Nursing & Healthcare Degree Rankings

Nursing and Healthcare Degree Rankings

Admission Requirements


Admission for bachelor’s degree programs in healthcare and nursing require admission to the university. While school admission criteria vary by institution, most accredited colleges and universities have similar requirements.

For general admission to the school, applicants must have graduated high school or have a GED equivalent and minimum GPA of 2.0 or better. Most schools ask for higher GPAs like a 2.5. For competitive healthcare majors, the program may require a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission factors include standardized test scores, such as the ACT or SAT, admission essays, and letters of recommendation.


Similar to bachelor’s degrees in healthcare, master’s degree admissions vary by program and school. Since most healthcare and nursing programs are highly competitive, stringent admission requirements exist. Most graduate nursing programs require minimum undergraduate GPAs of 3.0 or 3.5. Top-ranked institutions and top-tier programs may require GPAs on the higher end of that range. Also, more competitive institutions and programs will require the GRE for admission. High GRE test scores and higher GPA thresholds are critical to setting yourself apart from competition.


Admission for PhD or doctoral programs in nursing and healthcare vary by institution. Doctoral degrees in healthcare administration, health policy, or closely related disciplines often ask for an earned master’s degree, work experience, and competitive GRE scores. However, doctoral or PhD programs in nursing may ask for competitive undergraduate and graduate GPAs, high scores on graduate exams, and three to five years of nursing experience. Since most healthcare and nursing programs are competitive, GRE scores and grade point averages should be high. Also, PhD program candidates should provide ample research experience at the college level.


Clinical lab technician:

Clinical lab technicians and technologists collect samples of blood, fluids, tissue, and other substances and perform tests and analyzation. To become a lab tech, an earned bachelor’s degree is necessary. However, some jobs call only for two-year degrees.

Dental hygienist:

Dental hygienists assist dentists in examining patients for signs of gingivitis and other oral diseases. They perform routine preventive care, such as teeth cleaning. Typically, a hygienist must hold an associate’s degree and have completed a dental hygiene program. These programs are highly competitive and accept only top academic students. High GPAs are a must for dental hygiene programs.

Healthcare administrator:

The non-clinical role of a healthcare administrator exists in hospitals, outpatient and medical facilities, and other healthcare operations. Healthcare administrators have typically received a master’s in healthcare administration or management. While enrolled in the advanced program, students take classes like health economics, health policy and management, health politics, and health services administration.

Nurse educator:

At the basic level, a nurse educator’s job description emphasizes teaching and instruction for aspiring nurses. Nurse educators may focus entirely on teaching, do a combination of teaching and research, or work as a patient provider. Nurse educators hold a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) with a specialization in nurse education. Nurse educators may work in colleges and universities, junior colleges (such as community colleges), general medical facilities and hospitals, or technical and trade schools.

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Nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner:

This highly specialized group of nurses hold graduate degrees in nurses and have received advanced training. They are responsible for coordinating patient care, which also includes primary and specialty healthcare. A nurse midwife oversees the delivery of newborns, while a nurse practitioner performs many of the same duties a doctor does in general practice. All nurse specialties require advanced training and degrees.

Occupational therapist:

An occupational therapist treats patients with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities through therapy intended to improve daily life. These specialized therapists have earned master’s degrees in occupational therapy and received advanced training. As well as providing treatment, occupational therapists also educate patients.


To work as a pharmacist, a doctoral or professional degree is required. This highly technical career is ideal for detail-oriented individuals. The role of the pharmacist is to dispense medications to patients. They offer expertise and educate patients about drug interactions and safety while taking prescription medication. Pharmacists work in hospitals, retail businesses, and other medical facilities.

Pharmacy technician:

Pharmacy technicians work alongside pharmacists in hospitals, medical facilities, and retail businesses. While a pharmacist holds an advanced degree, a pharmacy tech usually holds a high school diploma or two-year degree. Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in dispensing medication to customers. They provide customer service and take orders from healthcare professionals. Pharmacy tech programs are available at community and junior colleges.

Radiologic and MRI technologists:

Radiologic and MRI technologists work directly with patients to perform diagnostic imagining exams. The career is highly technical and requires specialized training to operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Diagnostic imaging careers require an earned associate’s degree.

Registered nurse:

Registered nursing is among the most common nursing career. The RN provides and coordinates patient care, addresses the public about health conditions, and educates patients. They work in hospitals, medical centers, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities. To work as a registered nurse, a two or four-year degree is required. There are many accredited online RN to BSN programs available from top-ranked institutions.

Degree Cost

Undergraduate degree programs in healthcare and nursing cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. State institutions often provide affordable tuition for in-state students. Also, special tuition rates for first-generation college students can cut the cost of earning an undergraduate degree by at least fifty-percent.

Costs for graduate nursing programs, such as an MSN, vary by school and program. However, the average cost of attendance is $12,000-$40,000 per year. Many affordable online master’s degree in healthcare programs exist, which cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.

Medical school is one of the most, if not the most, costly schooling. Over four years of medical schooling, a student can expect to pay between $150,000 (for in-state, public education) to $250,000 (out-of-state, public education or private school).

Nursing and Healthcare Degree Rankings

Earnings & Pay

Earnings and pay for healthcare jobs vary by occupation and geographic location. Taking a look at the national average listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we find that the median annual pay for registered nurses is $73,300. The lowest ten percent earned less than $52,000 per year, while the highest ten percent of earners made over $111,000.

Other healthcare occupations were also listed by BLS and reported earnings as follows:

Dental hygienists: $76,220
Licensed practical nurses: $47,480
Nurse anesthetists, midwives, and nurse practitioners: $115,800
Physician assistants: $112,260
Physicians and surgeons: $208,000
Respiratory therapists: $61,330
Veterinarians: $95,460

Graduate School

Graduate school for the healthcare industry includes coursework towards a master’s degree or a Ph.D. Coursework in advanced programs is far narrower in scope, preparing students for careers in specific subfields. For example, a registered nurse may earn an MSN – Nurse Practitioner degree, which establishes the nurse as a highly educated specialist in the field of nursing.

Doctorates in healthcare, such as the DNP or PhD in nursing, also prepare students to become experts in the field. There are, however, several doctoral degrees in healthcare administration and healthcare policy that are career-focused. Common graduate programs in healthcare include healthcare administration, healthcare management, and health sciences. Nursing and medicine are among the most competitive programs.

Important Qualities

A good bedside manner is often associated with a “good” doctor or healthcare professional. But beyond a good bedside manner, there are important qualities healthcare workers should have. These characteristics are as follows:

Compassion: Nurses and healthcare workers should be empathetic when working with patients. A caring bedside demeanor helps patients feel cared for.

Detail-oriented: Ensuring patients receive the care they need means paying attention to details, administering treatments, and keeping track of medicines. This is one of the most important qualities for nursing professionals.

Emotional stability: Emotional resilience is important for mental health, especially for healthcare workers in emergency and critical care facilities.

Physical stamina: Nursing and healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, must perform demanding physical tasks. Lifting patients and being on your feet all day requires physical stamina.

Strong communication skills: An effective communicator makes a good healthcare professional. Healthcare workers should be able to clearly explain instructions to patients, provide advocacy when necessary, and give updates to doctors.

Strong critical thinking skills: Healthcare professionals must examine and assess changes in patient status. They must also determine when corrective action is necessary. In order to carry out these important tasks, strong critical thinking skills are needed.

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Job Outlook

The job outlook for nursing and healthcare professionals varies by occupation. This is also true of pay. For example, the median annual wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for registered nurses was $73,300. However, the median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics is around $35,400.

While the pay varies widely, the job outlook is favorable for all healthcare careers. EMTs and paramedics can expect a seven percent projected job growth over the next eight years, while nurses can anticipate a 12 percent growth. One of the most favorable job outlooks among healthcare professions is occupational therapy. Employment for occupational therapists is expected to grow 18 percent through 2020, which is much faster than all other occupations.

Possible Majors

Science-heavy majors are common among students seeking healthcare degrees. While most nursing students major in nursing, pre-med students may choose to major in biology, chemistry, or zoology. Below are several types of majors that prepare students for healthcare and nursing careers.

Healthcare majors

Healthcare Administration: While mostly seen as a graduate program major, healthcare administration is ideal for individuals seeking leadership roles in healthcare. Students often take classes in business, leadership, and policy.

Occupational Health and Safety: Sometimes referred to as occupational therapy, this field of study focuses on physiology and kinesiology. Classes include psychology, physiology, and statistics.

Psychology: Undergraduate psychology majors take classes in behavioral and integrative neuroscience, clinical psych, and developmental psychology to name few. Psych majors may enter the workforce or pursue graduate programs.

Public Health: From the study of infectious disease to the management of health organizations, a degree in public health prepares students for careers in health policy and public health.

Common nursing degrees

RN: An RN (registered nurse) is a nurse who has completed an associate’s in nursing degree or a bachelor’s in nursing degree and has passed the credentialing test to become an RN.

BSN: A BSN or bachelor’s in nursing degree is a four-year bachelor’s degree that emphasizes all aspects of the nursing profession. Accelerated and online BSN programs take less time than traditional nursing programs and can be completed in 2-3 years.

MSN: The MSN is a master’s in nursing degree that prepares registered nurses for advanced leadership roles in nursing. Graduate MSN programs are available online or on-campus.

NP: Most NP (nurse practitioner) programs are included as a subspecialty of an MSN program. However, some programs allow RNs to become nurse practitioners. Transitioning from an RN to an NP takes about six years.

DNP: The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the equivalent of a doctorate in nursing. Not all DNP programs are equal. When pursuing a DNP program, make sure it meets the educational requirements of the APRN Consensus Model and is fully accredited.

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Most common pre-med majors

Biochemistry: Biochemistry majors study the intersection of biology and chemistry, often exploring life at the molecular level.
Biology: A major in biology focuses on living organisms, their functions and characteristics.
Chemistry: A major in chemistry focuses on the scientific study of composition and behavior of matter. Micro- and macro-structure and processes are explored.
Humanities: Humanities covers a broad spectrum of majors, including English and social sciences. Today, medical schools look for widely educated applicants and do not accept only science majors.
Math and Statistics: Math and statistics majors study the relationship between numbers, data, patterns, and structures. From algebra to statistical math, the major covers a large number of topics.
Physics: Physics is the study of matter and energy. This highly scientific major focuses on interactions, fundamental ideas and theories, and the basis of all other sciences.
Zoology: Zoology majors study animals and their internal workings, from activities to behavior.

Rankings in Nursing & Healthcare

  • Occupational Safety:  Occupational safety professionals are needed by many companies across all industries, and by the regulators who make sure companies abide by the law. A quality degree from a respected program can give graduates the edge they need to make a successful start in the profession. Our best value ranking of occupational safety degree programs will give you a good idea of how the best programs in the country stack up against each other.
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (Affordable): Finding the most affordable nurse anesthetist programs can be of real benefit to students interested in pursuing a career in this fast-growing and well-paid field.
  • Online Nutritionist Degree: By taking a nutritionist degree online, students can access all the material they need while simultaneously building experience in an entry-level dietetics job.
  • Online RN Degree: Registered nursing is one of the most popular online degrees in the United States. With over 200 programs available through distance education, it’d be hard for a student NOT to find something that works for them. Schools offer nursing programs of all prices, sizes, and shapes, but the most common by far is the RN-BSN.
  • Healthcare Degree Online: Healthcare is without a doubt one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States right now. Doctors, nurses, health administrators, you name it — all of these positions are in high demand around the country.
  • MSN Online: Not only can online MSN programs open doors to new opportunities, but they also allow nurses to specialize in a field of interest. Not all master’s in nursing online programs are alike, however, and there’s a lot to consider when choosing the ideal school.
  • Online MSN Nursing Administration: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for medical and health services managers will grow 20 percent through the year 2026, must faster than the average of all other occupations. Nursing administration careers offer the potential for career advancement and high wages.
  • MSN in Nursing Informatics Online: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for nurses generally grows at a faster rate than all other occupations. The American Medical Informatics Association reports that as many as 70,000 nursing informatics specialists may be needed in the next several years.
  • Online Health Informatics Master’s: Colleges and universities around the country are creating and updating their master’s in health informatics online offerings, meaning prospective students have more options when it comes to discovering the ideal program for their interests and career goals.
  • Online Health Administration Master’s: This is a ranking of the top thirty best value master’s in health administration online degree programs. These programs were selected as the most affordable from over 100 schools. They were ranked according to affordability, with special bonus points given to schools with value-adding features.
  • Online Accelerated Master’s in Nursing: In order to advance in the field, nurses must increase their specializations and level of education, and earning a master of science in nursing can go a long way toward advancing a nurse’s career.
  • Online Doctor of Nursing Practice: These programs out of 100+ nationwide offer the most affordable, flexible solutions for nurses wishing to earn their DNP while still being able to work.
  • Online MSN Nursing Education : The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 35 percent growth in projected employment for nursing instructors and nurse educators. This percentage is 28 percent faster than the nation’s average for all other occupations. To be eligible for a nurse educator job, individuals must hold a master’s degree, such as the MSN in nursing education online or traditional degree.
  • MSN Nursing Informatics Online: Earning an MSN in nursing informatics online degree can assure you of job security. The American Medical Informatics Association reports that as many as 70,000 nursing informatics specialists may be needed in the next several years.
  • PhD Healthcare Administration: As the large baby boom population ages, an increase in demand for healthcare managers is expected. Top leadership roles in the field require significant education. This means that those with a PhD in healthcare administration should have the best prospects for jobs.
  • Dental Hygienist Associate’s Degree: Careers in dental hygiene are projected to grow by 20% over the course of the next six years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dental hygienists have a unique opportunity to earn a competitive salary of $73,000 after completing a two-year dental hygienist associate’s degree program. Dental hygienists provide oral care by cleaning a patient’s teeth, examining the mouth and gums for injury or infection, and teaching the patient how to properly care for their teeth.
  • Master’s in Global Health: Students who graduate with this degree are qualified for a wide variety of careers, including working for government agencies, disaster relief organizations and refugee aid organizations. At some schools, students can earn their masters in global health online.
  • PhD Public Health: These programs are offered in a flexible format, most of them primarily online, with some requiring brief intensive on-campus classes or other requirements. Continue reading to find the public health doctoral program that will help you meet your academic and career goals in a flexible and affordable manner.
  • One Year MPH: Professionals with this advanced degree can expect to accelerate their career opportunities and be prepared for roles in this growing field that strives to protect and promote health. If you are seeking to advance your public health degree, one of these top one year MPH degree programs may be the one to help you reach your goal in a more expedient manner.
  • Online Nurse Practitioner Certificate (Post Master’s): Employment for nurse practitioners is growing at a much faster rate than average, and the need for nurse practitioner programs around the country has grown. With affordable tuition and flexible online formats, one of these online post master’s nurse practitioner certificate programs may be what you’re looking for.

Bambi Majumdar

Melissa Anderson

Julie McCaulley