Best Nursing Schools in Oklahoma: Top Online & Campus Programs

Start or advance your career as an RN by enrolling in one of the top online or on-campus nursing programs in Oklahoma. Find out which schools rank best in the state for 2022.

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Written By

Michael Hoffman

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A former practicing attorney, Michael Hoffman has years of experience as a freelance journalist specializing in the research and writing of higher education content – from online learning to financial aid, and everything in between. Michael is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael practiced for several years as a civil litigator in Los Angeles and worked in Santa Monica, California as a development executive for a major film producer.

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According to the American Medical Association, there’s a serious shortage of trained and licensed nurses across the country. Oklahoma is not immune from the problem, with the shortage there worsened further by COVID-19. For those interested in entering or moving up in the nursing profession, that means increases in salaries and other benefits for nurses along with more open positions in the state.

If you want to take advantage of this heightened demand, there are many accredited nursing schools in Oklahoma that can give you the necessary training. This guide spotlights the best nursing schools in Oklahoma to help you find a quality, affordable online or campus program that’s right for you, whether you’re a first-time nursing student or are a current RN who wants to qualify for advanced nursing roles. You’ll also find other helpful information on financial aid, licensing requirements, and salary potential for Oklahoma nurses. Get started on your Oklahoma nursing school search below.

2022’s Best-in-Class Nursing Schools in Oklahoma

After considering elements like accreditation, affordability, study convenience, curriculum comprehensiveness, and student support services, the following three schools stood out as the best-in-class nursing schools in Oklahoma. Not only are they great options, but they provide a standard when considering other schools in the state.

Oklahoma City Community College

Oklahoma City Community College offers three program options for earning an ADN. Students with no nursing or college experience can opt for the Traditional Nursing Pathway with a curriculum consisting of four semesters of core courses and labs attended on the school’s campus along with clinical rotations completed at local hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Students also complete any general education and support courses in an additional semester of study.

The Career Ladder Pathway allows current LPNs and paramedics to earn their ADNs in three semesters while continuing to work in their current jobs. The third option is a 10-month, full-time, hybrid BSN to ADN Accelerated Pathway for students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees.

All options qualify graduates to take the (NCLEX-RN).

Oklahoma City University

Oklahoma City University offers one of the most extensive nursing degree and certificate programs in the state. There are several fully-accredited programs available for earning a BSN, starting with a pre-licensure BSN program with four track options. The four-year Traditional BSN is for students with little or no college or nursing background while the Accelerated BSN allows students to earn their BSNs with 16 months of full-time study. The four-semester Transfer BSN is for students with non-nursing bachelor’s or associate degrees or some completed general education credits.

There’s also an LPN to BSN track that can be completed in as few as 12 months, and an RN to BSN program is also available for current RNs and can be completed in as few as nine months. The RN to BSN program features online synchronous, online asynchronous, and on-campus options.

Graduate nursing programs at OCU include an MSN delivered in a unique hybrid format allowing students to choose between attending class on-campus or online. There are also DNP and PhD in Nursing programs, both with post-BSN and post-MSN pathways, and post-master’s certificates in five specialized fields.

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is home to the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing, the largest nursing school in Oklahoma. The college offers an array of baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. BSN options include a Traditional BSN program consisting of 60 upper-division courses in nursing theory, both with online and on-campus options, and clinical content. Students complete 67 credits of lower-division courses before enrollment, and on-campus courses are available at several campuses throughout the state.

Other undergraduate options include an Accelerated BSN for students with bachelor or higher degrees in non-nursing majors, an LPN to BSN designed for working LPNs that combines Saturday classes and online coursework with in-person clinical rotations, and a 100% online RN to BSN. Graduate programs include MSNs in three specializations, a DNP with both post-BSN and post-master’s options, and a full-time PhD in Nursing for students seeking careers in academics and geriatric nursing practice.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Oklahoma

Below are descriptions of the most common nursing degree and certificates available from nursing schools in Oklahoma. Links to examples of each type of program are also provided.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Oklahoma

ADN Programs

An ADN offers a quick path to NCLEX-RN eligibility for students with little or no previous college experience. ADN programs typically require two years of full-time or three years of part-time study and are available at community colleges, state colleges, and some state universities.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

Traditional BSN programs are for students with little or no previous college coursework seeking both NCLEX-RN eligibility and bachelor’s degrees. Programs are usually structured with four-year curriculums combining two years of lower-division general education and two years of upper-division nursing theory and clinical courses.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated (Second Degree or Fast Track) BSN programs allow non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders to apply previously-earned, lower-division coursework to their BSN requirements, significantly reducing program time and cost. Most Accelerated BSN students complete all degree requirements in 18 months or less of full-time study. Accelerated BSNs also qualify for the NCLEX-RN.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Oklahoma for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN programs are for current LPNs and, in some cases, other healthcare professionals like EMTs, interested in advancing their careers to become RNs. LPN to RN programs are usually offered by community colleges and require three semesters of coursework with graduates awarded ADN degrees. RN to BSN programs take three years or more and are usually available from four-year schools.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

Current RNs looking to expand their careers often opt for RN to BSN programs. Completion times are a year of full-time and two years of part-time study. Some RN to BSN programs in Oklahoma are 100% online.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN programs are for current RNs without BSNs and who to advance into administration and other leadership roles. RN to MSN programs feature specialization options and are often offered in fully-online formats. Applicants usually need non-nursing bachelor’s degrees and ADNs. Program lengths vary from 2 ½ to three years or longer depending on study pace, specializations, and clinical hour requirements.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Oklahoma

MSN Programs

Earning an MSN is practically a requirement for anyone interested in moving into an advanced nursing practice or nursing administration leadership position. Admission normally requires both a current RN license and a BSN. There are usually several specializations, some of which are 100% online. Completion times vary from 18 months to two years or longer.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Nursing doctoral degree programs are for nurses determined to reach the very top of the profession. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) prepares students for senior leadership roles in healthcare administration and advanced nursing practice. The PhD in Nursing is for nurses seeking top positions in post-secondary education and advanced research.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Nursing post-graduate certificates provide current graduate degree holders the opportunity to specialize without having to complete another degree. Specializations include nursing education, nursing and healthcare leadership, and any of several advanced nurse practitioner areas. Completion times vary by specialization and study pace, but most require approximately one to two years. Fully-online programs are sometimes available.

Examples of Oklahoma Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Oklahoma

Distance learning plays a major role in many nursing programs in Oklahoma, and you’ll likely find online elements like assignments, lectures, and exams in most programs. You’ll also probably communicate with your instructors and peers online a lot as well. Many nursing programs, especially pre-licensure ones, still include clinical rotations that you’ll attend in-person in addition to any labs, seminars, short-term residencies, and similar activities that require attendance on-campus. At the same time, some nursing schools in Oklahoma now offer degrees and certificates that are completed 100% online.

Below are three Oklahoma nursing schools with extensive online offerings if you’re thinking that a more comprehensive distance learning approach is for you.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Oklahoma

University of Central Oklahoma

The University of Central Oklahoma offers four nursing degree programs that feature online components. The four-year Traditional BSN is a primarily on-campus program but includes at least two classes that are offered fully online. Many nursing courses also include some requirements completed online. Students still complete clinical rotation hours at local healthcare facilities.

Students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees can save time and money with the 16-month Fast Track BSN that features hybrid courses that are at least 51% online. Current RNs seeking their nursing bachelor’s can opt for the 100% online RN to BSN track with both full-time and part-time options available. Full-time students can complete all RN to BSN requirements in as few as two semesters. At the graduate level, UCO’s MSN program combines exclusively online coursework with a 100-clinical hour practicum and can be completed in as little as 16 months full time.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University

The School of Nursing & Allied Health Sciences at Southwestern Oklahoma State University offers several affordable and convenient nursing degrees. Its Traditional BSN is a four-year program primarily on-campus but with some online courses and course components. The degree requires 124 credits, the last 30 of which must be completed at SWOSU. Credits for pre-nursing courses may be earned through advanced standing examinations.

SWOSU’s other undergraduate options include LPN to BSN and RN to BSN programs, both of which feature fully-online coursework. The LPN to RN program also includes in-person clinical hours and occasional campus visits. All degree requirements can be completed in 12 months of full-time study. The RN to BSN program is 100% online with no campus visits required with both full-time and part-time options available.

On the graduate level, SWOSU offers a fully-online BSN to MSN with Nursing Administration and Nursing Education specializations. The program can be completed in just over a year if attending full-time. Part-time study takes just over three years.

Northeastern State University

The nursing program at Northeastern State University offers all its nursing courses entirely online regardless of degree or certificate. The RN to BSN program is open to graduates of state-approved nursing diplomas or ADN programs who have current RN licenses. Recent diploma and ADN graduates may be admitted conditionally pending obtaining their RN licenses by the end of the program’s first semester. Applicants with nursing diplomas or who graduated from a non-HLC accredited nursing program must also complete nursing proficiency tests. Most full-time students earn their degrees in 16 months of full-time study, but students can take up to five years.

Northeastern State’s 32-credit MSN program is offered with both BSN to MSN and RN to MSN options. Students select from specializations in Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, and Administrative Leadership in Nursing. Both full-time and part-time study is available.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Oklahoma

There are many financial aid resources available to Oklahoma nursing students. These include scholarships and grants, some offered by the State of Oklahoma and Oklahoma nursing schools themselves, work study programs, assistantships and fellowships (mostly for grad students), employer tuition assistance, and the GI Bill for active-duty military and veterans.

The most common financial aid resource for most students is student loans, particularly those through federal student loan programs. The federal government also sponsors student loan repayment opportunities through its Health Resources & Services Administration open to qualifying nursing students. Another important funding opportunity is the State-sponsored Nursing Student Assistance Program with substantial financial assistance for nursing students willing to fulfill a practice obligation in a rural Oklahoma community upon graduation.

For more information and advice on funding your nursing education, visit EduMed’s financial aid guide, nursing scholarship guide, and guide to graduating from nursing school debt-free.

How to Become an RN in Oklahoma: Licensing Details and Requirements

An RN license is a requirement for practice as a registered nurse in Oklahoma, and this requirement is met in one of three ways. First, you can possess a multistate license from one of the 39 member jurisdictions making up the Nurse License Compact, or you can obtain an Oklahoma RN license through the endorsement process. For a first-time license applicant, though, obtaining an Oklahoma RN license happens via examination.

Application for licensure by examination is administered by the Oklahoma Board of Nursing (OBN) and can result in either single state (Oklahoma) or multistate licensure. Below are the steps you’ll take to obtain your multistate RN license. Although there are some differences in the single state and multistate licensure requirements, the basic steps are generally the same.

Step 1

Submit your Oklahoma RN license application

The OBN recommends you submit your application approximately two months before graduation from your pre-license nursing program. You’ll complete your application online using the Oklahoma Nurse Portal. Submission requirements include proof of citizenship, declaration of your primary state of residence, and your fingerprint card for conducting state and national criminal history searches. You may also need to provide descriptions and additional documentation regarding any criminal charge, disciplinary action, or competency questions to which you answered “yes” on the application.

Step 2

Graduate from your pre-licensure nursing degree program

For most Oklahoma residents, this means completing either an ADN or BSN degree program through one of the many nationally-accredited and state-approved nursing schools in Oklahoma. Upon graduation, make sure a copy of your official program transcript is submitted to the OBN.

Step 3

Register for and take the NCLEX-RN exam

The NCLEX-RN examination is administered exclusively by Pearson VUE. Once you register, including paying the registration fee, and your RN license application is approved by the OBN, you’ll receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter from Pearson VUE that allows you to schedule your exam, which you do through your Pearson VUE account. You’ll then take the exam at any one of Pearson VUE’s domestic or international test locations.

For helpful information on preparing for the NCLEX-RN exam, visit this NCSBN website.

Step 4

Verify the issuance of your RN license

You’ll receive the official results of your NCLEX-RN exam and verification of your newly-issued RN license from the OBN via the Nurse Portal approximately six weeks after taking the exam. Pearson VUE will not provide you with your official exam results. However, you may access unofficial results through Pearson VUE two business days after taking the exam.

Step 5

Keep your Oklahoma RN license current

All Oklahoma-issued RN licenses expire on the last day of the licensee’s birth month of even-numbered years. You can renew your license online using the OBN Nurse Portal. Renewal requires payment of the renewal fee and proof of meeting one of five options for continuing qualifications, including CE hours, professional employment, and certification in a nursing specialty area

Job Outlook for RNs in Oklahoma

The employment outlook for registered nurses in Oklahoma is strong and projected to remain that way for the next several years. Oklahoma RNs interested in advancing their careers as nurse practitioners can expect even better job growth in the state with a projected at 19.4% for the same ten-year period. Major employers of nurses in Oklahoma include hospitals like Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City, healthcare systems like Parallon and SSM Health, and nurse staffing agencies like GHR Travel Nursing.

Employment Projections for RNs in Oklahoma

New Jobs
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Oklahoma 3,230 9.1% 2,310
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

Nursing Pay in Oklahoma: How Much You Could Make as an RN

Salaries for RNs in Oklahoma lag somewhat behind those in the nation as a whole, but this is most likely due to the lower cost of living in the state. What you earn in your job as a registered nurse in Oklahoma depends on several factors, including your employer and job title, geographic location, and level of professional experience in the nursing field.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Oklahoma

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
Oklahoma $47,760 $65,680 $85,160
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Enid, OK $46,280 $63,200 $80,590
Lawton, OK $37,830 $67,350 $85,380
Oklahoma City, OK $49,080 $68,020 $85,810
Tulsa, OK $50,470 $66,250 $87,110

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020