California Schools of Nursing

The field of nursing is important, as individuals who choose this career work hard for many different kinds of organizations to help treat patients. The demand for nurses is growing, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the job outlook for registered nurses is projected to grow 6% over the next decade; and the job outlook for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists is projected to grow 40% over the next decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations in the US.

Nurses are a vital part of public health, and are able to perform many important and specialized skills. If you want to become part of this helping profession, it’s essential to attend a university or college to earn a degree. There are many excellent options in California to choose from when it comes to getting a nursing education.

Many of the programs offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, which means that the programs can meet you wherever you are in your educational journey. Common programs that you will see in nursing schools in California include:

  • Associates Degree in Nursing to Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Collaborative Program
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing
  • Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Accelerated BSN Program
  • Master’s of Science in Nursing
  • MS in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN/FNP)
  • MS in Nursing/Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing

Below is an overview of the nursing schools featured in the state of CA.

Southern California Nursing Schools

1. University of California – Los Angeles

UCLA is ranked in the top ten public universities in the United States. The university’s School of Nursing is well-equipped with many resources to prepare students to enter the medical field. UCLA boasts nationally recognized faculty, and students have the ability to practice their clinical skills in UCLA Medical Center, which is a highly ranked hospital on a national scale. The School of Nursing prioritizes advancing new knowledge through research. Students who participate in the programs learn to improve health outcomes by applying learned research skills that they observe from the skilled faculty. The School of Nursing at UCLA offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs.

2. University of California – Irvine

UC Irvine was founded in 1965 and has made a name for itself by contributing to scientific progress and innovation. Their Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing is designed to produce professionals who are dedicated to the healthcare field and to promoting the wellbeing of the local and global population. The nursing school is led by an passionate, expert faculty who are leaders in research, clinical practice, and education. UC Irvine’s School of Nursing offers Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral nursing programs.

3. University of San Diego

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at USD was founded over 40 years ago. The internationally recognized faculty works to educate students with a blend of innovative teaching and modern technology so students receive a well-rounded education that prepares them for their future careers. USD prioritizes compassion for their students, which is an important skill to pass on that graduates can take with them into their nursing career.

4. California State University – Fullerton

The School of Nursing at CSU Fullerton meets students where they are in their educational journey, so they can begin the journey towards entering the medical field or gain more education to advance their nursing career. The university does this by offering degree programs at the Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral degree levels. Within the different degree programs they offer, there are variations to meet the preferences and levels of individual students, such as an accelerated BSN program. They also have specific credentialing programs.

5. University of Southern California

University of Southern California Online gives students the flexibility of online courses while also providing them with the same quality education that they would receive in the classroom. Individuals who are considering University of Southern California can decide if they enjoy the online experience for themselves by attending the school’s tuition-free seminars, available on the university’s website. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing offers an online Master of Science in Nursing program that is designed to prepare students who have already earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree and have experience to become further trained in the medical field. The program is offered both part-time and full-time, and upon graduation, the student will become a Family Nurse Practitioner.

6. California State University – Los Angeles

CSU Los Angeles is located in the middle of the city of LA, and is one of the top performers in the US News and World Report for student upward mobility. The school’s Patricia A. Chin School of Nursing is ranked number five on the Top 100 Best Affordable RN-to-BSN Schools. The school focuses on improving the human condition for a diverse population and shaping health policy. The educational programs strive for a learning environment that promotes an equitable and diverse learning environment that recognizes and values the differences of student’s learning styles. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs for nursing students.

7. San Diego State University

San Diego State University was founded in 1897. Since then, it has become known as a leader in public research. SDSU’s School of Nursing started with a baccalaureate program that was established in 1953 and added a master’s degree program in 1982. The nursing school has since demonstrated a commitment to helping students become leaders in improving public health in the state of California, the US, and beyond.

8. Western University of Health Sciences

WesternU is a private university and “one of the largest graduate schools for health professions in California” per their website. They offer many programs for students who are likely already involved in the medical field in some capacity and want to expand their career prospects, knowledge, and skillset. There are several graduate program options for students who are just entering graduate school and for those who have some medical experience already. Students are guaranteed to receive an education that will prepare them for their future career, as the university is ranked on the US News and World Report Best Grad Schools for Nursing in 2023.

9. California Baptist University

California Baptist University, located in Riverside, California, was founded in 1950. This educational institution provides a College of Nursing that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education Board of Registered Nurses. The programs are designed to educate students towards becoming responsible, competent, and professional nurses who are able to serve a wide variety of populations across not only the state, but also the USA and the globe while respecting the dignity of all humans. The School recognizes the demands of a highly qualified nurse and provides the knowledge and skills for students to graduate with said qualifications.

10. San Jose State University

San Jose State University features The Valley Foundation School of Nursing. This nursing school is accredited by the Commision on Collegiate Nursing Education. The mission of the nursing school is to prepare graduates to be knowledgeable clinicians and scholars who prioritize meeting the ever-changing needs of healthcare across the world. There are undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs available through the SJSU School of Nursing.

11. Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University’s School of Nursing is a nationally ranked nursing school that prepares students to graduate into careers as nurses where they will provide professional and expert care in a variety of settings. The faculty at APU are experts in the field and will guide each student through their program to help them meet their goal. There are bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and certificate programs offered both online and on-campus to meet the needs and preferences of a variety of students.

12. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

The Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing at CDREWU provides students with a high-quality education whether they enroll in their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral programs. The School of Nursing also automatically enrolls all Master’s degree students into the National Student Nurses Association which provides a number of benefits for students both when they are enrolled at CDREWU and after graduation, such as giving awards for members who demonstrate their leadership skills and offering opportunities to travel and attend conferences for networking.

13. Point Loma Nazarene University

PLNU has undergraduate and graduate degree programs to meet the needs of many different students who are looking to pursue a nursing degree. Students will learn to become professional nurses who can provide optimal healthcare through research and applying the research to hands-on experience opportunities. Holistic patient care is emphasized in the programs so graduates will be able to care for the entirety of an individual. The nursing programs want to equip students for every situation they could come across in the field.

14. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

The Health Sciences Department at University of St. Augustine has programs that are designed for working professional nurses to expand their skills and knowledge to take on leadership roles. These programs have been offered by the University for more than 40 years, and emphasize collaboration to expand the perspective of all students in the program. The faculty that students will work with during the programs are experts in the field and will guide students towards their goals through a rigorous curriculum. Students will enjoy small class sizes at University of St. Augustine to allow for personal collaboration and assistance between themselves, faculty, and their peers.

15. California Southern University

California Southern University’s School of Nursing provides undergraduate and graduate degrees to help those who want to advance public health across the world.The programs help students develop their critical thinking skills and professionalism so they can provide for diverse patients in a wide variety of healthcare settings. The programs at CSU are flexible to meet the needs of students, and each are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The School of Nursing provides the opportunity for students to work one-on-one with their faculty mentors in each of their courses.

16. California State University – Bakersfield

CSU Bakersfield’s nursing department offers high quality education for students who wish to earn a nursing degree. There are both on-campus and online nursing degree program options to meet the needs of many students. The undergraduate degree has been offered at the university since 1970. The graduate program began in 1987. Both programs are accredited by the CCNE. CSU Bakersfield has partnered with many surrounding locations where students can practice their nursing skills, such as doctors offices, hospitals, health clinics, schools, and more.

17. California State University – Dominguez Hills

CSU Dominguez Hills’ School of Nursing is intended to provide an excellent education to students who want to reflect the vision of improving nursing and healthcare and serving the needs of diverse communities. The University values health as a fundamental human right and teaches students through that perspective. The bachelor’s and master’s program in the School of Nursing are accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. CSUDH provides their degree programs either online or on-campus for students to choose from.

18. Concordia University, Irvine

Concordia University, Irvine provides students with a comprehensive nursing education. In fact, students who go through the Nursing Program have a 985 pass rate on the NCLEX nursing exam. The nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. There are many programs offered, from an undergraduate pre-nursing minor to undergraduate bachelor’s degree programs—including an accelerated option—to a master’s degree program. Each level of education equips students with expert knowledge and skills that prepares them for the healthcare field and their future career.

19. California State University – Long Beach

The School of Nursing at CSU Long Beach boasts a near 100% pass rate for their students on the NCLEX nursing exam, while the national first time pass rate is 82.3%. The programs are accredited by the CCNE, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The Nursing School supports CSU Long Beach’s mission to create globally informed students who act for the good of the public. Students at all levels of education can receive a nursing degree at CSU Long Beach, as they offer undergraduate and graduate programs.

20. California State University, San Bernardino

CSU Bernardino works to help students become graduates who play an essential role in improving health outcomes across the United States and the world, as well as becoming advocates for change in healthcare policy and within its systems. There are multiple pathways offered at CSUSB for undergraduate and graduate students, which include both on-campus and hybrid formats. There are also post-graduate certificate programs available.

21. California State University, San Marcos

CSU San Marcos strives to provide innovative and dynamic education for their students and to educate them in the ways of ethical, culturally-sensitive healthcare that promotes dignity for all patients. Students have the opportunity to join the Student Nurses association where they can receive support and get involved on campus and in the community. The CSUSM School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. They offer traditional and accelerated undergraduate courses, an online option, and a graduate degree option.

22. Loma Linda University

At Loma Linda University, the School of Nursing embraces the diversity and background of their students and educates them to become independent learners in the healthcare industry. Loma Linda boasts the largest medical simulation center in the United States, which allows nurses to gain a more-than-adequate practice of their skills as they learn. The department also has a lab that is fully equipped, allowing for students to translate their coursework into hands-on clinical training to apply their skills. Students also have the opportunity to practice at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

23. Mount Saint Mary’s University

Mount St. Mary’s has been producing students who are prepared to positively impact the world since 1925. The University as a whole focuses on gender equity and social justice, and leads in the innovation of health and science programs. The University has the oldest BS in Nursing degree in California. Nursing students who are enrolled at Mount St. Mary’s are taught leadership and clinical skills through the undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Hands-on learning and theory are balanced to create graduates who are prepared to improve the health of their patients and the field of healthcare as a whole.

24. National University

National University has focused on providing accessible higher education since 1971. Their courses are provided one subject at a time and four weeks at a time. There are both online and on-campus options available, including for the nursing department. The nursing programs at National University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. There are many degree and certificate programs available for both undergraduate and graduate students. National University is the first to earn a Planetree International recognition, which means that they have successfully integrated “person centered” principles into their healthcare curricula and programs.

25. United States University

The Nursing and Health Sciences Department at United States University offers many programs for individuals who endeavor to enter the healthcare field as nurses. Both the undergraduate and graduate programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. There are also post-graduate certificates available for students who want to expand their skills and knowledge beyond the master’s degree program. Faculty at United States University are committed to supporting students during and after the program. Students will be able to succeed at United States University due to the flexible schedules and availability of online coursework.

26. Vanguard University of Southern California

Vanguard University of Southern California is known for having small class sizes and for being an institution where 98% of enrolled students receive financial aid. The Department of Nursing was first launched in 2006. The Department offers schedule flexibility for their students through the option of either on-campus or online options for their programs. VUSC also has partnerships with multiple local health care facilities where nursing students can gain clinical experience. Class sizes are intentionally small at Vanguard so that students can engage in discussion and benefit from individual learning. The University offers undergraduate and graduate programs for students starting their education and for more experienced medical students.

27. West Coast University

West Coast University is located in Los Angeles. They offer a Bachelor’s degree and Associate’s degree in nursing. The University is always seeking to increase the quality of their nursing programs, including prioritizing a student-centric approach, which means that students receive tutoring at no cost as well as Student Success advisors. The university will help nursing students find a local placement that suits their interest when it comes time to gain their clinical experience. Each program is accredited by the CCNE and prepares students to take their licensing exam.

Northern and Central California Nursing Schools

1. California State University – Fresno

CSU Fresno is the largest university in the Central San Joaquin Valley. The School of Nursing equips students with nursing skills through their high-tech simulation labs, online course options, and hands-on learning at the region’s largest hospitals. Students at all levels of education are met with options at CSU Fresno, as the nursing school offers a bachelor program, graduate programs, and a doctoral program. Each program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The School of Nursing is continuously assessing the programs to strategically improve the education they are providing.

2. California State University, Stanislaus

CSU Stanislaus offers a School of Nursing that features undergraduate and graduate programs for students at a variety of educational levels. They also have an undergraduate online program for students who need a flexible option that they can work around other responsibilities. There is also an accelerated undergraduate program available. Additionally, some students can take part in the nursing certificate programs, as applicable. CSU Stanislaus offers nursing students the opportunity to join the Student Nurses association, which allows students to network and promote community wellbeing. Graduates of CSU Stanislaus’s School of Nursing will be able to provide evidence-based clinical care with respect to diverse cultures and beliefs.

3. University of California – San Francisco

UC San Francisco is ranked #11 on the US News and World Report’s list of Best Nursing Programs in California. The diploma program for the hospital training school for nurses was first established in 1907, and since then, the School of nursing has demonstrated a commitment to providing excellent and innovative education. The School offers programs ranging from undergraduate to doctoral. The first bachelor’s program was offered in 1917, and the first graduate program followed in 1918. Multiple other master’s programs came, and by 1965, the doctoral programs emerged. Finally, in 1991, UC San Francisco saw their Master’s Entry Program in Nursing. The programs teach students to approach nursing with a set of values surrounding integrity, equity, growth, and pride in their work.

4. University of California – Davis

UC Davis’s Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is ranked among the top 3% of best nursing programs in California. The programs in the school prioritize research. For example, the researchers in the School have partnered with care centers for adults across the state to help create better services for individuals with dementia. The mission of the department is to integrate the science of nursing and other health disciplines. The School of Nursing offers graduate degree programs, doctoral programs, and other opportunities for students who want to enter the medical field.

5. University of San Francisco

The School of Nursing and Health Professions works to promote the mission of the University of San Francisco by educating students on how to address inequality in health care using evidence-based strategies. The School of Nursing, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. Upon graduation, students will be able to engage in the applicable nursing practice through the promotion of advocacy, increased access to health care, and will be learners for life. USF ranks in the top 6% in the nation for best undergraduate nursing programs.

6. California State University, Sacramento

The mission of the School of Nursing at CSU Sacramento is to train future nurses through innovative education and an educational environment where students are able to gain knowledge that is guided by core values such as equity, leadership, advocacy, and more. The programs are designed so that graduates will go on to help their communities, families, and individuals with achieving ideal health. There are undergraduate and graduate nursing programs offered at CSU Sacramento as well as credentialing programs and other opportunities. The School of Nursing is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

7. San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University emphasizes equity, community, student success, and academics to prepare graduates for a career in a global society. The School of Nursing at SFSU educates nurses through a justice perspective to make ethical decisions and create change through evidence-based practices and holistic care. The school is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The School of Nursing also offers an emergency fund that awards financial support to students who have an unforeseen hardship. The school offers undergraduate and graduate programs, so students at all education levels can find a program that meets their needs.

8. Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University first opened in 1961. Since then, it has had a history of excellence in educating students. Their Department of Nursing is no different. In 2023, the Department is ranked #10 for Best Accredited Colleges that provide Bachelors of Science in Nursing programs. They are also ranked #7 for Best Nursing Schools in California. Additionally, the Dept. of Nursing has also been ranked #3 for Best Online Family Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate Program. The Department educates students by teaching them about both climate and health, to prepare them to care for patients in a world where the climate is changing. There are five programs offered at Sonoma’s Dept of Nursing that range from pre-nursing, to an undergraduate degree program, to a post-master’s program.

9. Fresno Pacific University

Fresno Pacific University is located in California’s central valley. Their goal is to transform the valley through the excellence of their programs.The University’s nursing programs offer a scientific education where skill meets compassion and students are prepared to become professionals in the growing healthcare industry who perform evidence-based practices. FPU offers undergraduate and graduate nursing programs, including a Bachelor of Science in nursing, an RN to BSN program, and a Master of Science in Nursing. Each program is accredited by the Commision on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students in these programs will experience small class sizes, opportunities to train at some of the best local hospitals, and personalized advising.

10. Holy Names University

Holy Names University, located in Oakland, CA, was founded in 1868. Their School of Science, Allied Health, & Nursing has been educating students for over 50 years. The vision of the school is to build scientific literacy and promote social justice within the community. HSU offers masters and bachelors degrees for students pursuing a nursing education. These programs prepare students to graduate as professionals who have skills in critical thinking and advocate for social justice. Students will benefit from the small class sizes at HNU, and the Nursing Simulation Center through the School of Nursing. Certain degrees, such as the Masters of Science in Nursing program, offer classes in a flexible hybrid format.

11. Samuel Merritt University

The College of Nursing at SMU prepares students for nursing at all levels, whether they are just entering a clinical position or want to advance their career and take on a leadership role. The nursing programs are designed to educate nurses to recognize how the social determinants of health affect the populations they will be working with, so they will be prepared to enter their careers as well-informed professionals. SMU offers certificate programs for future nurses as well as undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Students have the education to receive this education through the university’s four campuses or online.

Best Schools of Nursing in California

While there are many excellent nursing schools in California, there are a few that stand out. The below California schools have made it onto the US News and World Report for having the best nursing programs in the state.

University of California – San Francisco

At #11 on the US News and World Report of Best Nursing Schools In California, UC San Francisco was first established in 1907 and has grown since then to provide an excellent education to their students. that enroll at educational levels ranging from undergraduates to experienced clinical professionals who are striving for their doctoral degree. Along with excellence in healthcare, this university emphasizes equity, integrity, and growth.

University of California – Los Angeles

At #19 on the US News and World Report of Best Nursing Schools In California, UC Los Angeles is also ranked as one of the top ten public universities in the United States due to a number of factors. Nursing students are able to obtain excellent clinical practice through the highly-ranked UCLA’s medical center. The School of Nursing at UCLA offers bachelors, graduate, and doctoral programs with various concentrations.

University of California – Davis

At #23 on the US News and World Report of Best Nursing Schools In California, UC Davis is among the top 3% of universities. The programs provide students with clinical knowledge by prioritizing research and giving students the opportunity to apply their knowledge with hands-on experience. Students are taught through a multi-perspective strategy, where they learn from not just the science of nursing, but also other health disciplines to broaden their perspective.

What makes schools of nursing in California unique?

California is a diverse state, and this is reflected in its educational institutions as well. While each school offers similar programs, no one school is exactly the same. For example, some of the schools have smaller classrooms and a smaller student body overall, while others are larger. Some of the schools offer primarily graduate programs, and others offer a wide range of programs from undergraduate to doctoral degrees and certificates. Additionally, because California is so large, there are more options to choose from than any other state in the US. Also, because the north and south part of the state differ in many ways culturally, students have the chance to choose which area to live suits them better while they attend school. Many of the schools have ranked on lists such as the US News and World Report, showing the high quality of education that they offer.

California Nursing Organizations

California Nurses Association

Founded in 1903, the California Nurses Association is comprised of more than 100,000 members in the United States. The organization is known as a leading advocate for negotiating contracts for registered nurses as well as “sponsoring innovative legislation and regulatory protections for patients and nurses”, per the CNA website. The California-specific CNA organization became known nationally by challenging California’s governor in 2004 when he attempted to attack the ratio law and other laws that would harm employees, including those in healthcare. The California CNA also sponsored laws that created protections for caregivers who experienced unsafe conditions in the hospital as well as a law surrounding bans on personnel giving medical advice over the telephone, and an increase in funding for programs that were providing nursing education.

American Nurses Association California

The ANA of California is the local state chapter of a national non-profit organization that focuses on representing and advocating for registered nurses regardless of their specialty or the setting in which they practice. The mission of the ANA is to advance how nurses contribute to public health. In order to maintain this mission, the organization makes efforts to promote the development of leaders, advocate for certain public policies, and encourage environments that foster professional practice. The website contains guides on how California nurses can get involved with joining the organization and begin advocating for change.

California Association for Nurse Practitioners

The CANP brings together more than 30,000 nurse practitioners across the state of California through their forum and organization as a whole. They also often join together with other organizations to advance nursing and advocate for needs in healthcare. The other goal of the organization is to meet the needs of patients the same way they want to help advance the profession of nursing: by working together to convey the importance of registered nurses in healthcare. The organization will do this by expanding care access to all patients and advocating for better policy and practices.

Association of California Nurse Leaders

The ACNL is focused on encouraging those who are leaders in the nursing profession or who are emerging as leaders to represent the voices of nurses in discussions of healthcare issues. The website states that the organization focuses on meeting the needs of these leaders and celebrates diversity and active participation of their members. The website provides information for nurses and future nurses including scholarships, research, and nursing resources. There is also information on webinars podcasts held by the organization to learn more, as well as an events calendar and information for memberships.