Exploring the Best Nursing Schools in Minnesota

Learn about the top nursing schools in Minnesota, including those with convenient online programs, and see which one best meets your needs.

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Written By

James Mielke

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James Mielke is a freelance writer currently based in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to higher education topics, other areas of research and writing include food history, cooking, dining, and golf. James has a history degree from Belmont University and is an unapologetic fan of the Grateful Dead.

last updated

01/25/2022

Whether you’re a high school graduate interested in starting your RN career or an experienced nurse looking to move up the ranks for more pay and responsibilities, Minnesota has many quality nursing programs to meet your needs. This guide breaks down the various nursing degrees Minnesota has to offer and highlights schools that stand out in terms of affordability, flexibility, academics, student support, and other criteria. It also reviews the process for securing your RN license and provides a list of essential resources for Minnesota-based nurses. Keep reading to learn more about top schools in Minnesota and find the one that best fits your individual needs.

Minnesota’s Best Overall Nursing Schools and Programs for 2022

These best-in-class nursing schools in Minnesota are CCNE accredited and provide an affordable nursing program with the support you need to start a nursing career or build upon existing skills for career advancement. The three standout nursing programs in Minnesota highlighted below can not only jumpstart your college search but also provide a standard for evaluating other schools. Continue reading to see who stands out for 2022.

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota hosts one of the state’s premier Bachelor of Nursing programs that boasts a 2019 NCLEX-RN pass rate of 97%. Utilizing a collaborative environment, this undergraduate track offers traditional classroom experiences bolstered by research opportunities and hands-on simulations. Students also gain vital clinical experiences through the school’s professional healthcare network. During this four-year program, students complete core nursing classes that include topics like taking ethical action in healthcare, nursing care across the lifespan, and public health nursing. Students also complete a specialty-focused practicum and a degree-culminating senior project.

Before gaining admission into UMN’s BSN program, students must complete 17-19 credits of foundational coursework in chemistry, psychology, biology, anatomy, and physiology.

Rochester Community and Technical College

Rochester Community and Technical College offers an Associate Degree in Nursing that full-time students can complete in two years. The program supplies students with the theoretical and clinical skills they need to begin their professional nursing careers. By highlighting professionalism, critical thinking, and essential nursing skills in a collaborative environment, students are prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam.

Throughout this 64-credit ASN, students complete 30 credits of general education requirements and 34 credits of nursing coursework. Core nursing requirements include fundamentals of nursing, maternal newborn nursing, and leadership and management in nursing.

Prospective students need high school diplomas or GEDs. Applicants must also complete the ATI Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) with a score of 58.7% or higherSouthwest Minnesota State University

Southwest Minnesota State University

Designed for students holding RN licensure and ASNs, Southwest Minnesota State University offers an RN to BSN nursing program that students can complete in 12-18 months. The curriculum supports a working understanding of the healthcare issues facing underserved rural populations and places a strong emphasis on the practical application of clinical knowledge in complex environments. RN to BSN students complete core nursing classes like chronic illness in rural settings, transcultural nursing, and healthcare policy and informatics in addition to a community health clinical experience.

Applicants must hold current and unencumbered RN licenses with minimum 2.75 GPAs for all prior nursing coursework.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Minnesota

Nursing schools in Minnesota provide academic and technical training at every level, from ADN to graduate programs. We’ve highlighted the most popular nursing options currently available in the state below and given examples of quality schools offering them.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Minnesota

ADN Programs

Designed for individuals seeking nursing licensure, these programs are traditionally offered at community and technical colleges. They are popular options for students not wanting a four-year undergraduate commitment. Full-time students usually complete ADN programs in about two years.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing leads to nursing licensure and takes full-time students four years to complete. Offering expanded career options and earning potential, a BSN is often prized by employers because of its rigorous and in-depth curriculum.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

An accelerated BSN is a practical option for individuals with unrelated bachelor’s degrees who want to pursue nursing careers. Having already completed general education requirements, accelerated BSN students focus entirely on nursing-related requirements to finish their degrees in just 18 months.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Minnesota for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN programs offer a clear academic path towards RN licensure. An LPN to RN program usually takes 18-24 months to complete while an LPN to BSN track typically takes 3-4 years.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

Accelerated RN to BSN programs offer working RNs a convenient path to complete their bachelor’s degrees. These programs build upon prior coursework and focus on augmenting nursing knowledge and clinical skills. These degrees traditionally take about two years to complete and are often offered online.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

An RN to MSN bridge program offers working RNs with ADNs the opportunity to earn master’s degrees in a shorter amount of time. Bridge programs are both online and in-person and usually take between 30-36 months.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Minnesota

MSN Programs

MSN programs are available for both working nurses with BSNs and students holding unrelated bachelor’s degrees. Students complete various core requirements and often specialize in areas like nursing leadership, informatics, and other areas of clinical practice. Depending on prior academic experience, this degree takes between two and three years.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

A DNP degree further hones clinical skills and leads to various nursing leadership positions. For students interested in research and teaching at the collegiate level, a PhD focuses on the skills needed to transition into an academic setting. Depending on previous academic experience, these degrees take three to six years to complete.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

For working RNs holding MSN degrees, post-graduate certificates give expert knowledge in specific areas of the nursing field. Students access post-graduate certificate programs both online and on-campus, tackling specialization areas like nursing management, gerontology, and nurse education.

Examples of Minnesota Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Minnesota

Online nursing programs in Minnesota have become popular in recent years, especially for working students. Keep in mind, however, that while certain programs offer online components, you’ll still meet any clinical requirements in person. At the same time, there are many programs fully online with clinical requirements met through your current nursing job.

Online programs boast flexibility, but the coursework requires self-discipline, commitment, and time management. Some students struggle with these on their own and thrive better within in-person settings.

Some of the best online nursing programs in Minnesota are spotlighted below to give you an idea of what quality programs have to offer.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Minnesota

Minnesota State University-Moorhead

The online RN to BSN program at Minnesota State University-Moorhead offers a flexible online delivery convenient for working RNs. This program allows students to complete work at their own pace while keeping up with personal and professional obligations. In addition to online coursework, students also complete experiential learning opportunities in their geographic areas.

Core requirements for this 31-credit bridge program include holistic family health nursing, gerontological nursing to promote successful aging, and interdisciplinary care for diverse populations. Prospective students must hold active RN licenses and complete online applications. MSU Moorehead reviews applications holistically, and applicants traditionally need minimum 2.75 GPAs for college-level coursework.

St. Catherine University

St. Catherine University offers an online Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Educator program comprised of 32 credits students typically take fewer than two years to complete. In addition to developing critical thinking and leadership skills, students tackle emerging issues in the nursing field while studying healthcare trends. They also assess various learning styles and instructional techniques in a nurse education setting. Coursework in this master’s degree covers topics like foundations of nurse educator practice, basic graduate nursing informatics, advanced pharmacology across the lifespan, and physiology and pathophysiology across the lifespan.

Prospective students need BSNs from regionally accredited institutions and active nursing licenses. They also must have minimum cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Minnesota

While nursing programs in Minnesota offer a variety of flexible and affordable academic options, securing a degree can get expensive at any level. Fortunately, loans, scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement programs can lighten your financial burden and allow you to graduate from nursing school debt free.

When searching for financial aid resources, start with your school’s financial aid department. Additionally, professional organizations like the Minnesota Nurses Association Foundation offer various annual scholarships. Other funding sources include private foundations, school nursing programs, and various healthcare organizations.

For more resources and advice on funding your nursing degree in Minnesota, review our scholarships and resources page for online RN students and our guide to paying less for education.

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

You must attend a program approved by the Minnesota Board of Nursing to become an RN in Minnesota. Approved programs offer you the academic and clinical skills needed to secure your nursing license and provide competent and compassionate care. RN licensing information and requirements vary among states, so we’ve highlighted the steps you’ll need to take to secure your RN license in Minnesota.

Step 1

Complete Your Degree

Whether you’re attending an ADN or BSN program, it needs to be a board-approved nursing program. During your last semester, you can begin the process of securing your RN licensure through Minnesota’s Board of Nursing.

Step 2

Submit Application and Fees

Your application needs to be complete and correct since any omissions or mistakes can delay the licensure process. Submit your application before you sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. This process also includes a criminal background check.

Step 3

Register and Schedule Your Exam

Pearson Vue administers NCLEX-RN exams nationwide, and you’ll need to register and pay all associated fees to schedule your exam. Upon receipt of payment, Pearson Vue will send you an Authorization to Test (ATT). Once received, you can schedule your test. Your ATT is valid for 90 days. If the test isn’t taken during that time, you’ll need to restart the process from Step 2.

Step 4

Prepare and Take Your Exam

While many programs assist with NCLEX test prep, taking the time to study independently can help ensure you pass on the first attempt. Various test prep options are available online, and studying with your cohort may also be beneficial. Once you pass the NCELX-RN exam, expect to receive your RN license in the mail in approximately ten business days.

Step 5

Renew Your License

Once you receive your Minnesota RN license, you’ll need to renew it every two years. In addition to completing a renewal application, RNs in Minnesota must complete at least 24 contact hours of continuing education.

Job Outlook for RNs in Minnesota

Similar to national metrics, RN jobs in Minnesota are projected to grow 12.4% by 2028. That translates to nearly 9,000 new jobs for RNs. These long-term employment numbers also project an average of 4,900 annual job openings for RNs in Minnesota.

While the RN employment forecast is positive, these statistics alone can undersell the value of a nursing degree. Along with a growing job market, nursing provides a stable and in-demand career that’s underscored by an above-average annual salary.

Employment Projections for RNs in Minnesota

New Jobs
(2018-2028)
Job Growth Rate
(2018-2028)
Average Annual Openings
(2018-2028)
Minnesota 8,790 12.4% 4,900
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

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

Not only are Minnesota nurses in demand, but they also earn an annual salary that exceeds the national average by more than $4,000. Additionally, RNs in more populated areas like Minneapolis and St. Cloud make around $10,000 more per year than national median earnings.

When considering your academic path in nursing, look at what top earners make in Minnesota. With the 90th percentile of RNs making over $100,000 annually, experienced nurses with advanced degrees and those in leadership roles tend to make the most.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Minnesota


10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
Minnesota $57,730 $79,540 $107,000
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Duluth, MN-WI $52,710 $69,630 $91,650
Mankato-North Mankato, MN $60,040 $84,100 $108,790
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI $61,900 $86,290 $111,500
Rochester, MN $56,770 $71,870 $89,720
St. Cloud, MN $64,280 $86,750 $110,090
Duluth, MN-WI $52,710 $69,630 $91,650
Mankato-North Mankato, MN $60,040 $84,100 $108,790
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI $61,900 $86,290 $111,500
Rochester, MN $56,770 $71,870 $89,720
St. Cloud, MN $64,280 $86,750 $110,090

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020