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2021 Most Popular Online Nursing Schools

646 Colleges
$67,065 Avg Salary
$26,282 Avg Student Debt

In 2018-2019, 305,309 degrees and certificates were awarded to nursing students, making the major the most popular in the country.

There are lots of options to pick from today when trying to decide which healthcare program is right for you. You can choose a traditional brick and mortar school, or with the growth of online education, you can attend a school half-way across the country without even leaving your house. Also there are many trade schools that offer short-term programs that open up more career options.

Along with in-depth profiles of schools and the programs they offer, Healthcare Degree Search has created the Most Popular Online Nursing Schools to help you in your search for the best school for you. This report analyzed 646 schools in the United States to see which ones were the most popular online programs for healthcare students. To create this ranking we looked at how many students graduated from schools with online programs.

Check out the online nursing programs at these schools if you want to attend one of the most popular in the United States.

#1

Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, UT

Our 2021 rankings named Western Governors University the most popular online school in the United States for nursing students. Located in the suburb of Salt Lake City, WGU is a private not-for-profit school with a very large student population.

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The excellent online programs at Chamberlain University - Illinois helped the school earn the #2 place on this year’s ranking of the best nursing schools in the United States. Located in the large suburb of Addison, Chamberlain - Illinois is a private for-profit school with a fairly large student population.

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#3

Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend Grand Canyon University. The school came in at #3 on this year’s Most Popular Online Nursing Schools list. Located in the large city of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University is a private for-profit school with a very large student population.

After completing their degree, nursing graduates from Grand Canyon University carry an average student debtload of $32,934. For students who choose a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly student loan payment is $378.

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You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend The University of Texas at Arlington. The school came in at #4 on this year’s Most Popular Online Nursing Schools list. UT Arlington is a fairly large public school located in the city of Arlington.

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Out of the 646 schools in the United States that were part of this year’s ranking, Ohio University - Athens Campus landed the # 5 spot on the list. OHIO Athens is a very large public school located in the distant town of Athens.

After completing their degree, nursing graduates from OHIO Athens carry an average student debtload of $23,749. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $264.

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#6

Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Capella University landed the #6 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Located in the city of Minneapolis, Capella University is a private for-profit school with a fairly large student population.

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National University College came in at #7 in this year’s edition of the Most Popular Online Nursing Schools ranking. National University College is a large private for-profit school located in the medium-sized city of Bayamon.

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#8

Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

Walden University landed the #8 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Walden University is a fairly large private for-profit school located in the city of Minneapolis.

Nursing majors at Walden University take out an average of $53,556 in student loans while working on their egree. For students who choose a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly student loan payment is $614.

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#9

Excelsior College

Albany, NY

With a ranking of #9, Excelsior College did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students. Excelsior College is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in the city of Albany.

On average, nursing graduates from Excelsior College take out $18,138 in student loans while working on their degree. For students who choose a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly student loan payment is $200.

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Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center ranked #10 on this year’s Most Popular Online Nursing Schools list. TTUHSC is a medium-sized public school located in the large city of Lubbock.

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Rasmussen College - Florida landed the #11 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Located in the city of Ocala, Rasmussen College - Florida is a private for-profit school with a moderately-sized student population.

The average amount in student loans that nursing majors at Rasmussen College - Florida take out is $22,498. This translates to an average monthly loan payment of $233, based on a 10-year repayment plan.

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Southern New Hampshire University did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best schools for nursing students. It came in at #12 on the list. Located in the suburb of Manchester, SNHU is a private not-for-profit school with a fairly large student population.

While working on their degree, nursing majors at SNHU accumulate an average of around $13,608 in student debt. Assuming that a graduate chooses a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly loan payment is $141.

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Rasmussen College - Minnesota landed the #13 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Located in the city of St. Cloud, Rasmussen College - Minnesota is a private for-profit college with a small student population.

On average, nursing graduates from Rasmussen College - Minnesota take out $22,498 in student loans while working on their degree. This translates to an average monthly loan payment of $233, based on a 10-year repayment plan.

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University of North Carolina at Wilmington ranked #14 on this year’s Most Popular Online Nursing Schools list. Located in the medium-sized city of Wilmington, UNCW is a public school with a large student population.

On average, nursing graduates from UNCW take out $24,452 in student loans while working on their degree. Assuming that a graduate chooses a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly loan payment is $274.

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Purdue University Northwest landed the #15 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Located in the suburb of Hammond, Purdue Northwest is a public school with a fairly large student population.

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With a ranking of #16, American Sentinel University did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students. American Sentinel University is a small private for-profit school located in the large city of Aurora.

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#17

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University ranked #17 on this year’s Most Popular Online Nursing Schools list. Located in the large city of Philadelphia, Drexel is a private not-for-profit college with a very large student population.

While working on their degree, nursing majors at Drexel accumulate an average of around $34,810 in student debt. When it comes time to repay the loan, graduates who are on a 10-year repayment plan pay an average monthly payment of $394.

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With a ranking of #18, West Coast University - Orange County did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students. West Coast University - Orange County is a small private for-profit school located in the city of Anaheim.

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University of Central Florida ranked #19 on this year’s Most Popular Online Nursing Schools list. Located in the suburb of Orlando, UCF is a public school with a fairly large student population.

Nursing majors at UCF take out an average of $20,200 in student loans while working on their egree. Assuming that a graduate chooses a 10-year repayment plan, the average monthly loan payment is $226.

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University of Cincinnati - Main Campus landed the #20 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Located in the city of Cincinnati, UC is a public college with a fairly large student population.

On average, nursing graduates from UC take out $30,200 in student loans while working on their degree. This translates to an average monthly loan payment of $334, based on a 10-year repayment plan.

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#21

Aspen University

Denver, CO

Aspen University did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best schools for nursing students. It came in at #21 on the list. Aspen University is a medium-sized private for-profit school located in the large city of Denver.

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University of Phoenix - Arizona did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best schools for nursing students. It came in at #22 on the list. Located in the large city of Tempe, UOPX - Arizona is a private for-profit college with a fairly large student population.

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With a ranking of #23, California State University - San Marcos did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students. Located in the large suburb of San Marcos, CSUSM is a public college with a large student population.

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#24

Kaplan University-Indianapolis

Indianapolis, IN

Kaplan University-Indianapolis did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best schools for nursing students. It came in at #24 on the list. Located in the city of Indianapolis, Kaplan University-Indianapolis is a public school with a fairly large student population.

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#25

Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, AZ

Northern Arizona University came in at #25 in this year’s edition of the Most Popular Online Nursing Schools ranking. Located in the city of Flagstaff, NAU is a public college with a fairly large student population.

Nursing majors at NAU take out an average of $28,982 in student loans while working on their egree. The average monthly payment of a loan this size is about $324, assuming that the borrower is on a 10-year repayment plan.

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#30

Wilmington University

New Castle, DE
#36

The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL
#39

Oakland University

Rochester Hills, MI
#42

Eastern Michigan University

Ypsilanti, MI
#43

East Carolina University

Greenville, NC
#44

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA
#46

Resurrection University

Chicago, IL
#46

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Valley, PA
#48

University of Rhode Island

Kingston, RI
#49

Utica College

Utica, NY

Additional Award Winners

This section represents the remainder of the schools awarded a Most Popular Online Nursing Schools badge. Showing in this list means the college was ranked in the top 15% of the 646 different United States nursing schools we analyzed.

Rank College Location
51 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
52 Galen College of Nursing - Louisville Louisville, KY
53 National University La Jolla, CA
53 Mississippi University for Women Columbus, MS
55 University of Kentucky Lexington, KY
56 South University’s online programs Savannah, GA
57 Regis University Denver, CO
58 George Washington University Washington, DC
59 Laboure College Milton, MA
60 Universidad del Sagrado Corazon Santurce, PR
61 Denver College of Nursing Denver, CO
62 Daytona State College Daytona Beach, FL
63 Winston - Salem State University Winston-Salem, NC
64 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
65 Mount Carmel College of Nursing Columbus, OH
66 University of South Carolina - Upstate Spartanburg, SC
67 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
68 University of Michigan - Flint Flint, MI
69 University of North Florida Jacksonville, FL
70 Boise State University Boise, ID
70 University of Memphis Memphis, TN
72 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
73 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
74 Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus, OH
74 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY
76 University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI
77 South Dakota State University Brookings, SD
78 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
79 University of Oklahoma - Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City, OK
80 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
81 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
82 Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi Corpus Christi, TX
83 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
84 Arizona State University - Skysong Scottsdale, AZ
84 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
86 Florida International University Miami, FL
87 University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia, SC
88 Villanova University Villanova, PA
89 Thomas Edison State University Trenton, NJ
90 Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg, ID
91 Nevada State College Henderson, NV
91 University of Louisville Louisville, KY
93 Santa Fe College Gainesville, FL
94 University of South Alabama Mobile, AL
95 Rutgers University - Camden Camden, NJ
96 Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC

Honorable Mentions

These are some additional schools worth mentioning that are also great but just didn't quite make the cut to earn our top Most Popular Online Nursing Schools award.

Rank College Location
97 University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL
97 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA
99 Frontier Nursing University Hyden, KY
99 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS
101 The Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences Cincinnati, OH
101 University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville, AL
101 Augusta University Augusta, GA
101 Minnesota State University - Mankato Mankato, MN
105 University of Missouri - St Louis Saint Louis, MO
106 Rasmussen College - Illinois Rockford, IL
107 The University of Tennessee - Knoxville Knoxville, TN
108 St Petersburg College Clearwater, FL
109 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY
110 Southwestern Oklahoma State University Weatherford, OK
111 Polk State College Winter Haven, FL
112 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
112 Lehman College Bronx, NY
114 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA
115 Colorado Technical University - Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, CO
115 Curry College Milton, MA
117 Saint Louis University Saint Louis, MO
117 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
117 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL
120 University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst, MA
121 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
121 Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences Kansas City, MO
121 Lamar University Beaumont, TX
121 Central Methodist University - College of Graduate & Extended Studies Fayette, MO
121 University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC
126 Arkansas State University - Main Campus Jonesboro, AR
127 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg, TX
127 Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais, IL
127 Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT
127 Pensacola State College Pensacola, FL
127 Seminole State College of Florida Sanford, FL

View the Most Popular Online Nursing Schools for a specific region near you.

Region
Southeast
New England
Rocky Mountains
Plains States
Middle Atlantic
Far Western US
Southwest
Great Lakes

Nursing is one of 34 different types of healthcare programs to choose from.

Nursing Concentrations

Major Annual Graduates
Registered Nursing 251,279
Family Practice Nurse/Nursing 15,536
Nursing Administration 9,071
Other Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing 6,319
Nursing Practice 6,250
Nursing Science 4,704
Nurse Anesthetist 2,031
Adult Health Nurse/Nursing 2,012
Nursing Education 1,991
Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse/Nursing 1,266
Public Health/Community Nurse/Nursing 1,022
Critical Care Nursing 643
Clinical Nurse Leader 527
School Nursing 523
Nurse Midwife/Nursing Midwifery 475
Geriatric Nurse/Nursing 464
Clinical Nurse Specialist 428
Perioperative/Operating Room and Surgical Nurse/Nursing 236
Maternal/Child Health and Neonatal Nurse/Nursing 211
Emergency Room/Trauma Nursing 37
Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing 35
Palliative Care Nursing 23

Related Major Annual Graduates
Allied Health & Medical Assisting Services 99,641
Practical Nursing & Nursing Assistants 93,192
Allied Health Professions 86,697
Health & Medical Administrative Services 82,868
Public Health 36,569

Notes and References

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of the rest of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Credit for the banner image above goes to Aleksahgabrielle.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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