Top 20 Nursing Schools In California

By Craig Miller

12/29/2021



Considering going to a nursing school in California is a great start to ensuring a blistering nursing education and career. 

Only, with a trove of really great nursing schools in California, it might be a tad confusing trying to find the right fit for yourself, and that’s where we come in. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to join a nursing school for the first time, or you’re already a nurse that wishes to advance their nursing education. This review of the Top 20 California Schools will help you easily find the best school for yourself.

Why California Is the Best Place To Attend Nursing School

With a population of 39M+ residents, California stands as the most populous state in the USA. In addition to this, the aging and mushrooming population in the state creates a high demand for nurses. 

Already, California is home to more than 350,000 registered nurses and in excess of 450,000 licensed nurses, asserting California’s place as the biggest nurse haven in the United States.

Additionally, nursing schools in California have relatively lower tuition compared to most states. And, let’s admit it, with the nice warm weather and tons of scenic locations, the gold coast can really help take the edge off schoolwork. 

What Are the Requirements for Attending Nursing Schools in California?

With a huge selection of nursing schools, the requirements for attending nursing schools in California are quite competitive. That said, the requirements will vary from school to school. However, here are a couple of base requirements for most nursing schools;

  • A GPA of 2.8 or higher for most Associates Nursing Degrees and at least 3.0 for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree
  • Success in SAT or ACT exams
  • Prerequisite courses in Physiology, Anatomy, Microbiology, Chemistry, Math, and English
  • An entrance exam for some nursing schools

How Much Do California Nurses Make?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics sets the average RN salary in California at about $49.37 per hour. This translates to about $102,700 annually, which is suggested to be 43% above the national average RN salary. Thus making California the highest paying nursing state in the US.

However, nurse salaries in California can vary greatly depending on factors like experience and specialization.

Here are the average salaries of different types of nurses in California:

Nurse SpecializationAnnual Average Salary
Nurse Practitioner $145,970
Dental Hygienists$109,970
Physical Therapists$104,500
Licensed Practical Nurse and Licensed Vocational Nurse $64,090
Pharmacy Technician$47,620 

Best Nursing Schools California: First Look

  1. Best overall – University of California, Los Angeles 
  2. Top Christian university – Loma Linda University
  3. Great student support resources – University of San Francisco
  4. Go-to school for masters programs – University of California, San Francisco
  5. Top entry-level and accelerated programs – Samuel Merritt University, Oakland
  6. Best online nursing courses – Azusa Pacific University, Azusa
  7. Very affordable – California State University, Bakersfield
  8. Best bridge programs – San Diego State University
  9. Wide selection of BSN programs – California State University, Fullerton
  10. Great school for advancing nursing education – University of San Diego
  11. Highest licensure exam pass rates – California State University, Long Beach
  12. Reliable doctorate programs – University of California, Irvine
  13. Stand-out collaborative BSN program – California State University, Los Angeles
  14. Exclusive graduate school – Western University of Health Sciences
  15. Great school for minorities – University of Southern California
  16. Top community college for ADN program – LA County College of Nursing and Allied Health
  17. High technology-based learning – Point Loma Nazarene University
  18. Variety of nursing programs – Pacific College
  19. A haven for Hispanic students – California State University, Chico
  20. Best online masters program – West Coast University North Hollywood

Top California Nursing Schools

1. University of California, Los Angeles – Best Overall Nursing School

University of California, Los Angeles

University of California--Los Angeles is a public school. The UCLA School of Nursing has an application deadline of Dec. 1 and an application fee of $120 for U.S. residents. Tuition…....

Accounting Aeronautical Engineering Business Analytics Chemical Engineering
Los Angeles, CA, US    School Type : public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $13,249 In-State / $43,003 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Graduation Rate: 91%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96%

Programs Offered: Traditional BSN / PhD / MSN (Master Entry Clinical Nurse) / MSN (Advance Practice Registered Nurse) / DNP

UCLA is as important to California as Harvard is to Massachusetts.

Not only does UCLA have the best nursing programs in the Gold Coast, but also the 419-acre campus easily makes its claim as one of the best public universities nationally. 

Rooted in equality, inclusivity, and diversity, the public research uni admits people of diverse ethnicities and cultures. On top of this, they maintain small classes to ensure students get personalized attention.

The quality of nursing education is clearly suggested by the consistently high NCLEX-RN pass rates, most recently a 96% pass rate. Quite assuring, right? 

We like that the nursing school forges a nice balance between class and clinical work. With institutions like the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a massive biomedical library, state-of-the-art simulated laboratories, and more to instill students with the necessary clinical skills.

The school offers five nursing programs, including an MSN program for people that would wish to switch careers and PhD and Advanced Practice programs for registered nurses that would wish to advance in their careers.

 

2. Loma Linda University – Best Christian University for Nursing Students

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University is a private institution.....

Earth Science Health Education Neuroscience Nursing
Loma Linda, CA, US    School Type : Private

Estimated Annual Tuition: $35,180

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Graduation Rate: 90%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92%

Programs Offered: Traditional BSN / RN-BSN Online / MSN (Nurse Educator) / Online DNP / PhD

Carving a niche for itself, Loma Linda University builds its reputation as an exclusive health sciences institution.

Spanning 8 schools, the Seventh Day Adventist University seeks to employ the principles of health, science, and faith to provide the health sector with all-around medical professionals.

Launched in 1905, Loma Linda University’s School of Nursing is the oldest of the 8 schools, and probably the school’s biggest asset. 

The school boasts a number of nursing programs. Notably, there’s an online RN-BSN and a couple of DNP programs to help nurse professionals pursue advanced education without interrupting much of their work life. 

To equip students with rigorous hands-on skills, LLU School of Nursing comes through with a skills lab, Loma Linda Medical Center, and a medical simulation center – that the university claims to be the biggest in the country. 

Again, student wellness is taken to with interest here. As the university offers an array of free counseling services. Better yet, the school has pretty great financial aid programs to apply to in case you need financial help.

3. University of San Francisco – Best Nursing Students Support

University of San Francisco

University of San Francisco is a private institution that was founded in 1855. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 5,852 (fall 2020), its setting is urban, and the campus…....

Biology Business Communication Journalism
San Francisco, CA, US    School Type : Private, Coed

Estimated Annual Tuition: $52,482

Acceptance Rate: 70%

Graduation Rate: 77%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 89.95%

Programs Offered: BSN / MSN / DNP / MSN / MPH / MS / PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) / Nursing Certifications

Listed by the US News and World Report Ranking as a Tier One school in 2020, we can see why the University of San Francisco is becoming a highly sought-after school for nursing students.

The university’s School of Nursing and Health Professions boasts small classes that work to ensure that nursing students get wholesome learning experiences.

Additionally, the school has innovative facilities like the clinical skills lab to help nursing students train before setting off to a clinical setting, and a state-of-the-art simulation center to further help provide students with the needed expertise.

Not only that but also, nursing students are sent to community drives, e.g. COVID-19 vaccination drives to help vulnerable persons and in turn hone their hard skills.

Being a private school, the tuition fee is relatively high, but the school has financial aid programs that might help you out.

For students that might need a little help with their studies, there are tutoring services you can take advantage of.

 

4. University of California, San Francisco – Best Nursing School for Masters Nursing Programs

University of California, San Francisco

University of California--San Francisco is a public school. The School of Nursing has an application deadline of Feb. 1 and an application fee of $105 for U.S. residents. Tuition for…....

DNP Program MSN Program
San Francisco, CA, US    School Type : public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $14,512 In-State / $44,066 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 2.2%

Graduation Rate: 96%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97%

Programs Offered: MSN (Entry Program) / MSN / MS / PhD / DNP 

Are you a registered nurse that wishes to advance in their career? 

Then the University of California in San Francisco might be your best bet. The public research medical school is like UCLA’S little sibling, only, it specializes exclusively in health sciences. And it’s been around since 1864!

The medical school offers MSN, PhD, MS, and PhD programs to help nurses spruce up those CVs and get ready for advanced roles. That said, even people with non-nursing degrees can opt for the Master’s Entry Program and seek a promising nursing career.

Getting in can be quite competitive, but that could also be because the school seeks to keep tight-knit relationships between the faculty and students for maximum education. 

To cap off, we like UCSF for its commitment to offer nursing students a balanced and extensive nursing education that revolves around educational research, patient care, and public service.

 

5. Samuel Merritt University – Great School for Accelerated and Entry Level Nursing Programs

Samuel Merritt University

Samuel Merritt University is a private school. The School of Nursing has an application deadline of Dec. 1 and an application fee of $65 for U.S. residents.....

BSN Program DNP Program MSN Program Nursing
, US    School Type : private

Estimated Annual Tuition: $47,928

Acceptance Rate: 50-60%

Graduation Rate: 97%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91%

Programs Offered: Accelerated BSN / Traditional BSN / RN to BSN / MSN (Entry Level) / MSN / Online MSN (FNP) / Online DNP / DNP (FNP)

With a current student-faculty ratio of just 8:1, this is as small of a class as it gets. And, the perks of such small classrooms can be seen with Samuel Merritt University nursing school’s current high 91% NCLEX-RN  pass rate.

Samuel Merritt University is a boon for professionals with non-nursing degrees and for working nurses that wish for convenient learning. This is provided by the Accelerated BSN and Entry Level MSN programs for non-nurses and online MSN AND DNP options for working nurses.

Away from the classroom, the school has an extensive Health Science Simulation Center to train students on clinical expertise. Better yet, students are assigned community health roles to further engage their nursing knowledge.

Finally, Samuel Merritt university suggests 86% of students are on some sort of financial aid by the school, so yes you might get one too.

 

6. Azusa Pacific University, Azusa – Best Online Nursing Programs

Azusa Pacific University, Azusa – Best Online Nursing Programs

Azusa Pacific University is a private institution that was founded in 1899. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,498 (fall 2020), its setting is suburban, and the campus size…....

Art Business Business Administration Criminal Justice
Azusa, CA, US    School Type : Private, Coed

Estimated Annual Tuition: $41,410

Acceptance Rate: 94%

Graduation Rate: $41,410

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 89%

Programs Offered: LVN to BSN / ADN TO BSN / Traditional BSN / RN to BSN / DNP / Entry Level Masters in Nursing (ELM) / MSH / FNP / PhD / MSN (Nurse Education)

If you’re a nurse and think it’s time to make yourself more marketable in the industry, then Azusa Pacific University is a good place.

Azusa’s Pacific University’s school of nursing offers online options for its ADN-BSN, DNP, MS (Healthcare), and MSN courses to help you work towards more educational accreditations while balancing with your normal life. 

The private campus combines small classes, impressive simulation labs, community health internships, study abroad programs, and Christian ideals to provide the medical industry with compassionate nurses with high clinical mastery.

To offload some tuition weight on students, the Azusa-based university also offers great financial aid programs.

 

7. California State University, Bakersfield – Very Affordable Nursing School

California State University, Bakersfield

California State University—Bakersfield is a public institution. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 9,979 (fall 2020), its setting is urban, and the campus size is 35 acres. It utilizes…....

Anthropology Biology Master of Science in Agriculture MBA
RN to BSN (available online) / Traditional BSN / MSN (FNP), US    School Type : Public, Coed

Estimated Annual Tuition: $7,498 In-State / $19,378 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 78%

Graduation Rate: 40%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.08%

Programs Offered: RN to BSN (available online) / Traditional BSN / MSN (FNP)

You don’t have to spend a fortune on your nursing education, at least not with California State University, Bakersfield. 

Being a public uni, CSUB has one of the lowest university tuition in California. And, it’s been around since 1968, which says they’ve built their programs on quality to maintain a reputation that long.

CSUB’s nursing school strives to impart critical thinking and research-based practice to their nursing students. Along with this are support programs, e.g. academic advising, tutoring services, counseling services, and more.

And we can say from their current NCLEX-RN pass rate of 98.08%, their nursing programs, and overall student support prove to be quite effective. 

Although the school doesn’t offer a variety of programs, employed nurses can take advantage of the online RN to BSN program.

 

8. San Diego State University – Top Nursing School for Bridge Students

San Diego State University

San Diego State University is a public institution that was founded in 1897. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,086 (fall 2020), its setting is urban, and the campus…....

BSN Program Nutritional Sciences
California, US    School Type : Public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $7,720 In-State / $19,600 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Graduation Rate: 74%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96%

Programs Offered: BSN / LVN to RN / RN to BSN / MSN / MSN (Nurse Educator) / MSN (Nursing Leadership in Health Care System Concentration)

San Diego State University is a child of the California State University system and one of the oldest of the CSU family, having opened its doors in 1897.

Away from the classrooms, the public research university is intentional in sharpening its students’ research and creative skills. This is evident through the nursing school’s very equipped simulation facilities, skills lab, and even study abroad programs. 

There are nursing programs for everyone here, including bridge programs for licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses, to a BSN program for students just dipping their feet into the world of nursing. 

However, the bridge programs here seem to just stand out for lower-level nurses that want to build better career prospects.

 

9. California State University, Fullerton – Wide Range of BSN Programs

California State University, Fullerton

California State University--Fullerton is a public school. The Nursing Department has an application deadline of Feb. 15 and an application fee of $70 for U.S. residents. Tuition for the master's…....

BSN Program DNP Program MSN Program Nursing
Fullerton, CA, US    School Type : public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $6,953 In-State / $18,833 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Graduation Rate: 66%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.55%

Programs Offered: Traditional BSN / Accelerated BSN / LVN to BSN / RN to BSN / MSN / DNP

With a student body of more than 41,000 students, California State University – Fullerton is the biggest member of the CSU 23-campus body. In turn, this means more funding to keep up affordable tuition and maintain learning facilities.

CSUF’s School of Nursing merges classroom teaching, hands-on training, community exposure, and research to give nursing students the best mastery possible. 

To provide clinical expertise, students are engaged in actual simulation and skills training, acute-care hospital rotations, public health, and interprofessional practice and education.

Whether you’re a lower-level nurse looking to advance to a BSN or doctorate, or a completely new student, CSUF has something for you.

 

10. University of San Diego – Go-to School for Registered Nurses

San Diego State University

San Diego State University is a public institution that was founded in 1897. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,086 (fall 2020), its setting is urban, and the campus…....

BSN Program Nutritional Sciences
California, US    School Type : Public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $52,864

Acceptance Rate: 59%

Graduation Rate: 81%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91%

Programs Offered: PhD / DNP / MSN / MEPN / MS

The Hahn School of Nursing at the University of San Diego is a haven for registered nurses that want to build on their education and take further steps in their nursing careers. 

For over 40 years now, the nursing school has succeeded in weaving compassion, innovation, and Christian ideals into their programs to build not only highly skilled nurses but also ensure high morality and ethical standards.

Through training, nursing students extensively get involved in clinical settings like the school’s simulation lab that incorporates real-size mannequins and even human actors to create an almost real-life health care environment.

Additionally, students are assigned acute-care roles in hospitals to put their knowledge into real practice. 

 

11. California State University, Long Beach – Highest NCLEX-RN Pass Rate Nursing School

California State University, Long Beach

California State University--Long Beach is a public school. The Department of Nursing has an application deadline of Nov. 30 and an application fee of $55 for U.S. residents.....

ADN Program BSN Program DNP Program MSN Program
Long Beach, CA, US    School Type : public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $6,834 In-State / Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 42%

Graduation Rate: 69%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%

Programs Offered: BSN / RN to BSN / ADN to BSN / MSN / Masters Certificates / DNP 

Sitting on 322 acres, CSU Long Beach has over 50 years of experience preparing undergraduate and graduate nursing students for a blissful nursing career. 

The nursing school does a great job in building proactive learning that includes skills training and health care facility roles. We guess we should let their latest 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate speak for itself. 

The school’s traditional BSN and MSN programs have received national and state accreditation. There are also edge BSN programs, DNP, tons of MSN programs, and even certifications for nurses that want to spice up their CVs.

 

12. University of California, Irvine – Great for Doctorate Nursing Programs

Top 20 Nursing Schools In California

Considering going to a nursing school in California is a great start to ensuring a blistering nursing education and career.  Only, with a trove of really great nursing schools in…....

, US    School Type :

Estimated Annual Tuition: $13,753 In-State / $43,507 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 30%

Graduation Rate: 85%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93%

Programs Offered: BSN / MEPN / DNP / DNP-FNP / PhD

The University of California, Irvine might be the youngest member of the University of California fraternity, but it’s been recognized by the US National and World Report as one of the best 10 public universities nationally before.

UOCI’s Sue and Bill Gross School of nursing embodies intensive scholarly research and evidenced practice in their education programs. With a bias towards population health, nurses get one of the best field training. Matter of fact, the school states that students spend over 10,000 hours a year actively involved with promoting health in vulnerable communities.

 

13. California State University, Los Angeles – Leading Collaborative BSN Nursing Program

California State University, Los Angeles

University of California--Los Angeles is a public school. The UCLA School of Nursing has an application deadline of Dec. 1 and an application fee of $120 for U.S. residents. Tuition…....

ADN Program BSN Program MSN Program Nursing
Los Angeles, CA, US    School Type : public

Estimated Annual Tuition: $6,781 In-State / $18,661 Out-of-State

Acceptance Rate: 76%

Graduation Rate: 47%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.8%

Programs Offered: BSN / MSN / RN to BSN / ADN to BSN / LVN to RN / Accelerated BSN / NP

The Patricia A. Chin School of Nursing at Cal State LA has built its forte on a range of bridge programs to help nurses seek better career opportunities fast. Along with that is a collaborative ADN to BSN program that allows students to be dually enrolled in California Community College and Cal State LA to earn their degree in just 12 months.

Better still, Cal State LA believes no one should be left behind. There are tons of academic support programs to help you keep up with your schoolwork, e.g. after-hours tutoring, workshops, and peer support

 

14. Western University of Health Sciences – Exclusive Nursing School for Graduate Nursing Students

Top 20 Nursing Schools In California

Considering going to a nursing school in California is a great start to ensuring a blistering nursing education and career.  Only, with a trove of really great nursing schools in…....

, US    School Type :

Estimated Annual Tuition: $59,560

Acceptance Rate: 2%

Graduation Rate: 98%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%

Programs Offered: ADN to MSN / DNP / ENP / FNP / BSN to MSN / MSN 

Apart from being one of the biggest graduate nursing schools in the country today, Western University of Health Sciences asserts its place as one of the best nursing schools with its consistently high NCLEX-RN pass rates. 

Nursing students here are involved in tons of research opportunities during their study, something that is particularly helpful for PhD and other doctorate nursing students. To take some pressure off the tuition fees, the school offers financial aid assistance to help students that may need it. 

 

15. America University of Health Sciences – Exclusive Accelerated BSN Program

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University is a private institution.....

Earth Science Health Education Neuroscience Nursing
Loma Linda, CA, US    School Type : Private

Estimated Annual Tuition: $23,239

Acceptance Rate: 100%

Graduation Rate: 99%

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91%

Programs Offered: MSN / Accelerated BSN

America University of Health Sciences might not be that long-standing, having just launched in 1994, but the school has attracted good acclaim, helping nursing students from minority communities get their BSN degrees in 39 months. 

The private Christian university also offers an MSN program. And students complement in-class learning with skill training in clinical facilities around the school. Additionally, students can apply for financial aid from the school to help with part of their tuition. 

 

16. LA County College of Nursing and Allied Health – Top Community College for an Associate’s Nursing Degree

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University is a private institution.....

Earth Science Health Education Neuroscience Nursing
Loma Linda, CA, US    School Type : Private

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.23%

Programs Offered: ADN

The LA County College of Nursing and Allied Health has been around since 1895.

The public community college provides student-centered education to students looking to get into the world of nursing. And they averagely graduate 100-150 students a year. For prospective students that require some assurance, then the school’s latest 96.23% NCLEX-RN pass rate might do it.

 

17. Point Loma Nazarene University – Unique Technology-Based Training

Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University is a private institution that was founded in 1902. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 3,216 (fall 2020), its setting is urban, and the campus…....

BSN Program MSN Program
San Diego, CA, US    School Type : Private, Coed

Programs Offered: BSN / LVN / MSN 

PLNU gives nursing students an interactive learning experience by providing technology-based clinical training. To add to that, the student-faculty ratio is just 14:1 to help nursing students maximize the available learning resources. By graduation day, the school states students would have achieved at least 1,100 clinical hours.

 

18. Pacific College – Nice Community College for Wide Nursing Programs

Pacific College

Pacific College is a for-profit institution.....

ADN Program BSN Program DNP Program MSN Program
Costa Mesa, CA, US    School Type : Proprietary

Programs Offered: FNP / BSN / LVN / MSN – FNP / ADN – BSN 

Let not Pacific College’s community institution status fool you, their nursing school offers a wide range of nursing programs. This includes an online MSN – FNP and BSN for registered nurses to balance their usual life and school. Also, there’s a collaborative ADN to BSN course to allow students to get their ADN and BSN degrees at once.

 

19. California State University, Chico – Best Nursing School for Hispanic Nursing Students

California State University, Chico

The American Language and Culture Immersion (ALCI) Program at California State University, ChicoThe American Language and Culture Immersion program (ALCI Chico), located on the campus of California State University, Chico,…....

Accounting Agricultural Business Agriculture and Natural Resources Animal Science
California, US    School Type : University

Programs Offered: BSN / MSN / RN to BSN 

At 66%, California State University-Chico has one of the highest graduation rates of the CSU system. The school also bills itself in its enduring reputation (since 1887) and California Board of Registered Nursing accredited BSN programs. Finally, the nursing school further boasts average class sizes of just 30.

 

20. West Coast University, North Hollywood – Top Online Nursing Masters Programs

West Coast University - North Hollywood

West Coast University is a private institution. West Coast University is one of more than 800 institutions with graduate schools surveyed by U.S. News on an annual basis. West Coast…....

BSN Program DNP Program MSN Program
California, US    School Type : Private

Programs Offered: BSN / LVN to BSN / MSN / DNP 

West Coast University spreads its programs between its campuses in the states of Texas, California, and Florida. However, their Los Angeles campus just seems to pip the rest with its impressive BSN programs. That said, for a more personalized schedule, there is a wide selection of online MSN courses that include; Adult-Gerontology Auto Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Leader, and many more.

 

Conclusion

California-based nurses are the highest-paid nurses in the nation, and it’s helpful that you earn your nursing degree or doctorate from a nursing school in California. These reviewed nursing schools are a great place to start.

To get you going, The University of California, Los Angeles, Loma Linda University, and the University of San Francisco take our best spots for their rigorous nursing programs, state-of-the-earth facilities, and high nurse exam pass rates. 

Still, there are some areas that our lower-ranked nursing schools beat the top ones, all you have to do is pick the best one for yourself. 

 

© 2022 AcademiaLabs | All Rights Reserved