Top Private Nursing Schools in California

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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.

With over 302,000 working RNs, California boasts the highest employment level for nurses in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). RNs in California also earn the highest salaries in the U.S., earning a mean wage of about $113,240.

Graduates from California RN programs can look forward to a bright job outlook. The number of RNs in the state is projected to increase by 16.7% between 2018 and 2028, according to Projections Central, compared to a projected 12.1% nationwide.

Nearly 40 private schools in California offer nursing programs, according to the state’s registered nursing board. Although private schools come with higher tuition costs, students may prefer a private nursing school over a public university. Private institutions may offer certain specializations, flexible student admission requirements, or scheduling options not offered at a public school.

In order to ensure a nursing program’s quality, look for accredited programs. Accreditation means the institution meets certain educational standards, and you can only apply for licensure with an accredited degree. To start your research, reference the list of the top private nursing schools in California below.

View ranking methodology here.

Best California Private Nursing Schools

Rank School Location
1 Azusa Pacific University Azusa, CA
2 Brandman University Irvine, CA
3 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
4 National University Bakersfield, Fresno, Brea, and San Diego, CA
5 University of San Diego San Diego, CA
Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

  1. Azusa Pacific University
    Location

    Azusa, CA

    The school also offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. This research-based program takes about four years to complete. Students in the program may concentrate their studies on international health or health of the family and community.

    • Campus: Azusa, CA
    • Type: Private, for profit
    • Accreditation: BRN, CCNE, WASC
    • Tuition: $26,440
    • Minimum time commitment: 4 years (68 credits) for BSN, three to four years (107 credits) for MSN, 39 units for the doctorate degrees
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: Varies depending on chosen pathway
    • Programs: BSN, MSN clinical nurse specialist, MSN family nurse practitioner, Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
  2. Brandman University
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Brandman University is home to around 7,000 students. The RN to BSN program that they offer for those with an associate’s degree in nursing is delivered partially online, with students required to have two sets of four days of campus tuition. The curriculum includes hands-on, clinical practice. Some of the topics include managing health care reform, spirituality in nursing, understanding health issues, and more. Learn more about their regional accreditation.

    There are also BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. They have various areas of focus and the full programs are delivered online. They also offer a post-master’s doctorate degree with various specializations. In order to complete these programs, students have to write a dissertation and take part in a residency.

    • Campus: Irvine, CA
    • Type: Private, not for profit
    • Accreditation: WASC, ANCC
    • Tuition: $500 per credit hour for BSN, $600 per credit hour for MSN, $1,040 per credit hour for doctorate degree. Discounts are provided for active military staff and their spouses
    • Minimum time commitment: 4 years for RN to BSN, 73 credits (three years) for BSN to Doctorate
    • Online availability: Partially
    • Degree requirements: BSN or MSN
    • Programs: RN to BSN, BSN to Doctorate in neonatal nurse practitioner and adult-geriatric primary care nurse practitioner, Doctorate Degree in family psychiatric and mental health or adult-geriatric acute care
    • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
  3. California Baptist University
    Location

    Riverside, CA

    Some 5,000 students are currently enrolled at California Baptist University. They offer a BSN degree that looks at nutrition, physical assessments and nursing services required by child-bearing families. The curriculum is made up of both classroom learning and practicum experiences.

    Additionally, they have an RN to BSN degree option. This looks at transcultural patterns of health and pathophysiology. To complete the program, students must complete a capstone project.

    Finally, they offer an MSN degree program. This looks at community and public health nursing, adult health and pharmacology. The program requires students to take part in a number of different practicums.

    • Campus: Riverside, CA
    • Type: Private, not for profit
    • Accreditation: WASC, CCNE
    • Tuition: $13,806 per semester for undergraduate students. Prices vary for MSN programs
    • Minimum time commitment: 124 credits for BSN, three years for RN to BSN, 62 credits for MSN
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: Varies depending on degree pathway
    • Programs: BSN, RN to BSN, MSN
    • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
  4. National University
    Location

    Bakersfield, Fresno, Brea, and San Diego, CA

    National University currently has some 17,000 students. They offer a BSN program, as well as an accelerated RN to BSN option and LVN to BSN. Each of these programs is at least 180 quarter credits in length and looks at various topics, such as human anatomy, microbiology and nursing foundations. More about information applicable to all nursing programs including requirements.

    Additionally, National University has an MSN program. Students must choose between community health care, nurse anesthesia and advanced practice nursing. Additionally, students can choose further specialization in areas like nursing administration, forensic nursing and nursing informatics.

    Finally, they offer graduate certificate programs. These are nursing informatics and nursing anesthesia.

    • Campus: Various locations in Northern and Southern California, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Brea, and San Diego
    • Type: Private, non profit
    • Accreditation: WASC, CCNE
    • Tuition: $344 per quarter unit for BSN programs, $394 per quarter unit for graduate programs
    • Minimum time commitment: 180 quarter units for BSN programs, 81 quarter units for MSN
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: RN or LVN license for accelerated BSN programs, BSN for the MSN pathway
    • Programs: BSN, RN to BSN, LVN to BSN, MSN community health care, MSN advanced practice nursing, MSN nurse anesthesia, graduate certificate program in nursing informatics, graduate certificate in nursing anesthesia
    • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid
  5. University of San Diego
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Additionally, they offer an MSN program for BSN holders. They have seven emphasis areas, including health care informatics, family nurse practitioner and clinical nurse leader. Additionally, students can choose from various options, such as mind-body-spirit health care, Latino health care and nursing education. All MSN pathways include pharmacology in health management, pathophysiology and health care information management.

    The university also offers a Master of Science in Nursing program to students who have a BSN degree. Students in this program also have the option to focus on one of seven areas of emphasis, which include clinical nurse leader, family nurse practitioner and health care informatics. The MSN program also has options for Latino health care, mind-body-spirit health care and nursing education. Offered courses in the MSN program cover topics like pathophysiology, pharmacology in health management and health care information management.

    Furthermore, the school offers two doctorate degrees. The first is the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing This includes a dissertation. The focus here is on perspectives on global health, theory development in nursing and health and illness in various populations. The second doctorate program is the Doctor of Nursing Practice. This focuses on a range of subjects, including financial management in health care and pathogenesis of complex illnesses.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Private, for profit
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: $42,330 per school year
    • Minimum time commitment: 21 months for MSN for non-RNs, 48 units for Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, 34 units for Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: BSN for the MSN for BSN holders, BSN or MSN for the Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Programs: MSN for non-RNs, MSN for BSN holders, Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • School Site: Tuition and Financial Aid

Applying to a Private Nursing School in California

In order to attend a private nursing school in California, undergraduate students need either a high school diploma or GED. Minimum GPA requirements vary by nursing program.

Some schools require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. Frequently, private nursing schools ask prospective students to submit TEAS scores instead. Applicants may need to submit recommendation letters and write personal essays outlining their educational and career goals.

For private nursing schools in California offering graduate programs, the requirements differ based on program type. Master’s degree admission standards require candidates to possess an undergraduate degree. Graduate programs generally look for applicants with a bachelor’s degree, but RN-to-MSN or ADN-to-MSN bridge programs specifically accept individuals with an associate degree.

In addition, all prospective graduate students should hold RN licensure. Some schools require work experience, while others accept recent graduates.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to become a registered nurse in California?

    The amount of time it takes to become an RN in California depends on the educational pathway that each nurse pursues. RNs who complete an associate degree can graduate in two years, while those seeking a bachelor’s degree typically graduate in four years on a full-time schedule. However, learners who enroll part time may take longer to graduate and obtain licensure.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    When searching for a nursing program, accreditation is a critical component. Accreditation agencies only accredit schools that offer students a valuable education; therefore, students should avoid unaccredited programs. In fact, licensure boards include an accredited degree among the requirements to earn an RN license. Look for programs accredited by two nursing accreditation agencies: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

  • Is attending a private nursing school worth it?

    Many students find that community colleges or public universities offer the same quality of education as private schools at more affordable tuition prices. However, private nursing schools sometimes offer competitive tuition pricing and substantial scholarships. Students may also choose to attend a private nursing school with certain professional or hospital connections.

  • Do private nursing schools guarantee better pay?

    Not necessarily. Although nursing students may find employment faster through private nursing school connections, the degree does not necessarily translate to better pay. Other factors in a professional’s resume — including type of degree, location, and years of experience — have a greater impact on salary.