Nursing programs from 1441 institutions accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and  Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) were surveyed. These institutions include colleges, universities, hospitals, community colleges and technical schools. Data was collected from the U.S. Department of Education (downloaded via, the NLNAC, the CCNE, institution websites, state boards of nursing, email correspondence and in some cases contact by telephone.

Most of the institutions contacted for the survey were responsive. The institutions that did not respond generally published most of the information we sought publicly via the web. Because the NCSBN does not report NCLEX pass rates for individual schools of nursing, we obtained this data from institutions and state boards of nursing.

We would love to hear your feedback, questions and suggestions. Contact us here.


Our software developer created custom software to merge program data from various sources. This software was responsible for flagging inconsistencies for further research.

Nursing Program Type Descriptions

To sort nursing programs into appropriate categories we used the following program type definitions.

CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant – Brief course at a community college, technical school, hospital or Red Cross that teaches a student how to be a nursing assistant and usually enables them to take their state’s CNA exam and be in the state CNA registry. In some schools this is a prerequisite to the LPN or RN program.

LPN – Licensed Practical Nurse – Generally one year programs at community colleges or technical schools that enables a student to sit for the LPN exam. Frequently these are certificate programs OR the first year of an RN program that lets you stop early or continue on for the RN. Some schools list that as LPN exit. LPN=LVN, some states call it licensed vocational nurse.

ADN – Associates Degree in Nursing – Associate degree programs, basically two-year programs at community colleges, which lead to the ability to sit for the RN exam.

Diploma Programs – Holdovers from the old days of hospital nursing schools. These are usually two-year programs that allow students to sit for the NCLEX-RN, but a true diploma program gives a diploma and not a degree. However, some diploma programs have teamed up with local universities or community colleges so that students take some classes at that institution and therefore get a diploma from the hospital school and an associate’s degree from the community college. These programs are listed as ADN programs.

BSN – Bacelor of Science in Nursing – A traditional, four year bachelor’s degree that allows you to sit for the RN exam.

Accelerated ADN – An ADN program that allows students with a BA or a BS in a non-nursing discipline to take nursing courses towards an ADN and sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Basically, the quickest way to becoming an RN if you have another degree. Generally, the accelerated programs are all about the same length – 12 to 16 months.

Accelerated BSN – BSN program that lets someone with a BA or a BS in a non-nursing discipline to take all the nursing content courses to get their BSN and sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Generally from universities with 4-year BSN programs.

LPN to RN – Program for an LPN to finish the second year of a two-year program or return to school to get the associate’s degree and NCLEX-RN exam eligibility.

LPN to BSN – Program for an LPN to get a BSN and sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. These are pretty rare, generally LPNs do an RN program and then an RN-to-BSN.

RN to BSN – BSN programs for either ADN or diploma nurses, often called “completion” programs. Frequently, these programs are offered by universities that also offer four-year BSNs and they can be part-time or online since they involve a lot of general courses.

RN to MSN – An MSN program that does not require a BSN prior to entry. Either 1) you will get your BSN along the way as part of their MSN program or 2) you have a bachelor’s in other discipline and they accept that. Many schools will just have you do their RN to BSN program and then do the master’s track, but some schools specifically offer an RN to MSN program.

BSN to MSN – The traditional MSN program for bachelor’s prepared RNs. MSN programs run the gamut — they can be programs that prepare people for educator roles (teaching nursing students), in-hospital educator roles, administrative roles or advanced practice.

Direct-Entry MSN – MSN programs that prepare non-nurses with bachelor’s degrees in something else to become advanced practice nurses or other nurse leaders. They are generally called direct-entry, graduate-entry, master’s entry, or prespecialty programs. Students get their RN first (the prespecialty phase) and then continue on in the master’s portion. Some of these programs confer a BSN in the middle, most don’t.

Post-Master’s Certificate – Program for a nurse with a MSN to get a certification in another specialty or an additional credential. Frequently these can be done online with limited on-campus presence.

Doctor of Nursing Practice  (DNP) – A clinical doctorate (not a research/academic doctorate). Eventually these will replace the MSN as the advanced practice degree. Some of these programs are online for master’s prepared students. In some cases there are direct-entry DNPs or BSN or MSN entry DNPs. It will vary considerably since this is a relatively new degree.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) – A traditional academic doctorate given by universities with graduate schools. Requires a master’s degree, generally, although there are some BSN to PhD programs out there.

What do you think of our methodology?

We would love to hear your feedback, questions and suggestions. Contact us here.

View our privacy policy here.