Share this article

Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

Kristen HamlinNurseJournal Rankings Team
Updated November 30, 2023
Reviewed by
Our Integrity Network

NurseJournal.org is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for NurseJournal.org as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

Learn what to look for when considering nurse practitioner programs in California. Find out why accreditation is important, how to finance your degree, and more.
mini logo

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: Courtney Hale / E+ / Getty Images

Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) in California are among the highest-paid nurses in the country. Responsible for caring for patients with urgent and often complex healthcare needs, ACNPs play an essential role within the healthcare delivery system.

The first step in becoming an ACNP is choosing a degree program that aligns with your goals. To help you make the right choice, the following guide highlights the best California acute care NP programs. It also provides valuable details to help you decide and successfully apply.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best acute care nurse practitioner programs in California, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

Learn More About the Best Acute Care NP Programs and Schools in California

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.
#1 Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

University of California-Los Angeles

  • Location-markerLos Angeles, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$11,442
  • Out-of-state$41,196
  • Retention Rate96%
  • Acceptance Rate14%
  • Students Enrolled44,589
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment94%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

California State University-Los Angeles

  • Location-markerLos Angeles, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,742
  • Out-of-state$17,622
  • Retention Rate83%
  • Acceptance Rate76%
  • Students Enrolled26,745
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

University of California-San Francisco

  • Location-markerSan Francisco, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$0
  • Out-of-state$0
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled3,201
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment69%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Top Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

California Baptist University

  • Location-markerRiverside, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$33,930
  • Out-of-state$33,930
  • Retention Rate76%
  • Acceptance Rate80%
  • Students Enrolled11,317
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment83%
  • AccreditationYes

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Acute Care NP Program in California

We rank the best ACNP programs based on criteria that acknowledge student priorities and how well they prepare nurses for practice. The following metrics contribute to our rankings. As you evaluate different programs, consider the following points to determine which will best meet your needs and help you achieve your goals.

Admission Requirements

Reviewing admission requirements lets you know whether you qualify for the program and whether you need to fill any gaps in your experience or education before applying.


ACNPs typically specialize in either adult-gerontology or pediatric practice. Look for a program that offers your preferred specialization. Some programs also offer additional specialization options if you wish to work with a different patient population.

Program Curriculum

It’s crucial to select a program that offers a curriculum that aligns with your goals. Make sure the curriculum aligns with your work and family needs. You should also be comfortable with the course delivery format.

Clinical Experience

Clinical rotations are integral to any nursing program and required for both in-person and online degree programs. Every program handles clinical placements differently, though. Find out whether you can arrange a clinical placement close to home and whether the program provides placement assistance.

Some clinical preceptors may charge an honorarium, which can add to the cost of school.


Accreditation is critical, as completing an accredited nursing program is a requirement for licensure in California. Accreditation also indicates that the program curriculum meets the standards of nursing education and will adequately prepare you for practice.

Program Length

Most master of science in nursing (MSN) programs require at least two years of full-time study. However, when you’re trying to balance work, family, and school responsibilities and are on a budget, longer programs that require more credits may be more challenging to manage.

School Graduation Rate

A higher graduation rate indicates that the school provides the resources and services to support students throughout the program. It can help you gauge your likelihood of finishing the program successfully.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Choosing a program that matches your needs in terms of course delivery and format supports your success. Find out the format of the online nursing program and whether it offers nursing courses asynchronously or on a schedule. Consider the specific technology requirements too.

Why Is Acute Care NP Program Accreditation Important?

Nursing school accreditation means that an independent organization has evaluated the program to ensure it meets the standards for quality nursing education. Evaluators consider the program’s coursework, faculty, outcomes, and other factors to confirm that graduates are adequately prepared for nursing practice.

Not only does choosing an accredited program ensure a quality education, it:

  • Allows you to apply for a nurse practitioner license in California
  • Ensures you qualify for employment as a nurse practitioner in California healthcare facilities
  • Ensures you can apply for a doctoral nursing program should you pursue a terminal degree in nursing
  • Ensures your eligibility for federal financial aid to cover school costs

How Online Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs in California Work

Online nursing programs differ from in-person ones; acute care nurse practitioner programs offer students flexibility and the ability to further their careers on their schedules, for instance. If you are working full time, the ability to complete coursework when it’s convenient might allow you to maintain a better work-life balance.

Some online programs require students to attend scheduled lectures and discussions, but overall, expect asynchronous courses with work you complete independently.

All nursing education programs include an in-person clinical component for online nursing students to provide hands-on training. Online students typically complete their clinicals at a facility near their home or current workplace. Nursing programs usually assist with finding suitable placements.

Applying to an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program in California

Every California acute care nursing program has its own admission requirements, such as test scores, experience, undergraduate GPA, and more. Once you’ve identified a program that aligns with your goals and experience, review the admission requirements and application process to ensure you meet the deadlines and submit the correct materials.

  • checkAdmission Requirements: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program, current valid registered nurse (RN) license, prerequisite courses (typically statistics, research methods, physical assessments, and anatomy)
  • checkAdmission Materials: Application, official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, personal statement, letters of recommendation, writing sample, resume or curriculum vitae
  • checkGPA Requirement: 3.0 or higher

Paying for an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program in California

A graduate degree is a significant investment of time and money but one that pays off with an increase in career opportunities and earning potential. However, you still need to consider how you will pay for your nursing education. Several factors can influence your ability to pay out of pocket, including tuition costs (which may be different for in-state vs. out-of-state students), whether you can continue working while going to school, and your financial situation.

Nurses can take advantage of various financial aid options for nurses to earn their MSN and become an ACNP. Individual programs typically offer merit and need-based scholarships and grants, and you can apply for federal financial aid programs that provide grants and loans.

Other options include private grant and scholarship programs for nurses, loan forgiveness programs for nurses, and employer tuition assistance programs.

What Can You Do as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in California?

Acute care nurse practitioners in California provide advanced clinical care to patients in critical care settings. Most ACNPs work in hospitals as part of the care team in critical care, emergency, or trauma units. However, they can also work in other acute care settings, like urgent care or surgical care.

California ACNPs are well paid. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a mean annual wage of $151,830, which is higher than the national median wage of $120, 680 for nurse practitioners.

ACNPs specialize in either pediatrics or adult-gerontological care; some programs offer additional specializations. Their general responsibility is to care for patients with critical or acute illnesses, which includes making diagnoses, ordering tests, and prescribing medication.

However, they can also perform specialized, advanced life-saving procedures like intubations, central venous line insertions, and lumbar punctures.

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

Frequently Asked Questions About Acute Care NPs

Can you become an acute care nurse practitioner online?

All online nursing programs include both classroom and clinical requirements. Some programs also have an on-campus residency component. So while you can complete most of the coursework remotely, you cannot become an acute care nurse practitioner entirely online.

What is the fastest way to become an acute care nurse practitioner?

An MSN is the minimum degree for an acute care nurse practitioner. If you do not have a bachelor’s in nursing, the fastest route is to enroll in an RN-to-MSN program after 1-2 years of working in the field.

In either case, plan on 6-8 years of education and training to become a nurse practitioner.

Where do acute care nurse practitioners work?

Because they provide advanced care for the sickest patients, acute care nurse practitioners typically work in hospitals. More specifically, they work in intensive or critical care units, emergency rooms, or operating rooms. Some ACNPs work in physicians’ offices, trauma centers, and outpatient clinics.

How much do acute care NPs get paid in California?

NPs in California are the highest paid in the U.S., according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual mean wage for NPs in the Golden State is $151,830.

Page last reviewed November 21, 2022. Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.