Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in California (2023)

EDUCATION

August 10, 2022

Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in California (1)

By: Nurse.org Staff

To become a nurse in California, the best course of action is to study at a California school. Studying at one of the state’s top schools will prepare you for a successful nursing career. To help you choose, Nurse.org has compiled a list of the best nursing schools in California.

Methodology

This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,

  • Reputation
  • NCLEX pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Acceptance rate, when available
  • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible

Nurse Panel

Our selection panel includes 5 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
  • Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
  • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 California nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in California

1. California State University, Bakersfield

Annual In-State Tuition: $15,270 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 98.08%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

California has a plethora of incredible state schools, and residents can take advantage of lower in-state tuition. California State University, Bakersfield is no exception. Located roughly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cal State Bakersfield has the feel of a college town. The nursing program offers plenty of options for undergraduate students, including a a traditional BSN and a 15-month RN-to-BSN. Like most California schools, Cal State Bakersfield has a high NCLEX pass rate and is a nationally recognized university.

2. California State University, Fullerton

Annual In-State Tuition: $6,995 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.97%

Traditional: Yes

(Video) 10 Best Nursing Schools in California 2021

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Located just north of Anaheim is another excellent school in the CSU system, California State University, Fullerton. Home to nearly 40,000 students, this ethnically diverse school has a low in-state tuition rate and a great location. Students interested in a BSN have four options:

3. University of California, Irvine

Annual In-State Tuition: $11,928 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88.64%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Considered by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s top public schools, the University of California, Irvine is an all-around high-quality school. UC Irvine has also been recognized for its commitment to diversity, and graduates tend to have higher salaries than the national average for recent grads. The main undergraduate nursing program – a traditional BSN – also boasts high graduate employment and salaries, but only 2.5% of all applicants are admitted. If students are lucky enough to count themselves among those selected, they’ll be set up for an incredibly successful nursing career.

4. California State University, Long Beach

Annual In-State Tuition: $6,834 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 99.3%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

California State University, Long Beach is home to beautiful beaches and beaches, along with one of the top nursing programs in the state. CSULB’s nursing program has a lofty goal of becoming the premier nursing program, so nursing students can rest assured that they’re getting one of the best educations available. The university offers BSN and MSN programs. There are three main BSN routes students may take:

  • Traditional BSN
  • RN to BSN
  • Accelerated BSN: for students with a bachelor’s degree in another field

The NCLEX pass rate of the recent graduating class speaks to the student outcomes.

5. California State University, Los Angeles

Annual In-State Tuition: $6,782 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.4%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

(Video) Top 10 BEST NURSING SCHOOLS IN CALIFORNIA New Ranking | University of San Francisco

Los Angeles, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, is home to various hospitals where California State University, Los Angeles nursing students can complete their clinicals. There are four programs for undergraduate nursing students:

6. University of California, Los Angeles

Annual In-State Tuition: $13,804 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.91%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: No

Bridge: No

One of the most recognized institutions in the world is the University of California, Los Angeles. So, it should be no surprise that UCLA is also home to one of the top nursing schools in California. UCLA has one traditional BSN program that is for incoming freshman and transfer students. Most students will be interested in earning their BSN before anything else, although the master’s and doctoral level degrees offered by UCLA are among the top in the state, too. The price is higher than other state schools, but in-state students will still pay a lower tuition rate.

7. California State University, Sacramento

Annual In-State Tuition: $7,484 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.33%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

Located in the state capitol, California State University, Sacramento is one of the most diverse schools in the nation. Students come from across California – and the US – to study at Sac State. One of the university’s top draws is the traditional BSN program, perfect for incoming freshmen that don’t have any nursing experience. An RN-BSN program and an LVN to BSN program is also available for current nurses that want to complete a BSN. Along with other state schools, Sac State is an excellent value for California residents, and they boast one of the highest NCLEX pass rates on this list.

8. San Diego State University

Annual In-State Tuition: $8,174 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 95.8%

Traditional: Yes

Online: No

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

San Diego State University, home of the Aztecs, has been educating students since 1897. Now home to more than 36,000 students, SDSU has entrenched itself as one of the top public schools in California. The nursing school at SDSU has four main programs:

9. University of California, San Francisco

Annual In-State Tuition: $54,980 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 88.%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

(Video) Top 10 Nursing Schools In America | Best Nursing Programs 2021

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: No

Yes, the in-state tuition at the University of California, San Francisco is incredibly high considering out-of-state students will be required to pay a higher rate. However, that’s the cost of studying at one of the nation’s best nursing schools. UCSF offers a traditional BSN and an accelerated MSN. This three-year MSN program is for current bachelor’s degree holders who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.. Keep in mind that the tuition rate can change depending on which nursing option you choose.

10. California State University, Stanislaus

Annual In-State Tuition: $5,742 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.83%

Traditional: Yes

Online: Yes

Accelerated: Yes

Bridge: Yes

California State University, Stanislaus has two campuses – one in Turlock and the other in Stockton. Of course, not all students will study on campus. There are four BSN options:

When it’s time for clinicals, CSU Stanislaus states that students will be placed “as far south as Madera and as far north as Stockton.” This is meant to give nurses extra exposure and more experience. Of course, the low tuition and high NCLEX pass rate are reasons to look at CSU Stanislaus, too.

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Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in California (2)

4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition

Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each individual student depending on various factors including,

  • Transfer credits
  • Completed competency exams
  • Amount of credits taken per year
  • Financial aid awards

Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.

Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),

  • California employs 324,400 nurses, by far the most in the nation.
  • Nurses in California earned an annual mean wage of $124,000 in 2021, making it the highest paying state for nurses.

Along with large cities and natural wonders, nurses in California can enjoy the high pay – especially if they specialize in their practice.

However, the downside to California is that it’s one of the lowest employers of nurses per capita. Only 19.63 nurses are employed per thousand jobs, as compared to 21.84 in Florida and 26.73 in Pennsylvania.

(Video) 10 Best Nursing Schools In The United States 2021

No state is without its drawbacks, though, and there’s no denying that California is a top destination for nurses looking for a long, successful career in an excellent area.

Next Steps:

There are dozens of great nursing school options in California, but you can only attend one. To find the perfect school, you should first make a list of your top options. Once you’ve determined which schools you’re most interested in, it’s time to prepare your application.

The next steps are to:

  • Contact each school’s admissions offices. You can learn about application requirements, nursing school requirements, and anything else about a school through their admissions office. Admissions counselors are there to help you through the application process.
  • Make sure you meet the nursing school requirements. Yes, many nursing programs have their own set of admissions requirements on top of the school requirements. Find out what they are and how to meet them. Some requirements may need to be fulfilled while in school, so don’t sweat it if you aren’t already eligible.
  • Submit your application(s). Always apply to more than one school! Schools may offer more financial aid than you expect, making one option even more affordable. Items you’ll need to submit include:
    • High school transcript (GPA)
    • ACT and/or SAT scores
    • College entrance essay(s)
    • Letter(s) of recommendation

Other requirements could also be required, so check with each admissions office representative before applying. Also, if you ever feel lost, contact the admissions office. They can answer any questions you have.

Show Me California Nursing Programs

Important considerations when comparing schools:

Both in-state and out-of-state students are attracted to California public schools. However, no two schools are the same, and one option could have clear advantages over another – even if the nursing program doesn’t seem as good on the surface.

To pick the best school, compare the pros and cons. This can include anything, including:

  • Annual tuition and total program cost (these can be different)
  • Cost of living in the area
  • Cost of living at the school
  • Scholarships, grants, and federal aid offered
  • Acceptance rate (both for the school and the nursing program)
  • Length of the program
  • Potential program outcomes
  • Distance from hospitals
  • Accreditation (regional and national)

Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation

Accrediting agencies are in charge of setting minimum standards for education programs and ensuring specific programs meet their rigorous standards. An accredited school doesn’t just mean the program is great – unaccredited schools may make you ineligible for federal funding, and many employers will only accept nurses with a BSN from an accredited school.

The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

If a school is accredited by one of these institutions, then their nursing program adheres to strict national standards.

Show Me California Nursing Programs

Getting a License in California

To become an RN in California, students should start preparing in high school. The best way to ensure license eligibility in California is to study at a California school, and admission into those schools can be tough. So, preparing early is key, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing.

>> Related: Complete Guide to Nursing in California

After completing your BSN, you’ll need to:

  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Pass a criminal background check and submit your fingerprints
  • Send your information to the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) in California
  • Apply to become a nurse via the California Board of Nursing

It can take up to six weeks to get your official NCLEX results. In the meantime, you can apply for an “interim” RN permit so you can interview for jobs and even start practicing while your official nursing license is processed.

FAQs

  • What is the number 1 nursing program in California?

  • What is the easiest nursing school to get into in California?

    • California State University—Bakersfield has an acceptance rate of 78%, which is higher than other schools in the state.
  • Is it difficult to get into a nursing school in California?

    • Some nursing schools can be more competitive than others, with rigorous prereqs that include organic chemistry, microbiology, and more.

Conclusion

California is arguably the top destination for nursing professionals. However, there are relatively few nursing opportunities available in the state. That said, California nurses enjoy high wages. To become a nurse in California, the best first step is to earn a BSN through a California school. After, all that’s left is to pass the NCLEX then find a position!

References:

BLS

California Board of Registered Nursing

FAQs

What is the #1 nursing school in the US? ›

#1: Duke University

The National League for Nursing has designated the Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) a Center of Excellence on six separate occasions. The school consistently ranks among the best in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's top MSN and DNP programs.

What is the easiest nursing school to pass? ›

Easiest Schools with Nursing Programs
School# of Nursing StudentsBSN NCLEX 1st Time Pass Rate
Cox College23690%
D'Youville College25985%
Herzing University – Madison24853%
The University of Texas at El Paso44598%
30 more rows
13 Feb 2020

What is the number 1 nursing school in the world? ›

The rankings highlight the world's top universities in 48 different subject areas (as of 2019) based on academic reputation, employer reputation, and research impact. This is the fourth consecutive year that Penn Nursing has taken the top spot.

What is the easiest nursing school to get into in California? ›

What is the easiest nursing school to get into in California? California State University—Bakersfield has an acceptance rate of 78%, which is higher than other schools in the state.

Which school has the best nursing program? ›

Based on this methodology, these are the top 10 nursing programs in the nation:
  • 1.) Duke University.
  • 2.) Georgetown University.
  • 3.) Johns Hopkins University.
  • 4.) New York University.
  • 5.) University of Pennsylvania.
  • 6.) University of Michigan.
  • 7.) University of California Los Angeles.
  • 8.) University of Washington.
19 Apr 2022

What is the hardest course in nursing school? ›

Hardest Nursing School Classes
  • Pathophysiology. In this course, students learn how different anatomical systems work and how diseases or injuries affect these systems. ...
  • Pharmacology. ...
  • Medical Surgical 1 (also known as Adult Health 1) ...
  • Evidence-Based Practice.

What is the hardest semester of nursing school? ›

Health Assessment: the hardest semester of nursing school

Health assessment will likely be one of the initial courses you'll take in nursing school, and it involves delving into the various body systems and learning how to assess patients from head to toe.

Is RN school Hard? ›

Nursing requires more dedication than many other careers. However, it's one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. Nursing school is notoriously difficult—and it's not for everyone. Graduate school is challenging as well.

Why is nursing school so hard? ›

The main reason why nursing school is challenging is because it involves learning about complicated nursing concepts and practical skills, then applying that information into diverse patient care scenarios — going well beyond memorizing facts. While it is challenging, nursing school is not impossible.

Is it hard to get into nursing school in California? ›

Despite the high demand for more nurses, students at some California community colleges are finding it difficult to get accepted into nursing programs.

Is becoming a nurse worth it? ›

Becoming a Registered Nurse is a solid career choice when it comes to job security, salary potential, and fulfillment. For nurses who plan to work in California, the rewards and opportunities are even more promising. The average registered nurse salary in California is often higher than any other state!

Which is better school of nursing or University? ›

And which is better? Nursing in the University is better and cheaper in terms of tuition fee. Uyi168: University nursing is a five year course and u would be awarded a Bachelor in Nursing Science (BNSc) degree, while school of nursing is a 3 year course and u get a Registered Nurse RN/RNM kind of like a diploma.

How many nursing schools are in California? ›

With more than 50 ADN programs throughout the Golden State, California helps students meet the demand for more licensed RNs.

What is the quickest RN program? ›

An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) are the two most common fast track options. With each of these ways to receive nursing instruction, they require passing the NCLEX licensure examination.

Do hospitals look at nursing school grades? ›

in general, the answer to your question is no. however, the smarter recruiters who know their area know more about the area nursing schools than you can imagine. they keep contacts with the instructors and program directors at the schools as well as with managers and recruiters at other hospitals.

How long is the RN program in California? ›

Takes 4 years. Also referred to as Baccalaureate degree. Offered at many California State Universities and some private colleges. Prepares you to provide registered nursing care in numerous settings and to move to administrative and leadership positions.

How much do travel nurses make? ›

Annual: The average annual salary for travel nurses also varies significantly. On average, they earn $117,490 with a starting salary of $78,430, rising to $170,680 as more experience is gained.

How many years does it take to study nursing in the university? ›

If you get admitted into a school of nursing for the general nursing program, you will become a registered nurse upon completion of your course in three years.

How difficult is the NCLEX-RN? ›

NCLEX Pass Rates

The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.

What happens if I fail a nursing class? ›

It depends on your school. At my school you're allowed to repeat a class/clinical once if you fail, and you're not always guaranteed to take it the semester following your failure (so you'll probably be behind). If you fail the second time you get kicked out of the program for up to 5 years.

How many hours a week should I study in nursing school? ›

Everyone is different, but in general, it is recommended that nursing school students study anywhere from 2-4 hours a day. Committing class material to memory is essential to becoming a registered nurse, so the more time studying, the better! What should I know before starting nursing school?

What is the most important class in nursing school? ›

Health Assessment and Promotion is one of the most important classes you take in nursing school. Having a firm grasp on the fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology will prove helpful as you navigate your way through Health Assessment and Promotion.

How can I make nursing school easier? ›

10 Study Tips That Will Make Nursing School Easier
  1. Follow the nursing exam study guide. ...
  2. Study a little every day. ...
  3. Focus on the material covered in class. ...
  4. Think in terms of action, not facts. ...
  5. Form a study group. ...
  6. Skim-read first. ...
  7. Use outside sources. ...
  8. Know your learning style.

Can you fail the NCLEX? ›

If you didn't pass the exam, you'll receive a NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR). The CPR is an individualized document that shows how a candidate performed in each of the test plan content areas. Candidates who fail the exam can use the CPR as a guide to prepare them to retake the exam.

Is nursing the hardest degree? ›

There's a rumor circulating on the internet that The Guinness Book of Work Records has declared a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing to be the toughest of all bachelor's degrees to obtain. There's no truth to this claim.

Does nursing have math? ›

Nursing in the "real world" generally requires very basic math skills, but almost all programs require at least one college-level math class — usually algebra. Some nursing schools may require a basic statistics course as well, so if you know what schools you're applying to, be sure to check for this requirement.

What should you study before nursing school? ›

Topics to review before nursing school starts
  • Fluids, fluids and more fluids. ...
  • Cardiovascular System. ...
  • Pulmonary System. ...
  • Renal System. ...
  • Acid/Base Balance. ...
  • Electrolytes. ...
  • Endocrine System and Feedback Loops. ...
  • Dimensional Analysis.
27 Jul 2017

Is CSU a good nursing school? ›

California State University--Fullerton is ranked No. 56 (tie) in Best Nursing Schools: Master's. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.

Is Cal State LA good for nursing? ›

Cal State LA's Nursing Master's Program continues to rank among the best in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report's 2021 edition of Best Graduate Schools.

Does Cal State Fullerton have a good nursing program? ›

Cal State Fullerton was ranked #187 on College Factual's most recent list of the best schools for nursing majors. This puts the bachelor's program at the school solidly in the top 15% of all colleges and universities in the country. It is also ranked #20 in California.

Does CSU have nursing program? ›

The CSU offers nursing programs online and at off-campus locations through Professional and Continuing Education.

Is RN school Hard? ›

Nursing requires more dedication than many other careers. However, it's one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. Nursing school is notoriously difficult—and it's not for everyone. Graduate school is challenging as well.

Is it hard to get into nursing school in California? ›

Despite the high demand for more nurses, students at some California community colleges are finding it difficult to get accepted into nursing programs.

Why is UCLA nursing good? ›

Through our innovative curriculum, students learn relevant theory, acquire practice skills, and are socialized into the profession of nursing. The School of Nursing provides rich opportunities for students to pursue collaborative and interdisciplinary education and independent study projects.

Are all nursing schools the same? ›

But no two nursing schools are exactly the same. Factors like cost, distance from your home and time to completion all vary from one institution to another. So how can you narrow down your choices and choose the nursing school that is right for you?

How much does it cost to become a nurse in California? ›

Top 10 Best Nursing Programs in California
School NameNCLEX Pass RateTotal Annual Cost
Victor Valley College95%$5,549
Golden West College92%$5,577
San Joaquin Delta College92%$5,517
Cerritos College88%$5,539
6 more rows

Which UC schools have nursing programs? ›

Nursing leaders from UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC San Francisco work closely to advance nursing education, research and practice collectively to ensure UC nursing contributes significantly to meet the growing health care needs in California and beyond.

What is the acceptance rate for Cal State Fullerton nursing program? ›

The acceptance rate for men is 63%, and the acceptance rate for women is 71%.

Does UC Santa Cruz have a nursing program? ›

Starting a Health Career at UC

As a system with six highly respected academic health centers, we give nursing students many opportunities to advance their career within the UC family.

How long is Fullerton nursing program? ›

The degree is completed full-time throughout the course of either a four year pathway or a five year pathway.

What is the nurse entrance exam called? ›

You must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) if you have never been licensed as a registered nurse in another state or if you have not passed the national licensing examination.

How do I become a nurse in California? ›

Steps to Become a California Registered Nurse
  1. Take college prep classes in high school.
  2. Choose the type of nursing school you want to attend.
  3. Select a college and apply for admission.
  4. Apply for financial aid.
  5. Obtain an RN license. Take college prep classes in high school.

How long does it take to become a nurse? ›

Depending on the specific nursing program that you enroll in, it could take anywhere from 16 months to four years to become a registered nurse. “I chose to earn my BSN, which takes four years,” says ChiChi Akanegbu, who completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Regis College as a part of the Class of 2020.

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