How International Students Can Earn U.S. Nursing Degrees

U.S. colleges and universities offer various degree and scholarship options at the undergrad and graduate levels.

Growing up in India, South Korean national Misol Kwon attended Kodaikanal International School, an American residential school. While there, she says she was exposed to cultural diversity and social responsibilities – an experience she says sparked an interest in the field of nursing.

Kwon’s passion for nursing took her to the U.S. where she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2013 from the University at Buffalo—SUNY.

“U.S. education encourages big dreams and values your dreams as a nurse that strives to improve our society,” Kwon says.

Prospective international students interested in pursuing a career in nursing have several options to consider at U.S. universities, and some schools – such as Yale University, Columbia University, Duke University and George Washington University – have separate pages on their websites for international students interested in nursing programs.

Students may pursue an associate degree in nursing, BSN, Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice or Ph.D. in nursing, and can work either in the U.S. or return home. Here are some things prospective international students should know about nursing degrees at U.S. universities.

Undergrad nursing degrees. At the undergraduate level, international students have the option of pursuing an ADN or BSN. Graduates with either degree are qualified to take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, the licensing exam for registered nurses.

Students can earn a two-year ADN at the community college level, such as at Midland College in Texas or Massachusetts Bay Community College. Liz Cooper, assistant director of marketing and communications at MassBay, says the school’s ADN program is available to international students and has no waitlist. In comparison, some ADN programs have waitlists of one or two years, she says.

Ugandan national Josephine Namubiru, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental health science from the Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda, is a May 2018 graduate of MassBay’s ADN program. Namubiru previously worked in nongovernmental organizations in Uganda, focusing on improving health in rural communities.

“I personally chose the nursing program to be able to provide care especially to those who have no access or cannot afford it,” Namubiru says.

She is currently studying for the NCLEX and has plans to enroll in the RN to BSN online program in the fall at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. An RN to BSN path can provide a bridge for registered nurses to develop advanced skills; it can be less expensive and completed in about two years, experts say.

Prospective international students interested in pursuing a BSN can attend four-year universities offering the degree, like the University of Alabama—Birmingham or the University of Washington. UW offers an accelerated BSN, which can be completed six months faster than the regular BSN program.

Kwon, who is now a licensed registered nurse in New York, says her BSN program at the University at Buffalo—SUNY was life-changing.

“I witnessed firsthand the importance of evidence-based nursing, nursing research as an undergrad teaching assistant, quality improvement and interprofessional collaboration in our complex health care environment,” Kwon says.

And job prospects for RNs look good, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a faster-than-average 15 percent growth in jobs between 2016 and 2026 and an average annual salary of $70,000.

Advanced nursing degrees. Prospective international students have many opportunities to pursue advanced nursing degrees at U.S. universities.

For example, along with the BSN, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing offers MSN, DNP and Ph.D. programs. The school currently has 32 international students in nursing programs, says Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, dean of the nursing school.

“Prospective international students should consider pursuing nursing programs at Pitt if they are interested in developing the specific kinds of clinical, research and leadership skills in nursing that are necessary to advance health care delivery in either the United States or their home countries around the world,” Dunbar-Jacob says.

Requirements for graduate nursing programs can vary. For example, requirements for the DNP at the University at Buffalo—SUNY include having the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, nursing credentials that may need to be evaluated and approved by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools and a registered nurse license in New York, says Jennifer Schreier, the nursing school’s director of graduate student services.

Kwon says her positive undergrad experience made her want to continue her nursing studies at the University at Buffalo—SUNY. “I had wonderful role models who taught me how to be a compassionate and competent professional with a passion for excellence in nursing,” Kwon says. She is now in her second year in the school’s post-BS to Ph.D. program.

Tuition and scholarships. Depending on the degree and school, tuition for nursing studies in the U.S. can vary widely, as can the availability of scholarships.

At Midland College, for example, “tuition and fees for out-of-state and international students is approximately $10,980 for the two-year program,” says Carmen Edwards, dean of the health sciences division and ADN department chair at the school. She says this does not include books, uniforms, licensing fees and other costs.

Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year at the University of Pittsburgh was $37,740 for the BSN and $30,540 for graduate programs in nursing.

As for funding, some schools offer scholarships to students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Cooper says current international students at MassBay Community College can apply for scholarships like the Debi Prasad Sodhani International Student Scholarship, Health Sciences Scholarship, Louise Mayer Scholarship and merit-based scholarships.

Kwon says her financial aid package at the University at Buffalo—SUNY covers full tuition – the fall 2017 post-BS to Ph.D. tuition and fees rate for a full-time international graduate student was $12,361.75 – and includes a biweekly stipend and scholarship money.

Kwon still has big dreams in the U.S. She plans to join a postdoctoral program that is in line with her research interests: studying the effects of health-risk behaviors like electronic cigarette use on sleep.

“If there is no postdoc position for international status applicants as myself, I will try to get a tenure-track faculty position in the U.S.,” Kwon says.

 

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