The Top MSN Nursing Programs in San Diego


Updated February 23, 2023

Use this top-ranked San Diego MSN programs list to find a school that meets your needs and fulfills your education requirements for an advanced practice career.
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Earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) can lead to an exciting, challenging, and rewarding career. Enrolling in an MSN program in San Diego comes with the added advantage of living and working in California's second-largest city, located along the Pacific coast. Warm weather, miles of sandy beaches, and a laid-back attitude offer MSN candidates plenty of opportunities to relax and destress between classes.

An MSN allows nurses to take on more responsibility, work as nurse practitioners, and command higher earnings. Before applying to an MSN program in San Diego, check out our top-ranked degrees using metrics that we believe matter most to MSN candidates.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best MSN programs in San Diego, 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.

Learn more about the key factors to consider when choosing a program, or go straight to our full ranking of the best San Diego MSN programs.

Featured Online MSN Programs

How Do San Diego MSN Programs Work?

MSN programs in San Diego meet accreditation requirements. Of the various nursing master's degrees available, the one you choose should be based on how you intend to use your education. For example, you may focus on becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), researcher, or educator.

The coursework in a San Diego MSN program varies based on your specialty. Programs prepare the candidate for an advanced clinical, administrative, teaching, or leadership role in nursing. General skills include critical thinking and decision-making, skills necessary for any advanced practice role.

Fundamental coursework can include pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, statistics, pathophysiology, and physical assessment. Candidates may also take research courses to learn how to analyze medical research and design a research project.

Several MSN programs in San Diego offer students the opportunity for flexible scheduling. This allows candidates to work while in school but may slow the pace of the coursework and completion time.

Applying to a San Diego MSN Program

The application process to the top MSN programs in San Diego may vary by school. Pay close attention to admission stipulations and complete each requirement. The following are often required for admission to San Diego MSN programs.

  • Admission Materials

    Completed application, current RN license, GPA of 3.0 on all science prerequisite work, a bachelor's-level statistics course, proof of completion of a bachelor's degree, three letters of recommendation and/or statement of purpose, and potential personal interview
  • GPA Requirement

    3.0 or higher
  • Other Requirement

    Prior education requirement varies. RN-to-MSN programs may take RNs with an associate degree, and direct-entry MSN programs take students with a bachelor's degree in a focus other than nursing.

Why Is San Diego MSN Program Accreditation Important?

Graduate nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). However, midwifery programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).

Accreditation assures the student of the program quality and supports the reputation of the educational institution with state nursing boards, employers, and professional organizations. Government grants and loans can only be used at accredited MSN programs.

To become board certified as a nurse practitioner, the candidate must have graduated from an accredited institution. Most employers are seeking APRNs from accredited programs, and these candidates have greater employment and advancement opportunities.

Learn More About the Best MSN Programs and Schools in San Diego

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.
  1. Point Loma Nazarene University

    San Diego, CA

    At Point Loma Nazarene University, there is a wide range of MSN tracks to choose from. The goal of the school is to deliver world-class nurses. The emphasis is on academic knowledge and experience, combined with emotions and spirituality.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: Varies, please inquire
    • Minimum time commitment: Varies depending on chosen track
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree Requirements: Varies depending on chosen track
    • Programs: MSN with CNS in family/individual health, adult gerontology, mental health or pediatrics; MSN general track; RN to MSN; BSN to MSN
    • School website: Tuition and Financial Aid
  2. San Diego State University

    San Diego, CA

    San Diego State University offers a 36-unit MSN track with various specializations. The degree can be completed either full-time or part-time. The school previously offered an MSN in Nurse Educator program, but admissions to this pathway had to be suspended indefinitely.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: Varies depending on chosen pathway
    • Minimum time commitment: 36 to 60 units
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: BSN, GPA of 3.0, GRE, RN license, statistics course
    • Programs: MSN – Community Health Nursing: School Nursing; Advanced Practice Nursing of Adults and the Elderly; Nursing Leadership; Women’s Health and Midwifery
    • School website: Tuition and Financial Aid
  3. University of San Diego

    San Diego, CA

    The University of San Diego offers some of the most comprehensive selections of MSN degree program options available. It offers both RN to MSN and direct entry MSN for Non-RN programs. It is also the only school in San Diego that currently offers the nurse educator track.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: $1345 per unit
    • Minimum time commitment: Varies depending on chosen track
    • Online availability:
    • Degree requirements: Varies depending on chosen track
    • Programs: MSN – Health Care Informatics; Executive Nurse Leader; Clinical Nurse Leader; Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist; Dual Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner/Family Nurse Practitioner; Family Nurse Practitioner; Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner; Dual Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/ Family Nurse Practitioner. MSN for Non-RNs. MSN options (nursing education, Latino health care, mind-body-spirit health care.
    • School website: Tuition and Financial Aid

Frequently Asked Questions About San Diego MSN Programs

Is getting an MSN worth it in San Diego?

Your specific career goals and financial situation determine the answer to this question. The strong job market in San Diego is expected to grow in the coming years. However, the cost of education in California is also substantial, and the program typically takes two years to complete.

What can I do with an MSN in San Diego?

Advanced practice roles require an MSN and additional training. An MSN program in San Diego prepares you to become a nurse practitioner, administrator, researcher, health policy analyst, educator, and clinical nurse specialist, depending on the educational track you follow.

How much can I make after completing an MSN program in San Diego?

Your salary depends on your advanced practice role. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for a nurse practitioner in the San Diego-Carlsbad area is $13,240 and $96,650 annually for nurse midwives. However, you must also factor in the cost of living in the area, which is 47% higher than the national average.

Is San Diego a good city to work in as a nurse?

San Diego offers mild weather, year-round sunny skies, and miles of coastline. Nurses can access employment options from among top healthcare facilities, including UC San Diego, Scripps La Jolla Hospitals, Sharp Memorial, and Kaiser Permanente. These benefits come with a higher cost of living, but an increased potential salary can help make up the difference.

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