Top California RN-to-MSN Programs

by Maura Deering

Interested in becoming an advanced practice nurse in California? See our roundup of the best RN-to-MSN programs in the state.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Top California RN-to-MSN Programs

Registered nurses (RNs) with an associate degree in nursing (ADNs) can bypass a nursing bachelor's degree program and earn their master of science in nursing (MSN) in 2-3 years through an RN-to-MSN bridge program. California nursing schools generally offer these programs online or as a hybrid option. Bachelor's-level coursework is built into the curriculum, allowing RNs to streamline their education and advance their careers.

MSN-holders qualify for in-demand positions as nurse practitioners, certified nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical nurse leaders, and other high-level roles. California typically tops the list for salaries — RNs make a $113,240 average annual salary and Nurse Practitioners bring in $138,660.

The RN-to-MSN curriculum generally comprises 30 credits. Course content depends on specialization, as does the number of clinical hours required. Potential specializations include acute care, adult-gerontology, family care, mental health, neonatal, and pediatrics.

Applying To an RN-to-MSN Program in California

Holding an RN license constitutes the first requirement for RN-to-MSN programs. California requires clinical nurses to maintain their RN licenses even after they earn their MSNs. Applicants also need an ADN or diploma in nursing, and many programs require a 3.0 GPA. Candidates submit academic transcripts, 2-3 letters of recommendation, resumes, and personal statements. RN-to-MSN programs may require GRE scores and 1-2 years of clinical RN work experience.

Nursing schools list the prerequisite classes on their websites for program applicants. These may include general education courses like biological and social sciences, humanities, English, mathematics, and statistics, along with lower-division nursing courses.

Once students graduate, they apply for California licensure as advanced practice registered nurses and take the applicable examination for national certification in their specialty area.

Featured Online Programs

Explore the Best California RN-to-MSN Programs and School Info

California State University - San Marcos View School Profile San Marcos, CA

This program may be completed part time or full time. The program is for nurses in San Diego who want to enjoy a nursing career as an educator, nurse in advanced practice, or a general nurse that has management and leadership roles in an acute care facility. This MSN program will give you a strong foundation in theory and research inquiry.

Dominican University of California View School Profile San Rafael, CA

This nursing program offers you an associates to master’s degree program that consists of one year of bridge work, and then you begin the graduate program. Some of the classes taken are nursing research, nursing informatics, transitions and leadership, statistics and community health. You can complete this RN to MSN bridge program in two years.

University of San Francisco View School Profile San Francisco, CA

This program will train you to become a clinical care nurse. You will be read to assume responsibility for healthcare outcomes. You will be able to design, implement and evaluate patient outcomes at the point of care. In this program, you will learn how to provide care at the point of care to people of many ages. You also will synthesize data and knowledge to evaluate the optimum outcomes for the patient.

University of San Diego View School Profile San Diego, CA

This bridge program allows you to go from an RN to an MSN in about three years. This school also has a program that allows you to enter with a bachelor’s degree from another speciality and earn your MSN. This program will give you a general foundation in nursing and will provide you with the leadership skills you need to prosper in a health care setting. You will be prepared as an advanced nurse generalist and will be able to sit for the clinical nurse exam in California.

California State University - Fullerton View School Profile Fullerton, CA

This is an accredited RN to MSN program that offers you an MSN in Women’s Health. This is an advanced practice nursing option that provides training in client-oriented practice and also a foundation in professional issues of management and leadership. You will become trained so that you can assume a role in advanced practice, nurse midwifery or as a women’s health nurse practitioner.

West Coast University View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

Do you want to move from an LPN to a nurse educator or into a nursing leadership role? Then this RN to MSN program is for you. This program is offered so that you attend the first and the last classes of the program on campus, and then complete most of the courses online. You can complete the MSN program in 15 months, full time. Classes include program management, education, clinical practice, research, and health policy formulation.

Frequently Asked Questions

true How long does it take to complete an RN-to-MSN program?

RN-to-MSN programs in California typically take 2-3 years to finish, but the graduation timeline can vary according to full- or part-time enrollment status, specialization area, and the number of prerequisite courses students need to complete. Distance learners in accelerated programs may earn their degree in one year of full-time study.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

Programmatic accreditation signifies that a curriculum has undergone regular and rigorous review to ensure high academic standards and compliance with state licensure and national certification standards. The two primary organizations that accredit nursing programs are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

What can I do with an MSN in California?

Many California MSN-holders work as advanced practice registered nurses in physicians' offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. Nursing managers and administrators fare well in these workplaces and in nursing care facilities and home healthcare. Administrators also find opportunities in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing and scientific research and development.

Is getting an MSN worth it?

For graduates of RN-to-MSN bridge programs, California ranks in the top five for job opportunities and salaries for NPs, nurse midwives, and nursing facilities' managers and administrators along with annual wages for nurse anesthetists. California RNs earn average annual salaries of $113,240, whereas MSN-holders typically earn wages in the $130,000-$230,000 range.

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