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Illinois’s Top BSN Programs for 2024: Online & Campus

A BSN program can help you start, or advance, your nursing career regardless of your academic or professional background. In this guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know about top Illinois programs, what they offer, and what to consider when choosing the best one for you.

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WRITTEN BY: Michael Hoffman
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REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 09/06/2023

Editorial Values and Practices

Are you looking for a career that’s both highly rewarding and highly challenging? Are you inspired to provide service to others? Then a career in nursing may be for you. But with all of the different paths into the profession, how do you know which one is right for you? Start with this very important fact: Based on a recent survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nearly two-thirds of employers strongly prefer to hire nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. And further, nearly a third of hospitals and other healthcare settings now require new hires to possess a BSN.

We’ve written this guide to introduce you to the many benefits of earning your bachelor’s in nursing through a quality BSN programs in Illinois. Below we’ll explore the various types of BSN programs in Illinois, explain why employers prefer to hire baccalaureate-prepared nurses, and address students’ most frequently asked questions about BSN programs.

So, if you’re ready to discover the ins and outs of a BSN, keep reading to get started by taking a look at our list of top programs for the ’23-’34 school year.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS. 

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted. 

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Institutional Aid – Percent of full-time undergraduate students who are awarded institutional grant aid, as self-reported by the school.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Southern Illinois University-EdwardsvilleEdwardsville, IL Public $ 1

Registered nurses looking for a flexible, fast way to get their BSN should consider the program from Southern Illinois University. While housed through their Edwardsville campus, all courses can be completed online. The program was designed with the working nurse in mind; class times are flexible and courses operate on 8 week intervals, giving students more opportunities to adjust their course load. Even if taking courses on a part-time basis, many students graduate in less than two years.

Program Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing, RN to BSN

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 1-2 years
  • Cost: $319.20/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
81%
2 Western Illinois UniversityMacomb, IL Public $ 1

Western Illinois University's Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN-BSN Completion Program is a fully online program designed for working, licensed RNs who have either an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Students are required to complete a clinical practice/project for the community health course. The program boasts NCLEX pass rates that exceed state and national averages. Graduates have a 100% job placement rate upon graduation.

Program Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN-BSN Completion Program (Online)

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $317.18/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
79%
3 University of Illinois ChicagoChicago, IL Public $$ 1

University of Illinois Chicago's RN to BSN Online program prepares graduates to meet patient needs in healthcare and be empowered to continue to grow in their careers. Students may enter the program prior to obtaining their RN license, however they must pass the NCLEX by the end of the first semester. The program is rigorous, emphasizing critical thinking and offering a collaborative learning environment with first-class faculty. The program offers both flexibility and affordability. Graduates will be prepared for career opportunities such as management, quality and safety, case management, and community or public health nursing.

Program Highlights:

RN to BSN Online

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: About 12 months
  • Cost: $330/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
19/1
Online
Student %
93%
4 Northern Illinois UniversityDekalb, IL Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
70%
5 Benedictine UniversityLisle, IL Private not-for-profit $$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
89%
6 University of St FrancisJoliet, IL Private not-for-profit $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
83%
7 Chamberlain University-IllinoisAddison, IL Private for-profit $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
19/1
Online
Student %
96%
8 Lewis UniversityRomeoville, IL Private not-for-profit $$$$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
77%
9 Governors State UniversityUniversity Park, IL Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
10/1
Online
Student %
66%
10 McKendree UniversityLebanon, IL Private not-for-profit $$$$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
60%
11 Illinois State UniversityNormal, IL Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
19/1
Online
Student %
42%
12 Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health SciencesQuincy, IL Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
10/1
Online
Student %
91%
13 Rasmussen University-IllinoisRockford, IL Private for-profit $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
Online
Student %
66%
14 Methodist CollegePeoria, IL Private not-for-profit $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
8/1
Online
Student %
67%
15 Olivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL Private not-for-profit $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
48%
16 Loyola University ChicagoChicago, IL Private not-for-profit $$$$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
14/1
Online
Student %
46%
17 Illinois CollegeJacksonville, IL Private not-for-profit $$$$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
7%
18 St. John’s College-Department of NursingSpringfield, IL Private not-for-profit $$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
8/1
Online
Student %
17%

School Spotlights: Popular BSN Programs in Illinois

A great way to start your search for a BSN program in Illinois is by taking a look at some of best programs available. That’s why we’ve spotlighted three popular programs for 2024:

Elmhurst University

Elmhurst University’s Online Accelerated BSN is an excellent choice for bachelor’s degree holders looking to change careers and enter the nursing profession. The ABSN program’s 60-credit curriculum can be completed in just 16 months (four semesters) of full-time study. All coursework is completed asynchronously online with the exception of two brief residencies at Elmhurst’s Simulation Center on the main campus just west of Chicago. Students must complete over 450 hours of clinical rotations at an approved practice site in the their local community. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in any field, a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher, and completion of seven prerequisite courses in science, statistics, and psychology. Additionally, applicants must currently reside in or plan to move to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Vermont, or Wisconsin. Start dates are available in both the spring and fall.

Elmhurst University also offers campus-based traditional BSN and RN to BSN programs.

Illinois State University

Current registered nurses looking to advance their careers by earning their BSN degree will want to consider the RN to BSN program from the Mennonite College of Nursing at Illinois State University. The program offers several features that make it one of the most convenient and flexible programs available. All coursework is delivered online, and both one-year (full-time) and two-year (part-time) study plans are available—program lengths may be extended if students need to complete additional general education courses. Start dates are available in both the spring and fall. To be considered for admission students must have an unrestricted RN license in their current state of residence, plus either a nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing and a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. The program is accredited by the CCNE and internationally quality-certified through Quality Matters.

In addition to its RN to BSN, Illinois State offers Traditional BSN and Accelerated BSN pre-licensure programs, both of which are campus-based.

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago is home to the highly respected Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. In addition to Four-Year BSN and RN to BSN programs, Loyola Chicago offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science (ABSN) degree that allows students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to complete all BSN requirements in as few as 16 months. The curriculum is made up of three integrative learning components: accelerated nursing courses, nursing simulation and skills labs, and the clinical rotation hours needed for NCLEX-RN exam.

The ABSN program at Loyola Chicago is unique in that students can choose between on-campus and hybrid learning options. Students who opt for the hybrid option will complete their nursing simulation and skills labs at Loyola’s Downers Grove location, while on-campus students will attend all classes and labs at the school’s Health Sciences Campus in Maywood. Clinical rotations are completed in-person at various healthcare facilities in the Chicago metropolitan area.

A Look at the Benefits of Earning a BSN Program in Illinois

There are quicker and less costly ways of getting the education you need to launch your nursing career (like earning an ADN degree), but there’s no better way to do it than by earning your bachelor’s in nursing. Consider just three of the many benefits you’ll gain by enrolling in one of the BSN programs in Illinois:

Diverse Population

It should come as no surprise that colleges and universities with BSN programs tend to have larger, more diverse student populations. A diverse student body, and school diversity and inclusion efforts (like those at Illinois State University), help students develop greater cultural sensitivity in their academic pursuits. They also expose students to a wider presentation of medical conditions and array of healthcare challenges—a major plus in an ever-diversifying nursing practice environment.

Research and Innovation Opportunities

One very important but often overlooked advantage that BSN students (like those at Loyola University Chicago) have over students in ADN or nursing diploma programs is the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with faculty members on their nursing research. Being able to add research experience to your resume can pay big dividends during your job search, especially if you decide to continue on to graduate school.

Strong Professional Associations

Professional nursing associations provide an almost endless number of support services and networking opportunities, and are a tremendous resource for BSN students. There are many excellent national and state associations available to all nursing students, regardless of their degree level, but BSN students in Illinois (like those at the University of Illinois Chicago) often have the additional advantage of having access to student nurse organizations within their own schools.

Criteria to Consider When Choosing BSN Programs in Illinois

Once you’re certain that a BSN is the best option for starting or advancing your nursing career, it’s time to find the specific program that’s right for you. As you explore your program choices, there are several important elements to look for, including these three:

Accreditation

Proper accreditation is a crucial feature of any Illinois BSN program you consider. There are two forms of accreditation to look for. The first, institutional accreditation, concerns the academic quality of a postsecondary school overall. The second is programmatic accreditation, which concerns the vetting of specific degree programs offered by colleges and universities. Institutional accreditation is overseen by a number of independent U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agencies, while the programmatic accreditation of Illinois BSN programs is administered primarily by two accrediting bodies: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

You can check the current accreditation status of schools and degree programs using this Department of Education accreditation search engine.

NCLEX Preparation & Pass Rates

One of the primary goals of all BSN programs in Illinois is to successfully prepare its students to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is a primary requirement for obtaining an RN license in every state and U.S. Territory. One of the very best ways to gauge how successfully a school prepares its students is to look at a program’s NCLEX exam pass rate. Programs with notably high pass rates often note those rates on their program websites. If you’re not finding them there, you can check the most current (2022) pass rates here.

Well-Rounded Curriculum

One of the big reasons that employers prefer to hire registered nurses with a BSN degree is that they know most BSN graduates have received a solid, well-rounded education. That includes the coursework that provides the specific nursing knowledge and skills needed for RN practice as well as the general education courses–in English, math, the humanities, and the natural and social sciences–that help turn students into competent professionals. Be sure that the program you ultimately choose provides you with that well-rounded educational experience.

Types of BSN Programs in Illinois

Once you start looking into the many BSN programs in Illinois, you’ll soon realize that there many different types of programs out there, each serving students with different academic backgrounds and career goals. In this section, we’ll examine the most common BSN program types to help you determine the one that’s best for you.

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated (aka second degree) BSN programs are pre-licensure programs that allow students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing major to apply the general education credits from that degree to their BSN program. As a result, students can complete their bachelor’s in nursing in less time, typically around 16 months. Like traditional BSN programs, ABSN programs are campus-based (the Elmhurst University program is an exception), but may allow students to complete some coursework online. Like all pre-licensure programs, ABSN programs require students to complete face-to-face clinical hours in order to take the NCLEX exam and obtain RN licensure.

Examples of Illinois Nursing Schools with This Program

Direct Entry BSN Programs

Many Illinois colleges with traditional BSN programs offer a direct entry (aka direct admit) option to highly motivated incoming freshmen who meet certain additional admissions requirements. Direct entry students enter college with a guarantee of acceptance into the BSN program (which typically begins in the third year of their college studies) as long as they maintain a required minimum GPA on their pre-licensure coursework. Selection into the BSN program is not guaranteed to non-direct entry students who must compete for one of the limited remaining seats in the program.

Examples of Illinois Nursing Schools with This Program

LPN to BSN Programs

Current licensed practical nurses can advance their nursing careers by becoming RNs through an LPN to BSN program. LPN to BSN programs can be thought of as an alternative to traditional BSN programs in that they typically follow a school’s traditional program’s structure and course of study, but differ in that they accept a number of transfer credits from the student’s LPN program, thus saving the student time and money. Another key difference is that several LPN to BSN programs in Illinois offer both full-time and part-time options. Like traditional BSN students, however, LPN to BSN students are required to complete in-person clinical rotations.

Examples of Illinois Nursing Schools with This Program

Online BSN Programs

Online BSN programs offer students tremendous convenience and flexibility in completing their degree requirements. Whether you can take advantage of online study will depend on your specific BSN program. Most RN to BSN programs in Illinois are offered entirely online and often deliver their content entirely or partially in an asynchronous format that allows students to access and complete their coursework according to their own schedules. On the other hand, the vast majority of pre-licensure BSN programs are entirely campus-based. There are a few exceptions, though including the hybrid-format programs at Chamberlain University and Elmhurst University (linked below). Almost all schools offer at least some of their general education courses online.

Examples of Illinois Nursing Schools with This Program

RN to BSN Programs

A BSN degree is not only a great way to enter the nursing profession, but also a great way for current RNs with a nursing diploma or ADN degree to gain the extra clinical and leadership skills needed to stand out in the job market. RN to BSN programs in Illinois are extremely popular and offered by numerous colleges and universities throughout the state. And without the clinical rotation hours required in pre-licensure BSN programs, most RN to BSN students are able to complete all degree requirements online, often in an asynchronous format. Program lengths vary, but most students can earn their degrees in around two to two and a half years of full-time study or four years of part-time study.

Examples of Illinois Nursing Schools with This Program

Traditional BSN Programs

When most people think of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, they think of a traditional BSN program. That is, a typically four-year, full-time degree program designed for students with no nursing work experience and little to no prior college coursework. Virtually all traditional BSN programs in Illinois are campus-based, meaning students attend classes and skills/simulation labs on-campus and clinical rotations at hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the local area. Some programs, however, do offer a few nursing theory courses as well as some, or all, general education courses online. Most traditional BSN programs are strictly full-time, but a few (like Methodist College) offer part-time study as an option.

Examples of Illinois Nursing Schools with This Program

FAQs About BSN Programs in Illinois

If you’ve read this far, then hopefully you have a solid understanding of what Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs are all about. To help fill in any gaps you might still have, here are the answers to a few of the most common questions asked by prospective BSN students:

Can I work while pursuing a BSN in Illinois?

You can work while pursuing your BSN, but it’s not always a good idea. Most pre-licensure programs (traditional BSN, ABSN, LPN to BSN) are full-time and, therefore, require a substantial time commitment, in terms of study and clinical rotation hours. As a result, working a job while pursuing a pre-licensure BSN degree is strongly discouraged. Conversely, most RN to BSN programs in Illinois are specifically designed to accommodate RNs who want or need to work full-time while earning their degrees.

Are there specific prerequisite courses I need to take?

Virtually all pre-licensure BSN programs in Illinois require students to complete some number of prerequisite courses prior to starting the program’s nursing curriculum. Exactly which courses, and how many of them you’ll be required to take depends on the specific program you choose. For example, most traditional BSN students will first complete a pre-nursing curriculum (typically during their first two years of study) before entering the BSN program proper where they’ll complete all of the nursing courses, labs, and clinical rotation hours needed to earn their degrees. Pre-nursing curriculums (like the one at the Illinois State University) commonly include a number of foundational courses in subjects like biology, psychology, chemistry, nutrition, and statistics. ABSN, LPN to BSN, and RN to BSN students may not have to complete an entire pre-nursing curriculum but will typically be required to complete some prerequisite courses.

Are online BSN programs in Illinois accredited?

Absolutely. In fact, online BSN programs in Illinois have the same institutional and programmatic accreditation as their on-campus counterparts. Examples of online BSN programs in Illinois accredited by the CCNE include the fully-online RN to BSN program at Illinois College and hybrid-formatted BSN program on Chamberlain University’s Addison campus. As we mentioned earlier, proper accreditation is a critical factor in choosing any BSN program. If you can’t confirm both the institutional and programmatic accreditation of an online program you’re considering, it’s time to cross that one off your potential program list.

How do BSN programs differ from other nursing programs?

We touched earlier on the fact that there are quicker ways to start your nursing career than with a BSN degree, but what are those ways and how do they differ from BSN programs? Here’s a look:

  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Programs: LPN certificate of completion (or achievement) programs prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-PN exam to become Licensed Practical Nurses (or Licensed Vocational Nurses, for California and Texas graduates). Programs typically require 12 months (full-time) to 24 months (part-time) to complete. The mean annual salary (as of May 2022) for LPNs in Illinois is $58,840.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Programs: Certified Nursing Assistant certificate programs in Illinois prepare students to take the state’s CNA competency exam and become eligible for employment as CNAs. Typical completion times for CNA certificate programs are anywhere from eight weeks to six months. The mean annual salary (as of May 2022) for nursing assistants in Illinois is $36,750.
  • Nursing Diploma and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs: Both nursing diploma and ADN programs in Illinois offer quicker routes (about 12 months full-time for nursing diploma programs and two years full-time for ADN programs) to the NCLEX-RN exam and registered nurse licensure than BSN programs do. However, neither of these program types offers the substantial academic and career benefits of having a BSN degree, as we’ve discussed.

Earning your BSN degree is an important step in a successful nursing career. Before taking that step, it’s helpful to have a clear idea of what lies ahead of you once you’ve completed your BSN program. Below are current earnings and job growth estimates for registered nurses (RNs) in Illinois from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to help get you started. Although there are more career options for BSN graduates other than becoming an RN, like becoming an nurse educator or manager, we’ve focused on job prospects for RNs because it’s the most popular role for BSN graduates.

Earning Potential with a BSN in Illinois

Earnings for registered nurses in Illinois are healthy throughout the state, according to the recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed in the chart below. This is certainly the case when you compare earnings estimates for Illinois LPNs and CNAs (see above). Keep in mind, however, that these figures are averages for each geographic area of the state. What you actually earn in your RN job will depend not only on geography, but also on your job title, employer, and duties (including which shifts you work), as well as your level of professional nursing experience.

AreaOccupation10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
IllinoisRegistered Nurses$59,640$77,580$100,650
Bloomington, ILRegistered Nurses$56,020$71,000$89,320
Carbondale-Marion, ILRegistered Nurses$48,350$63,370$93,630
Champaign-Urbana, ILRegistered Nurses$57,910$73,600$93,410
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WIRegistered Nurses$61,300$78,670$100,980
Danville, ILRegistered Nurses$52,060$72,010$94,690
Decatur, ILRegistered Nurses$56,710$71,830$90,290
Kankakee, ILRegistered Nurses$60,550$77,030$99,070
Peoria, ILRegistered Nurses$57,960$70,650$77,980
Rockford, ILRegistered Nurses$59,060$74,460$93,340
Springfield, ILRegistered Nurses$59,110$75,000$94,710

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

The Job Market for Illinois BSN Nurses

According to the figures taken from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Projections Central website (listed in the chart below), job growth for registered nurses in Illinois is projected to be somewhat lower that for the nation overall. Nevertheless, Illinois BSN graduates looking for RN jobs will find nearly 8,000 well-paying job openings for RNs annually and a total of over 6,000 new positions created between 2020 and 2023.

New Jobs (2020-2030)Job Growth Rate (2020-2030)Average Annual Openings (2020-2030)
RNs in Illinois62504.6%7870

Source: Projections Central