Best Nursing Schools in Arkansas for 2022

We’ve surveyed the top nursing schools in Arkansas to help you find the right online or campus program to launch or advance your nursing career.

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Michael Hoffman

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A former practicing attorney, Michael Hoffman has years of experience as a freelance journalist specializing in the research and writing of higher education content – from online learning to financial aid, and everything in between. Michael is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael practiced for several years as a civil litigator in Los Angeles and worked in Santa Monica, California as a development executive for a major film producer.

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The demand for nursing professionals in the United States has likely never been higher than it is today with a nationwide nurse shortage resulting in major salary increases and substantial signing bonuses for nurses of all kinds. Long-term demand for nurses is expected to remain strong, particularly in Arkansas where that demand outpaces the national average.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a degree or certificate program at one of the many quality nursing schools in Arkansas, there’s no better time to act than now. This guide tells you what you need to start your search for the best nursing programs in Arkansas for 2022. You’ll also find information and advice on financial aid, nursing licensing requirements in Arkansas, what you can expect in terms of nursing jobs and salaries in Arkansas once you graduate, and much more.

2022’s Best-in-Class Nursing Schools in Arkansas

Start your search for the right Arkansas nursing degree or certificate program by looking at what the best nursing schools in Arkansas have to offer. We’ve surveyed all the colleges and universities in the state with nursing programs and found the three of the best nursing schools in Arkansas for 2022. We considered several important elements, especially affordability, accreditation, program types, curriculum comprehensiveness, and access to useful student support services.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University offers arguably the most comprehensive selection of nursing degree and certificate programs found in the state. There are four pre-licensure undergraduate choices: a Traditional AASN, an LPN to AASN with both on-campus and online options, a Traditional BSN, and an Accelerated (2nd Degree) BSN. An RN to BSN option featuring 100% online coursework is also offered. ASU’s undergraduate nursing programs are notable for their affordability with a current per-credit on-campus tuition rate of $218 for Arkansas residents and $450 for out-of-state residents. Online students pay $258 per credit regardless of residency status. Graduate-level nursing options include four MSN and four Post-Grad certificate programs (Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Administration, Nurse Educator, and Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP), and two DNP programs (including a Nurse Anesthesia DNP).

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences features two undergraduate and three graduate nursing degree programs, most offering two or more tracks. Undergraduate programs include a two-year Bachelor of Nursing for students who have completed 58 credits of lower-division coursework at another college or university and an Accelerated BSN available on UAMS’s Northwest Arkansas campus in Fayetteville for non-RN students with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in other areas. Current RNs can opt for the RN to BSN program that includes 10-month Fast-Track RN to BSN and BSN and Master of Nursing Science (MNSc) options, both of which are entirely online. Graduate nursing programs at UAMS include an MNSc that prepares APRNs for administrative roles, a DNP with post-BSN, post-nursing master’s and DNP to PhD in Nursing tracks, and a PhD in Nursing with both post-BSN and post-nursing master’s tracks.

University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton

For non-RNs seeking the quickest and most affordable path toward becoming an RN, there’s no better choice than earning an associate degree in nursing (ADN) through one of Arkansas’s many fully-accredited and state-approved community college nursing programs. One of the very best of these schools is the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. Two ADN options available at UACCM include an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AASN) designed to allow current LPNs to complete their degrees in a little as one year. Students interested in earning their nursing bachelors can opt for the 2+2 RN to BSN Transfer Agreement where students complete two years of coursework at UACCM earning their AASN degrees and then transfer to a local four-year school like the University of Central Arkansas to complete an additional two years of coursework to obtain their BSNs.

Common Qualities of the Best Nursing Programs in Arkansas

The best nursing program in Arkansas for you helps you achieve your unique professional nursing goals in the most effective way possible. Regardless of the specific one, all the best nursing programs in Arkansas share several common qualities. Below are three of the most important.

  • Nationally Accredited and State Approved Taking and passing the NCLEX-RN exam is a requirement for RN licensure in Arkansas and most other U.S. jurisdictions. Graduation from a nationally-accredited and state-approved nursing program is a requirement for taking the NCLEX-RN exam. National accreditation and state approval are also an absolute must for any post-RN undergraduate or graduate program.
    There are two major national accrediting organizations for nursing programs in Arkansas: the Accreditation Commission for Education and Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). You can use these ACEN and CCNE search engines to confirm a program’s current accreditation status. State approval of nursing programs in Arkansas is handled by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. The current status of nursing programs in Arkansas can be checked on the ASBN – Approved Nursing Programs website.
  • High NCLEX Pass Rates For those students who are not licensed RNs, enrolling in a nursing program with a high NCLEX pass rate for its graduates is an obvious plus. Check current NCLEX-RN pass rates for nursing schools in Arkansas by visiting the ASBN – NCLEX Exam website.
  • Affordability The best nursing schools in Arkansas offer top-level academics at competitive tuition costs. This most often means a nursing program offered by a public college or university since public schools tend to offer lower tuition rates than their private school counterparts. Don’t make the mistake of eliminating private nursing schools in Arkansas, however, without checking their program costs. Private nursing school programs may still be affordable, especially after accounting for any tuition discounts and scholarship opportunities.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Arkansas

The sheer number of different types of degree and certificate programs available from nursing schools in Arkansas is overwhelming, and it can be quite confusing to determine the right one for you. To save you time in finding the right path, we’ve developed descriptions of the different types of nursing programs you’ll encounter along with Arkansas program examples for each.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Arkansas

ADN Programs

An associate degree in nursing (ADN, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science) provides the education and training required to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. ADN programs typically require two years of full-time study. They’re most often found on community college campuses but are available from a few college and university nursing schools in Arkansas as well.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs provide the full four-year bachelor’s degree experience to students with little or no previous college coursework or nursing training. They also provide eligibility to take the NCLEX-RN exam and a possible advantage in the job market over RNs with only nursing diplomas or ADN degrees. Traditional BSN programs are a staple of most college and university nursing schools in Arkansas.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Non-RNs with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in non-nursing majors can typically earn their BSNs in two years or less by completing an accelerated (or second degree) BSN program. This is accomplished by applying the lower-division credit hours earned in their previous degree programs to their BSN programs. Accelerated BSN programs qualify graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Arkansas for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

Current licensed practical nurses (LPNs) interested in advancing their careers by becoming RNs should consider an LPN to RN or LPN to BSN program. These programs allow LPNs to complete the additional education and training needed to qualify for the NCLEX-RN exam in as few as three semesters for LPN to RN students and three years for LPN to BSN students. LPN to RN programs are most commonly offered at community colleges. LPN to BSN programs are typically offered by four-year colleges and universities.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN programs offer the quickest and most cost-efficient way for current RNs to obtain BSNs. RN to BSN programs are among the most popular offered by college and university nursing schools in Arkansas because they provide graduates an advantage in the job market for the best RN positions and prepare them for graduate nursing programs. RN to BSN programs typically require one year of full-time or two years of part-time study and are often available 100% online.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are for individuals seeking advanced careers in nurse education, advanced nursing practice, administration, and other nursing leadership positions. RN to MSN programs offer the most efficient route to earning a nursing master’s to RNs without BSNs. Along with a current RN license, admission into an RN to MSN program typically requires a nursing associate degree (or in some cases a nursing diploma) and a minimum number of years of experience. RN to MSN programs may or may not also award BSN degrees.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Arkansas

MSN Programs

The traditional MSN program is for current RNs with a bachelor’s degree. Current RNs with BSNs should opt for a standard MSN track while RNs with bachelors in non-nursing majors should opt for direct-entry MSN programs. Completion times vary from 18 months to three years or more based on factors like program track (standard or direct-entry), full-time or part-time study, and specialization.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Phd in Nursing programs are for highly-skilled and experienced individuals seeking top-tier leadership roles in nursing. DNP degrees prepare students for senior positions in advanced nursing practice and healthcare administration. PhDs in Nursing prepare graduates for top-level careers in research and post-secondary academics.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Nurses with MSNs, DNPs, or PhDs in Nursing can expand their professional knowledge and advance their careers by completing post-graduate certificates in one of several specialized nursing fields. Common certificate specializations include Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Administration, Nurse Educator, Nurse Anesthesia, and Public Health. Post-graduate certificate programs in nursing are often available 100% online. Completion times vary depending mostly on specialization, previous field(s) of study, and level of professional experience.

Examples of Arkansas Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Arkansas

Distance learning now plays a significant role throughout secondary education, and this is certainly true when it comes to nursing schools in Arkansas. Online programs and courses provide working nurses the convenience and flexibility needed for them to continue their careers while earning their degrees. For some, the availability of online assignments, readings, lectures, quizzes, etc., is the difference between being able to pursue a nursing degree and not. Before enrolling in an online Arkansas nursing program, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how distance learning works. We help you do this by taking a close look at three of the top nursing schools in Arkansas with a substantial online presence.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Arkansas

Arkansas Tech University

The Department of Nursing at Arkansas Tech University offers two online nursing degrees. The 30-credit RN to BSN program can be started in the fall, spring, or summer and is completed in as few as three semesters. All didactic coursework is accessed and completed 100% online. However, students must complete two clinical courses requiring in-person participation. Both full-time and part-time study options are available. Of particular note is the program’s current per-credit tuition rate of $232 for Arkansas residents and $464 for out-of-state residents. ATU’s online MSN program requires completion of 30 semester hours of core curriculum coursework plus nine semesters hours of coursework in either the Nurse Administration or Emergency Management Concentration. A second bachelor’s degree track requiring an additional nine semester hours is available for current RNs with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees.

University of Central Arkansas

The curriculum for UCA’s online RN to BSN program provides maximum study convenience and flexibility for working RNs. The 30-credit hour program is accessed entirely online and both full-time and part-time options are available. Admission requirements include a current unencumbered Arkansas RN license and ADN or nursing diploma earned with a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA. Applicants whose nursing diplomas or associate degrees were earned more than 12 months before admission must also have at least 1,000 hours of nursing employment during the past 12 months. The program is extremely affordable with a current $285/credit tuition rate for all students regardless of residence. Graduate nursing programs at UCA featuring online components include an MSN Nurse Educator Track and Nurse Educator and FNP Post-Master’s Certificates that are primarily online with some required on-campus visits, a Post-Master’s DNP with fully-online coursework, and a BSN to DNP FNP Track that is primarily online with in-person clinicals and two to four on-campus meetings each semester.

University of Arkansas (Fayetteville)

The flagship campus of the University of Arkansas offers four distance learning nursing programs, all featuring 100% online coursework. Two degree options are available to current nursing professionals seeking career advancement by earning their nursing bachelor’s degrees. The LPN to BSN is a 120-credit-hour program that requires two to three years to complete. Along with online courses, students complete in-person clinicals at facilities in their own geographic areas. The LPN to BSN program is currently open to residents of Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. UA’s three-semester, 30-credit hour RN to BSN is offered with 100% online asynchronously-formatted courses, all of which are available year-round. The program requires 75 in-person clinical hours in addition to the online didactic coursework. Both full-time and part-time options are available. Two online graduate certificates, a Post-Master’s Certificate in Family Nurse Practitioner and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, are available to students with MSN degrees.

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in Arkansas

Can I earn my nursing degree in Arkansas completely online?

That depends on your degree program. Almost all nursing programs in Arkansas now include some distance learning content like online lectures and assignments. Others offer fully-online didactic coursework and, in some cases, online labs. Some programs are 100% online. Many nursing programs, particularly pre-licensure ones, also include in-person clinical hours.

Will my online Arkansas nursing degree be considered less valuable by employers?

It’s highly unlikely that any healthcare company or facility today would consider a nursing degree earned fully online or partially online to be any less valuable than one earned through a traditional on-campus program.

Are online nursing programs in Arkansas more affordable than campus programs?

That depends on the specific program. Direct program costs, like tuition and fees, are usually the same for both on-campus and online programs. Some nursing schools in Arkansas even charge a small additional fee for online courses taken online. However, online students often end up spending less overall in savings on transportation costs to and from campus.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Arkansas

There’s a range of financial aid resources available to nursing students in Arkansas. These include scholarships, grants, assistantships (for graduate students), employer tuition assistance programs, and more. There’s also the most common resource of all, the student loan. Student loans are available from many public and private sources, but the biggest source by far is the federal student loan program. Nursing students may also want to investigate loan repayment opportunities sponsored by the federal government’s Health Resources & Services Administration. Another great resource for funding your Arkansas nursing education is the ASBN itself through Loans & Scholarships and Rural Health Loans & Scholarships webpages. For more great information and advice on financial aid opportunities, visit EduMed’s guide to graduating from nursing school debt-free, nursing scholarship guide, and main financial aid guide.

How to Become an RN in Arkansas: Licensing Information and Requirements

Before you can work as an RN in Arkansas, you must either first obtain an RN license from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing or hold an active license from a multistate compact member. The RN licensure process in Arkansas is somewhat complicated, and nursing students should familiarize themselves with the ASBN’s RN licensing requirements long before graduation. RNs licensed in another state who are seeking to practice in Arkansas should visit the ASBN’s Licensure by Endorsement webpage. Below, we detail the steps to obtain your Arkansas RN license by NCLEX examination.

Step 1

Complete your nursing diploma or degree program

To sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, you must first complete an accredited and state-approved nursing diploma or degree program. Pre-licensure degree programs include nursing associate (ADN, AASN, or ASN), LPN to RN, traditional BSN, and accelerated BSN programs. Visit the ASBN – Approved Nursing Programs webpage to confirm current state-approval status.

Step 2

Submit your RN licensure application with the ASBN

Begin the application submission process approximately 60 days before graduation. Start by creating your Arkansas Nurse Portal account. It’s through this account you’ll submit and monitor your RN licensure application. Application requirements include a declaration of primary state of residence, Pearson VUE exam registration, completion of a state criminal background check, and payment of application fees. Your nursing program must also provide an Affidavit of Graduation and an official transcript.

Applicants can also apply for a temporary permit authorizing them to practice nursing in the state while awaiting their NCLEX-RN exam results. Temporary permits are valid for 90 days.

Step 3

Sign up for and take the NCLEX-RN exam

Register to take the exam with Pearson VUE, the national administrator for the NCLEX-RN exam. Approximately two to three weeks after registration, you’ll receive an Authorization to Test allowing you to schedule your exam. You’ll then sit for your exam at one of Person VUE’s testing locations. For detailed information on exam preparation, visit this NCLEX website.

Step 4

Receive your RN license

Results of your NCLEX-RN exam are forwarded by Pearson VUE to the ASBN within hours of completion. If you’ve passed and all other license application requirements have been met, the ASBN issues your RN license. You may verify issuance through Nursys. The ASBN does not mail paper copies of RN licenses.

Step 5

Keep your Arkansas RN license current

RN license renewal is handled through the holder’s Nurse Portal account. The ASBN renews RN licenses every two years with expiration on the holder’s birth date. Therefore, initial licenses may be valid anywhere from 91 days to two years from the issuance date. Continuing education requirements must be met before renewal. ASBN provides detailed information on CE requirements.

Job Outlook for RNs in Arkansas

The current strong job demand for nurses both in Arkansas and throughout the nation is a big plus for anyone in the profession today. The news is just as good for students currently in or about to start nursing degree programs. As the employment projection figures below indicate, there’s a solid and continuing positive trend in job growth for RNs in Arkansas and throughout the U.S. that will likely last through the next several years. Job growth figures are also projected to be strong for LPNs at 10.7% for both the U.S. and Arkansas as well.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Arkansas

New Jobs
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Arkansas 3,550 13.5% 1,850
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

Nursing Salaries in Arkansas: How Much You Could Make as an RN

As the BLS salary figures below indicate, RNs in several Arkansas metro areas and the nation overall can make significant incomes. Keep in mind, though, that these are median annual wage numbers. What you’ll actually earn in your RN job depends on factors like your specific employer, job title, previous nursing experience, and geographic location.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Arkansas

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
Arkansas $44,660 $62,330 $82,480
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO $45,920 $61,950 $83,390
Fort Smith, AR-OK $43,740 $58,050 $76,920
Hot Springs, AR $39,380 $59,810 $84,860
Jonesboro, AR $44,420 $60,470 $82,950
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR $52,040 $67,950 $87,520
Pine Bluff, AR $40,210 $62,600 $83,460

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020

Arkansas Nursing Resources

Arkansas Center for Nursing (ACN)

The ACN is a non-profit organization focused on addressing nursing workforce shortages and education capacity issues in the state through research, education, workforce policy, planning, and development. ACN website provides several nursing education and practice resources.

Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Association (ANPA)

This professional organization of nurse practitioners is dedicated to the advancement, support, and promotion of high standards of care by NPs throughout the state. Student membership benefits include a network for student preceptors, jobs, and other student resources, as well as access to association conferences and professional networking events.

Arkansas Nurses Association (ARNA)

The preeminent organization of RNs in Arkansas, the ARNA promotes the nursing profession through high practice standards and professional development. It also facilitates access to quality healthcare for all Arkansas citizens.

Arkansas Nursing Students’ Association (ANSA)

ANSA’s mission is to “organize, represent, and support” Arkansas nursing students preparing for initial RN licensure and those currently enrolled in nursing baccalaureate completion programs. The ANSA sponsors several scholarships for student members.

Scholarships and Resources for RN Students

This guide provides descriptions and links to valuable national, regional, and school-based scholarships along with information and advice on subjects like landing scholarships looking for nursing student support services. It also links to a ton of great online nursing professional and academic resources.