How Do I Find an Accredited Nursing Program?

©2007-present Kathy Quan RN BSN
All Rights Reserved

Finding the right nursing program and school for you can be a bit challenging. Many programs are still impacted and have waiting lists (some long and some short), so you need to pick more than one and apply to several.

You need to ask yourself a few questions first:
  • What level are you starting at? (Do you have a any nursing or other advanced education or are you starting from scratch?) (See accelerated programs if you have a degree already.)
  • Do you want to go away to school, or live at home?
  • Will you be able to attend full time, or do you need to work and attend part time?
  • How much can you afford? Are you eligible for financial aid?
  • What type of school are you looking for? Public, (state run), private, with religious affiliations, conservative vs. liberal views, small or large, rural or urban?
  • What type of nursing specialty or degree are you seeking?

The answers to these questions will help you with your search.
For example, you're a high school senior seeking a BSN and you don't want to go away to school, or if you have to, you don't want to go too far. Your financial resources are limited and you'll need to work part time. You are eligible for financial aid in the form of loans. You have a 3.5 GPA and have taken algebra, biology, chemistry and will be taking physiology this year. You volunteer part time at your local hospital as a "Candy Striper." You don't have any particular political or religious beliefs that would influence your choice of school. Notice how these answers will help narrow your search tremendously.

Explore Public and Private Schools
Public programs offer the most economical choices. However, explore private schools in your area as well. Sometimes they may have better financial programs, work study, and other aid to meet your needs. Most private schools will help you to find funding. Public schools leave that up to you for the most part. Whatever your choice, talk to their financial aid counselor.

Make Sure It's Accredited
The most important point is finding an accredited program. Unfortunately there are still many nursing schools out there that will take your money and after you graduate you find you cannot apply to test for the NCLEX because they are not accredited. Make sure your school is accredited or will receive their accreditation by the time you graduate.

The National League for Nursing accredits nursing schools. The NLN also publishes the Official Guide to Undergraduate and Graduate Nursing Programs, Second Edition (with CD-Rom).

BSN, MSN and PhD programs for nursing can also be accredited by the
American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (AACN/CCNE).

(Outside the U.S., consult your national nursing organization for information about nursing programs and their accreditation.)

Finding the List of Accredited Schools
Start with your State Board of Nursing for a list of accredited schools in your state. If you want to go to another state to study, check out the schools listed from that state board website. You can also find a list of nursing schools from Peterson's.com Your school library or career center (or public library) will have many resources for finding schools as well.

Yes, you can go to school in one state and take your
NCLEX in the state where you want to live and work. But make sure the school is accredited for that state. You may need to contact the Board of Nursing to get official confirmation.



Consider Community Colleges for General Education Courses
You may also want to explore the community colleges in your area. Some may offer ADN programs and others may not. To obtain your BSN you'll have to complete all of the general education courses required (such as English, history, humanities, etc.) as well as the math and science prerequisites for nursing. You can complete these at any community college, and then transfer to a 4-year university or college, so long as you know which math and science courses will transfer and are required by the 4-year school.

Make sure all of your courses will transfer and be sure you are meeting all of the requirements for the school you will receive your nursing diploma from. For instance some require P.E. and some don't. Some require statistics and some don't. Don't make assumptions. Review your transcripts with the counselors long before graduation comes into view.

You need to refer to the nursing schools you have selected to see specifics about the prerequisites. For instance, not all Introductory Chemistry classes count or transfer, or the Anatomy and Physiology may not be as complete as needed to meet the nursing program's requirements. Don't just assume they'll equate...Ask!!! And make sure to keep track of how the units transfer so you don't end up short units to graduate either.

Need a CNA Course?
Some nursing programs will require you to have your CNA (certified nurses aide certificate) as well. Again, you need to be familiar with the entrance requirements. If you need a CNA, you'll need to explore programs in your area. These usually require a high school diploma or GED and can be taken through a community college, adult education program or vocational
school.

Consider Becoming and LPN/LVN First
If the RN programs in your area are significantly impacted, you might want to explore the LPN/LVN programs to see if you can get into one of them.

These programs are becoming quite impacted as well but the waiting lists may be shorter. You can then go on to an LPN-to-RN or LPN-to-BSN program. The LPN program is usually 12 to 18 months long.

Apply To Several Programs
This deserves repeating! Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to several schools and give each your best effort. In addition to a nursing shortage, there is also a shortage of nurse educators so nursing programs have limited openings and the competition can be very stiff.

Most schools now require an entrance exam and you'll need to score high on this. Even if all of the local programs have waiting lists, apply anyway. This will get you on their waiting list, and qualified applicants are usually accepted in the order in which they applied.

Advanced and Accelerated Nursing Degrees
Nurses seeking advanced degrees can find a list of schools offering Master's Degrees from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

This site also lists
schools which offer accelerated nursing degrees for those looking for a second career in nursing or to change the focus of their education after completing another Bachelor's degree program.

Additional Reading
Accredited Schools Online
College Accreditation Guidebook