Best Nursing Schools in Missouri

Explore top-ranked online and traditional nursing programs and find your Missouri nursing school match.

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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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With jobs for registered nurses in Missouri set to grow by over 16 percent in the coming years, nursing can give you lasting job stability and competitive pay. It also allows you to make a critical difference in the lives of patients.

Whether you’re just starting your nursing journey or thinking about next steps after working as an RN, this guide can help you find the Missouri nursing school that best meets your needs. You’ll learn about the various types of nursing programs offered by top-ranked schools, how to earn a license in the state, and where to find support and resources along the way.

2022’s Top Nursing Schools and Programs in Missouri

To help you find the best nursing schools in Missouri, we scoured available programs and assessed them based on factors like affordability, accreditation, and student support services. Whether you’re interested in starting as an ADN or earning a DNP, nursing schools in Missouri can help you advance your career. Below are three nursing schools in Missouri that stand out in 2022 and show you what to look for in a quality program.

Missouri State University

From its home base in Springfield, Missouri State University’s School of Nursing provides several nursing programs at multiple academic levels. Undergraduate students select from a pre-nursing track, a traditional BSN, and an RN to BSN bridge program. Programs are fully online for working RNs who need flexibility. At the graduate level, select from an MSN, DNP, or post-graduate certificates in adult-gerontology acute care, family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, and population health.

Missouri State’s nursing department provides a variety of scholarships as well as opportunities to get involved in student nursing organizations or complete a study abroad program in a medically under-served country. Students living on-campus can join a living-learning community where they live with other healthcare students.

Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest Missouri State University offers several undergraduate nursing programs to meet the varied needs of its students. The pre-nursing track functions like an associate degree and prepares students for transfer into a degree completion program. The online RN to BSN takes as few as 12 months to complete and consists of 30 credits. Post-graduate online master’s programs include an MSN with a concentration in nurse educator or nurse executive/administrator.

The School of Health Science and Wellness offers scholarships for first-time, transfer, students, and graduate students. Students can also participate in living-learning communities that allow them to both live with and study alongside others in healthcare majors.

University of Missouri – St. Louis

The College of Nursing at the University of Missouri – St. Louis provides undergraduate and graduate programs to meet varied academic needs. The traditional BSN is either full-time or part-time on evenings and weekends, while the accelerated BSN supports those with unrelated bachelor’s degrees or who have already completed all general education and science prerequisites. The RN to BSN is available both online and in-person and takes two years to complete.

Post-graduate certificates are available in adult/geriatric nurse practitioner family nurse practitioner, pediatric acute care nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, and women’s health nurse practitioner. The school also offers both DNP and PhD nursing programs.

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Types of Nursing Programs Available in Missouri

You can find nursing schools in Missouri offering degrees at various academic levels, making it easy to find a program that meets you where you are and helps propel you to the next level. This section gives you a good sense of the most common options currently available for those looking for quality nursing programs in Missouri.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Missouri

ADN Programs

ADNs often serve as entry points for many students and are commonly offered by community colleges and vocational schools. Consisting of approximately 60 credits, ADNs usually require two years of full-time study and allow graduates to seek licensure as RNs after meeting state requirements.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

Traditional BSN programs provide the best pathway for first-time nursing students who know they want to earn bachelor’s degrees. These programs usually include 120 credits alongside a clinical training component and take four years to complete. Graduates can seek licensure as RNs.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs consist of the same number of credits and set the same graduation requirements as traditional BSNs but allow students to graduate more quickly. The accelerated nature of these programs means you can earn your credentials in as few as three years.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Missouri for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

After working as an LPN for a time, some nurses decide they want to update their credentials and qualify for higher-paying jobs by completing LPN to RN or LPN to BSN programs. An LPN to RN program usually takes 12-18 months and results in an associate degree, while an LPN to BSN takes 24-36 months and provides a bachelor’s degree.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

Because more employers now expect RNs to hold bachelor’s degrees, RN to BSN programs are becoming popular. Often available completely online, these programs usually consist of approximately 30 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. Schools commonly offer both part-time and full-time learning options.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

RNs with associate degrees may decide to bypass bachelor’s credentials altogether and move directly into master’s degrees. RN to MSN programs take approximately three years to move from start to finish and can commonly be done completely online.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Missouri

MSN Programs

MSN programs come in two forms: a standard MSN for those who already hold BSNs and direct-entry MSNs for students with unrelated bachelor’s degrees looking to transfer into the field. These programs take anywhere from 2-4 years depending on qualifications upon starting the degree.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

DNP programs support nurses who want professional degrees that allow them to practice at the highest echelons of the field. These programs take about three years to complete. A PhD in nursing appeals to nurses looking to move into research and/or academic positions. These programs take between 4-6 years to finish.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Designed for MSN-educated nurses, post-graduate certificates give specialized knowledge in niche areas without completing another degree. Certificate offerings vary by school but usually include options like nurse-midwifery, nurse educator, and nurse leadership. They take approximately one year to complete.

Examples of Missouri Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Missouri

Most nursing schools in Missouri now offer some level of virtual interaction, and many provide entire classes and degrees online. If you’re looking for an ADN or BSN, these programs always require in-person participation due to required clinicals needed for licensure. To provide flexibility, some schools offer hybrid programs at these levels. For example, Moberly Area Community College provides a hybrid ADN while Southwest Baptist University offers a partially-online BSN for busy students. Clinical requirements can usually be completed at an approved facility near where students live.

To help students with personal and/or professional responsibilities outside of school, some programs provide evening or weekend classes to better fit into their schedules. For additional flexibility, online programs often provide asynchronous learning where students complete work at times that best fit their schedules.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Missouri

University of Missouri – Kansas City

The University of Missouri’s Kansas City’s School of Nursing and Health Studies provides an online RN to BSN. It also maintains a dual enrollment program with Metropolitan Community College that allows students to earn their ADN and BSN degrees concurrently and graduate more quickly.

At the graduate level, students can choose from fully online MSN programs in adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, nursing educator, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and women’s health nurse practitioner. Students can also select from the BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP pathways, each of which offers concentrations. Lastly, the school offers a BSN to PhD as well as a standalone PhD in nursing.

University of Missouri – Columbia

The Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri – Columbia has offered nursing education programs since 1901 and continues to innovate. To meet the needs of busy learners with professional responsibilities, the department provides several online degrees. The online RN to BSN consists of 26 credits and takes most students 14 months to complete. In-state learners pay an estimated program cost of $13,222 as of 2021.

Graduate students select from an online MSN with emphasis areas in adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, leadership in nursing and healthcare systems, nurse educator, pediatric clinical nurse specialist, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, or pediatric nurse practitioner – primary care. The department also offers an online Master of Science in Care Management as well as a PhD in nursing and a DNP. Online students can take advantage of global initiatives to build relevant skill sets before graduating.

University of Central Missouri

The University of Central Missouri’s School of Nursing has held continuous accreditation since 1978 and began expanding its online offerings several years ago. The school provides an online RN to BSN with eight-week course formats, making it possible for students to earn bachelor’s degrees in just two semesters. To ensure learners receive the support they need, the department provides several mentorship opportunities for in-person and online students. Students can also join the Student Nursing Organization (SNO) to interact with other nursing students and build strong networks before graduating.

At the graduate level, students can enroll in an online MSN with tracks in nurse educator (33 credits) or family nurse practitioner (44 credits). Those who already have master’s degrees but want to learn skills in a specific area can undertake post-graduate certificates in nurse educator or simulation education in health science.

Financial Aid for Missouri Nursing Students

With the cost of higher education continuing to climb each year, finding ways to lessen the financial burden of earning a nursing degree is essential. In addition to nursing scholarships offered by individual schools and programs, you can also look for awards provided by professional associations, hospitals and healthcare companies, and private foundations. Another resource, the Missouri Department of Health, does not offer any scholarships but does provide the Missouri Nurse Student Loan Repayment Program. In exchange for working in a health professional shortage area after graduating, eligible RNs receive up to $10,000 per year in forgiveness while those with master’s degrees receive up to $20,000 per year.

Make sure you understand the ins and outs of financial aid before enrolling and consider whether you could graduate nursing school debt-free.

How to Become an RN in Missouri

Before enrolling in a nursing school in Missouri, make sure you understand the licensing requirements to prevent any problems later. For example, attending a nursing program in Missouri that doesn’t hold state approval may bar you from earning a license. Below, we look at the specific licensure requirements as outlined by the Missouri Board of Nursing.

Step 1

Attend a state-approved nurse training program

Whether pursuing an ADN or BSN, any program you decide to enroll in should hold approval via the Missouri Board of Nursing and accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Failing to complete this step can result in trouble getting a license.

Step 2

Apply to the Missouri Board of Nursing

In addition to supplying a completed application, first-time nursing license applicants must also submit final college transcripts, proof of a background check with fingerprints, and proof of U.S. citizenship or a work visa. Once these are provided, students receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) from PearsonVue.

Step 3

Pass the NCLEX-RN

After receiving their ATT from PearsonVue, students have 90 days to sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN. The Board of Nursing receives your results the following day and will send them to you. If you pass the exam, you are notified that you can begin practicing as a nurse.

Step 4

Keep up with renewal requirements

In Missouri, all RN licenses expire on April 30th of odd-numbered years, but you must start the renewal process at least three days before to avoid any licensing lapse. The state does not currently require any continuing education or professional development courses, but nurses do need to pay an $85 renewal fee.

Job Outlook for RNs in Missouri

Employment projections look robust for RNs in Missouri through 2028, outstripping the national average. While jobs across the country are expected to grow by 12.1%, that rate is 16.2% in Missouri. This growth should result in more than 12,000 new jobs in the state over the next several years. It will also see an average of 5,530 job openings per year due to nurses retiring or changing careers.

Employment Projections for RNs in Missouri

New Jobs
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Missouri 12,130 16.2% 5,530
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

How Much You Could Make as an RN in Missouri

As of May 2020, registered nurses working in Missouri earned median annual wages of $64,220. While this number sits below the national average of $75,330, remember that the cost of living in the state is lower than in many other parts of the country. For example, nurses working in Kansas City, which has a higher cost of living than more rural areas or smaller cities, earned a median annual salary of $469,680. The table below gives a more detailed sense of how salaries differ around the state and stack up against each other.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Missouri

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
Missouri $44,060 $64,220 $91,880
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Cape Girardeau, MO-IL $43,720 $59,290 $83,040
Columbia, MO $45,280 $64,120 $86,050
Jefferson City, MO $44,820 $61,390 $83,660
Joplin, MO $28,920 $46,210 $72,240
Kansas City, MO-KS $53,090 $69,680 $91,300
St. Joseph, MO-KS $45,720 $63,520 $84,490
St. Louis, MO-IL $44,720 $66,250 $97,220

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020