Best Nursing Schools in North Carolina: Top Online & Campus Programs

Learn about this year’s best nursing schools in North Carolina and get insights on whether an online or in-person program is right for you.

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Last Updated: 09/22/2021
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Jobs for nurses at every level are set to grow in North Carolina in the near future, making this a great path if you want the chance to help others and also want a stable career and a good salary. Whether you’re just starting your nursing journey, consider yourself a career changer, or want to upgrade your existing nursing credentials, this rundown of nursing schools in NC is a great place to start. On this page, you’ll find spotlights of some of the best nursing programs in NC alongside information on salary, accreditation, and licensing for nurses in the state.

2021’s Best-in-Class Nursing Schools in North Carolina

From nursing schools in Charlotte to well-known universities in The Triangle, North Carolina is home to many quality nursing programs. With such a big number to choose from, it’s important that you pick the right school based on your unique needs. The North Carolina nursing schools highlighted below offer an ideal mix of accreditation and state approval, student support, and affordability to help you feel confident in your decision. As you read each spotlight, consider how the school fits your goals for a nursing degree.

Fayetteville State University

Fayetteville State University (FSU) offers both an RN-to-BSN bridge program and an online MSN to meet academic needs at multiple levels. The bridge program consists of 32 credits and allows full-time students to finish in as few as 2 1/2 semesters. In addition to advanced nursing coursework, you’ll also participate in a practicum. If you already work in a medical setting, you may be able to complete your practicum at your place of employment.

The online MSN takes four semesters and consists of studies in ethical and legal issues in healthcare, advanced pharmacology, and research evaluation and translation for healthcare. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school.

FSU works to provide ample student services and opportunities for involvement. The nursing school offers several scholarships, an active alumni network, awards, and access to membership in Omega Psi Theta Tau, the international nursing honor society.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

If you’re looking for a school that offers degrees at every level, both online and in person, look no further than the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This state school currently provides BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD, and post-graduate certificate options. If you’re specifically looking for online options, you can choose from RN-to-MSN, BSN-to-MSN, and BSN-to-DNP bridge programs along with a post-graduate adult gerontology acute care certificate.

For campus-based students, both traditional and accelerated BSN programs exist, as well as a military pathway for veterans and active-duty service members looking to earn a BSN. Resident students can earn their accelerated BSN for $32,255, covering tuition, books, supplies, and insurance.

The School of Nursing maintains extensive research programs, providing the opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students alike to participate. It also offers continuing education opportunities, global initiatives, and a visiting international scholar program.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University in Boone provides a traditional BSN, an RN-to-BSN bridge program, and an MSN. Both the RN-to-BSN and MSN can be taken online or in person. The BSN takes four years to complete and covers topics such as health assessment across the lifespan, mental health and nursing care of communities, adult health nursing, and leadership and management in nursing. Students must complete both a capstone project and clinical requirements.

The RN-to-BSN comprises 30 credits and is only offered on a part-time basis. Residents of NC pay $163 per credit, making this one of the most affordable options. Students can complete all their requirements in one year, fully online or in person. Nontraditional clinicals involve research and class projects rather than clinical hours.

Both campus-based and online students can take advantage of career support, advising, scholarships, and open houses held twice yearly for the BSN and the first Friday of every month for the MSN.

Common Qualities of the Best Nursing Schools in North Carolina

With so many nursing schools in North Carolina now offering degrees at every level, it’s important to remember that not all are created equally. When checking out prospective options, keep these three top qualities in mind.

  • Affordable

    Earning your nursing degree without breaking the bank means that when you’re done you can focus on finding a job you love rather than on how you’re going to cover a high monthly student loan repayment.
  • Nationally Accredited and State Approved:

    Because all nurses practicing in the state of North Carolina must hold licenses, it’s vitally important that they attend a program to which the state has given its seal of approval. The North Carolina Board of Nursing maintains a list of approved pre-licensure nursing programs to help you make an informed decision. You should also make sure any nursing programs in NC that you consider hold proper programmatic accreditation. In the world of nursing, the names to know are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both provide searchable databases to help you find an accredited option.
  • High NCLEX-RN Pass Rates

    Whether you’re looking at an ADN or BSN program, it’s important to ensure it graduates students who can pass the NCLEX-RN examination on their first try. This signals that the program adequately prepared students through coursework and clinicals. If you cannot find these numbers on the program website, reach out to an administrator and ask for at least the last three years of pass rates.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in North Carolina

Whether you’re just starting your nursing career or are a veteran nurse looking to pursue an advanced degree, nursing schools in North Carolina offer programs at every level to help you meet career goals. Take a look at some of the most common options currently available.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in North Carolina

ADN Programs

Associate degree in nursing programs in NC support students who want to earn their RN license but aren’t quite ready to commit to a four-year bachelor’s degree. These programs, commonly offered by community colleges and vocational schools, usually take two years to complete and provide affordable tuition rates.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

A traditional bachelor of science in nursing also supports those looking to become RNs. These programs take four years to complete and typically lead to higher starting salaries than an ADN. Plenty of public and private colleges throughout the state offer these programs online and on campus.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs can help you enter the nursing field if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject but want to change careers. Lasting approximately 18 months, accelerated BSNs build on existing general education knowledge and focus on targeted nursing coursework and clinical experiences.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in North Carolina for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

If you’ve worked as a licensed practical nurse and now feel ready to take the next professional step, these bridge programs can help. The LPN to RN leads to an associate degree and takes 18-24 months to complete. The LPN to BSN leads to a bachelor’s degree and takes three to four years to finish.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

An accelerated BSN could be the right option if you already have your ADN and RN license but want to upgrade your credentials. Building on knowledge already gained in your associate degree, these North Carolina nursing programs usually take about two years to complete.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

Designed for ADN-educated RNs, these bridge programs allow you to skip the BSN and earn a master’s degree in a shorter amount of time than doing both separately. You can usually find these NC nursing programs as online or in-person offerings, with both lasting 30-36 months.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in North Carolina

MSN Programs

MSN programs exist both for those who already have a BSN and individuals who earned a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject. These degrees take between two and three years to complete, depending on previous credentials. They utilize both online and in-person learning.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

DNP programs take between three and five years to complete and support nurses who want to continue in professional practice at the top of the career ladder. PhD in nursing programs usually take between four and six years and build skills needed to transition into research and/or academic positions.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with this Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Post-graduate certificates support graduates of MSN programs who want to gain specialized knowledge in a particular nursing area. These nursing programs in North Carolina can be found online and on campus and cover topics such as nurse administration and management, nurse education, forensic nursing, and various nurse practitioner specialty areas.

Examples of North Carolina Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in North Carolina

Many nursing schools in North Carolina now offer online nursing degrees to help busy students balance outside responsibilities with their education. It’s important to remember that any online nursing program in NC that requires a clinical component means you must do that portion in person. Suppose you already work as a registered nurse and want to upgrade your degree, say from an ADN to BSN. In that case, you can complete all degree requirements without ever stepping foot on campus. Many of these online nursing programs in North Carolina offer asynchronously scheduled classes, meaning you can watch prerecorded lectures at times that fit your schedule. If you are unsure how a particular program breaks down in terms of digital and campus-based learning, check with the program administrator.

Best Online Nursing Programs in North Carolina

East Carolina University

If you’re looking for plenty of online nursing degree offerings, East Carolina University (ECU) has you covered. In addition to an RN-to-BSN bridge program, the school provides an MSN, DNP, and PhD in nursing. The certification options are also comprehensive, with offerings covering psychiatric-mental health NP, nursing leadership, nursing education, and nurse-midwifery.

The online RN-to-BSN takes 16-18 months to complete and costs as little as $5,491 for resident learners. The program holds accreditation through CCNE, and the National League for Nursing’s Center of Excellence also recognizes the degree. Student support services include scholarships, career support, academic counseling, tech support, and a robust online community of learners. Designed for working students, the online program is taught on a part-time basis.

ECU’s College of Nursing looks to support all students by providing several student organizations, study abroad opportunities, concept integration labs, continuing education, and chances to participate in research studies conducted by faculty and graduate students.

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University offers an online RN-to-BSN alongside online MSNs in nurse leadership and nurse educator. You can also complete a nurse educator post-graduate certificated remotely. The RN-to-BSN takes four semesters to complete; in-state students can meet all requirements with tuition and textbooks costing as little as $3,500. Applicants need an active and unrestricted NC nursing license, 2.5 or higher GPA, and all prerequisite classes completed. The department hosts a virtual information session on the second Tuesday of each month.

The MSN programs require 38-41 credits, exist fully online, and can be completed in 18 months on a part-time schedule. All practicums are completed locally. As of 2021, the School of Nursing maintains 100% pass rates for the NCLEX-RN, FNP board, and CRNA board.

Aside from several degree-specific scholarships, the department also provides a robust menu of student services, opportunities for collaboration with peers and professors, and active social media pages.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers a wide array of online nursing degrees and certificates to meet various educational needs. In addition to an RN-to-BSN bridge, master’s programs in community/public health, nursing administration, and nursing education can be completed remotely. Certificates in nursing administration and nursing education are also offered digitally.

The online RN-to-BSN takes as few as 12 months to complete, with in-state learners paying as little as $4,918. Besides meeting prerequisite requirements, you must possess a 2.0 or higher GPA and an active, unencumbered license. Newly admitted online students can begin in the fall, spring, or summer.

Each of the MSN programs takes 24 hours to complete, fully online, and requires you to provide evidence of a 3.0 or higher GPA, three recommendation letters, an application essay, and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. Student resources include scholarships, externships, and a learning resource center.

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in North Carolina

Can I earn my nursing degree in North Carolina completely online?

Some nursing schools in NC allow you to complete all your coursework via distance learning, but any program requiring a clinical component means you’ll need to participate in face-to-face learning. Most times, schools will work with you to find a suitable clinical location near your residence.

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

Absolutely not! As long as you find an online nursing program in North Carolina that holds proper accreditation and state approval, employers won’t care how you completed your degree. In fact, your actual diploma doesn’t stipulate the learning format, so they won’t even know whether your degree was completed online or in person.

Are online nursing programs in North Carolina more affordable than campus programs?

It depends. Some schools may offer discounts for online classes. However, even if they don’t, you can still save by not paying for campus-based fees such as facilities usage and parking. Additionally, completing your degree from home allows you to save money on transportation, eating out, and other campus-based expenses.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in North Carolina

Even though nurses earn ample salaries in North Carolina, you don’t want to spend years paying back student loans. In addition to finding an affordable program, it’s important that you line up as much financial aid as possible. Since grants and scholarships don’t have to be repaid, these tend to be popular options for nursing students. The North Carolina Foundation for Nursing offers several meaningful awards at various academic levels. Besides looking for individual schools and nursing departments that offer awards, check with other professional associations, nursing organizations, and private foundations to learn about scholarship and grant opportunities

How to Become an RN in North Carolina: Licensing Information and Requirements

Each state sets its own requirements for receiving a nursing license, making it essential for you to review each step and meet all mandates carefully. Many schools help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN, so be sure to check with your advisor in your final year to learn about next steps. The NC Board of Nursing outlines the licensing process as follows.

Step 1

Meet Eligibility Requirements and Pay Fee

You must prove that you graduated from a board-approved education program, pass a criminal background check, and submit an initial application for licensure by examination. Along with your application, plan to pay a $75 fee, which is good for one year from the application date.

Step 2

Register with Pearson VUE

Pearson VUE Testing Centers administer all NCLEX-RN exams in the state and require a $200 testing fee paid at least two weeks before graduation. After the company receives payment, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) that allows you to schedule your examination.

Step 3

Schedule Your Examination

Your ATT provides step-by-step information on how to schedule your computerized, in-person exam. The NC Board of Nursing notes that results of the NCLEX-RN usually arrive within four weeks after your test day.

Step 4

Keep Up with Renewal Requirements

North Carolina nursing licenses are valid for two years and expire on the last day of your birth month. Failing to renew by that date means your license is considered expired. Renewal requirements include submitting an online application and providing proof of residence. Evidence of continuing education is only required when the board specifically notifies you.

Job Outlook for RNs in North Carolina

As the table below shows, registered nursing jobs are set to continue growing rapidly in both the United States generally and North Carolina specifically. Projections Central forecasts more than 7,000 job openings each year between now and 2028 and an additional 11,000 new nursing jobs during the same time frame. If you’re looking for a stable, in-demand nursing job, working as a registered nurse offers you all of this alongside a higher-than-average salary.

Employment Projections for RNs in North Carolina

Employment (2018) New Jobs (2018-2028) Job Growth Rate (2018-2028) Average Annual Openings (2018-2028)
North Carolina 104,690 11,270 10.8% 7,020
United States 3,059,800 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

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

Although registered nurses in North Carolina earn slightly less than the national average, it’s important to remember that many cities in NC maintain lower costs of living than other metropolitan areas. As the table demonstrates, RNs working in some locales such as Durham-Chapel Hill, Greensboro-High Point, Goldsboro, and Winston-Salem earn closer to the national average. While registered nurses earning the median salary bring home ample wages, there’s still more money to be had, with those in the 90th percentile commanding substantially higher salaries.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in North Carolina

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
North Carolina $48,010 $64,600 $89,080
United States $52,080 $73,300 $111,220
Asheville, NC $48,550 $65,110 $91,940
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC $47,330 $64,630 $85,420
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC $51,050 $65,070 $95,580
Fayetteville, NC $48,630 $72,090 $95,920
Goldsboro, NC $51,870 $65,730 $82,450
Greensboro-High Point, NC $51,440 $65,510 $93,370
Greenville, NC $48,490 $66,270 $84,710
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC $47,770 $60,900 $79,490
Jacksonville, NC $47,140 $63,210 $83,220
New Bern, NC $44,030 $61,810 $82,640
Raleigh, NC $49,920 $66,970 $88,890
Rocky Mount, NC $47,540 $61,870 $79,370
Wilmington, NC $42,990 $59,300 $83,190
Winston-Salem, NC $52,430 $66,620 $92,310

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

North Carolina Nursing Resources

North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA)

As the premier nursing membership organization in the state, NCNA provides nurses with continuing education, networking opportunities, policy advocacy, career information, and both in-person and virtual events.

North Carolina Board of Nursing (NCBN)

The NCBN manages all nurses’ licensure throughout the state, allowing for both first-time and renewal licenses. Plan to bookmark this page, as you’ll reference it frequently.

North Carolina Emergency Nurses Association

This membership association supports nurses working in emergency medicine settings by offering the NC Emergency Nurses Symposium, several chapters throughout the state, continuing education opportunities, and a career center.

North Carolina Organization of Nurse Leaders (NCONL)

Joining NCONL provides you access to a rotating schedule of events, an annual conference, job listings, and opportunities to get to know other nurse leaders in the state.

Scholarships and Online Resources for RN Students

Want to learn more about popular scholarship opportunities and other resources for registered nursing students? Check out our guide on the subject.