The 5 Best Nursing Schools in Calgary

Best Nursing School in Calgary

By Claire Lee

Now, more than ever, pursuing a career in healthcare is a form of modern-day heroism. There has been an increasing demand for doctors and nurses all over Canada for good reason.

If you happen to be an aspiring nurse, you’ve clicked on the right page. We’ll help you get your start as we identify the best nursing schools in Calgary!

How Much Does Nursing School Cost in Calgary?

We have to talk about the costs first, naturally.

Like most career paths, there are several levels and scopes to nursing. You can take a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or even a Ph.D.—and you can become a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse.

The amount that a school charges has plenty to do with these factors. In the article below, we identify the best nursing schools in the city, but for now, here’s a bird’s eye view of their most popular nursing programs:

 # of Years, Terms, or CreditsOverall Price
University of Calgary
Master of Nursing (Thesis-Based)2.5 years$8,660
Columbia College Calgary
Practical Nurse Professional Diploma3 terms$39,570
Mount Royal University
Bachelor of Nursing4 years$30,984
Advanced Studies in Critical Care NursingUp to 6 years$16,008~24,012
Bow Valley College
Practical Nurse Diploma5 terms$12,400
Practical Nurse Diploma9 terms$13,498
Athabasca University
Master of Nursing33 credits$18,194
Post-LPN or Post-RN Bachelor of Nursing120 credits$29,930

Keep reading to learn more about what makes up these fees.

The Best Nursing Schools in Calgary

Now that you’ve got an idea of how much you can expect to shell out to study nursing, let’s jump right into our list. Below, discover the best nursing schools in Calgary!

1.   University of Calgary

University of Calgary's Homepage
PRODUCTSBachelor of Nursing, Master of Nursing (Course-Based, Thesis-Based or Master of Business Administration), Doctoral Program
WEBSITEhttps://nursing.ucalgary.ca/
ADDRESSFaculty of Nursing, Professional Faculties 2230, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4
CONTACT DETAILS403 220 6262
[email protected]
[email protected]

The University of Calgary makes up the majority of the results you’ll see when you search for a nursing school in Calgary, but this institution’s popularity isn’t the only reason it landed a spot on our list.

First, the University of Calgary offers more variety than other nursing schools in the city. Here, you’ll find a bachelor’s degree, master’s degrees—either course-based, thesis-based, or with a double degree in Business Administration—as well as a Ph.D. program.

The university’s Bachelor of Nursing program is conducted in partnership with Medicine Hat College, which serves as the campus for the first two years of the four-year program.

The third year unlocks on-campus study at the University of Calgary, where students can make use of the school’s extensive simulation labs, which measure an impressive 13,000 square feet.

Real-life situations are recreated to help aspiring nurses hone their skills. Within these labs, students learn to make split-second decisions and think on their feet—just like they would need to on the job.

The master’s degrees are primarily administered online to help working students manage their schedules better.

The part-time, course-based track focuses on giving students all the preparation they may need for advanced practice, while the thesis-based track is a full-time, research-intensive program.

The Master of Nursing/Master of Business Administration brings together two unexpected courses, focusing on imparting the leadership and management skills specifically needed in the healthcare field.

The University of Calgary’s Ph.D. program focuses on the field of philosophy, giving graduates of master’s programs the chance to further their knowledge through in-depth research on their proposed thesis topic.

You’ll notice that a word recurs throughout this description of the University of Calgary: research. You can expect them to deliver nothing less—after all, this school is recognized as the top research university in the entire country.

From state-of-the-art laboratories to its different program levels, the University of Calgary empowers students to continue learning, no matter their age, experience, or available platform.

This, along with their mental health seminars and resources to help their students through tough times, earns the university a spot on our list of the best nursing schools in Calgary.

Pros

  • Offers thesis- and course-based options
  • Large simulation laboratories
  • Programs and resources to prioritize mental health and inclusivity

Cons

  • Ph.D. is specialized only in the field of philosophy
  • Online learning for master’s degrees may not be a good fit for all students

Customer Reviews

Learn more about what makes the University of Calgary one of the best nursing schools in the city! Check out these reviews:

“It’s what you make of it, you’ll either love it or hate it. You’ll love it if you take the time to talk with your professors and utilize what resources the university has at its disposal.” —Daniel K

“As a student, you will receive support for your research project (at least that’s the goal) from your department and campus services. [It] is up to the student to succeed, but you do get the support you need. If [a] student’s personal [life] and/or health [is at risk], the university has plenty of resources to help them go through their trials or guide them to solutions.” —K.S.

2.   Columbia College Calgary

Columbia College Calgary's Homepage
PRODUCTSPractical Nurse Professional Diploma Program
WEBSITEhttps://www.columbia.ab.ca/
ADDRESS802 Manning Rd NE, Calgary, AB T2E 7N8
CONTACT DETAILS587 805 0400
[email protected]

Established in 1986, Columbia College Calgary is home to an abundance of medical-related programs. Among them is the Practical Nurse Professional Diploma.

Right from the get-go, this school presents impressive statistics. And since exam pass rates are crucial in the world of nursing, we can’t help but pay attention.

A 100% success rate in 2017 for the Canadian Licensed Practical Nurse Registration Exam 2017. To add to that, in 2019 to 2020, they had a 96% graduation rate and 82% employment rate.

These numbers are impressive on their own, but they are only the end result. Getting to this end goal is just as important, and Columbia College Calgary makes the journey count.

They employ a Mastery Learning Model, which ensures that students are able to master a particular learning goal before they can move on with their program. This is especially important in a career that entails handling the health and welfare of others.

This learning approach allows students to get up to 500 additional tutorial hours (yes, for free!) to help them understand lessons through and through. These tutorials are done with a library of digital resources.

Speaking of mastering lessons, Columbia College Calgary’s Practical Nurse program makes use of an interesting learning method: the Olympic Games. And yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds.

Every week, they host a four-hour gamified session among the nursing students. This doesn’t just help them brush up on their notes, it helps boost their confidence and camaraderie, too!

This, along with the relatively small class sizes, helps make the learning experience enjoyable—even though the program has transitioned to distance learning due to the pandemic.

It is important to note, however, that since Columbia College is a private institution, the fees are higher compared to a place like the University of Calgary.

Pros

  • High success and employment rates
  • Utilizes an effective Mastery Learning Model to ensure students fully understand their lessons
  • Gamifies lessons to make learning more fun
  • Small class sizes, especially during lab sessions and practicum

Cons

  • Highest tuition fees among the schools in this list

Customer Reviews

Want to learn more about why Columbia College Calgary made it to our round-up of the best nursing schools in the city? Check out these reviews.

“The education I received at Columbia College was at par with other more popular institutions, and in many cases of higher quality when it came to content focus and attention/support.” —Jill Schultz

“As someone who is currently attending the LPN program, I am happy that I attended this facility. The training and knowledge received far surpasses what is required by the CLPNA. […]  The long standing facilitators have a passion for teaching and really help to develop your skills as a student nurse. In honesty, it’s a tough program and it takes an immense amount of dedication, flexibility, and professionalism to succeed. Luckily, if you show dedication and fortitude, the staff and faculty are there to support you 100%.”—Jane Pratt

3.   Mount Royal University

Mount Royal University's Homepage
PRODUCTSBachelor of Nursing, Advanced Studies in Critical Care Nursing, Bridge to Canadian Nursing
WEBSITEhttps://www.mtroyal.ca/
ADDRESS4825 Mt Royal Gate SW, Calgary, AB T3E 6K6
CONTACT DETAILS403 440 6111
Contact form
OPERATING HOURSMonday to Wednesday, Thursday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Mount Royal University offers three different nursing programs.

First, there’s the four-year Bachelor of Nursing undergraduate degree. Giving students the foundations they need to carve out a career in healthcare, this program trains them to not only fulfill entry-level expectations but excel in the workplace.

Focusing on the demand for nurses across Canada’s different provinces (and more largely, all over the world), the Bachelor of Nursing program at Mount Royal University gives students the chance to work in various settings. From rural hospitals to outpatient school clinics, undergraduates are given the chance to marry theoretical lessons with hands-on experiences.

Mount Royal also offers certificate programs tailor fit for professional nurses. These paths of study are crucial to the local nursing landscape, but are harder to come by than the usual bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Their Advanced Studies in Critical Nursing is a great fit for nurses who already have experience, but are looking to improve their skills in preparation for bigger roles in fast-moving departments. This is a great choice for people who are balancing their education with work, as it’s a part-time, self-paced program.

This certificate has two streams: Critical Care Nursing, which is geared towards ICU training, and Emergency Nursing, for nurses who are looking to cater to all sorts of cases in the emergency room.

Both the Bachelor of Nursing and Advanced Studies programs make use of the school’s simulation centers and labs.

Another program offered at Mount Royal: the Bridge to Canadian Nursing Certificate of Achievement. Giving nurses who were educated outside the country to be welcomed into the Canadian workforce, this is a transitional program that allows healthcare workers to forge a new beginning.

Beyond their course offerings, Mount Royal also gets a seat on our list because of the support they give students on campus: a mental health and wellness center, health therapists on duty, and recreational services to improve student life, including a 40-foot tall climbing wall.

Pros

  • Offers both a bachelor’s degree and certificate programs
  • Unique certificate program offerings
  • Fun recreational areas
  • Provides students with an on-campus mental health center and chiropractors, acupuncturists and therapists

Cons

  • Tuition fee still a bit on the high end for a bachelor of nursing degree
  • Complaints of high parking prices

Customer Reviews

Here’s what students have to say about their experience at Mount Royal University:

“I could write a book about how amazing the professors are at this school. Most of them are passionate about teaching and extremely kind human beings. I went through a lot of personal difficulties when I was a student there, and my professors were so understanding and accommodating. I’ll never forget them. One major downside is the administrative side of the school…” —Dani D.

“An excellent post-secondary experience. It has an amazing recreation facility, state of the art conservatory, and a brand new library. Also beautiful scenery to boot!” —Tyler Schamehorn

4.   Bow Valley College

Bow Valley College's Homepage
PRODUCTSPractical Nurse Diploma (5-term, 9-term, and for internationally educated nurses)
WEBSITEhttps://bowvalleycollege.ca/
ADDRESS345 – 6 Avenue SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4V1
CONTACT DETAILS403 410 1400
[email protected]

Those looking to work towards their Practical Nurse diploma should consider looking into Bow Valley College’s offerings.

Here, they give students three programs to choose from: a 5-term program, a 9-term program, and one specifically designed for nurses who studied and are practicing in other countries.

Let’s look into each of them.

Bow Valley’s 5-term Practical Nurse Diploma takes a total of 20 months to complete. Taking the wide range of faculties that nurses need to master into account, this program ensures students have ample exposure and experience in dealing with the fields of community health, senior care, child care, maternity nursing and mental wellness, among others.

The 9-term version of the program follows a similarly diverse curriculum. Unlike the 5-term in-class program, the longer track incorporates both in-person and online learning and can be completed over a lengthier period, making it a great choice for working students.

Both of these programs prepare students not only to ace their licensure tests, but to be able to think fast and make firm decisions when they hit the ground running.

Bow Valley College also offers a transitional program for foreign nurses. Their Practical Nurse Diploma for Internationally Educated Nurses facilitates a seamless introduction to the Canadian healthcare system through blended learning: online lessons, face-to-face sessions and hands-on lab activities.

While Bow Valley College might not have Mount Royal University’s wall climbing facility or laboratory facilities as huge as the University of Calgary, they do what they can to provide students with a supportive and nurturing environment.

 Many students—both current enrollees and graduates—praise the dedicated professors and helpful school staff for making their time at Bow Valley memorable.

Further, Bow Valley has a dedicated healthcare center for all students, where they can get checked out by doctors and obtain necessary prescriptions.

They also have a learning hub to give indigenous students a helping hand, as well as a child care center to help out parent-students—both thoughtful displays of support for their community.

Pros

  • Offers 5-term and 9-term iterations of their Practical Nursing Diploma
  • Offers a transitional program for international nurses
  • On-campus indigenous learning center and child care center
  • Central location in the heart of Calgary

Cons

  • Complaints of high miscellaneous student fees

Customer Reviews

Here’s what students have to say about their experience at Bow Valley College:

“I enjoyed my time at BVC. The instructors were dedicated and experienced. The school staff were responsive and helpful. The school has a down-to-earth culture, being there to really help students to succeed.” —Lucy L.

5.   Athabasca University

Athabasca University's Homepage
PRODUCTSPost-LPN Bachelor of Nursing, Post-RN Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Nursing
WEBSITEhttps://www.athabascau.ca/
ADDRESS345 6 Ave SE 6th Floor, Calgary, AB T2G 4V1, Canada
CONTACT DETAILS+1 800-788-9041

Like its name suggests, Athabasca University (AU) is based in Athabasca, Alberta. However, while most of their programs are conducted completely online, students can rest easy knowing the university has a local Calgary campus located within Bow Valley College.

Known as Canada’s online university, AU was the first university in the country to specialize in providing distance learning. Not only does this give students across the country the chance to take up AU’s accredited world class programs—it extends this opportunity to aspiring nurses all over the world, too.

AU offers two versions of its Bachelor of Nursing degree, catering to the different scopes of nursing.

The Post-Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Bachelor of Nursing focuses on instilling critical thinking and foundational skills within students to help them prepare for the demands of a career in nursing. This program prepares them to take the licensing exam to become a Registered Nurse.

On the other hand, the Post-Registered Nurse (RN) Bachelor of Nursing is a program created specifically for certified registered nurses.

A step up in complexity, the Post-RN degree puts a heavier emphasis on theoretical knowledge and research. It also touches on leadership and management through the lens of healthcare.

Lastly, AU’s Master of Nursing program offers two learning streams for nursing professionals.

The Generalist stream prepares students for higher leadership positions through in-depth studies in nursing theory, research methods and analysis. Meanwhile the Nurse Practitioner stream focuses on working on the ground, honing students’ skills in diagnosing and treating illnesses faced by younger and senior patients alike.

Because Athabasca University’s programs are all self-paced, they require discipline and a sense of responsibility from the student. Those who learn best in face-to-face set-ups may not be the best match for remote learning.

Pros

  • Pioneer of a convenient, fully online set-up
  • Flexible timelines
  • Delineates tailor-made paths for licensed practical nurses and registered
  • Multiple streams available for their Master’s program

Cons

  • Fully remote learning may not be ideal for all learners
  • High fees despite online set-up

Customer Reviews

Want to know more about Athabasca University? Read the reviews below.

“Great opportunity to pursue a degree for working adults. Must be a self-starter and well-organized to succeed.” —George A.

“I’ve taken several courses here. Overall, they are challenging and you have to put in the work, but definitely doable. I’d say quite comparable to any other post-secondary in Alberta (except without the lecture and social aspect). Science courses involving labs can be a bit frustrating as they send you lab materials and you have to do them at home. However, you can also do the entire lab portion in a few days at a location with all the supplies if you choose that option. I like that the timelines are flexible and that I can work while I’m completing courses. Would recommend, but self-discipline is very important.” —Travis Pederson

How to Select a Nursing School in Calgary

Now that you’ve read through our list of the best nursing schools in Calgary, it’s time to narrow down your search further. In order to do so, take a moment to consider the following factors:

Location

As with any school, you’ll want to make sure that the campus where you’re taking your nursing courses isn’t too far away from home. If it’s in a different part of the city altogether, you may want to consider renting an apartment or dorming.

Choosing a strategically located school can not only cut your travel time, but improve your quality of life altogether. Alternatively, you may also want to look into the possibility of studying nursing online.

Accreditation

If you’re going to run a background check on your school, start with this. Approval and accreditation are vital to making your hard work matter—otherwise, you may walk away with a degree that is unrecognized by the hospitals you want to work for.

Curriculum

You wouldn’t pick a restaurant without considering its menu. The same logic applies with choosing a nursing school with a superior curriculum.

Almost all colleges and universities make it a point to disclose their list of courses online, so make sure to take a good look at it before you apply for a school. You’ll want to make sure that what they teach aligns with what you need to learn.

Passing Rate

This very well might be the ultimate barometer of a school’s success. Like lawyers, doctors and architects, nurses are required to take a certification exam.

If your school does not disclose their passing rate on their website, make sure you email their admissions team to ask how their students fare on their certification exams. It would also be good to ask about their graduation and employment rates.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nursing School in Calgary


That wraps up our list of the best nursing schools in Calgary! Do you think you’ve found your match?

Remember, this guide includes programs for all levels—from bachelor’s degrees to PhDs—so be sure to search for a course that matches your knowledge and experience level. We wish you luck!

Do you specialize in dentistry and orthodontics? We’ve got a separate article for you; check out our round-up of the best dental schools in Calgary!

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