10 Best Nursing Schools in Raleigh-Durham for 2021

The Triangle region of North Carolina is one of the world’s foremost medical centers, with multiple world-class hospitals, medical schools, and nursing schools. The University of North Carolina and Duke University alone are two of the most respected in the world, Nursing schools in Raleigh, NC, its twin city, Durham, and other areas in the Triangle offer prospective students many options, but not all nursing schools in Durham and  Raleigh, North Carolina afford the same choices. So finding the right school will be more about your needs, such as remote learning or evening schedule requirements than it will be about the right school. 

It doesn’t matter if it is in Raleigh or nursing schools in Durham NC – choosing the right school begins with you. Fortunately, there are many good nursing schools in Durham North Carolina, and all over the region of North Carolina which only improves the chances of finding a school that allows you the best opportunity to succeed.

How We Ranked the Best Nursing Schools in Raleigh-Durham

To rank the best nursing schools in the Triangle, TopRNtoBSN editors researched accredited colleges and universities offering nursing progams at every level. Programs are ranked according to factors including cost, reputation, salary potential, and breadth of offerings. 

1. Duke University

Topping the list of the best nursing schools in Raleigh-Durham, NC is Duke University. This school offers an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a PhD in Nursing. Nursing students have access to the Center for Nursing Discovery, which is a state-of-the-art nursing simulation center. The center is accredited by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare and the Council for Accreditation of Healthcare Simulation Programs. The Center for Nursing Discovery provides a safe and supportive environment for students to practice their nursing skills.

Duke University School of Nursing is ranked as the #2 graduate nursing school by US News & World Report. The school is committed to training the next generation of nurse leaders. Duke is working to make advances in the field of nursing in areas that are of global importance.

Highlight: ABSN students can earn up to 9 credits toward their master’s degree while working on their bachelor’s.

Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is another of the best nursing schools in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area. This school offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a PhD in Nursing. UNC Chapel Hill combines time-tested teaching methods with new, innovative approaches to give students the skills and knowledge they need to be competent practitioners in the field of nursing. Students are trained for leadership and learn how to advocate for the safety, well-being, and care of the patient. Graduates go on to lead successful careers in nursing, healthcare research, public policy, nursing education, and hospital administration.

The UNC School of Nursing shapes the nursing profession through innovation, creativity, and the pursuit of scientific advancements in research.

Highlight: UNC Chapel Hill has a 97% NCLEX pass rate and a 97% job placement rate for BSN grads.

Programs: BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD

3.  North Carolina Central University

As one of the best nursing schools in Raleigh-Durham, NC, North Carolina Central University has four pathways to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. There is the traditional BSN, the accelerated BSN, the RN-BSN option, and the veterans option. The programs are intended to give students the skills and knowledge they need to work as professional nurses in many different settings. Students learn a variety of nursing skills, including high-tech procedures. They also gain leadership, communication, decision making, and critical thinking skills.

The Department of Nursing at North Carolina Central University strives to optimize the learning environment in order to encourage service, discovery, scholarship, and leadership in its students. The school graduates around 60-75 nursing students every year.

Highlight: Students gain clinical experience through partnerships with health departments, long-term care facilities, clinics, and hospitals in Franklin, Vance-Granville, Person, Chatham, Orange, Wake, and Durham counties.

Programs: BSN

4. Wake Technical Community College

Next on the list of the best nursing schools in Raleigh-Durham, NC is Wake Tech. Wake offers an associate degree in nursing that gives students the skills and knowledge they need to begin their nursing careers. The program teaches students to meet the individual needs of their patients as they practice in a dynamic, ever-changing environment. Students who complete the program are qualified to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. There is an associate degree nursing—advanced placement program for students who are already practicing as Licensed Practical Nurses and want to advance their education.

The Martha Mann Smith School of Nursing has an excellent reputation in the community. The school prepares graduates who have the entry-level skills needed to practice as RNs in a variety of healthcare settings. The ADN program is approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing.

Highlight: Wake Tech is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Programs: ADN

5. Durham Technical Community College

Durham Tech is also one of the best nursing schools in Raleigh-Durham, NC. The school offers an Associate Degree in Nursing that provides knowledge and skills that students can use to provide safe, quality nursing care. Students learn to deal with changing conditions and to meet the individual needs of their patients in order to positively impact quality of life, health, and achievement of the individual’s potential. The curriculum covers informatics, quality improvement, and evidence-based practice. Students learn to work as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Durham Tech helps students develop the skills and gain the experiences they need to succeed in their careers. The school offers over 100 programs and has over 15,000 students. Durham Tech graduates are able to transfer to one of Durham’s four-year partner institutions if they want to continue their education.

Highlight: This program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Programs: ADN

6. North Carolina Wesleyan College

North Carolina Wesleyan College has an online RN to BSN program for students who already have a certificate or associate degree and have been working as RNs. This program prepares RNs to move up to the next level in their nursing careers. Students gain an enhanced skill set that they can integrate into their daily nursing practice. The program is 100% online and the curriculum is broken into eight-week courses. The school has experienced faculty members with real-world experience who provide the support students need to succeed. Students can complete the Flexible Clinical Practice Experiences in their own place of employment.

North Carolina Wesleyan believes in its students. The school believes that students are embarking on a lifelong journey of striving, growing, and learning that starts with a quality college education. NC Wesleyan works hard to prepare students to make that journey.

Highlight: Students can work at their own pace and complete the program in as little as a year.

Programs: BSN

7. Johnston Community College

Johnston Community College has an Associate Degree in Nursing that gives students the skills and knowledge they need to begin their careers as RNs. Students learn how to treat the holistic individual and to work as part of an interdisciplinary team. They learn quality improvement, informatics, and evidence-based practice. Graduates of the program can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which they must pass in order to become Registered Nurses. There are many employment opportunities available for graduates, including nursing positions in community healthcare facilities, chronic and extended care, and acute care facilities.

Johnston Community College has been awarding diplomas, certificates, and associate degrees to students since 1969. The school has over 13,000 students each year and has around 35 occupational study programs. JCC has a 2800-acre wildlife preserve called the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center.

Highlight: Johnston Community College’s NCLEX pass rate for 2019 was 100%.

Programs: ADN

8. Watts College of Nursing

Watts College of Nursing offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in partnership with the University of Mount Olive. Students must complete their general education courses and a 21-hour residency at the University of Mount Olive before being admitted to the Watts College of Nursing to complete the program. Students then complete four 15-week semesters of nursing education at Watts. Courses include nursing health assessment, nursing pathophysiology and pharmacology, history and theories of nursing, nursing research, nursing concepts, leadership and management in nursing, and legal and ethical issues in nursing.

The Watts College of Nursing has transitioned to offering a BSN in Nursing because many employers are looking for nurses who have a bachelor’s level of education. The program includes early hands-on clinical experiences and provides a variety of simulated learning experiences.

Highlight: Watts School of Nursing recently transitioned to offering a bachelor’s program and has changed its name to Watts College of Nursing.

Programs: ADN, BSN 

9. ECPI University (Raleigh)

ECPI University offers two nursing programs at its Raleigh, NC location: practical nursing and Associate Degree in Nursing. The practical nursing program is the fastest path to a nursing career, taking only 15 months to complete. However, if you want to be able to take the NCLEX-RN and become a Registered Nurse, you’ll need to complete the Associate Degree in Nursing program. The ADN is a year-round program, so it takes just three months more time than the practical nursing program, and it is worth it to take the extra time to start your nursing career as a Registered Nurse.

ECPI University’s College of Nursing is a leader in nursing education. The school strives to train skilled nurses who demonstrate integrity, caring, and patient advocacy. At ECPI, students never feel like they are just numbers. The school offers a nurturing environment with small class sizes and plenty of academic support.

Highlight: The year-round ADN program takes just 18 months to complete.

Programs: ADN

10. Care One Health Training Institute

Care One Health Training Institute offers Nurse Aide 1 and Nurse Aide 2 programs. These programs provide the skills and knowledge needed to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). The Nurse Aide 1 program takes 4-7 weeks to complete, depending on whether the student attends five days per week, three days per week, or three days per week in the evenings. The Nurse Aide 2 program is available to students who have passed the Nurse Aide 1 program. It takes 12-14 weeks to complete, depending on whether the student takes day or evening classes.

Care One Health Training Institute is dedicated to providing high-quality nursing programs and training capable nursing assistants who give quality care. The school believes in clinical excellency from its nursing aides and respect, dignity, and safety for the patients.

Highlight: The Nurse Aide 1 and Nurse Aide 2 programs are the fastest way to get started in the field of nursing.

Programs: Nurse Aide 1 & 2

How Do I Choose a Nursing School in Raleigh-Durham?

Here are a few questions that can help you choose the right fit and the right nursing school:

  • Tuition costs and payment options are important considerations and will vary greatly. Taking time to study, compare, and evaluate this information will help to narrow the search.
  • Specialties and programs will also differ considerably between the various nursing programs. If you have an area of focus or specialty areas that you are interested in, then it will be worth your time to learn about the different nursing programs at each school.
  • Learning options can play a major role for many nursing students, from lab work to classwork, and other areas of education and training. Everything from remote learning capabilities to class flexibility and even school location can be an important factor in helping students succeed.

Make sure to look only for accredited schools and established learning institutions, and do your homework. It might take some effort, but it is a small expense compared to the years you will spend preparing and training for your career. Then when you are ready, narrow it down and begin interviewing your shortlist – and good luck!

How is the Job Market for Nurses in Raleigh-Durham?

While you might understand that on the whole, nursing careers typically pay well, what that means for you exactly, will require a little research. In addition to wages, the job market is also a major consideration. Below is a brief overview of what the job market for nursing jobs in Raleigh Durham NC looks like according to the NC Employment Projections.

  • Nursing jobs in Raleigh NC to nursing jobs in Durham NC like most of the State are expected to be one of the two fastest-growing occupational industries. 
  • 90% of new job growth is anticipated to be driven by the service-providing sector, such as nurse practitioner jobs in Raleigh North Carolina.
  • Specifically, projections in the Health Care industry cite it to be the highest and fastest-growing along with the Social Assistance industry. In real numbers that looks like a projected 93,000 new jobs, and more nursing jobs in Durham NC, and throughout the State.

From nurse practitioner jobs in Durham North Carolina, to nurse jobs in Raleigh NC, the outlook for nursing looks strong. So how strong is that as in dollars and cents? Great question and that is also another FAQ.

How Much Do Nurses Make in Raleigh-Durham?

Based on recent reports regarding a nurse salary in Raleigh NC, any beliefs about nursing being a good-paying career can be confirmed. While the strong annual average nursing salary in Raleigh NC is $64,030, it is below the national average, it fair a bit better than the state’s average nursing salary of $62,560. The registered nurse salary in Raleigh NC, and in places like Durham-Chapel Hill where the average salary is 67,360, also fair far better than the U.S. National average salary of $50,620.

There are also many opportunities to advance, not only in rank but also in nursing salary in Raleigh NC, or anywhere your nursing career begins. Nurse practitioners, for example, are annually averaging more than $100,000 in these same locations like Raleigh and elsewhere in North Carolina. That isn’t the only good news regarding the nurse salary in Raleigh NC because the historical data bodes well for nurses too.

It is a noble and proud profession, and it also seems that a career in nursing offers much more than that. Along with the respect and dignity of working in the medical field, nurses are typically compensated with both a reliable and viable income and career. 

According to the earlier employment projections report, there are more benefits to nursing than making a good income. In addition to the strong registered nurse salary in Raleigh NC, nurses from all over the state will also have job security and benefit from a profession that has been “historically strong.”   

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