Best Nursing Schools in Hawaii for 2022

Explore top-rated Hawaii nursing schools and the different online and in-person programs available. Plus, learn how to lower the cost of your nursing degree and find other key details on becoming a nurse in Hawaii.

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Timon Kaple

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Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.

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Last Updated: 01/12/2022
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Second only to California, registered nurses in Hawaii make an annual mean wage of over $104,000 (that’s over $50 an hour). Combine that with an expected 12.2 percent job growth and 800 average annual openings through the next six years, and now is a great time to become a nurse or take your RN career to the next level in Hawaii.

Nursing programs in Hawaii are plentiful and varied, making one that fits your unique goals and needs easy. This guide highlights the best available online and campus programs to help you find the right option for you. It also covers preparing for and passing the NCLEX exam, outlines popular nursing career paths in Hawaii, and provides other helpful information such as financial aid opportunities.

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

Hawaii’s nursing programs not only offer high NCLEX pass rates, but they also come in a variety of degree options to help meet the needs of healthcare facilities throughout the state. The top accredited schools highlighted below were chosen based on their affordability, how well they prepare you for nursing careers, and their high-quality student support services. Take a closer look to see which nursing programs in Hawaii stand out in 2022.

Kapiolani Community College

A public college founded in 1946, Honolulu’s KCC is part of the University of Hawaii School System. The school offers two associate degree nursing programs to prepare students for the NCLEX-RN exam in two years or less. One program is designed for current LPNs and the other for learners with no nursing training. The ASN requires 70-73 credits, depending on an incoming students’ previous training. Aside from hands-on clinicals, all instruction takes place on campus in Honolulu. For the last three years, KCC reported a 95.5-100% NCLEX-RN pass rate for its associate degree-holders. All entering students with LPN credentials passed the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt in 2018, 2019, and 2020. KCC’s nursing program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

University of Hawaii Maui College

Founded in 1931, UHMC is also part of the University of Hawaii School System and holds accreditation from the ACEN. The school has an Associate in Science Registered Nurse program that, for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 academic years, reported a 97%-100% pass rate for ASN-holders. This 73-credit program offers easy transfer to BSN programs at UH Manoa and UH Hilo. Required classes include regulations, accounts and community resources, health promotion across the lifespan, and pathophysiology. UHMC students have access to top clinical sites in the area, including Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital, and Cancer Institute of Maui. To help offset the cost of this nursing degree, UHMC offers two internal scholarships, including one reserved for non-U.S. citizens.

Chaminade University of Honolulu

Established in 1955, Chaminade is a private institution located in Kaimuki. Among its 23 undergraduate degree offerings are two Bachelor of Science in nursing programs. One program serves students without any previous college credit while the other is an accelerated track for students with general education requirements already completed. BSN nursing programs at Chaminade take place in person, both on campus and in clinical facilities. The traditional BSN takes four years to complete, but the accelerated track can be finished in about two years. Prospective BSN students at Chaminade need 2.75 or higher GPAs for consideration. Applicants also need two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and personal statements outlining nursing career goals.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Hawaii

With continuous advancements in remote learning technologies, many nursing schools around the U.S., including Hawaii, are offering fully online, hybrid, and in-person programs at all degree levels. Regardless of your educational level or experience, you can find a nursing program in Hawaii that meets your personal, academic, and career needs and leads to licensure. Below are some of the most common nursing career paths available at the best nursing schools in Hawaii.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Hawaii

ADN Programs

Associate degrees in nursing (ADNs) are for those with no previous nursing training or experience. ADN programs usually take two years to complete and offer the foundational skills and knowledge needed to sit for the NCLEX-RN. These programs are for individuals who want to work in outpatient facilities, nursing homes, home healthcare, and clinics.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees (BSNs) best serve students who already possess RN licensure or ADNs. Traditional BSNs usually take full-time students four years to complete. Those with RN licensure often finish the BSN in two years.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Students wanting to pursue BSNs but who already possess bachelor’s degrees in another area should apply for accelerated BSN programs. Incoming students in accelerated BSN programs typically do not possess RN licensure, and these programs help them obtain this. Learners can finish these programs in about 12 months.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Hawaii for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN programs help LPNs progress toward RN careers. These programs are often available in both online and in-person formats and prepare LPNs to sit for the NCLEX-RN. LPN to RN programs take less than two years to finish, while LPN to BSN programs take 2-3 years.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN programs are for students who already possess ADNs and current RN licenses. Sometimes referred to as bridge programs, RN to BSN programs result in bachelor’s degrees. They expand nurses’ career opportunities and increase their earning potential. Most students complete RN to BSN programs in 1-2 years.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

Some schools offer a direct path toward a master’s degree in nursing, including options for RNs with ADNs or BSNs. Most students in RN to MSN programs have associate degrees and RN licensure and choose this path to complete BSN and MSN requirements simultaneously. Some RN to MSN programs require bachelor’s degrees in outside fields. Depending on students’ educational history and availability, many complete RN to MSN degrees in 2-3 years.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Hawaii

MSN Programs

MSN degree-seekers choose from traditional MSNs and direct-entry MSNs. The traditional path is for those with BSNs. Direct-entry programs are for individuals with bachelor’s degrees in an outside field. These programs typically allow you to pursue a specialization area like nursing education or family nurse practitioner.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

DNP and PhD programs are for MSN degree-holders who wish to pursue leadership or research careers. DNP’s best serve those looking for nursing leadership roles in healthcare settings or as advanced practice nurses, such as family nurse practitioners or psychiatric nurse practitioners. The PhD is a research-focused degree that prepares students to contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the field and advance nursing practices.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Students who graduate with an MSN or DNP can receive additional education in a particular area of the field through graduate certificate programs. Common post-graduate certificate paths include acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and mental health nurse practitioner. These certificates usually take 1-2 years to complete.

Examples of Hawaii Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Hawaii

Online nursing programs in Hawaii offer the same quality of education as traditional programs but have the added convenience of distance learning. Online and hybrid nursing programs in Hawaii typically offer didactic learning or traditional classroom-type instruction in a remote format with hands-on learning opportunities, usually referred to as clinicals or immersions, completed in person near campus or where a student lives. Online nursing programs best serve students who are self-starters with excellent time management skills. Whether classes are offered in synchronous or asynchronous formats, nursing students must complete assignments on time. Additionally, distance students working remotely may need to locate healthcare facilities to complete clinicals near where they live.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Hawaii

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Located in Honolulu, UH is a public research university founded in 1907. Among its 200 degree offerings is an online ASN to BSN for individuals with associate degrees or nursing diplomas. UH boasts a 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate for first-time exam takers. Its online nursing curriculum features 30 credits of mostly asynchronous classes either part-time or full-time. Full-time students can complete all nursing courses in as few as two semesters. In total, the ADN to BSN requires 120 credits, 30 of which must be completed at UH. Online ADN-to-BSN applicants must possess associate degrees or diplomas in nursing with 2.0 or higher GPAs. An unencumbered RN license or evidence of a passing NCLEX-RN score by the second semester is needed for admittance.

Students can also pursue an MSN or DNP in online or hybrid formats at UH. MSN and DNP students can choose from specialties in advanced population health, adult-gerontology primary care, and family nurse practitioner. DNP students can also follow the post-master’s in organizational leadership track. These graduate programs accept applications from non-nurses with bachelor’s degrees other fields. Additional entry routes exist for RNs with BSNs, ASNs with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees, or MSNs. Competitive graduate-level applicants possess 3.0 or higher GPAs.

Hawaii Pacific University

HPU is a private institution located in Honolulu and Kaneohe that offers online access to both an MSN and DNP without any on-campus obligations. For the online MSN, students choose from three online concentrations: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Depending on the concentration, master’s students must complete 45-48 credits for graduation. Core classes for all specialty tracks include introduction to advanced practice roles, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced pharmacology. Online MSN students can complete the program in as few as 28 months.

HPU’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice combines practice-centered knowledge and methods with the latest research in the field to ultimately improve patient care. DNP students choose from two tracks depending on their educational history: BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP. Core classes for DNP students include advanced pharmacology, advanced physical assessment, and advanced nursing research. Depending on the track, BSN to DNP students need 72-75 credits for graduation and can expect to spend about 34-44 months completing their degrees. MSN to DNP students need 30 credits to graduate and often finish in 1-2 years.

HPU’s nursing school is a member of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Hawaii

Nursing programs in Hawaii are expensive. Luckily there are several financial aid options to help offset the cost. Many nursing schools in Hawaii offer funding opportunities like scholarships, assistantships, or federal work-study programs, so be sure to check individual schools. In addition, look for funding at the local and state levels. Professional associations like the Hawaii Student Nurses Association also offer scholarships for nursing students. Nursing students can also get funding through the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, the Gates Scholarship, and Hawaii Community Foundation. For more information on financial aid and scholarships, check out EduMed’s nursing scholarship guide, guide to graduating from nursing school debt-free, and main financial aid guide.

How to Become an RN in Hawaii

Prospective RNs need to apply through the Hawaii Board of Nursing to obtain licensure in the state. This state agency formulates and upholds state laws pertaining to nursing education, licensure, and practice for all nursing professionals. It’s important to understand all of Hawaii’s requirements before embarking on your nursing education and applying for licensure.

Step 1

Complete State-Approved RN Degree

The first step toward RN licensure is to complete a degree program that qualifies you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Aspiring RNs can choose between ASN and BSN programs offered at state-approved nursing schools. You’ll need to complete one of these programs in its entirety, including online or in-person coursework and hands-on clinical training, to be able to take the NCLEX.

Step 2

Submit Application for Licensure to the State

Required materials for your state licensure application include a completed application form, official ASN or BSN transcripts, a copy of your government-issued photo ID, and a copy of your signed social security card. Applicants must also pass criminal history record checks and comply with electronic fingerprinting requirements. Completed applications must be submitted within 30 days of fingerprinting. All materials must be submitted using the Hawaii Board of Nursing forms.

Step 3

Submit NCLEX-RN Exam Application

Next, complete the NCSBN’s two-step NCLEX registration process. Note that the NCLEX-RN exam is a nationwide test, so a passing score is valid in Hawaii and all other states. You’ll pay a $200 fee to take the exam in addition to a $40 application fee. You’ll know you’re eligible to sit for the exam when you receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) email. You can then schedule your exam at a local testing center.

Step 4

Pass NCLEX-RN Exam

The NCLEX-RN computerized exam is a pass-fail test that covers foundational categories of nursing care, including health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, reduction of risk potential, and safety and infection control. The number of questions on the exam varies per year but typically is a minimum of 75 and up to 265 questions. You’ll have six hours to complete the exam.

Step 5

Keep Licensure Current

RN licenses in Hawaii expire on June 30th of every odd-numbered year. Applicants for licensure renewal in Hawaii must have 30 hours of continuing education credits. Continuing education providers must be approved by the state, and you can find a list of acceptable providers in the Hawaii Board of Nursing’s continuing competency booklet.

Job Outlook for RNs in Hawaii

The job outlook for RNs in the state of Hawaii is positive with a 12.2% growth in available positions for registered nurses in Hawaii by 2028. That’s slightly faster growth than the average annual openings across the U.S. for RNs. Registered nurses in Hawaii and elsewhere continue to be in demand because of the aging baby boomer population’s need for healthcare. RNs work in a variety of healthcare environments that serve this demographic, including long-term rehabilitation facilities, outpatient care centers, home care settings, and residential care facilities.

Employment Projections for RNs in Hawaii

New Jobs
(2018-2028)
Job Growth Rate
(2018-2028)
Average Annual Openings
(2018-2028)
Hawaii 13,040 12.2% 800
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

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

Hawaii offers the second-highest annual mean wage in the U.S. for RNs., substantially higher than national median earnings. RNs working in urban Honolulu make the highest median salary at $112,330. That’s $37,000 more per year than the median earnings of RNs across the U.S. RNs working in Kahului, Wailuku, and Lahaina are not far behind with median earnings of $108,330.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Hawaii


10th Percentile Mehian Earnings 90th Percentile
Hawaii $70,090 $110,410 $134,660
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI $67,320 $108,330 $129,320
Urban Honolulu, HI $72,330 $112,330 $135,820

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020