nursing ladder.
Our top picks for nursing schools in the state of Alabama are as follows:
Overall score: 73
NCLEX pass rate: 97.92%
Graduation rate: 52%
Annual tuition: $9,730 in-state, $22,126 out-of-state
Most faculty at the University of Alabama in Huntsville have doctorates (71%) or are enrolled in doctoral programs (29%). The city of Huntsville, where its 490+ acre campus is located, is frequently billed as one of the “best places to live and work” by various national publications.
The CCNE accredited nursing programs offered are:
- RN to BSN (online)
- Post-Master’s Family Nurse Practitioner
- Graduate Certificate in Nursing Education
Overall score: 71
NCLEX pass rate: 97.01%
Graduation rate: 67%
Annual tuition: $10,780 in-state, $30,250 out-of-state
The University of Alabama’s Capstone College of Nursing graduate and undergraduate programs employ cutting-edge simulators and telehealth in bringing advanced technology to their training. They also have extensive local partnerships with healthcare facilities for clinical training.
Capstone’s nursing programs are CCNE accredited and are offered both in-person and online. They are:
- RN to BSN
- RN to MSN
- MSN with a focus in either Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Administrator
- Doctorate of Education (EdD) for Nurse Educators
- Joint Nursing Science Ph.D.
- Postgraduate Nurse Practitioner certificate programs
Overall score: 64
NCLEX pass rate: 97.78%
Graduation rate: 76%
Annual tuition: $11,826 in-state, $31,986 out-of-state
Located in Auburn, Alabama, and encompassing more than 1,840 acres, Auburn University has a large undergraduate population of 24,931 students. The School of Nursing emphasizes interdisciplinary research and practice and offers simulation labs with the latest technology. Due to the larger school size and amount of grants, Auburn admits a high number of BSN students each year.
The school offers the following CCNE accredited programs:
- RN to BSN
- Primary care Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Educator
- Post-graduate APRN certificate
Overall score: 59
NCLEX pass rate: 90.03%
Graduation rate: 55%
Annual tuition: $12,630 in-state, $30,150 out-of-state
Being a nursing student here means access to an extensive network of clinical partnerships. This includes VA and Rural Health Initiatives, and a collaboration between the Nursing School and UAB Medicine. The school is also ranked #1 in Alabama and #2 in the US for nursing research. This gives you the opportunity to learn some of the latest evidence-based practices before they even get implemented in the real world.
The School of Nursing has on-campus and blended programs available, with their MSN and DNP offerings available online. Their programs are CCNE accredited. Here’s the full list of their available nursing degree programs:
- MPH/MSN coordinated degree (Maternal and Child Health/Public Health Nursing)
5. University of North Alabama (tie)
Overall score: 53
NCLEX pass rate: 94.34%
Graduation rate: 46%
Annual tuition: $9,600 in-state, $19,200 out-of-state
The University of North Alabama’s Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions tied for 5th place on our list with Jacksonville State University. Anderson College’s nursing programs tout flexibility with scheduling, designed to help working students incorporate their degree into a busy schedule.
All of their programs are CCNE accredited. The school places heavy emphasis on online programs, with only their traditional and accelerated BSN programs available on-campus. Their online programs include the bonus of a scholarship for new online students.
Here are the University of North Alabama’s available nursing programs:
- RN to BSN
- RN to MSN
- BS in Applied Health Science- Health Administration
- Post-graduate certificates- FNP, Nursing Education, and Nursing Leadership
5. Jacksonville State University (tie)
Our overall score: 53
NCLEX pass rate: 89.09%
Graduation rate: 46%
Annual tuition: $9,720 in-state, $19,440 out-of-state
Despite its tie with the University of North Alabama, Jacksonville State University’s department of nursing has some differences in its program offerings. Although they do not have a dedicated School of Nursing, all of their programs are CCNE accredited and several are offered online. They have a graduate certificate as an Emergency Preparedness Nursing Coordinator (with an Emergency Management concentration offered in their MSN program), which is a pretty unique specialty. The DNP program offers 3 tracks, so if you’re looking for a terminal nursing degree, this would be the tie-breaker between our two #5 schools.
These are the nursing program offerings:
Expert advice from nurses like you
How to choose the right nursing program
With all of these options available, how do you decide on the best one for you? Everyone’s situation will be a little different, but getting some variables down on paper and then ranking their importance to you helps. With this completed, you can weigh each school against your most important factors. This makes the clear winners an easy choice. These are the variables you’ll want to consider:
Depending on your situation, location is a major factor in choosing a nursing school. If you’re enrolled in a program that’s offered 100% online, or you can easily relocate, location won’t be a consideration. But if your program is only offered on-campus, and you will need to commute to classes, this factor will carry more weight.
According to a report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, graduate level nurses accrue a median amount of student loan debt that is between $40,000 and $54,999. Even at the BSN level, at an average of $23,711, student loan debt can take a big chunk out of your post-graduation budget. You’ll want to choose your nursing school accordingly, and look at the annual tuition. This should be weighed against any scholarship or grant aid you may have secured, and your overall budget for your degree.
NCLEX Pass Rate
The credibility of a good nursing program is anchored in its NCLEX pass rate. This test measures a nursing student’s competency and is required for licensure in all 50 states. A school with a proven track record in preparing its nurses for the test is a necessity. A pass rate of 90% and above is considered a good benchmark.
Depending on your career goals, this could be the most important factor to consider. Each nursing school doesn’t have every degree program. Some programs have more robust offerings when it comes to technology, clinical experiences, and evidence-based nursing practices. If the school you’re looking at can’t offer you the degree you’re seeking or the practical skills you need, then it’s not the right fit.
Graduation rates help measure how successfully a school moves a student through their programs to graduation on time. If students aren’t making it to graduation, it can be a warning sign that the school’s preparation isn’t effective for any number of reasons. This is something you’ll also want to take a closer look at.
In order to determine the best nursing schools in a state, Incredible Health compared the top schools among five categories: graduation rate, tuition, NCLEX pass rate, accreditation, and the number of nursing programs offered.
Each metric was scored on a 100-point scale with 100 representing the highest total for that category. Then we compiled the individual scores to get an overall score.
Sources we used data from:
- University webpages
- State board of registered nursing
- U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
- U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings
Planning Your Next Steps
Once you’ve figured out your top picks for nursing schools in Alabama, you can take the next steps to make your goals reality. It’s important to pay attention to the application deadlines for the semester you’d like to start your program. You’ll also need to consider financial aid if necessary for tuition and other college-related expenses. Applying for aid with a FAFSA by the annual deadline is crucial to this process.
In addition, now is the time to think about scholarships you might qualify for to help you reduce any aid that you’ll have to pay back once you graduate school.
When your acceptance letter arrives for the nursing school, be sure to celebrate! Starting your degree program is an exciting step on the journey to advancing a successful career in nursing.
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