The Golden State doesn’t just offer beaches and sunny weather to those in the nursing profession — it also offers a bright future with numerous opportunities. According to the California Health Care Foundation, there are over 300,000 registered nurses working in California, which makes nursing one of the largest health professions in the state.

Nurses in California can find work in a variety of environments, with the majority of them working in acute, ambulatory, and long-term care settings. Other places nurses find employment in California include mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, and public health facilities. For more information on the landscape for nurses in California, as well as the training these professionals need to practice nursing, continue reading this page.

Best Nursing Schools in California

In order for nurses to deliver quality care, they need to receive quality training. Whether hopeful nurses want to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree, the rankings below can help them choose a program from the best schools in California. We have compiled our lists of the best graduate and undergraduate nursing schools based on information from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Find out more about our ranking methodology below

01
National University
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
6
Undergraduate tuition
$13,016
Undergraduate graduation rate
38%
Undergraduate retention rate
75%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
51%
02
San Joaquin Delta College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
27%
Undergraduate retention rate
78%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
78%
03
Imperial Valley College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
27%
Undergraduate retention rate
73%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
91%
04
Napa Valley College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
37%
Undergraduate retention rate
79%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
65%
05
Pasadena City College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,288
Undergraduate graduation rate
34%
Undergraduate retention rate
78%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
70%
06
Reedley College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
23%
Undergraduate retention rate
65%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
86%
07
Chaffey College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
24%
Undergraduate retention rate
73%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
76%
08
Yuba College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,124
Undergraduate graduation rate
25%
Undergraduate retention rate
66%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
85%
09
Merced College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
22%
Undergraduate retention rate
70%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
81%
10
Long Beach City College
Number of undergraduate-level nursing programs offered
2
Undergraduate tuition
$1,104
Undergraduate graduation rate
17%
Undergraduate retention rate
71%
Percent of undergrad students awarded financial aid
76%
01
California State University-Long Beach
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
02
California State University-Fullerton
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
03
California State University-Chico
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
1
04
California State University-Fresno
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
3
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
1
05
San Diego State University
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
06
San Jose State University
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
07
California State University-Stanislaus
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
08
San Francisco State University
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
09
California State University-San Bernardi...
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0
10
Sonoma State University
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered
1
Graduate Tuition
$6,738
Number of graduate-level nursing programs offered through distance education
0

Nursing Accreditation in California

Since nurses play an integral role in the medical community, it’s imperative that the schools training them are maintaining high industry standards. Accrediting agencies exist to ensure schools meet these standards, so students should choose a school that is accredited by one or more of the following organizations:

  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Nursing Licensure in California

After nurses have completed their education programs, they are required to obtain a license in order to work in California. For registered nurses, the licensure process includes getting a passing grade on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®) or the State Board Test Pool Examination (SBTPE), submitting to a background check, providing transcripts from their nursing school, and having their fingerprints taken. In addition, nurses must pay a $300 fee to get their state license. Similarly, those who want to work as practical or vocational nurses must also obtain a license to get a job.

California requires these professionals to complete an accredited degree program, pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or the National League for Nursing State Board Test Pool Examination for Practical Nurse (NLN), undergo a background check, and pay a $150 fee. These licensing requirements apply to advanced practice nurses, including nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and public health nurses.

California Nursing Organizations

Nursing organizations give professionals the opportunity to connect with each other as they continue learning and growing in their career. The following are organizations that California nurses can join.

  • California Nurses Association:

    This organization is dedicated to improving health care around the state by providing education to nurses, as well as advocating to lawmakers on their behalf.

  • American Nurses AssociationCalifornia:

    The California chapter of the American Nurses Association helps professionals deliver high-quality patient care while advancing in their careers. The organization provides continuing education, industry publications, networking events, and insurance plans.

  • Association of California Nurse Leaders:

    This association is for nurses who have leadership positions in health care facilities, as well as those who work as educators and consultants. Members have access to industry news, an annual conference, toolkits to help them perform their jobs, and discounts on services provided by the organization.

  • California Association for Nurse Practitioners:

    Since 1977, this organization has offered support to nurse practitioners around the state. Professionals can invest in their careers by participating in the association’s annual conference, taking continuing education classes, and building their professional network. Members also have access to job leads and professional journals.

California-Specific Continuing Education

The health care field is constantly evolving, and nurses are expected to keep up with the changes if they want to keep their license. To that end, California requires that nurses complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years. These courses, which must be approved by the state nursing board, can cover topics such as therapeutic interpersonal communication skills, nursing research, legal issues in nursing, quality assurance and advanced pharmacology. Classes with content focusing on liberal arts, economics and self-improvement are not accepted for license renewal.

Hospitals in California

  • Community Regional Medical Center (Fresno): With eight facilities around the Fresno area, Community Regional Medical Center provides a wide range of services to thousands of patients — from mental health to cancer treatment to cardiovascular care. In 2017 alone, the Center treated over 150,000 emergency room patients, delivered over 6,000 babies, and had almost 4,000 admissions for a heart surgery.
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles): Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had humble beginnings when it opened in a residential home in 1902 as a 12-bed hospital focusing on tuberculosis patients. Today, the Center has 40 facilities around the Los Angeles area and it treats over one million people each year. In addition, Cedars-Sinai is currently conducting 1,500 research projects and employing 2,100 physicians and 2,800 nurses.
  • Sharp Memorial Hospital (San Diego): Sharp Memorial Hospital delivers what the facility calls “The Sharp Experience,” which means all of the providers and staff go above and beyond to ensure that everyone receives treatment rooted in expertise and empathy, passion and compassion. From addiction treatment to pediatrics to weight loss surgery, Sharp prides itself on caring for people, not patients.
Sources & Methodology
  1. California Nurses: Taking the Pulse, California Health Care Foundation, Accessed June 2018, https://www.chcf.org/publication/california-nurses-taking-the-pulse/
  2. Forecast of the Registered Nurse Workforce in California, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/pdfs/forms/forecast2017.pdf
  3. California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/
  4. CCNE Accreditation, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.ccneaccreditation.org
  5. Accreditation – School of Nursing, San Diego State University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.sdsu.edu/about/accreditation/
  6. Licensure by Endorsement, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/applicants/lic-end.shtml
  7. License/Certificate Renewal, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/licensees/lic-renewal.shtml
  8. Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure by Endorsement, Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, Accessed June 2018, http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/pdf/endorsement.pdf
  9. Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, State of California, Accessed June 2018, http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/
  10. Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure by Examination, Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, Accessed June 2018, http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/applicants/application_for_vocational_nurse_licensure_by_examination.shtml
  11. Advanced Practice and Certification, Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://www.rn.ca.gov/applicants/ad-pract.shtml
  12. Application for Licensure by Endorsement, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/pdfs/applicants/np-app.pdf
  13. Licensure by Examination, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/applicants/lic-exam.shtml
  14. Application for Licensure by Examination, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://www.rn.ca.gov/pdfs/applicants/exam-app.pdf
  15. Continuing Education for License Renewal, California Board of Registered Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://www.rn.ca.gov/licensees/ce-renewal.shtml
  16. Frequently Asked Questions, Board of Vocational Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians, Accessed June 2018, http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/about_us/faq.shtml
  17. California Nurses Association, National Nurses United, Accessed June 2018, http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/site/entry/california-nurses-association
  18. American Nurses AssociationCalifornia, Accessed June 2018, https://www.anacalifornia.org/
  19. Association of California Nurse Leaders, Accessed June 2018, http://www.acnl.org/
  20. California Association for Nurse Practitioners, Accessed June 2018, https://canpweb.org/
  21. Community Regional Medical Center, Community Medical Centers, Accessed June 2018, https://www.communitymedical.org/CMC/Community-Regional-Medical-Center/
  22. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Accessed June 2018, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/locations/cedars-sinai-main-campus-89.html
  23. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center began as The Kaspare Cohn Hospital – 1902, Jewish Museum of the American West, Accessed June 2018, http://www.jmaw.org/cedars-sinai-jewish-los-angeles/
  24. Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, Kearny Mesa, Accessed June 2018, https://www.sharp.com/hospitals/memorial/
  25. American Hospital Directory, Accessed June 2018, https://www.ahd.com/

Explore schools offering nursing programs