RN Programs in California with Degree Overviews

Jul 19, 2019

There are more than 130 colleges within California that have registered nursing programs. Read an overview of the 10 largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Essential Information

California has many programs that can lead to certification as a registered nurse. Applicants must pass background checks and have current CPR certification. Nursing students are also required to have insurance. Potential nurses can choose from associate's, bachelors and masters degree programs, but eligibility for these programs can vary. Students who are already working as licensed vocational nurses (LVN), or who already have an associate's degree, may qualify for accelerated programs. Advanced study typically requires some professional experience in healthcare, and it is geared for those seeking specialized certification or professional advancement.

Programs combine classroom study in subjects like anatomy, physiology and chemistry with clinical practice in both simulated and real-life healthcare environments. Through such programs, students can gain the skills, education and experience to sit for the national certification exam. Certification and licensing is required in the United States for anyone seeking employment as a registered nurse.


American River College

Located in Sacramento, this college has an Associate in Science (AS) in Registered Nursing. Students get to study psychiatric nursing, maternal/child nursing and medical surgical nursing. The school also features an AS degree program for Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) and provides the same coursework as the general AS program plus a course covering the transition from LVN to RN. The LVN to RN program requires students to have a current LVN license and six months of full-time work experience. Students who graduate from either program are qualified to take the NCLEX-RN.

California State University - Fullerton

Located in Fullerton, this university provides Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The entry-level BSN program is available to all eligible students; the RN to BSN program only accepts RNs with current licensure and associate's degrees in nursing. The MSN program offers advanced education in the following specialties: nursing leadership, women's health care, school nursing, nurse anesthetist and nurse educator.

California State University - Long Beach

Found in Long Beach, this university offers BSN and MSN programs that are approved by CCNE. The basic BSN program is suitable for entry-level students, and the BSN - RN program is designed for licensed nurses with associate's degrees. Standard BSN students aren't automatically admitted to the nursing program; they must apply to major in nursing after completing their fourth semester. The regular BSN program also prepare students to pursue licensure as RNs. Undergraduate students take courses in pathophysiology for nurses, health assessment, nursing research and nursing leadership.

The MSN program has specializations in psychiatric/mental health, adult/gerontological primary care, women's health, family and pediatric primary care. Incoming master's students must hold a bachelor's degree and be currently licensed as RNs in the state.

California State University - Northridge

Located in Northridge, this university has RN to BSN and accelerated BSN programs that are accredited by CCNE. The RN to BSN program is designed for RNs with associate's degrees, and the accelerated program is designed for students with bachelor's degrees. BSN students may study basic pathophysiology, pharmacology, nursing research and professional nursing. The 4-semester accelerated program prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN and pursue licensure in California.

City College of San Francisco

Found in San Francisco, this college provides an AS in Nursing program. Students must take courses in pharmacology, nursing fundamentals, basic medical/surgical nursing and intermediate nursing skills. Nursing students must be able to pay for nursing equipment, uniforms and lab practice kits. Upon completion of this 4-semester program, students can take the NCLEX-RN.

East Los Angeles College

Located in Monterey Park, this college offers a certificate of achievement for LVNs who want to become RNs. Certificate students study health assessment and nursing processes. The college also offers entry-level RN and LVN to RN associate's programs. The LVN to RN program requires applicants to have a current LVN license. Students in both associate's programs take courses in role transition/preceptorship and nursing processes. All three of the programs allow students to take the NCLEX-RN after graduation.

San Diego State University

Found in San Diego, this university has a BSN program for entry-level students or RNs with associate's degrees or diplomas. Students in the BSN program learn about health care systems, professional nursing practices and nursing research. The university also has an MSN program with concentrations in nursing leadership, women's health nursing and advanced practice nursing of adults and the elderly. The BSN and MSN programs are approved by CCNE.

San Jose State University

Located in San Jose, this university provides BSN and MSN programs that are accredited by CCNE. BSN students study professional role development, adult care management and pathophysiology. The MSN program has the following concentration options: family nurse practitioner, nurse administrator, clinical nurse specialist/school nurse and nurse educator. The university also has several student clubs, such as the California Nursing Student's Association and the Medical-Surgical Club.

Santa Ana College

Found in Santa Ana, this college offers an AS in RN program with three options. The generic option is for entry-level students and can prepare them to become RNs or continue their studies at the bachelor's level. The LVN to RN and 30-unit program options are designed for LVN students only. The AS program provides coursework on critical biological/psychosocial systems needs, role transition and non-critical adults.

Santa Monica College

Located in Santa Monica, this college has an accredited Associate in Arts (AA) in Nursing program. Prerequisites include human anatomy/physiology and microbiology. Students study nursing skills, medical/surgical nursing, psychiatric mental health nursing and nursing of children/pediatrics. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared to take the NCLEX-RN and also have the option to continue their studies at the bachelor's degree level.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most registered nurses (RNs) receive an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in the field of nursing. The BLS stated that all RNs must have a nursing license, which is granted by state-sponsored organizations. California requires RNs to be licensed by the California State Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). Licensure is obtained by passing criminal background checks, meeting the necessary education requirements, showing evidence of clinical practice and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for RNs.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting RN Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2018-2019)
American River College 2-year, public; large suburb Associate of Science (AS) in Registered Nursing (RN),
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) to RN Career Mobility AS
$1,104 in-state; $8,712 out-of-state*
California State University - Fullerton 4-year, public; large suburb Entry-Level Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN),
RN to BSN,
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
$6,886 in-state; $18,766 out-of-state*
California State University - Long Beach 4-year, public; large city Basic BSN,
RN to BSN,
MSN
$6,798 in-state; $18,678 out-of-state*
California State University - Northridge 4-year, public; large city RN to BSN,
Accelerated BSN
$6,893 in-state; $18,773 out-of-state*
City College of San Francisco 2-year, public; large city AS in Nursing $1,696 in-state; $10,372 out-of-state*
East Los Angeles College 2-year, public; small city LVN to RN Certificate of Achievement,
AS in RN,
LVN to RN AS
$1,220 in-state; $7,746 out-of-state*
San Diego State University 4-year, public; large city BSN,
RN to BSN,
MSN
$7,488 in-state; $19,340 out-of-state*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city BSN,
MSN
$7,796 in-state; $19,676 out-of-state*
Santa Ana College 2-year, public; large city AS in RN,
LVN to RN AS,
30-Unit RN AS
$1,160 in-state; $8,960 out-of-state*
Santa Monica College 2-year, public; small city Associate in Arts in Nursing $1,142 in-state; $8,918 out-of-state*

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics.

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