Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in California

Whether you are earning your first graduate degree on your way to become more involved in the medical field, or a professional who is looking to expand your skills and job prospects, there are many options available through the master of nursing programs in California. This article will go over each university that offers a CA Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree as well as what concentrations and tracks are available within the degree program.

It’s important to look for nursing programs in California that have been accredited. Accreditation means that the program has been held to high standards and will adequately prepare you for your future career. Some nursing schools may try to tempt students with a seemingly easy way to earn a degree, but if they aren’t accredited by a legitimate organization, it’s not worth the time and money. Accreditation ensures your investment in the long run. Most employers require or prefer that their licensed employees received their education through an accredited institution. The two most common accrediting agencies for nursing programs are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The ACEN accredits all education levels of nursing programs, and the CCNE will only accredit graduate programs. Each are both excellent accrediting organizations.

Some of the CA nursing programs offer online or hybrid courses, which is a convenient option for students who need flexibility in their education. The entry requirements for many MSN degree programs state that a student must already have experience in a healthcare field, so online courses allow students to keep their healthcare job while they are in school. Similarly, some of the programs in CA are part-time to accommodate the schedule of working professionals.

The list below includes the California universities that offer Master of Science in Nursing degrees.

  • University of California – Los Angeles
  • University of San Diego
  • California State University – Fullerton
  • University of Southern California
  • California State University – Los Angeles
  • San Diego State University
  • Western University of Health Sciences
  • California Baptist University
  • San Jose State University
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • California State University – Bakersfield
  • California State University – Dominguez Hills
  • California State University – Long Beach
  • California State University, San Marcos
  • Loma Linda University
  • Mount Saint Mary’s University
  • National University
  • United States University
  • California State University – Fresno
  • University of California – San Francisco
  • University of California – Davis
  • San Francisco State University
  • Sonoma State University
  • Holy Names University
  • Samuel Merritt University

Below will go over each university and what programs are offered.

MSN Programs in Southern California

1. University of California – Los Angeles

There are two master’s degree nursing programs offered at UCLA. Students in these programs will get to fulfill their clinical requirements at UCLA medical center, which is one of the top-rated hospitals in the United States. Each program is equipped to prepare students to take the NCLEX exam so they can earn their license. The programs include:

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. This program is for those who want to focus on a specific concentration such as Gerontology or Pediatrics.
  • Masters Entry Clinical Nurse (MECN). This program is intended for those who have an undergraduate degree and want to go on to become a Registered Nurse, Public Health Nurse, or Clinical Nurse Leader.

2. University of San Diego

There are available master’s degrees that one can earn through the University of San Diego. Students can choose the Nurse Practitioner (NP) route, where they will learn to provide primary care and case management services throughout the lifespan of many individuals. In the NP path, there are areas of expertise such as pediatric and family specialities that allow them to become experts. They can also choose from the other master’s in nursing specialties where they would have the opportunity to work in a number of healthcare settings.

  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Executive Nurse Leader
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Health Care Informatics
  • Pediatric/Family Nurse Practitioner (PNP/FNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

3. California State University – Fullerton

The master’s programs at CSU Fullerton give students the tools they need to become experts who will become leaders in their nursing roles. The degree options include:

  • Nursing Leadership. This degree involves working at various levels of administration and management in a number of healthcare settings and in specialized areas such as quality improvement or risk management. Those in this position are trained to meet the complexities of the healthcare system head-on.
  • School Nursing. This degree trains students to be able to influence the health of not only students that will become their patients, but also families and communities. These nurses learn to address diverse issues and promote health and safety while providing case management services.
  • Women’s Health Care. This degree involves a significant amount of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Graduates work in different settings promoting health and disease prevention, advocating for their community, and will understand the needs of diverse populations.

4. University of Southern California

This Master of Science in Nursing program is offered online so students can enjoy the flexibility of an online education. There are 49 credits to complete. Students are required to also complete 4 clinical rotations when in the program as well as 784 clinical hours. The live online classes and hands-on experiences mean that students will get a quality education. The programs offered at USC include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

5. California State University – Los Angeles

California State University Los Angeles offers a lot for students to choose from in their graduate degree programs. These programs are designed to train students to become leaders and advocates in the healthcare field who are knowledgeable about health disparities. Graduates will provide evidence-based care based on the hands-on clinical training that they received at this university. The programs available include:

  • Nurse Practitioner: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
  • Nurse Practitioner: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care (AGPCNP)
  • Nurse Practitioner: Family Option
  • Nurse Practitioner: Family Psychiatric/Mental Health Option
  • Nursing Administration
  • MSN – Nursing Education

6. San Diego State University

San Diego State University’s graduate programs are unique and intended for focused students who are dedicated to their field. The programs include:

  • Advanced Practice Nursing of Adults & the Elderly Focus in Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). This program is 50 units total and there is a two year and three year curriculum plan. The program is ideal for students who are already registered nurses and have several years of experience in acute care.
  • Leadership in Health Care Systems. This program also has two and three year curriculum plans. Students will be prepared to work in a variety of settings such as nonprofits, acute care, health policy, and more. This program gives practical skills in organizational management and leadership. Research skills are also emphasized.

7. Western University of Health Sciences

The online master’s nursing programs at Western University of Health Sciences have both full-time options (that can be completed in two years) and part-time options. The courses are self-directed and fully web-based, and students are only required to come to campus twice a year. The programs offered at Western University include:

  • Administrative Nurse Leader (offered online). This degree involves advancing healthcare while lowering costs by using research and knowledge to lead at the clinic or departmental level.
  • Clinical Nurse Leader (offered online). This degree involves using evidence-based practices for risk reduction and quality improvement to lead in patient safety.

8. California Baptist University

California Baptist University has online masters degree programs for those who already have a degree in nursing and those without a nursing degree as well as other options to meet students under a variety of circumstances where they are at. This includes having an online option, so that students can learn while maintaining other professional responsibilities. The masters programs and concentrations offered and CBU include:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) (offered online)
  • Entry-Level Master of Science in Nursing (offered online). This program is 106-108 units and 10-11 semesters.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) (offered online)
  • Healthcare Leadership
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Adult Gerontology
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to MSN

9. San Jose State University

San Jose State University’s innovative and dynamic programs prepare nurses for the future. Each program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. A GPA of at least 3.0 in one’s undergraduate programs is required to be admitted into these programs.

  • MSN Nurse Educator. This program accepts students who have already earned a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in nursing. Students in this program have the opportunity to apply their research and theory in hands-on practice and critically evaluate it.
  • MSN Family Nurse Practitioner. This program accepts students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing and have a California registered nurse license. This degree is the highest level that nurses can practice, and the program prepares students adequately for graduation and to enter the field with the professional knowledge and clinical skills they need.

10. Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University’s master degree programs and the concentrations within them prepare students for the complexities of clinical nursing. The master’s programs are designed for students to gain the skills that they need to provide excellent clinical care to diverse populations, individuals, and families while improving healthcare as a whole. The programs offered at Azusa Pacific University include:

  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Family NP
  • Master’s in Healthcare Administration (offered online)
  • Master’s in Nursing Education Degree
  • Pediatric NP
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Primary Care and School Nurse Services Credential (offered online)

11. California State University – Bakersfield

The MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Program at CSU Bakersfield takes two years to complete with full-time study. Students must have already earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and have 2 years of experience in the nursing field. Students who want to enroll can do so every other year. This program requires 44 total units. Additionally, students will complete on-campus coursework as well as approximately 585 clinical hours.

12. California State University – Dominguez Hills

The nursing programs at CSU Dominguez Hills are for students who are Registered Nurses or are in a community college nursing program. These programs offer additional knowledge and skills for professionals in the healthcare field who want to challenge themselves and gain leadership skills in specific areas of nursing. These are the MSN degree options offered at CSUDH:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (offered online)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) (offered online)
  • Nurse Administrator (offered online)
  • Nurse Educator (offered online)

13. California State University, San Marcos

The programs at the School of Nursing offer an innovative education for students to learn from. The Master of Science in Nursing degree is intended to be completed on a part-time basis so students can fully focus and succeed on their work as well as any other responsibilities they may have. This graduate program strives to prepare students for careers in healthcare fields of any kind, or for students to move on to doctoral studies if they so choose. This program promotes theory and research, building on the knowledge that students gained in their bachelor’s degree program. Emphasis is placed on cultural sensitivity as students interact with a diverse community. Specializations in this MSN degree program include:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Track- Adult-Gerontology
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Track- Pediatrics
  • Nurse Practitioner Track – Family Nurse Practitioner Specialization
  • Nurse Practitioner Track- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Specialization

14. Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University features three Masters of Science in Nursing degrees. These include:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (hybrid format). This program is for individuals who want to provide anesthesia to patients in rural hospitals and to individuals who are serving in the Armed Forces. This program is 39 months long and is fully accredited for a hybrid format.
  • Nurse Educator (offered online). This program is for individuals who want to educate nurses themselves in the future. Students will learn the skills needed to take on a teaching role. They will also select a specific focus where they will conduct clinical research.
  • Nursing Administration (offered online). This program prepares students to take on leadership roles in high-level patient-care and supporting nurses. They will graduate and go into management fields such as administration. Clinical research and critical thinking is a vital component of this program.

15. Mount Saint Mary’s University

The Master of Science in Nursing degree program at Mount Saint Mary’s University is offered in a hybrid format, with both face-to-face and online meetings and coursework. Students are educated in advanced theory and leadership through the flexible program. They also learn the skills needed to address health inequities.

Students can choose from the below tracks:

  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Track
  • Educator Track
  • Leadership and Administration Track
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist MSN

16. National University

National University’s School of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing degree. There is also a specialization in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – Lifespan option. If students want to complete this option, they must first be accepted into the MSN program. To receive the MSN degree, students must complete the required 87-89 quarter units and maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Preparation for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization involves 3 courses, or 15 quarter units.

17. United States University

USU offers a number of nursing programs. These programs are all well-equipped to prepare students for their licensing exams. The master’s programs include:

  • MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner (hybrid format). This program is meant for nurses who already have a bachelor’s degree. This program is a total of 48 credits.
  • MSN – Health Care Leadership. This program is meant to train individuals in the skills needed to become a leader and administrator that can meet the needs of new healthcare models as they emerge. This program requires 38 credits.
  • MSN – Nurse Educator. This program is for nurses who want to reach future nurses by learning how to create courses, use relevant technology, design curricula, and work in a variety of settings.

MSN Programs in Northern and Central California

1. California State University – Fresno

CSU Fresno offers a Masters of Science in Nursing degree for those who wish to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. In order to enroll in this program, students must already have a bachelor’s degree from a CCNE-accredited program and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 as well as several other prerequisites fulfilled. There are 30 units minimum required to complete this program. Once enrolled, students will learn leadership skills in a variety of areas and how to apply clinical and scientific knowledge to improve nursing care and public health across diverse settings.

2. University of California – San Francisco

Those who are looking to earn an advanced degree in nursing at UC San Francisco have many options to choose from. This university’s School of Nursing is always trying to improve human health through their programs and promote healthcare leaders. To be considered to be enrolled in one of the available programs, applicants must have a 3.0 GPA from the bachelor’s degree that they received at a regionally accredited institution. They also must have current employment in a healthcare environment. These requirements go along with the application on the university website. The degrees students can earn at the university include:

  • Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist – Critical Care/Trauma
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist – Oncology
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Online MS Healthcare Administration & Interprofessional Leadership (offered online)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • MSN: Advanced Public Health Nursing (APHN)
  • Master Degree in Nursing: Health Policy

3. University of California – Davis

The programs at UC Davis prepare students to graduate as nurses who lead as advocates for diverse patients and who want to change communities for the healthier. These rigorous programs prepare students to take their national licensing exams. Per the university website, the master’s degree programs are the fastest way that adults can gain their registered nursing license if they have already completed a bachelor’s degree in another subject. The tracks offered for the MS in Nursing programs include:

  • Master of Science – Family Nurse Practitioner Track
  • Master of Science – Leadership Track

4. San Francisco State University

The nursing programs at this SFSU include:

  • Master of Science in Nursing. This program is designed for individuals who are already Registered Nurses in California with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Specialty areas for this degree include:
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Nursing Administration
    • Public/Community Health
    • RN-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Concentration
  • Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing. This program is for students who do have a bachelor’s degree, but not in nursing, and would like to become educated in the field. The specialty areas for this degree include:
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Public/Community Health
    • Nursing Administration

5. Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University offers a Master of Science in Nursing program with a Family Nurse Practitioner emphasis. The program is offered both full-time and part-time. The full-time option is two-years long and 46 units. The part-time option is six semesters, three years, and also 46 units. In the program, students learn how to diagnose and treat common illnesses as well as health teaching and counseling services. Most of the coursework is web-based.

6. Holy Names University

Holy Names University offers a Master of Science in Nursing program that has a hybrid format. The class schedules of this program are convenient and personalized so that students can achieve their goals along with the support of the experienced faculty. The class sizes are small, so everyone who participates can get the help they need. The MSN program can be completed in two years. In the hybrid format,

7. Samuel Merritt University

SMU offers programs where every student’s education is personalized due to their faculty-to-student ratio. There are multiple degree options available at SMU, including:

  • Entry-Level MSN Case Management Program. This program is 27 months long.
  • Entry-Level MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Program. This program is 39 months long.
  • MSN Case Management Program. This program is 15 months long.
  • MSN Clinical Leadership Education. This program is five semesters long.
  • MSN Family Nurse Practitioner (online option offered). This program is 20 months long.
  • MSN Nurse Anesthesia Program. This program is 27 months long.

Additionally, students who apply to the nursing master’s program at Samuel Merritt University have the opportunity to apply for a $10,000 scholarship. This scholarship is available to all students who are first-time, full-time enrollees in the MSN-FNP online program.