Nursing Education in California with Degree Program Descriptions

California has more than 200 colleges that offer nursing education programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition info and program options for ten of the largest schools to make an informed education decision.

Essential Information

Prospective and current nursing students in California will find a variety of degree opportunities available at over 200 institutions throughout the state. When choosing an institution, students may want to consider programs that will prepare them for such state-required licensing exams as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Through the application of both lecture courses and field experience, nursing degree and certificate programs help prepare students for such health care careers as licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse educators, and clinical specialists. Below are reviews of the nursing programs that are offered at 10 of the largest schools in California.


American River College

Located in Sacramento, American River College offers an Associate in Science in Registered Nursing. In addition to science courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and bacteriology, this degree program requires coursework in nutrition, mother-child nursing, medical-surgical nursing, and techniques for managing multiple patients.

The college also offers an Associate in Science in Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse, which is offered in collaboration with Sacramento City College. This program features the same coursework included in the registered nursing degree as well as a transition to associate degree nursing course.

Students may also opt to pursue a Licensed Vocational Nurse Certificate. Comprised of 30 credit hours, this degree program features courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, psychiatric and medical-surgical nursing, and techniques for managing multiple patients. Designed to prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, this degree program is offered to licensed vocational nurses who are beginning the college's nursing program.

California State University - Long Beach

Located in Long Beach, this California State University campus offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Accredited by the California State Board of Registered Nursing, this degree program offers two levels of study, one basic and one registered nurse. Comprised of 125 credit hours, the basic nursing emphasis prepares students to take the exam required for becoming a registered nurse. Students are required to complete coursework in health care communication, health assessment, critical care nursing, mental health care, and legal issues in health care. Made up of 120 credit hours, the registered nurse emphasis is designed for students who have completed a first-level nursing program and are seeking to earn a bachelor's degree. Students must complete courses in health care delivery systems, community health nursing, nursing research, and nursing leadership.

Students seeking an advanced degree can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing. This degree program is available to students who have earned a bachelor's degree and have a license as a registered nurse in the state of California. Within this degree program, students may select from the following list of specialized studies: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse-specialist - adult, and nursing administration.

The college also offers two graduate certificates. The Graduate Certificate in Nursing Education is available to licensed registered nurses and can be completed along with a master's degree or following completion of a master's degree. Required coursework includes conditions of learning and instruction in nursing, curriculum development in nursing, and microteaching in nursing. The Graduate Certificate Nurse Practitioner is a post-masters degree program that is available to students who are licensed registered nurses within the state of California. As part of their degree requirements, students must complete advanced practice nursing courses in health care economics, policy and management, human diversity, and theoretical and professional nursing roles.

City College of San Francisco

This college is located in San Francisco and offers an Associate in Science in Nursing, Registered. Accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, this program features coursework in LVN to RN transition, mother-child care, psychosocial nursing, and trends in nursing.

Students may also opt to pursue a Certificate in Achievement in Vocational Nursing. This degree program is designed for students interested in careers within long-term care facilities, clinics, physician offices, and health centers. Students in this program must complete coursework in adult medical-surgical nursing, mental health nursing, nutrition, and child growth and development.

East Los Angeles College

East Los Angeles College is located in Monterey Park and offers an Associate in Science in Nursing, Registered. Comprised of 79.5 credit hours, this degree program features coursework in pharmacology and health assessment, as well as classes in the nursing process and practice in the care of the adult client and children.

The college also offers an Associate in Science in Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse. This degree program is designed for individuals who already possess a vocational nursing license. Students must complete courses that address the nursing process and care for adult clients, clients with alterations in mental health, children, women and newborns.

Students may also opt to pursue a Certificate of Achievement in Registered Nurse. This 30-credit hour degree program is offered to individuals who already possess a license in vocational nursing. Required coursework includes health assessment and nursing process and practice in the care of adult clients and clients with alterations in mental health.

Long Beach City College

Located in Long Beach, this college offers an Associate in Science or Arts in Nursing, Registered. In addition to three clinical practicum courses, this program's curriculum includes courses in health deviations, mental health, trends in nursing, maternal newborn nursing, and pediatric nursing. A Certificate of Achievement in Nursing, Registered is also available to students.

The college also offers an Associate in Science or Arts in Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse. Designed to be completed within 2.5 semesters, this degree program is available to students who currently hold a license as a vocational nurse within the state of California. Along with classes in mental health and trends in nursing, this program requires completion of lecture and lab courses in mother-child nursing, advanced medical-surgical nursing, and pediatric nursing.

Students may also opt to pursue an Associate in Arts or Science in Vocational/Practical Nursing. Along with courses in mental health nursing, students must also complete lecture and lab courses in common health deviations, mother-child nursing, and nursing care of children.

San Diego State University

This university is located in San Diego and offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, this degree program focuses on developing students' critical thinking abilities and awareness of issues within the health care system. Required coursework includes community health nursing, gerontological nursing, pediatric nursing, and nursing care of complex, high acuity, or critically ill patients.

Students may also opt to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered. This degree program is available to students who have earned either an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Comprised of 120 credit hours, this degree program features coursework in community health nursing, basic electrocardiography, concepts of nursing, and nursing leadership and management.

Students seeking advanced educational opportunities may opt to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing. This degree program is available to students who have completed their bachelor's degree in nursing and possess a license in registered nursing within California. Within this degree program, students may choose from one of three concentration areas: women's health nursing, advanced practice nursing of adults and the elderly, or nursing leadership in health care systems. Graduating students may pursue careers as nurse practitioners, school nurses, clinical specialists, and nurse educators.

San Jose State University

Located in San Jose, the university offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, this degree program prepares students to meet the qualifications for the California Public Health Nurse Certificate. Students complete coursework in adult care management, evidence-based nursing practice, mother-child health theory and community health nursing theory. The program's curriculum also includes multiple clinical courses with focuses in psychiatric and mental health, community health, and adult care.

The university also offers a Registered Nurse to bachelor's degree in nursing program. This program is designed for students who have already earned a California RN license and are seeking a bachelor's degree. A degree option is also available to prepare licensed vocational nurses for the NCLEX-RN. The 30-credit hour program provides the training and skills needed to earn a California RN license.

Students seeking an advanced degree can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing. This degree program features specializations in nurse administrator, nurse educator, family nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, and school nurse. These programs are available to students who have completed a bachelor's degree in nursing and have earned a license as a registered nurse in California. The program's curriculum is designed to develop students' interpersonal skills, critical thinking abilities, and nursing practices and management skills.

A post-master's degree is also available to students through the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. This is a joint degree program that is offered by San Jose State University and California State University, Fresno. Coursework is comprised primarily of online courses with a few sessions occurring on one of the two university campuses. The program is comprised of 37 credit hours and prepares students for specialized roles within advanced nursing practices.

Santa Ana College

The college is located in Santa Ana and offers an Associate in Science in Nursing. Approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, this degree program prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN as well as provides the initial education needed to acquire a bachelor's degree from a four-year institution. Students within this degree program may select one of three specialized options: Generic RN, LVN to RN, or the 30-unit option. Required coursework includes pharmalogical concepts, the nursing process in biological and psychosocial systems, and the nursing process for women, parents and children. As part of their degree requirements, students must also complete one to two clinicals per week.

Santa Monica College

This college is located in Santa Monica and offers an Associate in Arts in Nursing. This degree program is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing and provides the training and skills to prepare students for the NCLEX-RN. Graduates of this degree program are encouraged to continue their education and pursue a bachelor's degree. Required coursework includes lecture and lab courses in medical-surgical nursing, mental health nursing, nursing of children, and mother-child nursing.

The college also offers a Licensed Vocational Nurse to Associate Degree in Nursing career ladder program. Accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing, this degree program is designed for individuals who have earned their California LVN license and IV certification as well as have a minimum of one year working within direct patient care. Coursework within this degree program includes nursing pediatrics, mother-child nursing, community-based nursing, physical assessment, and pharmacological issues in nursing.

University of California - Los Angeles

Located in Los Angeles, this University of California campus offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This degree program features lecture courses and hands-on experience that prepare students for careers as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and care administrators. Coursework within this degree program includes pharmacology, therapeutics, physical assessment and advanced leadership in nursing. Additional courses include physical and mental health nursing, maternity nursing, pediatric nursing, and public health nursing.

Students seeking an advanced degree may opt to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis in entry clinical nurse. Graduating students have the credentials to take the Clinical Nurse Leader certification exam, and students also have the opportunity to apply for the Public Health Nursing Certificate, as issued by the California Board of Registered Nursing. The degree's curriculum is comprised of coursework that emphasizes ethical issues, disease prevention, health promotion, and risk reduction. Prior to graduation, students must complete a clinical nurse leadership project.

The university also offers a Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis in advanced practice. This two-year program offers specialized areas of study within the program, with options including nursing administration, adult and gerontology primary care, adult and gerontology acute care, family population, and pediatric population. Students graduating from this program will be prepared for careers as clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, and nurse administrators.

Students may also opt to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. In addition to addressing ethical issues and policy decisions, this degree program is designed to develop students' understanding of nursing practice as well as their research expertise. The program's curriculum places emphasis on core areas of study, including bio-behavioral sciences, biologic sciences, health disparities and vulnerable populations and health services.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Nursing Education Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)
American River College 2-year, public; large suburb Associate in Science in Registered Nursing,
Associate in Science in Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse,
Licensed Vocational Nurse Certificate
$1,104 (in-state),
$7,440 (out-of-state)*
California State University - Long Beach 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Graduate Certificate in Nurse Education,
Graduate Certificate Nurse Practitioner
$6,452 (in-state),
$17,612 (out-of-state)*
City College of San Francisco 2-year, public; large city Associate in Science in Nursing, Registered,
Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing
$1,598 (in-state),
$7,554 (out-of-state)*
East Los Angeles College 2-year, public; small city Associate in Nursing, Registered,
Associate in Science in Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse,
Certificate of Achievement in Registered Nurse
$1,220 (in-state),
$6,810 (out-of-state)*
Long Beach City College 2-year, public; large city Associate in Science or Arts in Nursing, Registered,
Associate in Science or Arts in Licensed Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse,
Associate in Science or Arts in Vocational/Practical Nursing
$1,182 (in-state),
$7,398 (out-of-state)*
San Diego State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered,
Master of Science in Nursing
$6,976 (in-state),
$18,136 (out-of-state)*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science bridge program,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor of Nursing Practice
$7,378 (in-state),
$18,538 (out-of-state)*
Santa Ana College 2-year, public; large city Associate in Science in Nursing $1,142 (in-state),
$6,902 (out-of-state)*
Santa Monica College 2-year, public; small city Associate in Arts in Nursing,
Licensed Vocational Nurse to Associate Degree in Nursing career ladder program
$1,136 (in-state),
$8,078 (out-of-state)*
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing
$12,763 (in-state),
$37,471 (out-of-state)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.


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