The Best California DNP Programs 2021 icon

The Best California DNP Programs 2021

| NurseJournal Staff

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Registered nurses (RNs) seeking the highest level of clinical nursing education pursue the doctor of nursing practice (DNP), a terminal degree focused on advancing skills in healthcare administration, advanced practice nursing, and nursing education. The DNP is practice based, setting it apart from other terminal nursing degrees like the Ph.D., nurse doctorate, and doctor of nursing science. All of these degrees focus on the scholarly aspects of nursing, including research and the development of advanced specialties.

The popularity of the DNP has increased since the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's 2015 declaration that nurses seeking advanced practice licensure should hold a doctorate rather than a master's degree.

California boasts a wide array of options in terms of DNP programs, with more than ten schools offering the degree. Earning a DNP in California is a smart move, as the state ranks first for average annual salaries for nurse practitioners (NPs) ($138,660) and nurse midwives ($154,500), and fifth in annual salaries for nurse anesthetists ($227,290).

DNP programs build on existing nursing knowledge and experience through additional clinical experience and coursework in healthcare practice, policy, and management. Program length varies, depending on the number of required credits and a student's prior education level.

An MSN-to-DNP program requires 30-40 credits and 500 hours of clinical experience and can be completed in as little as a year. RN-to-DPN and BSN-to-DNP programs in California typically take 3-6 years to complete, requiring between 65-90 credits and 1,000 hours of clinical experience.

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Applying to a DNP Program in California

Specific requirements vary, but applicants to DNP programs in California typically need an active California nursing license or eligibility for a one if applying from out of state. Most programs also require at least one year of advanced practice experience.

Some DNP programs require applicants to hold a master's degree in nursing or a related field, with coursework in specific subject areas. GPA requirements vary from a minimum of 3.0-3.4. Some schools require applicants to submit GRE scores, personal statements, resumes, and letters of recommendation in addition to transcripts and proof of licensure.

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Explore DNP Programs in California and School Info

Azusa Pacific University View School Profile Azusa, CA 63% 54% 36% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

APU offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree within its nursing school. The program integrates faith and Christian values to support DNP graduates in their mission to develop health policy and maintain a high quality of care for patients.

Core coursework includes wellness, statistical analysis, pathogenesis, program evaluation, and social ethics. Students also study translational research, informatics, spirituality and health, and organizational leadership. Students culminate their studies with a translational research project and an intensive campus experience each semester in Monrovia, California. The program aligns with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and 1,000 hours of clinical residency are required for the completion of the degree.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Monrovia, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education; WASC Senior College and University Commission
  • Tuition: $1,125 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Copy of professional certifications/registrations; transcripts; proof of advanced practice clinical hours; personal statement; research papers; interviews
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2-3 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Online with low residency requirements
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 83.75%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Brandman University View School Profile Irvine, CA 47% 92% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Brandman's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program is designed for registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who are preparing for leadership roles in clinical practice. The program utilizes a technology-enriched, educational approach to develop already existing talents and skills while advancing knowledge in research and innovative technology.

The Brandman DNP provides four different routes of entry to the program, making it exceptionally versatile for someone in any level of their nursing career: one route is for the APRN with a master of science in nursing (MSN); another is for the APRN with an MSN who chooses either a psychiatric mental health or family across the lifespan concentration; the third route of entry is for the RN with a bachelor of science in nursing; and the fourth is for the RN with an MSN not in advanced practice.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Irvine, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,175 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Official transcripts; current resume; RN or APRN licence/national certification; goal statement; recommendation letters; personal interview
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 1-3 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: Not available
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California Baptist University View School Profile Riverside, CA 55% 70% 54% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

CBU, based in Riverside, California, offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Nurses who graduate from this doctoral program will significantly impact healthcare outcomes as part of the interdisciplinary, practice-focused degree.

Significant courses students take include organizational systems leadership, health policy and advocacy, and innovation in quality and safety. Students may choose to opt into the family nurse practitioner concentration. Typically, students take 12-21 credits in DNP practicum and project requirement courses.

The flexible program, based mostly online, does require 3-4 on-campus residencies over the course of the degree.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Riverside, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $650 per unit
  • Admission Requirements: Master's degree; minimum 3.0 GPA; California registered nurse (RN) license; prerequisite courses; practicum hour verification
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Six semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 84.57%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Fresno View School Profile $ Fresno, CA 54% 30% 25% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Fresno State, based in Fresno, California, has a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree which requires on-campus intensives prior to each semester and the completion of 1,000 clinical hours.

The program takes five semesters to complete. Students take first-semester coursework in the role of diversity and social issues in healthcare, application of biostatistics to populations, and theories in advanced nursing practice. Later semesters explore health policy and economics, evaluation in nursing education, and evidence-based teaching in nursing. Classes may be taken both synchronously and asynchronously.

Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation and a written statement about their personal and professional nursing goals.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Fresno, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (pending)
  • Tuition: $7,635 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; California registered nurse (RN) license; reference letters; statement of purpose
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Five semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.08%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
California State University-Fullerton View School Profile $ Fullerton, CA 68% 28% 35% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

CSUF offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in nurse anesthesia through a partnership with the Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia (KPSA). The program is a three-year, nine-semester sequential academic/clinical graduate program and designed for nurses with a bachelor's degree.

All courses must be taken in Pasadena at the Kaiser Permanente location. The program totals 109 credits, and coursework involves health assessment, epidemiology, informatics, anesthesia, and pharmacology.

The CSUF program prepares graduates not only for success in the nursing field but also for anesthesia certification. Students receive supervision during clinical hours to ensure mastery of general and regional anesthesia.

  • Program: DNP Nurse Anesthesia
  • Campus: Fullerton, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Tuition: $8,253.61 per semester plus KPSA program fees
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's or master's in nursing; minimum 3.2 GPA; registered nurse (RN) license; Critical Care Registered Nurse-Adult Certification; GRE analytical writing score
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Three years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.55%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Loma Linda University View School Profile Loma Linda, CA 62% 16% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

LLU's nursing school offers a bachelor of science to doctor of nursing practice (BS-to-DNP) program for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in nursing. The program takes almost four years and offers a Christian education focused holistically on the body, mind, and spirit within nursing.

The LLU curriculum prepares registered nurses (RNs) to become independent advanced practice primary care providers who improve patient health outcomes. Graduates demonstrate clinical judgment abilities, systems thinking, and responsibilities for planning, implementing, and evaluating the evidence related to patient and population healthcare.

The program does not allow students to opt-out at the master's level.

  • Program: BS-to-DNP
  • Campus: Loma Linda, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $840 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; RN license; three recommendations; personal statement
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Three years and nine months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.56%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Point Loma Nazarene University View School Profile San Diego, CA 77% 59% 22% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

The Christian-affiliated Point Loma Nazarene University's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program prepares students for the highest levels of nursing practice. The hybrid DNP program provides two bridge options: the 24-month master of science in nursing (MSN) to DNP and the 48-month bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to doctorate.

PLNU features coursework to help students move into prominent roles in the complex healthcare industry with once-a-semester intensives in San Diego. The curriculum follows PLNU values that supports holistic care for clients' needs. Coursework covers synthesizing evidence, information technology, and creating change within healthcare systems.

  • Program(s): MSN-to-DNP; BSN-to-DNP
  • Campus: San Diego, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,160 per unit
  • Admission Requirements: Registered nurse (RN) license; one year of experience; resume; transcripts; reference letters; example of scholarly work; professional goals statement
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months for MSN-to-DNP; 48 months for BSN-to-DNP
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 82.5%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of California-Irvine View School Profile $$$ Irvine, CA 83% 35% 14% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

The Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing provides a post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree with curriculum available as both synchronous and asynchronous. Coursework covers topics of clinical judgment, analytical methods, and solutions to complex care issues.

The two-year post-master's degree allows for hybrid and online studying and only one on-campus session each quarter for flexibility. Graduates learn to design quality metrics to improve healthcare outcomes and synthesize data from research to inform recommendations and policy. Students must complete 510 hours of clinical practicum prior to graduation and a DNP scholarly project.

The program also offers a track for DNPs who wish to concentrate as a family nurse practitioner (FNP).

  • Program(s): DNP; DNP-FNP
  • Campus: Irvine, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (pending)
  • Tuition: $9,025 per quarter
  • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing; 3.0 GPA; registered nurse (RN) license; transcripts; resume; one year of experience; prerequisite statistics course; personal history statement; statement of purpose; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.07%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of California-Los Angeles View School Profile $$$ Los Angeles, CA 91% 32% 6% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

UCLA offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) which students may complete in a total of seven quarters or two years. Students may do a majority of the coursework online but come to campus five times each quarter.

The UCLA curriculum prepares students to advance in the nursing profession and navigate complex healthcare systems with instruction in leadership skills, healthcare education, informatics, health policy, research, and the translational sciences.

Prospective applicants must hold an advanced practice national certification in one of these specialties: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse executive. Graduates complete a final DNP scholarly project.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Los Ángeles, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $17,486 per academic year for California residents; $32,588 per academic year for nonresidents
  • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; registered nurse (RN) license; 500 clinical hours; advanced practice nurse certification; resume; statement of purpose; three letters of recommendation; upper-division statistics prerequisite
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.56%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of California-San Francisco View School Profile San Francisco, CA 6% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

UCSF's seven-quarter doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree allows students to gain a foundation in scientific and theoretical nursing concepts and practices.

The curriculum prepares students for leadership roles and knowledge of evidence-based practice and evaluation strategies. Graduates explore methodology relevant to clinical practice and evaluate organizational systems as they relate to change, health policy, patient advocacy, quality improvement, and safety.

Three in-person immersions are required, and all students must have 500 hours of post-master's nursing experience. The coursework is taught in a cohort model, sequentially, and students take classes such as critical appraisal of evidence-based practice, project implementation and evaluation, and methods and measurement for translational practice inquiry.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: San Francisco, California
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $11,442 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: 3.4 GPA; registered nurse (RN) license; statistics prerequisite; resume or CV; three recommendation letters; proof of clinical hours; goal statement
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Seven quarters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.83%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of San Diego View School Profile San Diego, CA 80% 38% 8% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

USD offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) through its Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. The program ensures graduates have a mastery of clinical practice, a drive to lead, and a commitment to health.

Students choose from two routes to matriculate the DNP degree: the master of science in nursing to DNP (MSN-to-DNP) or the bachelor of science in nursing to DNP (BSN-to-DNP) bridge program. The MSN-to-DNP program provides four tracks: advanced practice (for advanced practice nurses), nursing informatics and data science, health systems leadership, and an emergency care track for family nurse practitioners (FNPs). The BSN-to-DNP program offers seven tracks: FNP, FNP in emergency care, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, dual adult-gerontology/FNP, dual pediatric/FNP, health systems leadership, and nursing informatics and data science.

Both programs are available full time or part time.

  • Program(s): MSN-to-DNP; BSN-to-DNP
  • Campus: San Diego, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,620 per unit
  • Admission Requirements: Resume; registered nurse (RN) license; letters of recommendation; personal statement; an sample of scholarly writing
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Varies
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes (BSN-to-DNP is in-person; MSN-to-DNP is hybrid)
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.43%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
University of San Francisco View School Profile San Francisco, CA 75% 51% 5% Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

USF offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) to prepare registered nurses (RNs) for leadership roles in healthcare.

The curriculum combines nursing, business, informatics, and healthcare administration courses. There are four routes to receiving a DNP and a bachelor's-prepared nurse may choose to earn a master's degree along the way to receiving the doctorate. The program also is available for those who already hold a master's degree. Students can choose from multiple tracks while working on their degree.

Graduates have the knowledge to improve healthcare delivery, evaluate clinical outcomes, and manage patient healthcare needs while making technology and information accessible for everyone.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: San Francisco, California
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,510 per unit
  • Admission Requirements: Registered nurse (RN) license; letters of recommendation; resume; statement of professional goals; 3.0 GPA (recommended)
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2-4.5 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 89.86%
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Frequently Asked Questions

Do nurse practitioners need a DNP? Current standards require nurse practitioners to hold a master of science in nursing. In upcoming years, entry-level nurse practitioner programs will begin to award DNPs rather than a master's degree to account for new industry standards. The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties is implementing this shift to ensure that NPs have adequate clinical experience in the treatment and prevention of healthcare issues.
What is accreditation and why is it important? Selecting an accredited program ensures that you receive a quality education that aligns with industry standards and expectations. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredit DNP programs.
Can you complete a DNP program online? DNP degrees can be earned online. Although accredited programs require students to complete in-person clinical hours, most allow this component to take place at a hospital or site local to the student.
Can you go from an RN to a DNP? RNs who do not hold a master's degree can earn their DNP while staying employed through an RN-to-DNP program, also known as a bridge program. These programs typically require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a strong work history. A full-time program takes 3-6 years to complete and may require volunteer hours in addition to 1,000 hours of clinical experience.

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