Nursing Schools in Northern California

Feb 16, 2019

Northern California has more than 50 colleges and universities that offer nursing programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition info and program options for the 10 largest schools to make an informed education decision.

Essential Information

Aspiring nurses in northern California must decide if they wish to begin working as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) or registered nurses (RNs). The state has a number of 2-year colleges and 4-year universities that offer nurse education. Students can enroll at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels, depending on their prior education. Programs exist in nursing, nursing science, nursing practice and health care leadership. The programs consist of classroom and laboratory instruction as well as clinical experiences. Some classes may be offered online. Graduate programs could include areas of specialization.

Career Requirements

In order to become licensed, LVNs must complete 1,530 hours of approved training and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or another approved exam. Students seeking RN positions have a variety of training options, depending on their educational background. Most RN programs lead to an associate's degree, although LVN-to-RN, bachelor's and master's programs can also prepare students to work as RNs. RNs must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before becoming licensed. Following are descriptions of the program offerings at ten northern California-based schools. An at-a-glance table includes tuition rates.


American River College

Sacramento's American River College offers an Associate in Science in Registered Nursing, an LVN-to-RN career mobility associate's degree and an LVN certificate. Both degree programs prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

  • Associate in Science in Registered Nursing

The associate's program in registered nursing includes courses in nursing concepts, patient care concepts, nutrition, microbiology and public speaking.

  • Associate in Science - LVN-to-RN Career Mobility

The LVN-to-RN career mobility associate's program includes a transition to associate's degree nursing course. Students also learn about various health care, nursing and patient care concepts.

  • LVN Certificate

The LVN certificate program allows graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN after completing just 30 credit hours.

California State University - Fresno

At the Fresno campus of California State University, also referred to as Fresno State, students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with limited entry, an RN-to-BSN degree program, an LVN 30-unit option, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with three tracks and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The school also offers a post-master's certificate in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and a post-baccalaureate certificate in school nurse credentialing.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing

The standard BSN program prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN. Incoming learners must be students at Fresno State or transfer students from another school.

  • RN-to-BSN program

The RN-to-BSN program is designed for students who are already RNs. Students can expect to take a mix of online and laboratory courses.

  • LVN 30-Unit option

The 30-unit LVN option can prepare students to become RNs, but the program does not award a degree.

  • Master of Science in Nursing

In the MSN program, which can be completed in three years, students get to choose from specializations in family nurse practitioner or pediatric nurse practitioner.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice

At the doctoral level, students can pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice, which is offered in conjunction with San Jose State University. The program is designed to be completed in five semesters of full-time study.

California State University - Sacramento

Sacramento's campus of California State University offers four options for aspiring nurses: a traditional BSN, an RN-to-BSN degree program, an LVN-to-RN program and a Master of Science in Nursing. Students can also find a school nurse program that's offered in conjunction with the school's College of Continuing Education.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing

In the traditional BSN program, students take two years of general education and prerequisite courses and two years of clinical nursing courses. Courses in the program include adult care, clinical nursing, physical assessment, therapeutic communication, mental health nursing and nursing for the childbearing family.

  • RN-to-BSN program

Designed for RNs with an associate degree, the RN-to-BSN degree completion program requires that applicants have a minimum GPA of 2.6 in their last 60 semester hours of transferable coursework. Incoming students must have completed courses in anatomy, physiology, psychology, chemistry and microbiology prior to admission.

  • LVN-to-RN

In the LVN-to-RN program, individuals certified as LVNs must have taken courses in microbiology and physiology. This 30-credit program does not result in a degree award. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN.

  • Master of Science in Nursing

At the graduate level, RNs who have a bachelor's degree can pursue the MSN. This degree program can be completed in six semesters by part-time students and covers nursing educational program development, pathophysiology and pharmacology.

City College of San Francisco

This 2-year college in San Francisco offers two award options for individuals interested in a career in nursing. Additionally, California LVNs may apply to complete a modified 30-credit program. Admission is considered on a case-by-case basis, according to space availability.

  • Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing

The Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing takes three semesters to complete and features classroom instruction and practical lab work. Course topics include vocational nursing fundamentals, maternity nursing, pediatric nursing and medical surgical nursing.

  • Associate of Science in Registered Nursing

In the 54-credit hour Associate of Science in Nursing degree program, mandated nursing courses include nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, surgical nursing, surgical skills, newborn care and nursing trends. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN.

De Anza College

Cupertino's De Anza College offers an Associate of Science in Nursing degree program with an RN track and an LVN-to-RN transition track. Both programs prepare students to take the NCLEX-RN upon graduation.

  • Associate of Science in Nursing

Students in the RN track take courses in fundamental nursing, pediatric nursing, medical-surgical nursing and leadership in nursing. Some courses also have required clinical or laboratory components.

The LVN-to-RN program requires applicants to be licensed as vocational nurses in California. This program takes at least three quarters to finish, and the standard RN program requires six quarters of study.

Fresno City College

This Fresno school features an Associate of Science program that prepares students to become RNs. Those who finish the program are eligible for the NCLEX-RN.

The school also has a refresher course for RNs who haven't worked in a clinical setting recently. Students will complete clinical experiences on two full Saturdays, and this course can be finished in around two or three months.

  • Associate of Science in Nursing

For those who are already LVNs, the school has an advanced placement option that allows them to enter in the second year of the program. The classes are administered at the school, but the clinical experiences take place at local health centers and hospitals. This program is designed so students can transfer to a 4-year school and continue their studies in a nursing bachelor's program.

Sacramento City College

At this 2-year Sacramento college, students can pursue an Associate of Science in Nursing or a Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing. Students can expect to learn about adult health needs, medical language and nutrition.

  • Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing

This is a 30-unit LVN-to-RN option. Students will complete four courses in this 29-credit program, including classes in microbiology, anatomy, physiology and patient care.

  • Associate of Science in Nursing,

The RN associate's program requires 74-75 credits. Graduates are prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

  • Associate of Science in Nursing in Vocational Nursing

This associate's degree program consists of 51 credits, with 36 of those in nursing courses. Students can take the NCLEX-PN exam after completing the program.

San Francisco State University

This 4-year college in San Francisco offers multiple educational options for aspiring nurses - a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a BSN with an advanced placement option for RNs or a Master of Science in Nursing with multiple concentration options. The school also features a post-master's certificate program in family nurse practitioner.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing

In the BSN program, students take courses in human development and health assessment, nursing interventions, care of adults and care of children. The advanced placement option allows RNs to transfer up to 90 credit hours of previous courses. Students in the advanced placement option can complete the program on a full- or part-time basis.

  • Master of Science in Nursing

At the graduate level, MSN emphasis options may include nursing administration, clinical nurse specialist and community health. Students who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing can pursue the pre-licensure program, while RNs who hold a bachelor's degree can enroll in the standard MSN program. Credit and course requirements for each MSN program vary, depending on a student's undergraduate education.

  • Post-Master's Certificate in Family Nurse Practitioner

This 31-unit program requires a master's or doctoral degree for admission and prepares graduates to become nurse practitioners. It meets California standards and includes coursework in diagnostics and assessment, pharmacology, pathophysiology and practicums in advanced family nursing.

San Jose State University

This San Jose school offers Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs for first-time nursing students and a completion option for those with transferrable credit, as well as a joint master's degree and Doctor of Nursing Practice.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing

This 4-year university offers an RN-to-BSN program that can be completed in three semesters, and incoming students must be licensed as RNs in the state. The school also has a standard BSN program that requires 120 credits. Students can expect to take courses in role development, community theory, pharmacology and nursing skills. Multiple clinical experiences are also required.

  • Master of Science in Nursing

At the graduate level, the MSN program offers specialization options in family nurse practitioner or nurse educator. Students who already have a master's degree can pursue the post-master's certificate for nurse educators.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice

The school also has a Doctor of Nursing Practice program that's offered jointly with California State University - Fresno. Most of the coursework in the DNP program is offered online, although students are required to attend sessions at either campus.

University of California - Davis

At the Davis campus of the University of California, students can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Philosophy through the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

  • Master of Science in Nursing

The master's program features specialization options in leadership and nurse practitioner. Students in the leadership track get to take courses in health status and care systems, leadership in health care and research skills for nurses. Students also must complete a thesis project under the supervision of a faculty member. The nurse practitioner option also requires a thesis and can be finished in two years.

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership is a full-time program that usually takes four years to complete. Doctoral students must pass an oral qualifying examination and complete a dissertation in addition to taking a set of core and elective courses.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Nursing Degree Programs Offered Tuition & Fees (2017-2018)
American River College 2-year, public; large suburb Associate in Science in Registered Nursing,
Associate in Science - LVN-to-RN Career Mobility,
LVN Certificate
$1,104 in-state; $8,208 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
California State University - Fresno 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
LVN 30-Unit option,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor of Nursing Practice
$6,585 in-state; $18,465 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
California State University - Sacramento 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
LVN-to-RN,
Master of Science in Nursing
$7,204 in-state; $19,084 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
City College of San Francisco 2-year, public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing,
Associate of Science in Nursing
$1,598 in-state; $9,010 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
De Anza College 2-year, public; small city Associate of Science in Nursing $1,552 in-state; $8,752 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
Fresno City College 2-year, public; large city Associate of Science in Nursing $1,304 in-state; $6,944 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
Sacramento City College 2-year, public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing,
Associate of Science in Nursing,
Associate of Science in Nursing in Vocational Nursing
$1,104 in-state; $8,208 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
San Francisco State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Post-Master's Certificate in Family Nurse Practitioner
$7,254 in-state; $19,134 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor or Nursing Practice
$7,721 in-state; $19,601 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
University of California, Davis 4-year, public; small suburb Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership
$13,607 in-state; $28,709 out-of-state (graduate figures)*

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

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