Nursing Schools in Chicago: Accredited Online & Campus Programs

Learn about top nursing programs in Chicago, figure out which degree best serves your needs, and examine licensure requirements in this informative guide.

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Last Updated: 05/24/2021
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Nearly 100,000 professionals make up the Greater Chicago registered nurse workforce, and this number is only expected to grow in the coming years. Whether you’re just starting your nursing career or you’ve been in the field for decades and want to upgrade your credentials, Chicago has plenty of nursing programs to help you meet your goals.

To help you make an informed and confident decision, this page highlights top programs at every academic level, reviews job and salary projections, and connects you with meaningful resources. Start your Chicago nursing school search below.

Best Nursing Schools in Chicago for 2021

Nursing programs in Chicago abound but remember that not all of them are created equally. Finding a nursing program that fits your needs in terms of accreditation and state approval, affordability, and flexibility can take time, but we’re here to help. Below, we spotlight three of the top schools in the city and review the variety of nursing programs available to help you begin or advance your nursing career. See your options for 2021.

Loyola University Chicago

From a traditional four-year BSN to graduate-level study, Loyola University Chicago offers academic nursing options for every level. Alongside the traditional four-year track, Loyola Chicago also offers both in-person and hybrid accelerated options for RNs already working in the field. Each option also holds CCNE accreditation.

Whether delving into the world of patient care or presenting a paper at the school’s annual research conference, Loyola Chicago students tackle rigorous theoretical coursework in both traditional on-campus and hybrid formats. In addition to an accelerated BSN, the school provides MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. programs as hybrid offerings along with an online post-graduate certificate in oncology nursing.

BSN students focus on four nursing areas: general, surgical/medical, maternal/child, and community health administration. At all levels of study, professional values like social justice, scientific reason, and a celebration of diversity guide learning initiatives.

Resurrection University

An upper-division university designed for students with a minimum of two years of college coursework, Resurrection University offers undergraduate coursework in nursing and imaging technology. Resurrection University has flexible courses provided day, night, weekday, or weekend, whether you’re a working RN or new to the field.

Resurrection University’s BSN has three start dates yearly and is often completed in as few as 16 months. In addition to the required hands-on clinical work, students tackle courses in foundations of nursing practice, women and newborn health nursing, and community and population-focused health. Additionally, Resurrection encourages students to enroll in a service-learning elective to apply their skills in underserved communities in the United States and beyond.

Along with undergraduate BSN and RN to BSN tracks, this Chicago-based school also offers graduate-level degrees, including various MSN concentrations and a DNP program.

Chicago State University

Chicago State University provides technical and professional nursing training essential to competent care and focuses on developing a sense of civic responsibility and dedication to community health. Offering both traditional BSN and RN to BSN tracks, CSU’s nursing program is accredited by the ACEN and holds approval from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations.

In addition to required clinical hours, CSU students complete a variety of both theoretical and practical nursing courses in topics like theory and professional issues in nursing, comprehensive care of adults, and community-based care of family. A recent program addition, the RN to BSN provides a flexible option for working nurses, requiring them to attend classes only one night per week.

Before being accepted into the school’s traditional BSN program, you must enroll as a pre-nursing major. Applicants must have a cumulative science GPA of at least 2.75, complete an entrance examination, and compose a 400-word personal essay discussing their decision to enter the nursing profession.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Chicago

Finding a nursing program in Chicago, regardless of whether you’re looking for an RN or PhD program or something in between, is easy given the number of schools offering nursing degrees in the Windy City and its surrounding area. We look at some of the most common nursing degrees available in Chicago below.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Chicago

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

If you want to work as a registered nurse in Chicago, the ADN serves as your fastest option into the profession. Frequently offered by community colleges and vocational schools, AND degrees typically require two years of full-time study and prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN after graduation.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

City Colleges of Chicago
South Suburban College

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (Traditional BSN)

better jobs and increased pay. These programs typically consist of 120 hours and incorporate both classroom learning and clinical experiences. You can find them as in-person or hybrid learning options.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

University of Illinois Chicago
Loyola University Chicago

Accelerated BSN Programs

These programs help students who possess bachelor’s degrees in unrelated subjects earn the skills and knowledge needed to transition into work as RNs. You can complete many of these programs in approximately 12-18 months.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

Loyola University Chicago
Saint Xavier University

Direct-Entry MSN Programs (Master of Science in Nursing)

Direct-entry MSN programs function similarly to accelerated BSN programs in that they support students who possess a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. If you want to bypass the BSN and move directly into a degree leading to advanced practice roles, a direct-entry MSN will meet your needs. They usually take between 15-30 months to finish.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

University of Illinois Chicago
DePaul University

Nursing Bridge Programs in Chicago for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

Because registered nurses earn higher salaries and take on advanced positions, many licensed vocational nurses decide to pursue the education needed to transfer to these roles. The LPN to RN results in an ADN and takes 1-2 years to complete. The LPN to BSN provides a bachelor’s degree and takes 2-3 years.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

Triton College
Saint Xavier University

RN to BSN Programs

Sometimes known as an and to BSN, these bridge programs allow you to upgrade your existing RN credentials to a bachelor’s degree. Many schools now offer these degrees entirely online since they don’t require any clinical components, and most take 12-24 months to complete.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

Resurrection University
Chicago State University

RN to MSN Programs

Suppose you already hold an associate degree but want to earn a master’s degree. An RN to MSN can shorten the time spent in school by cutting out some BSN requirements. In addition to general studies, many programs also allow you to select from several specializations. Most take 30-36 months to finish.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with this Program

DePaul University
University of Illinois Chicago

Advanced Nursing Programs in Chicago

Traditional MSN Programs (Master of Science in Nursing)

Designed for students who already hold BSNs, traditional MSN programs take about two years to complete and allow you to take on advanced practice RN roles. You can often select from specializations such as family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse leader. Many are available online.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with This Program

North Park University
Resurrection University

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and PhD Doctoral Programs

These terminal degrees allow you to practice at the top of the nursing field in different settings. The DNP supports nurses looking to continue their practice in medical settings, and most take about three years to complete. The PhD in nursing is designed for those looking to move into academia and/or research and usually takes four to five years to finish.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with This Program

Rush University
Loyola University Chicago

Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates

A post-graduate nursing certificate helps MSN-educated nurses expand their specializations or move into a niche area of the field. Most of these programs require about two semesters of study and include options like adult-gerontology, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, and neonatal care.

Examples of Chicago Nursing Schools with This Program

Loyola University Chicago
University of Illinois Chicago

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Chicago

Online nursing programs in Chicago recognize that many students who enroll have plenty of professional and personal responsibilities outside of school, so most create flexible programs that maximize time spent learning. While some colleges require you to log on at specific times to participate in live classes, many offer asynchronous options to help fit coursework into your existing schedule.

If you’re required to complete any clinical nursing requirements, know that these must take place in person. Program administrators will work with you to find a suitable location nearby, though. If your degree only comprises coursework, you may be able to graduate without any in-person obligations.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Chicago

University of Illinois

The University of Illinois-Chicago offers an online RN to BSN program that is often completed in as few as 16 months. This 30-credit track provides working nurses with the salary and career benefits of the BSN credential while also offering a practical path towards admission into UIC’s MSN program.

Applicants must have at least 57 transferable credits in liberal arts and science coursework. Additionally, prospective students must have a current RN license and an ADN degree or equivalent undergraduate nursing coursework. RN to BSN coursework includes concepts for contemporary nursing, introduction to nursing informatics, nursing leadership, and healthcare management.

Interested students must provide official transcripts from all previous institutions and have an overall transferable GPA of at least 2.5. Besides providing official documentation of current RN licensure, prerequisite science courses like human anatomy, physiology, and microbiology are also required.

Saint Xavier University

Saint Xavier University offers a 100% online RN to BSN program designed for working nurses who have an ADN degree and RN licensure. Typically graduating in only five semesters, SXU students complete 28 hours of nursing credits along with six hours of religion or philosophy.

As an RN to BSN student, you’ll undertake a variety of theoretical and practical courses. These include issues in women’s health, global health and population-based nursing care, and nursing management in professional nursing practice. Before graduation, students also complete a capstone in nursing practice, allowing them to apply knowledge and skills while demonstrating competencies outlined in program outcomes.

Applicants must submit an online application and provide proof of an active RN license. Additionally, prospective students must submit official transcripts from all previous college-level work and have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

DePaul University

Located near Chicago’s Lincoln Park, DePaul University offers an RN to MSN program available entirely online. Aside from clinical hours, students can complete coursework without interrupting personal and professional obligations. During this seamless track from RN to MSN, you’ll gain the practical skills and theoretical knowledge necessary for providing compassionate, competent care. The bachelor’s portion of coursework builds upon the skills and knowledge learned during ADN studies. After completing the bachelor’s component, students move into graduate-level classes.

The master’s portion of this flexible distance learning option prepares working nurses for professional specializations as nurse educators, family nurse practitioners, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, and nursing administrators. Core nursing courses include theoretical components of nursing, ethical and political engagement in nursing, and informatics and technology applications.

Applicants need ADN degrees or diplomas from an ACEN or CCNE accredited program. Prospective students must provide academic transcripts demonstrating a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. Like many bridge programs, DePaul requires that applicants provide proof of a current, unencumbered RN license.

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in Chicago

Can I earn my nursing degree in Chicago completely online?

It depends on the type of nursing degree you plan to pursue. Nursing programs that don’t include a clinical component, such as RN to BSN or traditional MSN programs, often exist online. While you may come across hybrid versions of other nursing degrees, they will still mandate face-to-face practicum experiences.

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

Attending a properly accredited and state-approved nursing program is the most important step you can take, whether enrolled online or on campus. So long as you check those boxes, employers won’t care what format you used to further your education.

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

Most schools charge the same tuition regardless of learning format. Still, as an online student you can often avoid campus-based expenses like parking and facilities fees. Rather than living in student accommodation, you can live in a more cost-effective part of the city while also avoiding transportation costs.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Chicago

If you want to avoid leaving college with a substantial amount of debt, investigate scholarships and grants. Since these don’t require repayment, they tend to be popular options. Organizations like the Illinois Nurses Foundation, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, and the Illinois Department of Public Health all provide nursing-specific scholarships. You can also look for other local and state opportunities and check into your school’s financial aid offerings. Fortunately, with the many resources available, finding nursing scholarships and creating a comprehensive financial aid plan doesn’t have to be complicated.

How to Become an RN in Chicago: Licensing Requirements

Becoming a registered nurse in Chicago requires you to first graduate from a state-approved and accredited ADN or BSN program and then take the NCLEX-RN exam. To take the NCLEX-RN exam, you must register with both Pearson VUE ($200) and Continental Testing Centers ($98). After passing the exam, you can apply for licensure. When applying to the Illinois Board of Nursing, plan to supply a certificate of education, official student roster, official transcripts, and proof of fingerprinting. Check out EduMed’s guide to nursing schools in Illinois for more information on licensing requirements.

Job Opportunities for RNs in Chicago

The Greater Chicago metropolitan area currently employs more than 95,000 registered nurses, making it the third-highest employment level for a metropolitan area. Data from the Chicago Jobs Council shows that new roles in nursing and residential care facilities will grow by nearly 8,000 positions by 2024, while jobs in hospitals are expected to expand by more than 4,000. If you’re looking for a steady, secure job devoted to helping people, becoming a registered nurse in Chicago is a great long-term decision. Some of the biggest employers in the area for nurses include Northwestern Medicine, Sinai Medical Group, Health Care Service Corporation, and Chicago Hospital.

How Much You Could Make as an RN in Chicago

As of 2020, registered nurses working in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin area earned annual mean wages of $77,970, or $37.48 per hour. These figures sit far above the national median pay of $36.22 per hour. When considering your earning potential as an RN living in Chicago, remember that factors such as your level of experience, degree level, type of employer, and location all play significant roles in determining your salary package. Also remember that while nurses in Chicago earn slightly more than the national average, the cost of living is also higher than other suburban and rural areas.

Earnings for Registered Nurses in Chicago

Median Hourly WageMean Hourly WageAnnual Mean Wage
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI$36.61$37.48$77,970
Illinois$34.91$35.85$74,560
United States$36.22$38.47$80,010

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020

Additional Chicago Nursing Resources

Chicago Chapter – National Black Nurses Association

Joining the Chicago chapter of the NBNA provides access to collective action initiatives on policy, opportunities to complete continuing education, and regularly scheduled online and in-person membership events.

Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium

CBNA supports Hispanic and Latino nurses in the Greater Chicago area by providing assessments and counseling, supportive services, advocacy efforts, and educational programming.

Chicago Area Nurse Practitioner Networking Group

This active Facebook group has more than 1,500 members who work in Chicago and the surrounding areas as nurse practitioners. You can network with fellow NPs, talk about the job, and build important contacts. Students are welcome to join.

Greater Chicago Area Chapter – American Association of Critical Care Nurses

The Chicago chapter of AACCN provides access to local job opportunities, webinars and in-person programming, a career center, and opportunities to take on leadership roles within the group.

Chicago Nurses

This Facebook group supports nurses working at all levels in Chicago and has more than 2,400 members. You can meet others in the field, get professional and educational questions answered, learn about local jobs, and stay connected.