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UNC-Chapel Hill graduate programs climb in national rankings

Several graduate degree programs ranked highly on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 “Best Graduate Schools" list.

The Bell Tower.
The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is seen on April 10, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Several Carolina graduate programs once again received high rankings on the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools” list.

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy claimed the No. 1 ranking nationwide for the second time in a row. The UNC School of Medicine ranked first for its primary care program for the third year in a row. The UNC School of Nursing’s overall programs ranked in the top 10: tied for third in the master’s degree category and first overall for public graduate school programs. The school also ranked seventh for Doctor of Nursing Practice. The UNC School of Government moved up two places in the rankings overall– now tied at 19th – and ranks among the top 20 programs in the country. The UNC School of Education climbed three places and tied for 24th overall.

The UNC School of Law jumped seven places and is now tied at 27th overall — a jump of 18 places since 2019 — and in the top 10 of ranked public law schools. This year, the School of Law was ranked in four more specialty areas than in previous years. It now ranks in 13 different specialties, including tied for seventh in legal writing.

U.S. News & World Report ranks business, education, engineering, law, nursing and medical programs annually, while various disciplines and specialties in science, social sciences, humanities, health and other areas are only ranked periodically. This year, U.S. News & World Report also published fresh academic reputation rankings for graduate programs in public affairs, audiology, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, pharmacy, clinical psychology, occupational therapy and nursing midwifery and for master’s programs in fine arts.

The complete UNC-Chapel Hill rankings and specialty listings are below. A comprehensive list of all rankings and data can be found on the U.S. News & World Report website.

Eshelman School of Pharmacy

  • Pharmacy, first

School of Medicine

  • Overall
    • Primary care, first
    • Research, 23rd
  • Specialty Areas
    • Family medicine, third
    • Obstetrics and gynecology, 12th
    • Pediatrics, 18th
    • Psychiatry, 19th
    • Internal medicine, tied for 24th
  • Health Specialty Programs
    • Audiology, fifth
    • Speech-language pathology, tied for eighth
    • Physical therapy, tied for ninth
    • Occupational therapy, tied for 10th

School of Nursing

  • Overall
    • Master’s degree, tied for third
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice, seventh
  • Specialty Areas
    • Nurse practitioner: adult derontology, primary care, tied for third
    • Nurse practitioner: psychiatric/mental health across the lifespan, tied for third
    • Master of Nursing Administration, fourth
    • Master of Nurse Practitioner: family, fourth
    • Nurse practitioner: family, tied for fifth

Kenan-Flagler Business School

  • Overall, tied for 20th
  • Specialty areas
    • Real estate, tied for 7th
    • Accounting, tied for 10th
    • Marketing, tied for 14th
    • Executive MBA, 15th
    • Finance, tied for 21st
    • Management, tied for 24th

School of Law

  • Overall, tied for 27th
  • Specialty areas
    • Legal writing, tied for seventh
    • Contracts-commercial law, tied for 18th
    • Criminal law, tied for 22nd
    • Health care law, tied for 22nd
    • Constitutional law, tied for 25th
    • Business-corporate law, tied for 26th
    • Tax law, tied for 26th
    • Environmental law, tied for 37th
    • Clinical training, tied for 44th
    • International law, tied for 46th
    • Dispute resolution, tied for 48th
    • Intellectual property, tied for 55th
    • Trial advocacy, tied for 78th

School of Education

  • Overall, tied for 24th
  • Specialty areas
    • Special education, 11th
    • Education policy, 18th
    • Administration and supervision, tied for 18th
    • Educational psychology, tied for 18th
    • Elementary teacher education, tied for 20th
    • Curriculum and instruction, tied for 21st

Public Affairs

  • Overall, tied for 19th
  • Specialty areas
    • Local government management, second
    • Public management and leadership, 15th
    • Public finance and budgeting, 19th
    • Public policy analysis, tied for 34th

As part of the public affairs category, U.S. News & World Report ranked Carolina programs and specialty areas based in the School of Government and the College of Arts & Sciences’ department of public policy.


  • Specialty areas
    • Biomedical engineering/bioengineering (this is a joint department with N.C. State University), tied for 34th
    • Environmental/environmental health engineering, tied for 15th

Graduate School

  • Fine arts overall, tied for 73rd
  • Clinical psychology, second

Methodology: U.S. News & World Report first ranked graduate programs in 1987 and has done so annually since 1990. Each year it ranks professional programs in business, education, engineering, law, nursing and medicine. Those rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinion on program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. Its periodic rankings of additional disciplines and specialties in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, health and other areas are based solely on the ratings of peer academic experts, including deans, program directors and senior faculty.

The data for the rankings in all six disciplines comes from statistical surveys of more than 2,081 programs and from reputation surveys sent to more than 24,603 academics and professionals, conducted in fall 2019 and early 2020.