In Southern California, registered nurse (RN) education is offered through associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificate programs. Associate degree programs prepare students to work as entry-level RNs. Accelerated BSN options are available for existing RNs with an associate degree as well as students with an unrelated bachelor's degree who would like to become RNs. There are also BSN programs for entry-level college students. Licensed vocational nursing (LVN) certificate programs are also available, and some schools offer LVN-to-RN programs.
At the master's degree level, RNs with a bachelor's degree can seek advanced training and pursue a specialization, such as nurse education, nurse leadership, school nurse, nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner. RNs who already have a master's degree may be able to pursue a graduate certificate to become nurse practitioners. Additionally, both clinical as well as research-focused doctorate programs in nursing are available. All of the Southern California schools listed in this article offer RN programs approved by the California Department of Health.
School Comparison: At a Glance
Ten of the largest 2- and 4-year schools in Southern California offering registered nurse programs are profiled below.
|School Name||School Type & Setting||RN Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2019-2020)*|
|California State University - Fullerton||4-year, public; large suburb|| BS in Nursing,
MS in Nursing,
| $6,924 in-state,
|California State University - Long Beach||4-year, public; large city|| BS in Nursing,
MS in Nursing,
| $6,834 in-state,
|California State University - Northridge||4-year, public; large city|| BS in Nursing
| $6,977 in-state,
|East Los Angeles College||2-year, public; small city|| AS in Registered Nursing,
| $1,220 in-state,
|Mt. San Antonio College||2-year, public; large suburb|| AS in Nursing,
Career Mobility Certificate Track - LVN Option
| $1,350 in-state,
|San Diego State University||4-year, public; large city|| BS in Nursing,
MS in Nursing
| $7,510 in-state,
|Santa Ana College||4-year, primarily associate's, public; large city|| RN Program,
| $1,160 in-state,
|Santa Monica College||4-year, primarily associate's, public; small city|| AS in Nursing,
| $1,144 in-state,
|University of California - Irvine||4-year, public; large city|| BS in Nursing Science,
MS in Nursing Science,
| $13,727 in-state,
|University of California - Los Angeles||4-year, public; large city|| BS in Nursing,
MS in Nursing,
| $13,240 in-state,
Source: *NCES College Navigator.
California State University - Fullerton
This California State University campus in Fullerton offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program for those who want to become RNs, as well as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program for RNs who wish to advance their education or specialize their training. Graduates from these programs come away with an understanding of nursing ethics and evidence-based practice and develop professional, communication, and critical thinking skills. Paths to earning the BSN include an entry-level BSN program for first-time students and an accelerated BSN program for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in another field or who are already working RNs. Licensed vocational nurses can become RNs through an LVN-BSN program.
RNs with bachelor's degrees can purse an MSN program to focus on leadership, women's health care, school nursing, or nurse education. Graduate education is also available at the doctoral level through a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.
California State University - Long Beach
Long Beach is home to this California State University campus, where undergraduate and graduate programs are available through the university's School of Nursing. Students with no prior training can enroll in the BSN program as basic/trimester students, while those who have moved beyond the basic level can enroll as registered nurse students. Prospective RNs who have completed a baccalaureate degree in another field of study can enroll as entry-level MSN students to earn both a BSN and MSN. Students learn to assist patients from diverse backgrounds and at various ages across the typical lifespan.
The nursing school's MSN program offers 7 specializations for RNs who want to become nurse practitioners or nursing and healthcare executive managers. Post-master's certificate programs are also available, as well as a DNP program.
California State University - Northridge
The Department of Nursing at this campus in Northridge offers an RN-BSN program, an ADN-BSN program and an accelerated BSN program. Required courses cover topics such as human anatomy, microbiology, human physiology, chemistry, and epidemiology. In addition to these current offerings, the department has several planned programs for 2020, including an online accelerated RN-BSN, master's degree options in adult gerontology nurse practitioner and nurse education, and a DNP program.
East Los Angeles College
East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park offers an 80.6-unit Associate in Science (AS) in Nursing - Registered Nurse program. Course topics include nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, and care for adults, women, children, and newborns. Certificate of Achievement and AS programs are also available for LVNs who want to become RNs. The LVN-to-RN degree requires 65.5 credits of coursework.
Mt. San Antonio College
The 2-year AS in Nursing program at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut prepares students for nursing employment in different medical settings. Students take courses covering nursing, science, and general education. They also participate in clinical experiences in area hospitals and other healthcare agencies. LVNs can gain training to become RNs through an LVN-RN degree program or a Career-Mobility Track Certificate program with an LVN option. Additionally the Mt. San Antonio campus is home to an ADN-BSN program offered by Mount St. Mary's University, allowing Mt. San Antonio College students to advance to a bachelor's degree.
San Diego State University
This state university in San Diego offers four nursing programs. Those who want to earn a BSN can do so through a standard BSN program, as well as LVN-RN or RN-BSN programs. Nursing majors take courses in nursing informatics, nursing practice, adult acute care, pediatric nursing, and other topics. MSN programs are available with concentrations in adult/elderly advanced practice nursing, midwifery and nursing leadership.
Santa Ana College
This college located in Santa Ana provides 3 options for RN training. The RN program is 2 years in length, while students in the non-degree option and LVN-RN program enter in the second year. All of these programs require basic skills testing and varied prerequisites. This school reports a 90.63% pass rate for the NCLEX-RN.
Santa Monica College
This community college located in Santa Monica offers an Associate in Science (AS) program in nursing. Courses like psychology, speech, global citizenship, and math complement the specific nursing coursework, making up the 78 units required. Licensed vocational nurses also have the option to pursue a 30-unit non-degree program.
University of California - Irvine
The Irvine campus of the University of California offers undergraduate programs for aspiring RNs and advanced degree programs for RNs who want to further their education. The BS in Nursing Science program combines coursework theory, research, and clinical practice. The curriculum comes from the biomedical, biological, social, behavioral, medical, and pharmaceutical sciences.
Current RNs can pursue the MSN program, and students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree can look into the Master's Entry Program in Nursing in order to earn the MSN. A Ph.D. program is an opportunity for nurses who want to advance the science of nursing through research or teach in a college or university. There are also two DNP programs available.
University of California - Los Angeles
BSN and MSN programs are available at UCLA, as well as a Ph.D. program and a DNP. The BSN and entry-level MSN programs are most appropriate for students seeking RN licensure and preparation for a career in the nursing field. Studies in the 4-year BSN program look at theory and research, as well as hands-on practice.
California's Board of Registered Nursing outlines three options for becoming a registered nurse. Students can pursue an associate or baccalaureate degree, or they can enroll in an entry-level master's degree program to train for licensure in this field. Upon completion of a program, graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Programs are also available that prepare licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) to take the registered nursing exam. All of the RN training programs qualify students for the NCLEX-RN.