Nursing is a rewarding career path for undergraduates. There is a wealth of nursing programs in New Jersey from which to choose that provide a stellar education, a supportive student body and faculty and lucrative job opportunities upon graduation. Nearly 1,500 students graduate each year with a newly minted nursing degree in hand from one of the many nursing programs in New Jersey.

Nursing programs in New Jersey offer many incentives for attending one of the colleges or schools that offer RN degrees. These include possible preferential job selection, assistance for course funding, advancement opportunities and more career-related enticements. A registered nurse exiting a program or school with a degree can expect to earn nearly $80,000. There is job security in the nursing field, as many national organizations are warning of a nursing shortage as the population ages. New Jersey is expected to add 2,000 jobs each year over the next few years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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The top five colleges for nursing in New Jersey are Seton Hall University, Rutgers University – Camden, the College of New Jersey, Felician College and Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Nursing Programs in NJ

When considering a nursing program or school, there are a few factors to keep in mind before applying. Make sure that the institution is accredited. It should be acknowledged in good standing with the Commission for Education in Nursing, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and from the local New Jersey State Board of Nursing. The program should prepare you to pass the required National Council Licensure Examination. The percentage of nurses who completed the NCLEX after graduation from a nursing school in New Jersey was just above 80 percent. Check that the program has high graduation rates as well as high licensure exam pass rates. If available, check to see how many graduates gained employment upon leaving the program or school in good standing.

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Financial Aid for Nursing Programs

A nursing degree can be costly. Annual tuition for out-of-state students can easily top $20,000. However, there are quite a few means to bring in funds to make that number more manageable for those hoping to work in this rewarding medical field.

Scholarships for college nursing students are abundant. If you have a strong grade point average from high school, community college or another institution, there are many scholarships to consider. Also consider athletic, music, drama or other extracurricular activities at which you may excel for scholarships, grants or other tax-free financial aid to help pay for your tuition at a nursing program in New Jersey. Start early when looking for grants, scholarships or community benefactors who offer funds to assist stellar students who want to pursue a higher degree in the medical industry.

Student loans are always an option; however, the average student loan debt is more than $35,000 after graduation from a four-year undergraduate program. That turns out to be about $300 a month for the average student loan payment to pay back the loan over 10 years. The average nurse fresh from graduation can expect to make a minimum of $50,000 annually.

Seton Hall University

This private, Roman Catholic university is based in South Orange, New Jersey. Founded by then-Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley in 1856, Seton Hall is the oldest diocesan university in the country. It has a healthy acceptance rate of 76 percent. However, its graduate rate hovers at around 66 percent, which reflects the intensity of its programs. The Seton Hall University College of Nursing is one of the eight schools and colleges at the sprawling campus. Tuition is higher than many other nursing programs in New Jersey at more than $40,000 a year. Nursing is one of the top majors at Seton Hall University, providing a large student body of supportive fellow undergrads on the same path to entering the rewarding field of nursing.

Rutgers University – Camden

Small classes, a supportive campus in both lifestyle and academics and one-on-one interaction with professors make this New Jersey university a favorite for serious nursing students. Rutgers University School of Nursing – Camden has a stellar program for those seeking a Bachelor of Science in nursing. If a student already holds an undergraduate degree or higher degree in a non-nursing major, she can complete the accelerated B.S. nursing degree. This allows a student to finish the program in 15 months. The intensive program includes the same clinical practice as the traditional B.S. degree with emphasis on clinical practice, research and administration.

Rutgers University – Camden is only one of three regional campuses of Rutgers's pubic research university. It has a graduation rate of 73 percent and an acceptance rate of 58 percent. Rutgers graduates tend to be plucked from the accelerated programs quickly by employers looking for nurses with this strong academic experience. Rutgers is a community service-oriented school with a strong commitment to civic engagement.

The College of New Jersey

Nestled in the Trenton suburb of Ewing Township, New Jersey, the College of New Jersey is a bustling campus with nearly 7,000 students pursuing undergraduate degrees in one of its more than 50 programs at its suburban site. This selective college has an acceptance rate of 48 percent. It is a top-rated school for veterans pursuing a degree after service. Out-of-state tuition is about $28,000 with about 50 percent of students receiving some sort of financial aid to attend the College of New Jersey. In-state tuition is a little more than $16,000. The graduation rate is a whopping 87 percent, which may be due to the supportive campus lifestyle and access to research and professors. The average class size is 21 students, which allows undergraduates to be able to have a one-on-one relationship with class instructors.

Felician College

This college in New Jersey has a strong focus on the nursing profession on many levels. It offers the Bachelor of Science nursing degree as well as an accelerated bachelor to BSN program and RN to BSN fast-track program. It has graduate programs for Doctor of Nursing Practice Advanced Practice and a DN in Executive Leadership. It offers a MSN in education, a MSN in executive leadership and a MSN in family or adult gerontology along with a host of post-masters certificate programs for those seeking to further their nursing career after graduation. The acceptance rate is 79 percent for this intensive nursing school. The graduation rate is just below 40 percent at this private Roman Catholic university in Lodi, New Jersey.

Ramapo College of New Jersey

This small public college offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing, cultivating a large community of future nurses who benefit from the extensive course options and medical student body. Located in the rolling suburban area of Mahwah, New Jersey, Ramapo College of New Jersey is easily listed as one of the top nursing schools annually. The public liberal arts college offers a wide variety of disciplines along with the nursing major for a more detailed nursing degree. It is one of the more expensive accredited nursing schools in New Jersey, with tuition running around $24,000 a year for out-of-state students. It has a student body of just under 6,000, which includes around 500 graduate students. The acceptance rate is 53 percent, and the graduation rate is 72 percent for first-time and full-time undergraduates.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.