Best Nursing Schools in Kentucky: Top Online & Campus Programs

Review the top nursing schools in Kentucky and see how they can help you make the first or next move in your RN nursing career.

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Written By

Kathleen Curtis

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Kathleen Curtis is an American writer currently living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has developed content around education for more than a decade for both domestic and international clients.

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Whether you’re considering your first degree in nursing or you’re looking to upgrade your RN credentials with an advanced graduate degree, nursing schools in Kentucky provide degrees and certificates at every level to meet your needs. On this page, we’ve highlighted the very best Kentucky nursing programs available in this guide, including both traditional and online options, to help you get started on your search. You’ll also find helpful information on salaries and job demand, licensing requirements, and financial aid opportunities for Kentucky nurses.

2022’s Best Accredited Nursing Schools in Kentucky

With an expanding pool of nursing schools in Kentucky, finding the one that meets your educational, financial, and professional needs can feel overwhelming. To help you with this process, we identified some of the top nursing programs in Kentucky offering affordable tuition, proper accreditation, and top-tier student support. The three below set the standard for quality nursing schools and programs in the state.

University of Kentucky

The College of Nursing at the University of Kentucky offers a breadth of nursing programs to meet students where they are and provide the education they need to land meaningful and well-paying jobs. Students select from programs like the traditional BSN, accelerated BSN, RN to BSN, LPN to BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD in nursing, and a postgraduate APRN certificate. The department also provides continuing education opportunities through live events and web courses.

Online programs include the RN to BSN and MSN, while the DNP takes a hybrid approach. UK is devoted to educating nurses who can work with the state’s large smoking population. To that end, it also provides a tobacco treatment specialist graduate certificate.

University of Louisville

Based in the state’s largest city, the University of Louisville’s School of Nursing provides a full complement of nursing programs to help students at every academic level. Programs include a BSN, second-degree BSN, second-degree MEPN, RN to BSN, MSN, DNP, and PhD in nursing. Students can also pursue a postgraduate APRN certificate. Of these programs, the RN to BSN can be completed fully online without visiting the Louisville campus.

In addition to providing cost-effective tuition rates, the department also provides several scholarships to help reduce expenses. The school is known for its Office of Nursing Research, which provides funded research opportunities and releases publications. The nursing department at the University of Louisville also maintains a strong alumni network for mentoring and networking opportunities.

Western Kentucky University

The School of Nursing and Allied Health at Western Kentucky University educates future practitioners, professionals, researchers, and policy experts alike with its variety of nursing programs. Degree options include a traditional BSN, MEPN, LPN to ASN, BSN to DNP, and MSN to DNP. Nurses who already hold MSNs can also select from several different postgraduate certificate programs. As of 2021, the LPN to ASN can be completed online.

In addition to providing multiple scholarships, WKU also offers several tools to help students make informed, confident decisions. Prospective students can take virtual tours of the BSN program, and there’s also a detailed guide on how to select a top-tier nursing program.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Kentucky

Nursing programs in Kentucky run the gamut, from certificates and diplomas to doctorates. Whether you’re just getting started or looking to complete an advanced degree, there’s a program to meet your educational and career needs. Below is an overview of the most common nursing programs available in Kentucky to help you choose the right one for you.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Kentucky

ADN Programs

ADNs are typically offered by community colleges and vocational schools and take two years to complete. Consisting of approximately 60 credits, these programs provide the minimum education needed to become an RN. Some students move directly into the workforce after this program while others move toward a BSN.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

Traditional BSN programs support first-time students who want to bypass the ADN and move straight to bachelor’s degrees. These programs consist of approximately 120 credits and require four years of full-time study. Many schools provide partially-online BSNs, but all clinicals and rotations are in-person.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

If you’re a first-time student who wants a BSN but also wants to graduate in fewer than four years, an accelerated BSN is your best option. These programs allow students to meet all degree and training requirements in 36-42 months rather than the traditional four years.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Kentucky for Current Nurses

LVN to RN and LVN to BSN Programs

If you currently work as a licensed vocational nurse but want to update your credentials and increase your earning potential, consider one of these two bridge programs. The LVN to RN results in an ADN and takes about two years. The LVN to BSN results in a bachelor’s degree and takes about three years.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

This bridge program supports students with ADNs and RN experience but who want to upgrade to bachelor’s degrees. RN to BSN programs usually last 12-24 months and are often completed fully online since they don’t require clinicals.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

Designed for students upgrading from ADNs, these programs result in a Master of Science in Nursing. Programs last three to four years, depending on whether you study part time or full time. They can also be completed fully online since they do not have clinical components.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Kentucky

MSN Programs

MSN programs support both BSN holders looking to take the next educational step and non-nurses who possess bachelor’s degrees in unrelated subjects. Timelines, degree requirements, and clinical hours depend on your current credentials.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Offered as terminal degrees, the DNP supports learners looking to continue building professional skills and usually takes three years. The PhD supports students who want to move into teaching or research and typically takes 4-6 years.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Post-graduate certificates come in a variety of topics to help students build niche skills and knowledge in particular nursing areas. For instance, an MSN-educated professional may decide to pursue a post-graduate certificate in primary and acute adult-gerontological care after concentrating initial studies in family nurse practitioner.

Examples of Kentucky Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Kentucky

Whether in-person or online, many Kentucky nursing programs try to accommodate the schedules of working adults. Campus-based options may provide evening classes for nurses who work during the day while online programs offer asynchronous learning to add flexibility to schedules.

Any program leading to licensure will require an in-person component since students must complete a set number of clinical hours. Students work with advisors to find suitable locations to complete any required clinical nursing requirements. Those who already work in a nursing setting may be able to complete those hours at their places of employment. The online nursing programs in Kentucky highlighted below show what to expect from a quality online/hybrid nursing program.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Kentucky

Northern Kentucky University

From its location in Highland Heights, Northern Kentucky University’s School of Nursing provides several online nursing degrees and certificates. At the bachelor’s level, ADN-educated nurses can pursue an RN to BSN program taking as few as 10 months to complete. Other online options include an MSN with available concentrations in nursing education, nurse executive leadership, family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care, and psych-mental health. Students can also complete online DNPs in as few as 20 months.

The RN-to-BN program offers start dates throughout the year to accommodate busy RN schedules. The program consists of 30 credits and costs $346 per credit with a pay-as-you-go policy. This rate remains the same regardless of residency.

Eastern Kentucky University

Based in Richmond and operating as a public school, Eastern Kentucky University offers several online nursing degrees and postgraduate certificate programs. The RN to BSN consists of 29 credits and allows students to graduate in as few as 18 months. Regardless of whether you live in Kentucky or elsewhere, you’ll pay just $460 per credit hour. Courses are on eight-week rotations and offer asynchronous learning.

Other online nursing programs currently available at EKU include an MSN with concentrations in rural health family nurse practitioner and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. Postgraduate certificates are also available in both of these specialty areas. The online DNP provides a concentration in organizational leadership.

Galen College of Nursing

Galen College of Nursing maintains its physical campus in Louisville but offers virtual education to students across the Bluegrass State and beyond. The online RN to BSN program can be completed in as few as 12 months, though most students need approximately 16 months. Regardless of residency, students pay just $395 per credit plus a $50 technology fee for each class.

The department also provides a fully online MSN with concentrations in nursing and healthcare leadership and nurse educator. Both consist of 36 credits and, like the RN to BSN, involve eight-week modules. Students in both programs choose from three different start dates per academic year. Galen College of Nursing currently has the approval to educate students from every state except Washington.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Kentucky

With the cost of higher education continuing to rise each year, Kentucky nursing students need ways to reduce costs through scholarships, grants, and other programs. To incentivize new nurses to enter the field, the Kentucky Board of Nursing created the Nursing Incentive Scholarship Fund that provides $3,000 per year to eligible students.

Before enrolling in any nursing program in Kentucky, make sure you understand how financial aid works and explore nursing scholarships available to you. You may even try to figure out to graduate from nursing school debt-free.

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

Before starting a nursing program, it’s important that you understand Kentucky-specific licensure requirements. While the process looks similar from state to state, Kentucky has specific steps you must complete as outlined by the Kentucky Board of Nursing to become a first-time RN.

Step 1

Earn a degree from an accredited and approved school

Failing to earn an ADN or BSN from an accredited and approved school can result in your inability to secure a Kentucky License. Before enrolling in any nursing program, ensure it’s approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Step 2

Pass required examinations

To do this, submit verification of completion from your school and clear both state and federal background checks. From there, register with Pearson Vue, pay the $200 application fee, and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. You must also pass the Kentucky Jurisprudence Examination.

Step 3

Apply for licensure

After successfully passing both the NCLEX-RN and the state-specific exam, apply for licensure directly with the Kentucky State Board of Nursing. You’ll need to pay $125 for your license to become active.

Step 4

Keep up with license renewal

Kentucky RNs must renew their licenses every year by October 31st. To do this, they submit renewal applications and pay $65. They also provide documentation of completing at least 14 hours of continuing education.

Job Outlook for RNs in Kentucky

The job market for registered nurses in Kentucky looks favorable over the next few years, outpacing the national job growth rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 6,000 new positions will be added in the state between 2018-2028.

In addition to these positions that previously didn’t exist, the bureau also expects an average of 3,280 annual new openings. This is due to existing registered nurses retiring or moving to a different position or industry and because of the aging baby boomer population.

Employment Projections for RNs in Kentucky

New Jobs
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Kentucky 6,150 13.1% 3,280
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

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

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Kentucky

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
Kentucky $45,960 $63,060 $84,070
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Bowling Green, KY $33,140 $60,230 $79,940
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, KY $50,980 $62,740 $80,730
Lexington-Fayette, KY $45,490 $62,760 $83,660
Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN $48,620 $65,420 $84,630
Owensboro, KY $53,560 $62,130 $79,430

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020