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Southern California RN Programs with Course and Degree Overviews

Southern California has more than 30 schools that offer RN programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition information, and program options for the 10 largest schools to make an informed education decision.

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Essential Information

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.

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School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting RN Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013)
California State University - Fullerton 4-year, public; large suburb BS in Nursing,
RN-BSN Program,
LVN-BSN Program,
MS in Nursing
$6,437 in-state,
$17,597 out-of-state*
California State University - Long Beach 4-year, public; large city BS in Nursing,
MS in Nursing
$6,452 in-state,
$17,612 out-of-state*
California State University - Northridge 4-year, public; large city BSN,
RN-BSN Program
$6,569 in-state,
$17,729 out-of-state*
East Los Angeles College 2-year, public; small city AS in Registered Nursing,
AAS - LVN to RN,
RN Curriculum for LVNs Certificate of Achievement
$1,220 in-state,
$6,810 out-of-state*
Mt. San Antonio College 2-year, public; large suburb AS in Nursing,
LVN to RN AS,
Career Mobility Certificate Track - LVN Option
$1,348 in-state,
$7,960 out-of-state*
San Diego State University 4-year, public; large city BS in Nursing,
LVN-RN Program,
RN-BSN Program,
MS in Nursing
$6,976 in-state,
$18,136 out-of-state*
Santa Ana College 2-year, public; large city Generic Nursing Program,
LVN to RN Program
$1,142 in-state,
$6,902 out-of-state*
Santa Monica College 2-year, public; small city AA in Nursing $1,136 in-state,
$8,078 out-of-state*
University of California - Irvine 4-year, public; midsize city BS in Nursing Science,
MS in Nursing Science
$13,252 in-state,
$37,960 out-of-state*
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city BS in Nursing,
MS in Nursing
$12,763 in-state,
$37,471 out-of-state*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

The 10 largest 2- and 4-year schools in Southern California offering registered nurse programs are profiled below:

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, anesthesia, 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 9 specializations for RNs who want to become nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, health administrators, or school nurses. Post-master's certificate programs are also available, as well as a DNP program.

California State University - Northridge

Established as an academic department in 2011, the Department of Nursing at this campus in Northridge offers an RN-BSN program and accelerated BSN program. Required courses cover topics such as human anatomy, microbiology, human physiology, chemistry, and epidemiology.

Licensed vocational nurses can train to become RNs through the university's non-degree option, and graduate programs are available for those who want to become school nurses or nurse educators.

East Los Angeles College

East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park offers a 79.5-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.

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.

San Diego State University

This state university in San Diego offers 6 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, school nurse credential, and post-master's nursing education certificate programs are available for registered nurses seeking a specialized focus.

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 has a 92% pass rate for the NCLEX-RN.

Santa Monica College

This community college located in Santa Monica offers an Associate in Arts (AA) program in nursing. Courses like psychology, speech, global citizenship, and math complement the specific nursing coursework, making up the 60 units required. Licensed vocational nurses also have the option to pursue a 30-unit non-degree program. The school has a pass rate of about 96% for the NCLEX-RN.

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.

RNs who want to be family or adult gerontological nurse practitioners can pursue the MSN program. 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. RNs who already have a master's degree can pursue a postgraduate certificate program to become nurse practitioners.

University of California - Los Angeles

Westwood is home to the University of California - Los Angeles. BSN and MSN programs are available at UCLA, as well as a Ph.D. program and 6 post-master's certificate programs in areas like nursing administration, gerontology, and nurse practitioner.

The BSN and entry-level MSN programs are most appropriate for students seeking RN licensure and preparation for a career in the nursing field. Courses in the BSN program include human development, secondary prevention, mental health nursing, and maternity nursing, among other course topics. Furthermore, an MSN advanced practice option is available for licensed RNs seeking training in 1 of 8 specializations. The Ph.D. program is research-oriented.

Career Requirements

California's Board of Registered Nursing outlines 3 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.

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