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What to Look for in a Nursing Graduate School

March 31, 2015

You’ve decided to advance your nursing career by attending a graduate program.  Congratulations!

The next step is to find a graduate school that suits your needs. There are plenty out there, so how do you choose one? It is a very personal decision, and not everyone looks for the same thing in a school.

There are some common things every nurse should consider before picking a school. Start with this short list of things to look for in nursing graduate school and build on it to fit your needs.

1. What are Your Future Career Goals?

First and foremost, you need to apply some forward thinking when school shopping. Graduate school is a significant investment. You are committing both your time and money to improving your career, so it is worth the effort the come up with a practical plan for your future. If you are working towards your Master of Nursing degree, are you going to want to go further, for example? Perhaps you might decide to get a nursing Ph.D. after completing a master’s program.

What about specializing? Neonatal, midwife, nurse practitioner – these are questions they will probably ask during the selection process, so you might as well figure out what you want before you even look for a school.

2. Location

Graduate school generally offers more online learning options, but there may still be labs and clinical rotations to attend, so location is a critical factor. Online learning programs may allow you do your clinical rotation nearby, but it is important to find that out up front. If not, you may need to travel to complete the program. What are the travel nurse work options available there?

Consider your transportation options, too. Are you planning to drive to your rotations? You don’t want a long commute to interfere with your schedule or learning.

Investigate what is around the clinical site, as well. How about studying at the local coffee shop with WiFi before work or hitting the gym between school and work?

3. Evaluate the School Fully

Get to know the school before applying. The admissions office will have all the information you need to figure out if this is the right school for you. A successful graduate program will be more than willing to answer questions. Ask about:

  • Research papers published by the nursing faculty

  • Pass and fail rates for exams – this gives insight into the curriculum and teaching methodology

  • Can you talk to alumni or current students to find out more about the program?

  • How many students do they accept each year into their graduate program?

Asking questions before applying will give you an idea of your chances of getting into the program and help you decide if it is the right one to meet your career needs.

4. Financing Options

Financing is a concern for anyone considering higher education. A proper graduate nursing program will help you apply for financial aid, grants and scholarships. Ask the school about teaching opportunities to earn credit or to help pay tuition, too.

Check with your employer, as well. Most major healthcare networks have some type of tuition assistance or reimbursement program. Even if you just work in a small clinic, they might be willing to offer you some assistance.

5. Investigate the Clinical Rotations

Your clinical rotations are one of the most important parts of your graduate education. Find out where the school does its rotations to see if it is a good fit for you. For example, if you are interested in pediatric nursing, then clinical rotations at the local children’s hospital are a bonus. If you are looking to specialize in geriatrics, an assisted living environment makes more sense.

By getting your graduate degree, you are opening up a world of rewarding opportunities in the nursing field. It is a flexible choice for any nurse looking for more out of life. Now, you just need to find the right graduate school to get you there.

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