September 26, 2022

Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Arizona

When it comes to places to enjoy a long nursing career, it’s tough to beat Arizona. With some of the hottest temperatures around the year and plenty of affordable housing, Arizona is an excellent state to put your roots down.

But before you can begin your nursing career in Arizona, you need to become a registered nurse (RN). And to get the best jobs, it’s smart to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), at the very least. To maximize your chance of a job in Arizona, it’s best to study in the state to gain valuable connections and complete state-specific requirements.


This is a nurse panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,

  • Reputation

  • NCLEX pass rate

  • Tuition

  • Acceptance rate, when available

  • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible 

Nurse Panel

Our selection panel includes 5 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS

  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN

  • Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN

  • Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

  • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Arizona nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

Top Nursing Schools in Arizona 

Each school has its own benefits and drawbacks. So, depending on what your short and long term nursing goals are, one school can easily seem better than the rest. So, it’s best to compare each school to determine the best fit for your needs. Several of the schools on the list do not offer traditional BSN degrees but have exception ADN offerings or RN to BSN programs. 

With that in mind, we consider these to be the best schools in Arizona, ranked in no particular order:

1. Northern Arizona University

Annual In-State Tuition: $11,024| NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.34%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Before applying to Northern Arizona University’s BSN program, it’s important to know that this is a four and a half year program, meaning nine semesters of study. However, NAU allows nursing students to study via one of their four programs located across the northern part of Arizona. Even with such versatility, NAU still boasts an impressive NCLEX pass rate for graduates of the program. Maybe that extra semester is a good thing! 

NAU also offers a variety of other BSN options unique to its nursing program including, 

  • American Indian Program: Admits 10 students each fall semester. It is dedicated to giving priority to Native American students who are members of federally recognized tribes. 

  • Concurrent Enrollment Program: For students pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing

  • Mid-AAS: Work on your BSN degree while mid-way through your associates RN licensure

2. Arizona College of Nursing

Annual Tuition: $13,200 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 91.95%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

Arizona College has multiple locations across multiple states (8 in fact!), but nursing students will likely study at their Tempe location. The highlight of Arizona College’s BSN program is that it’s accelerated and should be finished in just three years. After finishing, Arizona College says students will be more than prepared for the NCLEX (and they have a good pass rate for recent grads). Considering the abbreviated program, the price for this school can be much lower than expected, and you can start your nursing career even sooner. 

Arizona College’s tuition rates are not affected by student residency. Programs can also be found in Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Virgina. 

3. Arizona State University

Annual In-State Tuition: $12,698 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88.39%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

Arizona State University has a national reputation as a party school and football powerhouse, but the sizable public school also has a local reputation for being an excellent place to earn an education. Nursing students will have four different options to earn their BSN, although most will probably choose the traditional four-year program. The nursing program also features a 45,000-square-foot nationally accredited state-of-the-art simulation center where students will get to practice their nursing skills. In terms of cost and success, this could easily be the best school for current Arizona residents. Also, students will get to enjoy Tempe in their free time. Not bad!

4. Grand Canyon University

Annual Tuition: $16,500 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.37%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Recently in the news for once again honoring their tuition freezes for traditional campus the 14th consecutive year, Grand Canyon University is dedicated to helping every individual find their purpose in a future career. A great school to earn an online degree, GCU also has a beautiful campus near downtown Phoenix. Their two most popular nursing programs are the traditional BSN and the online RN to BSN. In 2021, GCU surpassed both Arizona and national averages for the NCLEX exam. With fantastic scores and a long history in the Phoenix area for over 70 consecutive years, GCU has proven to be a tough competitor against other popular state schools. GCU’s online and traditional campus continues to grow rapidly as they continue to build the community and exceed educational expectations.
GCU tuition rates are not affected by student residency.

5. University of Phoenix

Annual Tuition: $9,464 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

Traditional: No

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

If you know anything about the University of Phoenix, then you’re aware that this Arizona-based school that offers pretty much all of its courses online. However, it’s regionally accredited and, while not the most glamorous school to attend, is completely legitimate (and affordable). Because they only offer courses online, a traditional BSN isn’t possible. However, the University of Phoenix does offer an online RN to BSN program for current registered nurses. There are frequent start dates and courses typically run 5 to 8 weeks in length. 

University of Phoenix’s tuition rates are not affected by student residency.

6. Pima Medical Institute

Annual Tuition: $13,377 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.1%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: No

Bridge: Yes

In terms of affordability, Pima Medical Institute is an excellent choice. Courses in their BSN program have a flat rate, so it’s easy to budget for an exact tuition cost. But it is worth knowing that Prima Medical Institute does not offer a traditional BSN. Instead, students will need to have already become RNs to enroll in their RN to BSN program. This is obviously not for nursing students with no experience, but current RNs can easily benefit from this flexible program. The program is typically 16 months in duration for those that follow the program outline.

Pima Medical Institute tuition rates are not affected by student residency.

7. The University of Arizona

Annual In-State Tuition: $13,200 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.62%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Easily among the top nursing programs in the region, the University of Arizona’s BSN program should be on every nursing student’s radar. With a high NCLEX pass rate and low in-state tuition, this program has it all. However, a drawback to this is that the program is going to be highly competitive, meaning it will be more difficult to get accepted into this program than into other Arizona BSN programs. The University of Arizona’s BSN program also has stricter admissions guidelines than other schools, so those are worth looking at prior to applying. The University of Arizona also boasts a BSN Integrative Health program at the Gilbert, Arizona campus which is the school’s newest pathway, blending conventional medicine with complimentary approaches to Mind-Body-Spirit and Wellbeing.

8. Glendale Community College

Annual In-State Tuition: $1,307.50 | NCLEX Pass Rate: N/A

Traditional: No

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Glendale Community College doesn’t have a BSN option, but it’s worth mentioning for a few reasons. First, Glendale Community College is part of the larger Maricopa Community College which has eight campuses across Arizona, so in-state students can find a campus near them. Second, the cost of tuition is incredibly low. Students interested in nursing will likely choose the Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in nursing. This more than adequately qualifies and prepares students to take and pass the NCLEX.

9. Carrington College - Phoenix

Annual Tuition: $15,202 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 78.33%

Traditional: No

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Carrington College has locations across the nation, including three campuses in Arizona (Mesa, Phoenix, and Tucson) which offer an RN degree program. This two-year program is meant to give you all the skills you need to become an RN and find work locally. While a BSN is usually preferred for graduating nurses, nearly half of all Carrington College RN students had secured a position prior to graduation. With multiple AZ locations to choose from, Carrington is a nice, two-year option for nursing students. The Carrington College - Mesa location has the highest NCLEX pass rate.

10. Cochise College

Annual In-State Tuition: $1,896 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 82.67%

Traditional: No

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

Another college that doesn’t have a BSN option, Cochise College makes this list for its affordability. On top of the incredibly low in-state tuition, hundreds of thousands of dollars are awarded in scholarships each year. Future nurses will be most interested in the AAS in nursing, a two-year program. Cochise has perhaps the top AAS program in Arizona, and local employers who need nurses know they can trust this degree. The college was recently ranked as the #1 nursing school in Arizona by the website ‘Accredited Schools’. It’s important to mention that the nursing program is a competitive entry program and a TEAS Entrance Exam is required. 

Show Me Arizona Nursing Programs

4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition

Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each individual student depending on various factors including,

  1. Transfer credits

  2. Completed competency exams

  3. Amount of credits taken per year

  4. Financial aid awards

Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.

Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

  • Nurses employed in Arizona make an annual mean wage of $81,600, higher than the national mean annual wage.

  • Arizona also has more nurses per capita than other states in the area, such as California and Texas.

Next Steps: 

After you’ve decided on the best nursing school(s) for your needs, the next step is to begin your applications.

  • Contact the admissions office at each school you’re interested in. Each school has its own standards, and you may be required to take specific courses, engage in extracurricular activities, or volunteer to be eligible to apply for a school.

  • Inquire about the nursing program requirements for admission - it’s worth noting that nursing programs often have additional requirements for admission. So, even though you may get accepted into a college, you may not have satisfied the needs to apply for the nursing program. Some or all of these prerequisites can be completed during your college career prior to applying to the nursing program.

  • Collect all the materials you need to apply. Most colleges require one or two letters of recommendation, along with your high school transcript. If the nursing program has required paperwork that needs to be completed prior to applying to the college, it’s best to complete that now, too.

If you feel lost or confused at any stage in the process, don’t worry. Every school has a different process, and the admissions office will help you through your application. 

Generally speaking, materials you need to submit include:

  • High school transcript (GPA)

  • ACT and/or SAT scores

  • College entrance essay(s)

  • Letter(s) of recommendation

Important considerations when comparing schools 

If choosing the right nursing school came down to one factor, then nobody would care about the rest. With that in mind, you shouldn’t choose a nursing school just because it has a high NCLEX pass rate or a high acceptance rate. Consider multiple factors prior to choosing your school, including:

  • Annual tuition and total nursing program cost

  • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered

  • Cost of living on-campus or in the area

  • Distance from hospitals

  • School and nursing program acceptance rate

  • NCLEX pass rate

  • Type of program (BSN or associate degree)

  • Program outcomes

  • School’s accreditation (regional and national)

You should also check to see that schools are offering exactly what you’re looking for. Remember, the program you choose could alter the trajectory of your future nursing career. 

Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation

Nursing students who complete their studies at a non-accredited university will not be able to sit for the NCLEX. Therefore, they will face immense challenges in securing stable, well-paying jobs. Why? Because students who do not take the NCLEX are not eligible to work as Registered Nurses. 

The two nursing program accrediting organizations are,

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

These accrediting bodies ensure that all accredited nursing programs adhere to the same standard and criteria.

Show Me Arizona Nursing Programs

Getting a License in Arizona

The good news is that Arizona has fewer requirements to become a registered nurse than most other states. It’s also part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), meaning a nursing license in Arizona is sufficient to be a nurse in roughly 37 other states.

However, you still must:

  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN

  • Complete a criminal background check

  • Complete the Arizona nursing application 

Nursing students should also know that Arizona has one of the nation’s highest NCLEX pass rates. The best way to prepare for the NCLEX is by applying for, then completing, a BSN.

>> Related: The Complete Guide to Nursing in Arizona


While Arizona might not have as many nursing school options as other states, the schools they have more than adequately prepare nurses for a long, successful career. Arizona is and should continue to be a great place to enjoy a nursing career - thanks to high wages and stable employment. 

For an affordable nursing degree – particularly for those who already live in-state – Arizona is a great place to study!

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