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Selecting a Nursing School

The right nursing school plays an important role in your success as a nurse, and there are many factors to consider. But when it comes to determining your ability to take the NCLEX exam as well as continue your education later, three critical factors are: meeting your State Board of Nursing requirements, making sure your school is accredited, and the school’s NCLEX pass rate. (Links to resources are found in the For More Information box at the end of the article.)

State Board Requirements

One of the earliest steps to take as you plan your nursing education is to review the requirements of your State Board of Nursing. Each state board is responsible for licensing nurses and setting educational standards. It is critical that you meet all of your state board’s education requirements, so review the rules (or contact someone at the Board of Nursing) whenever you are making a decision.

Before you even register for classes, you should contact your state board to get approval for your selected school. If they approve the school, they are saying you can take the NCLEX licensing exam at the end of your coursework (if all other criteria have been met).


Most state boards will offer the licensing exam to a nurse that has graduated from a school that is “accredited”. This means that the institution has met the criteria of at least one of two national organizations that perform comprehensive reviews of nursing programs. If the program meets the criteria, the organization accredits the program for a certain number of years before another review is due. The two national accrediting organizations are the Committee on College Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League of Nursing Accreditation Committee (NLNAC). Look for these designations as you review your potential school’s web site and marketing literature.

Since accredited schools have been shown to meet high standards, a degree from an accredited institution is more desirable in the marketplace than one from a non-accredited school. Although you may get a satisfactory education from a non-accredited institution, a big drawback is that you may not be able to further your education at an accredited school later on. So think carefully before registering at a non-accredited school, as it may hamper your future education.

NCLEX Pass Rates

Another factor to consider when selecting a school is the NCLEX pass rates compared to other schools. This will be a good indicator of how well the school prepares students to enter the world of nursing. The pass rate is considered as a part of the accreditation process, so you can assume an accredited school has an acceptable pass rate. It is still a good idea to find out the rate for each school you are considering.

The average pass rate for U.S.-educated examinees taking the test for the first time is 85.1% for the PN exam, and 83.8% for the RN exam. The overall exam rate (including foreign-educated students and those re-taking the exam) is 74.3% for the PN exam, and 68.8% for the RN exam.

Of course there are many other factors that will weigh in your decision, just as they figure into the decisions of non-nursing students—cost, location, entry requirements, etc.—but as a nursing student it’s important for you to consider your state Board of Nursing requirements, and to choose an accredited school that has an acceptable NCLEX pass rate.

For More Information


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