Grad School Rankings

U.S. News includes DNP and Nursing Master’s Programs for first time

Thinking about getting a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree? A master’s in healthcare management? An advanced degree in audiology? These are just some of the healthcare areas of graduate study included in the new U.S. News & World Report 2017 rankings of the Best Graduate Schools. And for the first time, U.S. News has included two separate rankings for nursing schools for master’s and DNP programs.

The rankings may help to inform prospective students’ searches for the most advantageous school based on a variety of criteria, such as grade-point averages of incoming students, acceptance rates and employment outcomes of graduates. According to information provided by U.S. News, “The rankings methodology vary across disciplines to account for differences in each graduate program. The nursing school rankings, for example, take into account the percentage of faculty members still actively working in hospitals and other medical settings.”

Published earlier this year, the report examines seven selected health-related fields: audiology, clinical psychology, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, social work and speech-language pathology. These rankings, based on the ratings of academic experts, were last updated in 2012. In addition, new “reputation-based” rankings of nurse midwifery and nurse anesthesia programs are also published in the 2017 edition.

What About Cost?

One of the largest elephants blocking the entrance to the graduate classroom is tuition fees. If ever there were an understatement, it is this: Graduate school is expensive.

For example, a single year at top-ranked Harvard Medical School costs about $55,850, while second-ranked Johns Hopkins’ annual tuition is set at $48,750. In the top-ranking DNP programs there is a bonus to be had at the top: In the No. 1 spot University of Washington, Seattle, charges an annual tuition of $24,010 for an in-state student and $34,182 for an out-of-state student, shaving more than $2,000 off of second-ranked Johns Hopkins’ $36,530 per year tab.

While advanced degrees come at a price, staying away from grad school could prove even costlier in terms of lost earnings over a lifetime. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center Report, the median monthly earnings for young adults with master’s degrees was about 24% higher than for those with bachelor’s degrees. Graduates with professional or doctoral degrees enjoyed earnings 51% higher.

And the gaps are upheld in statistics published by the U.S. Census Bureau, which indicate that full-time, year-round adult workers with a master’s degree earned, on average, $88,477 in 2012, just over $18,000 more than the average worker with a bachelor’s degree. However workers with professional degrees, such doctors, made almost $89,000 more, on average, than those with bachelor’s degrees.

Pertinent financial factors are included in the U.S. News rankings; detailed statistical data collected about each program in the six largest graduate disciplines are packaged on searchable directory pages on, as well as in the “Best Graduate Schools 2017” print guidebook, which will be available April 5.

And the Winners Are…

With nods as noteworthy as Oscar presentations, U.S. News has announced the top three “winners” in various categories, including (but not limited to) the following disciplines, which were excerpted from the report. In some cases, a second or third place school was not selected, and placed instead into a lower category consistent with its rankings score. (Note that the actual report goes far beyond the top three, limited only by the number of schools in a given category):

Medical Schools for Research

  1. Harvard University, Boston, held onto its No. 1 spot from last year
  2. Stanford, Palo Alto, Calif., again came in second
  3. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; the University of California—San Francisco; and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, tied

Medical Schools for Primary Care

  1. University of Washington, Seattle
  2. University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
  3. UC—San Francisco

Of note: The University of Wisconsin, Madison, fell out of the top 10, dropping from No. 9 to No. 14; while Duke galloped into the top 10, placing eighth after tying for No. 29 last year

Nursing Master’s Programs

  1. Johns Hopkins, Baltimore
  2. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (displaced from first place last year)
  3. UC—San Francisco

Of note: The University of Pittsburgh tumbled from No. 5 to a tie at No. 13

Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

  1. University of Washington, Seattle
  2. Johns Hopkins, Baltimore
  3. Duke, Durham, N.C.


  1. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
  2. University of Iowa, Iowa City
  3. Washington University in St. Louis

Healthcare Management

  1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  2. University of Alabama, Birmingham
  3. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Occupational Therapy

  1. Boston University (Sargent), and Washington University in St. Louis, tied
  2. Not selected
  3. University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Nursing – Anesthesia

  1. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
  2. Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
  3. Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Nursing – Midwifery

  1. University of California, UC—San Francisco – San Francisco General Hospital; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, all tied for first
  2. Not selected
  3. Not selected

Physical Therapy

  1. University of Delaware, Newark; University of Pittsburgh; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; and Washington University in St. Louis, all tied.
  2. Not selected
  3. Not selected

Physician Assistant

  1. Duke University, Durham, N.C.
  2. University of Iowa, Iowa City
  3. Emory University, Atlanta

Public Health

  1. Johns Hopkins, Baltimore
  2. Harvard University, Boston
  3. University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

Speech-Language Pathology

  1. University of Iowa, Iowa City; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., tied.
  2. Not selected
  3. University of Washington, Seattle; and University of Wisconsin, Madison, tied.

The online rankings guide is highly interactive, with links to master lists of available programs in various disciplines, individual schools, and a hefty supply of related information sprinkled throughout the U.S. News education engine.

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