The Best San Diego Nurse Practitioner Programs


Updated June 9, 2023

California, including San Diego, requires nurse practitioners to hold certifications. This page reviews nurse practitioner programs in San Diego and provides information on California certification steps.
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Nurses in San Diego, California, are among the highest-paid in the country. Those who want to increase their earning potential and expand their scope of practice can enroll in a nurse practitioner (NP) program to become an advanced practice registered nurse. Designed for experienced nurses, these graduate-level programs award master's degrees and create a wealth of opportunities.

Our guide helps nurses find the best NP programs in San Diego. Explore program options and learn how to apply, what you can expect, and how to get the most from the experience.

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

At a Glance: The Top San Diego Nurse Practitioner Programs

Featured Online MSN Programs

How Do San Diego Nurse Practitioner Programs Work?

Nurse practitioner programs in San Diego build upon licensed nurses' knowledge and skills, preparing them to provide primary care, specialized care, and case management services for patients of every age. NP programs require applicants to select a specialization, such as pediatrics or women's health.

NP programs in San Diego combine classroom coursework with at least 500 hours of hands-on clinical experience. Students complete core courses in nursing concepts and specialization-focused courses and practicums. Graduates can take the nurse practitioner certification exam for their chosen specialty.

Most graduate students complete the NP program in about two years of full-time study. Programs typically accommodate working students, and you may be able to complete your practicum hours where you currently work.

Applying to a San Diego Nurse Practitioner Program

Nurse practitioner programs are designed for experienced nurses. The application process involves confirming your preparedness for advanced study with transcripts and documentation of your nursing experience. Showcase your goals and purpose for pursuing this path.

  • Admission Materials

    Application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, active California nursing license, minimum 6-12 months of clinical experience
  • GPA Requirement

    3.0 or higher
  • Other Requirement

    Interviews for qualified applications after the initial application review

Why Is San Diego Nurse Practitioner Program Accreditation Important?

Choosing an accredited nurse practitioner program in San Diego is critical to your career success. Accreditation means an independent organization has reviewed the curriculum, instructors, and other factors to ensure it aligns with the basic standards for nursing education.

Employers typically prefer to hire nurses with degrees from accredited programs. Accreditation also ensures your eligibility for federal financial aid, state licensure, and the ability to transfer credits between programs. All programs in this ranking have received accreditation.

Learn More About the Best San Diego Nurse Practitioner Programs and Schools

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, the emphasis on delivering a high quality workforce that understands empathy and spirituality. Additionally, they ensure students from different study pathways take classes together in order to build and foster friendships. This also allows for greater exploration of spirituality.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Private, Catholic
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: Varies
    • Minimum time commitment: Varies
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree Requirements: Varies
    • Programs: MSN Clinical Nurse Specialist (adult gerontology, pediatrics, family and individual health or, MSN General, ADN to MSN
    • School website: Tuition and Financial Aid
  2. University of San Diego

    San Diego, CA

    The program delivered by the University of San Diego is for those who already hold a baccalaureate degree in a non-nursing related field. It is designed, therefore, for those who already have the skills and knowledge to work at academic level, but who are looking for a brand new career. The university has offered this program in the hopes of addressing the significant nursing shortage.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: $21,165 per semester
    • Minimum time commitment: 21 months
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: BSN, prerequisite courses, GPA, computer literacy, resume, recommendations, 100 volunteering hours in health care, immunizations, interview
    • Programs: Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (for non-RNs)
    • School website: Tuition and Financial Aid
  3. San Diego State University

    San Diego, CA

    Graduates of San Diego State University’s Nurse Practitioner program are ready to take on a career in the middle to executive levels of seniority in nursing. They offer a number of different specializations for nurses, so that students can choose the field of work in which they feel they can make the biggest difference. Additionally, the school focuses strongly on encouraging students to be committed to their further education and to eventually also study towards a doctoral degree.

    • Campus: San Diego, CA
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation: CCNE
    • Tuition: Varies depending on circumstances, please inquire
    • Minimum time commitment: 36 units
    • Online availability: No
    • Degree requirements: BSN, various other admission criteria to demonstrate proficiency and good standard of health and behavior
    • Programs: MS in Nursing (advanced practice nursing, community health nursing, nursing education, nursing leadership, women’s health and midwifery)
    • School website: Tuition and Financial Aid

Frequently Asked Questions About San Diego Nurse Practitioner Programs

How do I succeed in NP school?

Succeeding in an NP program requires many of the same strategies as any other educational program. Stay organized, ask questions, and identify the study methods that work best for you. Use your program's support sources and don't overlook the importance of networking with fellow students, instructors, and mentors.

What are one or two identified barriers to NP practice in California?

Until 2023, nurse practitioners in California were required to practice under physician supervision. Beginning this year, qualified NPs can apply to practice in designated facilities without physician supervision, eventually transitioning into independent practice after three years or 4,600 hours. This shift will eventually eliminate the most significant barrier to NP practice in the state.

Which type of nurse practitioners make the most money?

Nurse anesthetists earn the highest salaries among all advanced practice nurses, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting an annual median wage of $195,610 nationally. According to PayScale, psychiatric NPs also top the highest-paid list, with an annual salary of $115,320, as well as neonatal NPs, with annual salaries of about $114,270.

What is the hardest NP specialty?

Everyone has their own interests and strengths, making it impossible to state with certainty which NP specialty is the most difficult. Each specialty includes challenges, and some students may find the work in one area more difficult than others. Choosing a program that aligns with your goals and skills ensures you get the most from the experience.

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