You might not expect a state known for cheese and beer to be a portrait of health, but when it comes to nursing, they’re one of the most proactive. Wisconsin has seen the affects of the national nursing shortage, but the state’s colleges and universities, along with local, state, and federal government, are meeting the challenge head-on, before it becomes a crisis. While Wisconsin has its share of health concerns (it’s been particularly hard-hit by the opioid epidemic), the Badger State’s nurses have every bit of the grit and determination of the creature the state is named for.
One of the keys to meeting Wisconsin’s nursing needs is the innovation of online RN to BSN degree programs. The best online nursing schools in Wisconsin include some of the best-ranked public regional universities in the Midwest, alongside model private institutions. For working Wisconsin nurses looking for improved skills and a leg up on the job market, online BSN programs are convenient, affordable, and life-changing.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Nursing Programs in Wisconsin
The TopRNtoBSN ranking of the best online nursing programs in Wisconsin is built on quality and reputation, focusing exclusively on regionally and nationally-accredited institutions. Editors researched all reputable colleges and universities offering online and hybrid RN to BSN programs, ranking them according to the Tuition Cost, Student Reviews, and Income Potential. These factors – based on data from IPEDS, College Scorecard, and Niche – help nurses feel certain their program will have a serious return on their investment of time and money.
1. University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire – Eau Claire, WI
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree program that can be completed entirely online. Eau Claire’s is one of the online nursing programs in Wisconsin that have received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The RN to BSN completion program can be completed in about 1-½ years. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s RN to BSN degree program is designed for working learners.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was established in 1916 and is a member school of the University of Wisconsin System. Eau Claire’s campus is located along the Chippewa River and covers 330+ acres for academic studies; plus another 165+ acres dedicated to the school’s environmental research. US News & World Report recognizes Eau Claire among the top five regional, public Midwest universities.
2. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee – Milwaukee, WI
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s College of Nursing offers a distance learning option for its Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Additionally, UWM is one of the online nursing schools in Wisconsin that is approved by the State of Wisconsin Board of Nursing. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s BSN completion program is generally completed in one to three years — depending on the credits required.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was established as a public institution of higher education in 1956. The school’s 100+-acre urban campus is home to more than 26,000 students studying from fourteen schools/colleges. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee holds the distinction of being the largest school in the greater metropolitan area of Milwaukee and the only freshwater program in the U.S.
Format: Online and FLEX
3. University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh – Oshkosh, WI
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s College of Nursing offers an online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree program that has received accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Additionally, UW Oshkosh offers one of the few accelerated BSN completion online nursing programs in Wisconsin. Academic clinical obligations can be completed in each student’s home communities or surrounding areas. The accelerated option is designed for full-time students, as the coursework is considered rigorous in nature.
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh was established in 1871 and is a member school of the University of Wisconsin System. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s urban campus is home to nearly 14,000 students studying from bachelor, masters, and doctoral programs. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh holds the distinction of purchasing the second most renewable energy in the entire state of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is recognized as the 3rd Institution of higher education in the state of Wisconsin.
4. Cardinal Stritch University – Milwaukee, WI
Cardinal Stritch University’s Coleman College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers a convenient Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree program, as it can be completed entirely online. Cardinal Stritch University offers a generous credit transfer policy that permits up to 70 valid credits to be applied towards a baccalaureate degree. Cardinal Stritch University is one of the many online nursing schools in Wisconsin that provide a distance learning platform that allows working learners an opportunity to study at a time that is convenient for them.
Cardinal Stritch University was established in 1937 as a private institution of higher learning. The school is affiliated with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi (Roman Catholic). CSU’s 40 acre campus is several miles of downtown proper Milwaukee; about a mile west of beautiful Lake Michigan. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi began a free reading clinic in Milwaukee that still helps residents learn to read in the greater Milwaukee area.
5. University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point – Stevens Point, WI
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s School of Health Care Professions offers a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree program that has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). UW Stevens Point’s BSN completion program is offered in a hybrid format, with certain program components online and others on-campus. The BSN completion program requires the completion of 31 nursing credits; including a 3-credit capstone project.
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was established in 1894 as a teacher’s training college, i.e. a normal school. UW Stevens Point is a member school of the University of Wisconsin system. The school’s campus is located in on 400-acres in the small-town feel of Stevens Point hosting a student body that exceeds 7,700+ students. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has been recognized as 37th best bang for your buck institution of higher learning in the Midwest.
6. Viterbo University – La Crosse, WI
Viterbo University offers an RN to BSN degree program that can be completed entirely online or as a hybrid delivered course. Each of these online nursing programs in Wisconsin has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Viterbo University’s BSN completion programs are generally completed in about one to three years, depending on the exact amount of credits to be earned by each student.
Viterbo University was established in 1890 as a private liberal arts institution of higher education. Viterbo University is affiliated with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration; an order of Roman Catholic sisters. The schools campus is home to more than 2,500 students studying from more than 70 baccalaureate, masters and doctoral programs. Viterbo University is one of 24 member schools a part of the Association of Franciscan Colleges & Universities.
Format: Online or Hybrid
7. Alverno College – Milwaukee, WI
Alverno College’s McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions offers a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Additionally, Alverno College’s BSN completion degree program is provided through a flexible and convenient online distance-learning platform. Students are required to complete 36 credits in a one-year course format.
Alverno College was a private Roman Catholic institution of higher learning that was established in 1887. Alverno College was the first school to open an all weekend college primarily designed to serve workingwomen learners. Currently, Alverno College is home to nearly 2,900 students supported by an academic staff that exceeds more 100 professionals. Alverno College initially began as a women’s university and is still primarily attended by a mostly female student population.
8. Concordia University Wisconsin – Mequon, WI
Concordia University Wisconsin offers an RN to BSN degree program that can be completed entirely online. CUW’s online format allows for completion of the program in about 1.5 years, as the coursework is available in a convenient and flexible format. Concordia University Wisconsin’s online nursing programs in Wisconsin have received accreditation from the CCNE.
Concordia University Wisconsin was established in 1881. Concordia University – Wisconsin is a member school of the Concordia University System — a conglomerate of institutions of higher learning administered by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). The schools’ 200-acre campus is situated alongside the western shores of Lake Michigan and home to more than 7,700 students. Concordia University Wisconsin’s Pharmacy School is only 1 of 3 institutions of higher learning dedicated to pharmacy studies in the state of Wisconsin.
9. Marian University – Fond du Lac, WI
Marian University offers a flexible and convenient RN to BSN degree program provided through a distance-learning platform called MPath. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits Marian University’s 100% online BSN completion degree program. Students take 27 nursing credits including coursework in Leadership and Healthcare Systems, Evidence-Based Nursing, population Health, and Management in Nursing to name a few. Students must earn 120 credits to graduate but associate degree transfer credits and RN licensure credits count towards the baccalaureate degree. Marian offers a generous transfer credit policy.
Marian University was established in 1936 as a teacher’s training school called Marian College of Fond du Lac. The school was founded and has been operated by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes; a Roman Catholic order. Marian is a private, liberal arts university in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where students benefit from our small school setting, core values, and the individualized attention.
10. Silver Lake College of the Holy Family – Manitowoc, WI
Silver Lake College of the Holy Family offers an RN to BSN degree program that can be completed entirely online. Silver Lake College of the Holy Family’s BSN completion program has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Coursework is designed to integrate both empirical knowledge and the practical application of such knowledge. A BSN degree opens many more advanced nursing opportunities.
Silver Lake College of the Holy Family was established in 1935. The school is affiliated with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity — a Roman Catholic order — but became an independent entity in 1972. Silver Lake College of the Holy Family offers more than 20 undergraduate and graduate programs to its student enrollment that exceeds 500. Silver Lake College of the Holy Family prides itself on its evening and online degree programs.
How Do I Become a Nurse in Wisconsin?
To get started, the prospective nurse will need to research the top nursing schools in Wisconsin. Review program offerings and look at different degrees available. Before becoming a registered nurse in the state, a nurse will usually either earn an associate or bachelor degree in nursing. The best nursing schools in Wisconsin have accredited degree programs with high NCLEX pass rates. Nursing degree programs typically take one to two years for completion.
To receive a Wisconsin nursing license, there are several steps the applicant must take before applying. To be considered eligible under the Wisconsin Nursing Board, the applicant must live in Wisconsin or plan to move to the state. However, a Wisconsin nursing license is part of the Nursing Licensure Compact. Under this agreement, Wisconsin and 24 other states in the United States allow nurses to work across multiple states. At least six weeks prior to taking the NCLEX, the Wisconsin nursing license application should be sent in for processing. All documents and testing materials will be added to the file as they become available. A temporary permit can be issued through the Wisconsin Nursing Board for applicants who have satisfied all requirements with the exception of the NCLEX. A temporary permit only allows for a nurse in Wisconsin to work as a graduate nurse. Once a valid license is granted, Wisconsin nursing licenses renewal will be needed every couple of years with continuing education credits required.
How is the Job Market for Nurses in Wisconsin?
Nursing jobs in Wisconsin are plentiful with job openings at physician’s offices, hospitals, clinics, and schools. Currently, there are more than 55,000 nurses employed in the state of Wisconsin. Job growth for registered nurses has a projected rate of 16 percent through 2024. The reason for the increase in Wisconsin nursing jobs is that a large number of currently employed nurses will be entering retirement age in the next five to ten years. Furthermore, there will be a surge in the number of aging individuals who require healthcare. Registered nurse vacancy rates at hospitals are expected to increase by as much as double.
Nursing jobs in Wisconsin are also growing in locations outside of hospitals. Nurses are in the highest demand at nursing homes, home healthcare agencies, community health organizations, and academic institutions. To help fill nursing jobs in Wisconsin, many schools have added accelerated degree programs for nurses that allow the student to finish degree requirements in a shorter timeframe. Metropolitan areas in Wisconsin will have the largest number of job openings. Top cities to look for nursing jobs in Wisconsin are Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay.
How Much Can I Make as a Nurse in Wisconsin?
A Wisconsin nursing salary is competitive. The average Wisconsin RN salary is one of the highest in the country. As of 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the mean wage for Wisconsin nurses as $71,470, with higher pay for BSN nurses over RNs with an associate’s. In comparison, the neighboring state of Iowa reports an average annual salary of $59,130 for nurses. A new grad RN salary in Wisconsin is still high when compared to other professions with an average wage of $60,000 per year.
A Wisconsin nursing salary is highest when the healthcare professional is employed at outpatient care centers, specialty hospitals, and surgical hospitals. Nurses who work for private pharmaceutical companies are among the top earners in the industry. Federal and state nursing jobs also have the highest salary packages in the field. However, these positions make up only a small percentage of job openings in Wisconsin. Approximately, 30 percent of all nurses are employed by hospitals with a salary mean of $77,000 or more. Nursing homes, home health agencies, and physician offices have the lowest Wisconsin RN salary figures with an average range between $63,000 and $68,000 per year.