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Top School in San Diego for Nursing & Nursing Administration

Students interested in studying nursing in San Diego, California, have many schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition and ranking info to find the right one for you.

School and Ranking Information

About 11 schools within 25 miles of San Diego offer nursing or nursing administration programs. In order to qualify for a registered nurse (RN) license in the state of California, students must have graduated from an accredited nursing program and passed the NCLEX-RN exam. Based on national rankings, graduation rates and available programs, the top three nursing schools in the San Diego area are San Diego State University, University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University.

  • Winner: San Diego State University has the second-highest ranking among these schools for its graduate nursing programs, per U.S. News & World Report, but earns the top spot since it offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field. It also awarded the most nursing degrees among these schools during the 2011 school year.
  • Runner-Up #1: The University of San Diego has the highest-ranked graduate nursing programs among these schools, but it doesn't offer undergraduate nursing programs that prepare students for initial RN licensure, so it's the first runner-up.
  • Runner-Up #2: Point Loma Nazarene University takes third place on this list. It had a 100% pass rate for students who took the NCLEX-RN, however, it also has the lowest-ranked graduate nursing programs of these universities.

School Comparison Chart

San Diego State University University of San Diego Point Loma Nazarene University
Ranking(s) 127th among schools with graduate nursing programs in 2011, nationwide,
14th among up-and-coming schools in 2014, nationwide*
50th among schools with graduate nursing programs in 2011, nationwide,
91st among national universities in 2014*
193rd among schools with graduate nursing programs in 2011, nationwide,
17th among regional universities in the West*
Location San Diego, CA San Diego, CA San Diego, CA
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit
Tuition and Fees (2012-2013) $6,578 (undergraduate, in-state),
$18,236 (undergraduate, out-of-state),
$7,844 (graduate, in-state),
$17,390 (graduate, out-of-state)*
$23,310 (graduate)* $29,510 (undergraduate),
$10,000 (graduate)*
Nursing and Nursing Administration Degree Levels Offered Bachelor's and master's degrees Master's and doctoral degrees Bachelor's and master's degrees
Nursing and Nursing Administration Degrees Awarded (all levels) in 2011-2012 253** 119** 69**
Most Popular Nursing and Nursing Administration Program in 2011-2012 Bachelor's degree in registered nursing (211 awarded)** Master's degree in clinical nurse leadership (45 awarded)** Master's degree in clinical nurse leadership (55 awarded)**
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) for 2006 Entering Class 66%** 75%** 76%**
Noteworthy Sharp HealthCare Human Patient Simulation Center The school has its own nursing magazine, USD Nursing Times N/A

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Winner: San Diego State University

  • Ranked 81st among national public schools for 2014, according to U.S. News & World Report
  • SDSU had an 89% retention rate among first-time students in 2011-2012, per NCES data
  • According to the California Board of Nursing (CBN), 88% of students passed the NCLEX-RN on their first try in 2012

San Diego State University offers nursing programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with the choice of a traditional or RN-to-BSN option. Licensed vocational nurses who want to become RNs can enroll in the school's 30-credit LVN-to-RN program, but neither a degree nor a certificate is awarded for completion.

Graduate students may choose from concentrations in women's health nursing, advanced practice nursing of adults and the elderly or nursing leadership in healthcare systems. Within the women's health concentration, students can specialize in nurse-midwifery or women's health nurse practitioner. Advanced practice students may study to be nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists or nurse educators and clinical nurse specialists. Registered nurses who already hold a master's degree can pursue this school's graduate nursing education certificate.

Runner-Up #1: University of San Diego

  • Ranked in the top 10% of all schools with graduate nursing programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Per the CBN, 95% of students in 2012 passed the NCLEX-RN on their first try
  • A pre-nursing bachelor's program is available

This school offers a master's degree entry program designed for students with bachelor's degrees in other fields. This 21-month program prepares students for RN licensure and clinical nurse leader certification. The curriculum covers topics like pharmacology, pediatric and adult care, health assessment and pathophysiology. A field experience and an internship are required as well.

University of San Diego also offers a traditional Master of Science in Nursing program with concentrations in clinical nurse leader, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, nursing education and adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist, among others. Students may also pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Runner-Up #2: Point Loma Nazarene University

  • 100% of students passed the NCLEX-RN on their first try in 2012, according to the CBN
  • Students gain experience by working at the school's free clinic in mid-city San Diego

The School of Nursing at Point Loma Nazarene University offers nursing programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. About 70 new students enroll in the school's BSN program each year, which leads to RN licensure and Public Health Nursing certification. Graduate students may pursue a general track, which does not require a specialization or clinical hours, or the clinical nurse specialist option with concentrations in adult gerontology, family and individual health or pediatrics. Students with either an associate's or bachelor's degree may apply to the master's program, and classes are typically offered one evening each week and every other Saturday.

Other School Options

Located roughly 10 miles from San Diego in La Jolla, National University offers a variety of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in nursing. A master's degree and a graduate certificate in nursing administration are available at this school.


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