Best Nursing Schools in Virginia: Top Online & Campus Programs for 2021

From traditional campus degrees to online options designed for working nurses, top nursing schools in Virginia have a program that can meet your needs and qualify you for rewarding in-demand jobs…

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Last Updated: 05/12/2021
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Are you interested in healthcare and want to play a role in helping people in need? When you become a nurse in Virginia, you can join the ranks of some of the most important workers in the healthcare system. The best nursing schools in Virginia offer programs for all levels, including those who are already nurses and want to become managers, researchers, or educators. Whatever your career goal, this guide can help navigate Virginia’s nursing school options to choose the best one for you. It profiles the best schools in the state, including their different degree options, tells you what to expect when you enroll, and discusses the potential salary you may earn after you graduate.

2021’s Best-in-Class Nursing Schools in Virginia

There are many nursing schools in Virginia, but not all of them are right for your specific career goals. To help make your search for a nursing program easier, we compiled a list of the best schools in the state based on what matters most to students — curriculum, affordability, and available student resources. The three schools profiled below are standout schools for 2021 and tell you what to expect in any quality nursing program in Virginia.

The University of Virginia

Nursing students at the University of Virginia benefit from the school’s history of advancing the nursing field. The school engages in robust research that addresses areas such as palliative and end-of-life care, symptom science, compassionate care, and teaching and learning. The nursing school is also home to several centers and initiatives, including The Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry, the Center for Appreciative Practice, and the Center for Interprofessional Collaborations. Thanks to this rigorous academic environment, students at the University of Virginia receive a demanding education that prepares them to achieve their career goals.

At the undergraduate level, the school has a traditional Bachelor of Nursing Science (BSN) as well as an RN-to-BSN program. Those in the BSN program complete 120 credits and receive a solid foundation in nursing through classes on pharmacology, health assessment, nursing ethics, and family-centered care. Students in the RN-to-BSN program build on previous nursing experience by taking classes covering pathophysiology, health policy, and management in healthcare systems. The school also offers master and doctoral programs.

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University provides programs for experienced nurses as well as those studying nursing for the first time. Those who already have a nursing license can enroll in the school’s RN-to-BS program to advance their education and obtain higher knowledge and skills. Coursework addresses topics like nursing informatics, population health, interprofessional collaborative practice, and ethics, law, and policy in nursing practice.

Students who have not previously studied nursing can enroll in Virginia Commonwealth University’s traditional or accelerated BSN programs. The accelerated program is designed for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline. General education requirements are waived, so students can concentrate on nursing coursework. Required classes include nursing practice for patients across the continuum, concepts of professional nursing, and technologies used in nursing practice.

The traditional BSN program is for those who have not earned an undergraduate degree, so in addition to the nursing classes that create a solid foundation of knowledge, students also take general education classes like human physiology, introductory psychology, statistics, medical microbiology, and introduction to anthropology.

Chamberlain University

Chamberlain University’s BSN program consists of 122 credit hours, 56 of which are devoted to general education and 66 to nursing education. The curriculum in this three-year program includes courses on health assessment, anatomy and physiology, maternal-child nursing, nutrition and wellness, and community health nursing. Students can augment their classroom learning through the Chamberlain SIMCARE CENTER where they work with professors, nurses, and peers during laboratory work. They also participate in experiential learning in a clinical setting.

Students can enroll in a traditional BSN program or a program conducted on nights and weekends. The evening/weekend option has coursework identical to the regular program, but it allows those who work and have personal responsibilities to easily fit their education into their lifestyle.

To be admitted into the program, applicants should have graduated high school with at least a 2.75 grade point average or earned a GED. In addition, a 73 on the HESI Admission Assessment (A2) examination and a background check are required.

Common Qualities of the Best Nursing Schools in Virginia

Enrolling in a nursing school is the first step toward reaching your goals. You have to find the right school, though, and some schools offer higher quality education and training than others. As you make your decision, consider the following common qualities that the best nursing programs in Virginia share.

  • Knowledgeable and Experienced Faculty

    If you are interested in a particular type of nursing, consider schools with faculty members that have experience in that area. This ensures you learn from professionals who have the specialized knowledge and practice you need to be successful.
  • Partnerships with Healthcare Facilities

    Clinical rotations are a huge part of the learning experience for nursing students, so find out if the school you’re interested in has partnerships with healthcare facilities you may want to work for. This helps you get the training you need while allowing you to network with professionals that can help you get a job after graduation.
  • Nationally Accredited and State Approved

    National accreditation is important because to receive this distinction, nursing schools must go through a rigorous evaluation that ensures they are providing a quality curriculum from experienced faculty members. The best nursing schools in Virginia are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). In addition, Virginia nursing students must graduate from a school approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing to obtain their licenses.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Virginia

Whether you’re studying nursing for the first time or interested in expanding your current nursing knowledge and skillsets, nursing programs in Virginia provide many options to help with your goals. This section describes the different types of nursing programs available at undergraduate and graduate levels and lists specific schools in Virginia offering these degrees.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Virginia

ADN Programs

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is for students who no previous nursing experience and who want to become registered nurses. Students learn the basics of patient care, such as how to dress wounds, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and review patient treatment plans. These programs take two years to complete and are generally available at two- and four-year colleges.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

Traditional BSN programs, like ADN degrees, are for those who no previous nursing education. BSN programs are different because they take four years to complete and include coursework related to nursing and general education as well as clinical training.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Students who want to become nurses and have a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline can enroll in an accelerated BSN program. Since these students have already completed general education classwork, the accelerated BSN takes less time to complete, generally one to two years, because it focuses solely on nursing courses.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Virginia for Current Nurses

LVN to RN and LVN to BSN Programs

These bridge programs are for licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) who want to further their education to get a promotion, higher pay, and more autonomy in their jobs. LVN-to-RN and LVN-to-BSN programs can be finished in about two to four years, and students take more advanced coursework that builds on previous knowledge as well as complete clinical rotations.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

As more employers favor nurses with bachelor’s degrees, an RN-to-BSN bridge can increase your job prospects and promotion options at your current job. These programs last about a year and build on current knowledge by introducing more advanced concepts like nursing informatics, community health, and nursing leadership.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

These bridge programs, which can be completed in about two years, allow students to become experts in specific areas of the field and pursue advanced nursing positions. RN-to-MSN programs include courses covering advanced nursing theory and practice and require clinical hours.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Virginia

MSN Programs

MSN programs are for nurses who want to pursue high-level nursing positions such as managerial roles in a healthcare facility. You don’t need prior nursing experience to enroll in a master’s degree program. Direct-entry nursing master’s degrees are for those from different fields who want to become a registered nurse or advanced practice nurse.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Although Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs both offer doctoral-level degrees, they are designed for different nursing goals. A DNP program focuses on advanced practical care and leadership, and those who earn these degrees use this education to pursue managerial jobs in the nursing field or provide advanced care to patients. Ph.D. programs focus on nursing research, so individuals earning these degrees usually become nursing educators or researchers.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with this Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

If nurses are interested in focusing on geriatric, pediatric, or psychiatric patients, a post-graduate certificate can give expertise in the specialty they want to pursue. These certificates are designed for those who already have a master’s degree or doctorate, so they go into the program with advanced knowledge on which they can build.

Examples of Virginia Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Virginia

Just because you’re currently working or raising a family doesn’t mean you can’t get your first nursing degree or build on the nursing education you already completed. Online nursing programs in Virginia can help you accomplish this because they allow you to attend classes at your convenience, but they still give you the hands-on training necessary to solidify the concepts you learn.

Online nursing programs allow students to finish some or all of their classes online, and although they are learning at a distance, they still have access to the same curriculum and services traditional students enjoy. Continue reading to find out more about the best online programs for nursing students in Virginia.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Virginia

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University has an online RN-to-BSN program through its College of Health Sciences School of Nursing. This 120-credit program allows students to enhance their knowledge of nursing and take general education courses they may not have completed in previous programs. Nursing courses in the program cover clinical concepts, health assessment, health policy and law, and nursing informatics. Required general education classes include written communication, human behavior, statistics, biology, and sociology. After completing their degree, students can work in nursing management and administration, advanced nursing practice, or pharmaceutical sales.

Radford University

Radford University’s School of Nursing, which is part of the Waldron College of Health and Human Services, offers an online RN-to-BSN degree. To be admitted, students need a nursing associate degree or diploma, a 2.50 minimum grade point average, and an active nursing license. After enrolling in the program, students must complete 31 credits, including coursework in nursing theory and research, nursing leadership, and holistic nursing principles.

Those interested in graduate study have several choices at Radford University. You can earn a Doctor of Nursing practice with a nurse leadership, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or family nurse practitioner concentration. There’s also a post-master’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificate program available.

Sentara College of Health Sciences

The online RN-to-BSN program at Sentara College of Health Sciences is a 30-credit program requiring 360 lecture hours, 45 laboratory hours, and 225 clinical hours. When students finish the degree, they can use nursing technology and knowledge of nursing practice to provide quality care; promote healthcare teamwork; understand political, regulatory, and organizational factors that may impact how care is delivered; and nurture a sense of lifelong learning to keep abreast with developments in the field throughout their careers. Specific classes include theoretical foundations for nurses, nursing informatics, health assessment, and leadership management. Students also complete a capstone course that provides the hands-on training they need to put what they learned in the classroom into practice in the real world.

To be accepted into this program, applicants should have at least a C- average in the school’s prerequisite courses. These courses include anatomy and physiology, microbiology, English composition, and developmental psychology.

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in Virginia

Can I earn my nursing degree in Virginia completely online?

In some cases, you can, depending on the program and the school you attend. Some programs allow you to take all your coursework online, but you are required to complete nursing clinicals in a healthcare facility as you would with a traditional nursing degree program. Some programs are hybrid, which means you complete a portion of your classes online and another portion on campus, or you go to campus only to participate in lab experiences. Either way, hybrid programs also require clinicals.

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

An online program is considered equally valuable to employers as long as you attend a school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and approved by the state of Virginia. The curriculum of an online degree program is identical to the curriculum of a traditional program, so you can be confident you’ll get the training you need to find a job after graduation.

Are online nursing programs in Virginia more affordable than campus programs?

It depends on the program. If you attend a private college or university, the online tuition may be comparable to the tuition for traditional students. However, some schools do charge by credit rather than by semester, so it’s important to check to be sure. Nonetheless, attending an online school can save you money on travel since you won’t be going to campus regularly.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Virginia

Nursing students in Virginia have numerous financial aid opportunities to help them pay for their degree programs, whether undergraduate or graduate. Virginia-specific scholarships can be won through the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority. You can also receive scholarships, loans, and grants through your school directly as well as through programs offered by the federal government and nursing organizations. Our nursing scholarship guide and financial aid guide can also help you locate different options to help defray the cost of your education.

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

After you finish your degree program, it’s time to get a Virginia nursing license. The following outlines the steps you need to take to obtain the credentials needed to get a job as an RN. You can also learn more about nursing licensure requirements in Virginia, visit the Virginia Department of Health Professions Board of Nursing website.

Step 1

Complete a Nursing Program

The first step toward getting a license is to graduate from a nursing program approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing.

Step 2

Complete an Application

Prospective nurses are required to fill out the application for licensure by examination and pay the $190 fee.

Step 3

Submit to a Criminal Background Check

Applicants participate in a criminal background check by submitting fingerprints to the state.

Step 4

Understand Nursing Laws

Virginia expects future nurses to review and understand the laws and regulations applicable to nursing practice.

Step 5

Pass the NCLEX

After submitting your application to the state, you must sign up for and pass the NCLEX examination.

Step 6

Renew Your License

Nursing licenses need to be renewed every two years. Renewal requirements include completing continuing education classes and paying the $140 fee

Job Outlook for RNs in Virginia

In the near future, according to the Virginia Employment Commission, the top profession for those with bachelor’s degrees in the state will be registered nursing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2018 and 2028, registered nurses in Virginia will see an 11.7 percent increase in jobs. This means that 7,740 new positions are expected to be added to the profession. On the national level, there will be an additional 371,500 jobs created, which amounts to a 12.1 percent increase.

Employment Projections for RNs in Virginia

Employment (2018)New Jobs (2018-2028)Job Growth Rate (2018-2028)Average Annual Openings (2018-2028)
Virginia65,9207,74011.7%4,500
United States3,059,800371,50012.1%210,400

Source: Projections Central

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

Registered nurses in Virginia on average earn $70,230 per year, while highest earners make $98,860 and those in the lowest percentile receive $50,890 annually. This is comparable to the national average median of $73,300, with lowest earners nationally receiving $52,080 and highest earners $111,220. Nurses in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area earn the most in the state of Virginia with salaries from $57,090 to $110,240. The lowest-earning registered nurses in Virginia work in Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol where salaries range from $41,530 to $75,590.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Virginia

10th PercentileMedian Earnings90th Percentile
Virginia$50,890$70,230$98,860
United States$52,080$73,300$111,220
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA$50,330$60,980$88,070
Charlottesville, VA$50,790$71,200$104,040
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA$41,530$54,710$75,590
Lynchburg, VA$44,870$63,670$79,410
Richmond, VA$52,740$72,020$98,590
Roanoke, VA$47,230$63,590$84,850
Staunton-Waynesboro, VA$52,860$67,590$84,970
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC$50,120$68,280$95,510
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$57,090$81,600$110,240
Winchester, VA-WV$53,240$67,270$92,980

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

Virginia Nursing Resources

Virginia Board of Nursing

The Virginia Board of Nursing’s website includes information on getting a nursing license and keeping it current, laws and regulations for nurses in the state, and continuing education options. It also provides news that RNs in Virginia need to know.

Virginia Nursing Students’ Association

This organization provides support for nurses, including networking events, information on scholarships for Virginia nurses, and information about nursing specialties.

Scholarships and Online Resources for RN Students

This page includes information on nursing scholarships as well as helpful resources they can use to augment their studies.

Virginia Nurses Association

Members of the Virginia Nurses Association have access to advocacy services, networking and education events, continuing education classes, and the latest nursing research.

Virginia Nursing Legacy Magazine

Published by the University of Virginia, this magazine features articles about what’s going on in the nursing field and the individual stories of current nurses and nursing students.