Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Washington
While you're required to become a registered nurse (RN) to work as a nurse, some states are also starting to require nurses to have a minimum of a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN).
Not only does a BSN prepare you to pass the NCLEX-RN and find a position as a nurse, but BSN holders earn an average of $30,000 a year more than associate degree RNs.
If you choose to earn a BSN, make the most of your education by picking a high-quality school. Better schools can provide unmatched education and resources, and some schools may connect you to your future job.
This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,
- NCLEX pass rate
- Acceptance rate, when available
- Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible
Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.
- Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
- Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
- Kathleen Gaines, BSN, RN, BA, CBC
- Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Washington nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Washington
Annual Tuition: $27,936 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.43%
Founded in 1892, Walla Walla University is spread over five campuses that span the PNW. Nursing students get to experience a few of these campuses. To start, BSN majors complete their freshman and sophomore years at the main campus in College Place, Washington. The junior and senior years are then completed at the Portland, Oregon campus. Outcomes for the program are highly positive — in 2018, 96.9% of graduates found a position as an RN within one year of graduating.
Annual Tuition: $32,500 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 79.55%
Located near Seattle and Bellevue, Northwest University’s prime location lets students enjoy an urban lifestyle while being a short drive away from nature. The great location could also help nursing students find jobs at local hospitals upon completing the program and passing the NCLEX. The NCLEX pass rate for the recent graduating place may not be indicative of the quality of Northwest’s program — from 2014-17, Northwest had pass rates of 88.1%, 96%, 97.73%, and 86.96%. Current RNs can enroll in Northwest University’s online RN-BSN program.
Annual In-State Tuition: $5,084 (based on a per credit charge) | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.12%
Technically a community college based in Washington’s Tri-Cities area, Columbia Basin College does offer a bachelor’s in nursing — however, the route to a BSN is far from traditional. To earn a BSN, students would then have to complete the RN-BSN program. However, all prerequisites for the RN-BSN can be completed through Columbia Basin’s associate degree in nursing (ADN). So, while there isn’t a traditional four-year program, students can complete a BSN from start to finish at Columbia Basin. Interested applicants should note that the NCLEX pass rate is based on graduates of the ADN.
Annual Tuition: $44,604 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90%
Based in the heart of Seattle, Seattle Pacific University is a private school founded by the Free Methodist Church of North America. Christianity is integrated into all of SPU’s programs, including the bachelor’s in nursing. SPU is well connected with local hospitals, so students could find internships at some of the best hospitals in the area. After graduation, SPU’s connection with healthcare facilities could help you find your first job. The price is steep, but the high NCLEX pass rate and SPU’s connections are well worth the tuition.
Annual Tuition: $45,765 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.59%
Seattle University is a Jesuit Catholic school based just outside of Seattle’s vibrant downtown. The 7,200 students enrolled at Seattle U eschew the traditional campus experience and enjoy learning and living in the city. The College of Nursing has offered healthcare education for over 80 years, and along with a BSN, master of science in nursing (MSN), and doctor of nursing practice (DNP), the College of Nursing has an innovative BS in diagnostic ultrasound. Of course, most nursing students will choose the traditional BSN, a four-year program with an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and the opportunity to complete clinicals internationally.
Annual In-State Tuition: $11,465 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.66%
As one of the top public schools in the nation, the University of Washington attracts students from around the world. This means that admission to the School of Nursing can be highly competitive. The BSN is the most popular nursing program at UW with 143 degrees awarded in 2017. Interestingly, UW graduated almost as many DNP students in 2017 as it did BSN. For any level of nursing education, UW should be a top choice for all students — particularly local students that can take advantage of the low in-state tuition.
Annual Tuition: $44,280 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 87.67%
Based in Spokane on the eastern side of Washington, Gonzaga University is home to over 5,000 undergraduate students. While Gonzaga is a private, Jesuit university, the School of Nursing & Human Physiology doesn’t blend religion into curriculum. The BSN is the main program offered by Gonzaga, completed on-campus in Spokane. Any current RNs or BSN holders can complete the following programs online through Gonzaga: RN-MSN, MSN, second degree MSN, DNP post-baccalaureate, and DNP post-masters.
Annual In-State Tuition: $10,290 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 87.78%
Another school located in Eastern Washington, Washington State University is a public school that has an incredibly low in-state tuition. WSU was founded in 1890, but the College of Nursing opened its doors in 1968. Nursing students complete their program across Washington with campuses in Spokane, Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, and Yakima. However, this means that none of the nursing programs are offered at WSU’s main campus in Pullman, so students must complete their first two years in Pullman then relocate to another WSU campus.
Annual Tuition: $43,264 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.74%
Pacific Lutheran University is a Tacoma-based school with over 3,100 students. Often considered one of the top universities in the region, PLU draws from its Norwegian roots and prides itself as a global university. The traditional BSN is the main nursing program offered at PLU, though an MSN and DNP are also available. PLU connects students with over 100 local health organizations to complete clinicals and prepares students for just about any first-level position a nurse could find. The comprehensive education could be part of the reason why PLU’s recent BSN grads had incredible success on the NCLEX.
Annual In-State Tuition: $18,188 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 83.33%
Located in Central Washington just outside the Yakama Indian Reservation, Heritage University offers a small-town setting near the Columbia River and plenty of state parks. Heritage emphasizes experience in the BSN program by having students take framework courses in their freshman year and begin caring for patients in their sophomore year. By the time BSN students graduate, they will already have three years of experience caring for patients. Keep in mind that the BSN requires 140 semester credits, making it one of the longer programs in Washington.
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 student depending on various factors including,
- Transfer credits
- Completed competency exams
- Amount of credits taken per year
- 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),
- Washington nurses earn an annual mean wage of $82,670, one of the highest rates in the nation
- Washington employs 56,290 nurses with a location quotient of 0.85, meaning they employ fewer nurses per 1,000 workers than the national average.
The BLS shows that Washington pays a high salary for nurses, though average salaries are lower than fellow West Coast states Oregon, California, and Alaska. However, wages are still much higher than the national mean wage of $75,510.
While 56,290 nurses work in Washington, the bulk lives and works in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area. According to the BLS, 31,880 nurses work in this metropolitan area, over half the nurses in the state.
Finding the perfect position may be harder in Washington than other states, but Washington nurses earn a high wage and are likely to live in a vibrant city.
After you’ve selected multiple colleges and nursing programs you’re interested in, the next step is to begin the application process. When applying to schools, pay careful attention to application deadlines — you don’t want to miss out on your dream program due to a late application!
The steps in the application process include the following:
Contact each school’s admissions offices. Each school has an admission’s office, and you should get in touch with them early on. The admissions office can tell you everything you need to know about the school’s application process, including required materials.
Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Nursing schools typically have their own set of requirements on top of the college’s admission requirements. Find out if you’re on track to meet these requirements.
Submit your application(s). Once you’ve gathered your materials and determined whether or not you’ll be eligible for a nursing program, the final step is to apply for college!
Common application requirements include:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Important considerations when comparing schools:
After applications are reviewed, you’ll begin to receive acceptance letters to different schools. Picking a college to study at can be difficult, but odds are that one school offers more benefits for your individual wants and needs than every other school. If the right school isn’t obvious, compare the benefits of each school and nursing program.
When comparing schools, consider:
- Annual cost of program
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Cost of living on-campus or in the area
- Distance from home
- School and nursing program acceptance rate
- Commute to school/hospital for clinicals
- Length of program
- Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
- Accreditation (regional and programmatic)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accreditation is a school’s way of proving its academic excellence, and some employers may only accept nurses that earned a degree from a regionally accredited school. In addition to regional accreditation, make sure the nursing program is accredited.
The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation.
Getting a License in Washington
Washington isn’t part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), but the licensure process is similar to that of most states. If you complete an accredited BSN program in Washington, you should be prepared for licensure upon graduation.
To get a license in Washington, you’ll need to:
- Study at a nursing school approved by the Washington State Department of Health
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal and mental health background check
- Complete HIV/AIDS training
- Apply through the Washington State Department of Health website
If your application is denied for any reason, you can always request a hearing to plead your case for licensure.
Washington is one of the highest-paying states for nurses, making it an ideal landing spot for recent grads. New nurses will likely find work in the busy Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area and get to enjoy an urban lifestyle. Plenty of great nursing schools are in Washington, preparing students for a high-paying career as a nurse.