The Best Nursing Programs in San Diego in 2023

Gayle Morris, MSNNurseJournal Rankings Team
Updated August 30, 2023
This guide ranks the top nursing schools in San Diego and offers insight into how the application process works and why you should seek an accredited program.
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Aerial view of San Diego and the San Diego HarborCredit: Steve Proehl / The Image Bank / Getty Images

California is home to some of the best hospitals and nursing programs. Whether you are starting an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, the best nursing degrees in San Diego can put you on the right track toward your new career.

This guide explores the application process for the top nursing schools in San Diego and the importance of seeking a degree from an accredited program.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing 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.

At a Glance: The Top 3 San Diego Nursing Programs

  1. San Diego State University
  2. Point Loma Nazarene University
  3. National University

How Do Nursing Programs Work?

Registered nurse (RN) programs provide either an ADN or a BSN education. ADN programs typically take two years to prepare students to pass the required NCLEX-RN for licensure. ADN programs focus on the technical and practical skills required for nursing.

BSN programs usually take four years to complete and include additional courses in leadership, healthcare systems, and nursing research. BSN-prepared nurses are in higher demand and may have more career advancement opportunities.

Both nursing programs in San Diego include classroom coursework and clinical experience in a variety of healthcare settings. Common courses include anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nursing fundamentals, medical-surgical nursing, mental health nursing, and maternal-child nursing.

Clinical experience allows students to apply their knowledge and skills in a professional setting under the supervision of a licensed RN. This hands-on experience is crucial for preparing students for the demands and responsibilities of working as a nurse.

Featured Online RN-to-BSN in Nursing Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Learn About the Best Nursing Programs and Schools in San Diego in 2023

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.
#1 The Best Nursing Programs in San Diego in 2023

San Diego State University

  • Location-markerSan Diego, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,742
  • Out-of-state$17,622
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate37%
  • Students Enrolled36,334
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment99%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best Nursing Programs in San Diego in 2023

Point Loma Nazarene University

  • Location-markerSan Diego, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$37,600
  • Out-of-state$37,600
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate84%
  • Students Enrolled4,616
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment35%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 The Best Nursing Programs in San Diego in 2023

National University

  • Location-markerSan Diego, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$13,320
  • Out-of-state$13,320
  • Retention Rate45%
  • Acceptance Rate89%
  • Students Enrolled18,070
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment44%
  • AccreditationYes

Applying to a Nursing Program in San Diego

The steps to apply to a nursing program in San Diego vary by institution. Nursing programs typically have coursework prerequisites and some programs require the results of standardized tests with their application.

An applicant may have to attend an in-person or virtual interview to assess their fit with the program. Finally, nursing school candidates must wait for a decision and further instruction on how to enroll.

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    Admission Materials

    Materials usually include an official transcript, application, letters of recommendation, personal essay or statement letter, a record of volunteer experience, and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), if applicable. Most schools require one year of high school biology, one year of high school chemistry, and two years of college preparatory math.
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    GPA Requirement

    ADN programs generally require a 2.75 GPA, and BSN programs look for a 3.0 GPA.

Why Is Nursing Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation for nursing schools in San Diego is a rigorous process. The two main agencies are the Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Schools undergo a comprehensive review to ensure they meet certain quality standards. The standards cover curriculum, faculty qualifications, clinical experiences, student support services, and other factors that impact the quality of education.

Accreditation ensures quality education for the students and enhances the employability of the graduate. A school must be accredited for the student to be eligible for federal financial aid, such as grants and student loans.

Accreditation also allows the student to transfer credits from one institution to another and students must graduate from an accredited school to be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN required to become a licensed RN. All programs listed in our ranking are accredited.

Frequently Asked Questions About San Diego Nursing Programs

How do I become an RN in San Diego?

Nursing candidates should research schools in San Diego using this list of top programs to determine their best fit. Consider applying to at least two and up to four programs to ensure you can start school in the time frame you desire.

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

How long it takes to complete a nursing program in San Diego varies depending on the program and if the student attends part or full time. Nursing candidates may enroll in an ADN program for two years or a BSN program for four years.

What is the average salary for nurses in San Diego?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs working in the San Diego-Carlsbad metropolitan area make $113,150 per year. This salary can increase or decrease based on education, location, experience, and certifications the nurse may hold.

What is the best degree for nurses in San Diego?

The best nursing degree for RNs in San Diego is a BSN. Most hospitals seek nurses with a BSN to improve patient outcomes. BSN-prepared nurses also have greater career advancement opportunities, higher compensation, and more employment possibilities.

Explore Other San Diego Nursing Programs