Best Nursing Schools in California

Last updated on May 19th, 2022 at 08:20 pm

Top 10 Registered Nursing Schools in California.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 finest nursing schools in California:

1. University of San Francisco, San Francisco

2. California State University, Long Beach

3. San Diego State University, San Diego

4. Azusa Pacific University, Azusa

5. University of California, Los Angeles

6. West Coast University, North Hollywood

7. University of California, Irvine

8. California State University, San Marcos

9. National University, San Diego

10. Samuel Merritt University, Oakland

When choosing a nursing school and degree program to become a registered nurse (RN), the nursing school and degree program you choose will influence your future career. Continue reading this article to find out more about the top 10 registered nursing schools in California.

1. University of San Francisco, San Francisco

The University of San Francisco nursing school in California is housed at Cowell Hall, located in the center of the University’s historic Laurel Heights campus. A simulated hospital setting outfitted with cutting-edge manikins allows students to start learning hands-on clinical skills.

Every year, 140,000 hours of service are provided by student nurses from the University of San Francisco as they complete clinical rotations at trauma centers, acute care hospitals, ambulatory care clinics, and other community healthcare agencies around the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Since 2008, 87 percent of BSN graduates and 89 percent of direct-entry MSN graduates have passed the NCLEX-RN test on their first attempt.

NCLEX pass rate: 88%

The tuition is $9,580.00 per semester.

2. California State University, Long Beach

If you’re searching for a fantastic all-around nursing school in California that can prepare you for any professional obstacle that comes your way, this is a school to look into. Classrooms, teaching labs, and a computer lab are housed in a new 10,600-square-foot nursing facility.

Students can also use a cutting-edge nursing simulation lab at the neighboring Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

The direct-entry BSN program is for incoming freshmen, and you will begin your nursing degree in your first year. The standard CSUF track is designed for current students who aspire to become registered nurses. The CSUF track admits just 5-10 students each year, making this a more difficult program to enroll in.

As a student at California State University, you will have the opportunity to work with the innovative Health on Wheels clinic, sponsored by the nursing school in collaboration with Norfolk. This clinic educates parents of kids in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District on preventative health care.

Clinical rotations are also provided at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital, Hoag Hospital, Veterans Administration, and other critical care, acute care, and ambulatory health care institutions in Long Beach and Newport Beach.

NCLEX pass rate: 95%

The tuition is $5,742, and the fees are $1,092. Out-of-state undergraduate tuition and fees at CSULB are $18,714 for the 2019-2020 academic year. Fees were $1,092, while tuition was $17,622.

3. San Diego State University, San Diego

Suppose you’ve always felt that nursing is the job for you. In that case, you should look into San Diego State University’s School of Nursing, which is one of the few nursing programs in California that accepts entering first-year college students.

Among the amenities are a Media Lab, a Health Assessment Lab, a Nursing Fundamentals Skills Lab, and even the Sharp Healthcare Human Patient Simulation Lab.

Students explore experiential learning opportunities in the various trauma centers, hospitals, and community clinics around the San Diego region once they’ve learned the fundamentals of bedside nursing.

This nursing school also provides unique abroad service-learning opportunities in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Fiji, Bali, and the Philippines, where students must reside for at least 14 days.

NCLEX pass rate: 91%

The approximate tuition cost is $13,000 annually.

4. Azusa Pacific University, Azusa

If you want to approach nursing from a Christian viewpoint, Azusa Pacific University’s School of Nursing has a lot to offer you. The university, which was founded in 1899 as the first Bible college on the West Coast, has an exceptional reputation as one of the most academically demanding Christian institutions of higher study.

Nursing is viewed as a calling at the institution, and students learn how to care for their patients’ spiritual as well as bodily needs.

Building 1 on campus’s west side features classrooms, a nursing library, a nursing research lab, as well as the Skills and Computer Centers. The Skills lab is outfitted with manikins that allow rookie nurses to learn clinical evaluation and practice bedside necessities, including wound care, injections, and IV start-up.

Students will have the opportunity to refine these abilities further through practicums at local hospitals and health care institutions. This institution is known for providing lengthier and more intense clinical rotations than many other California nursing schools.

Azusa also provides several possibilities for overseas study, ranging from short-term missions in Africa, Cambodia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, India, Laos, and Mexico to full semesters abroad.

NCLEX pass rate: 83%

The average cost of tuition to attend Azusa Pacific is $41,410.

5. University of California, Los Angeles

The UCLA School of Nursing is renowned for both its education and its research. According to “U.S. News ; World Report,” it is one of the few nursing schools in California that routinely rates among the top 20 nursing institutions in the country.

Thanks to research endeavors like the Center for American Indigenous Research, the Center for Vulnerable Populations Research, and the Education Center for the Advancement of Gerontological Nursing Science, the school is the 24th-largest recipient of NIH nursing funds. 

Undergraduate students can enroll in an eight-week Summer Research Program where faculty members will guide them in their subject of interest.

In addition to nursing education classrooms, the Louis and Doris Factor Health Sciences Building houses a library with over 530,000 books and 6,000 periodicals.

Once prospective nurses have mastered clinical skills in simulation environments, they pursue clinical rotations at UCLA Medical Center, which has been named the top hospital in the western United States by “U.S. News; World Report.” 

NCLEX pass rate: 87%
Full-time tuition starts at $24,237 per year (in-state) and $36,382 per year (out-of-state).

6. West Coast University, North Hollywood

If you want to quickly acquire a nursing degree in California, consider West Coast University’s School of Nursing, which offers programs that may be completed in as little as 39 months. A new class cycle begins every ten weeks, so you won’t have to put off your education.

The University was founded in 1909 as an ophthalmology school before being purchased in 1979 by a for-profit organization focusing on the education of auxiliary health care workers. The American Association for Men in Nursing selected this nursing school the best for men in nursing in 2018.

Skylights, waterfalls, and bamboo piers grace the North Hollywood campus, where nursing lessons are conducted, as does a high-tech Simulation Center where students practice clinical skills in realistic patient care settings. After mastering these abilities in a secure atmosphere, nursing students move on to practical learning practicums at some of the most prominent hospitals and community health agencies in the greater Los Angeles area.

Nursing students also engage in community health activities like Care Harbor LA. Aspiring nurses can also explore study-abroad opportunities in Argentina, Spain, Belize, Panama, and South Korea through the Global Public Health Program.

NCLEX pass rate: 98.4%
Tuition to attend West Coast University can cost up to $17,030 annually.

7. University of California, Irvine

If you’re interested in community health, the Sue; Bill School of Nursing is a terrific place to start. The institution collaborates with local schools and community groups to enhance health outcomes and expose student nurses to the people they will serve one day.

Many faculty members continue to work as nurses in Orange County’s underserved areas and at the world-renowned University of California Irvine Medical Center. This nursing school is also a well-known research center, with studies spanning from wellness promotion to community-based therapies that have the potential to decrease health disparities among vulnerable groups.

Classes are held at Berk Hall, which has just been rebuilt. The school intends to improve its use of immersive high-tech simulation activities to the point where they account for 25% of each student’s clinical interactions. Clinical rotations begin during the junior year’s spring quarter, with UCI Medical Center hosting more than half of them.

NCLEX pass rate: 87%
Full-time tuition for a degree in the nursing program is $24,237 per year (in-state) and $36,482 per year (out-of-state) (out-of-state).

8. California State University, San Marcos

Cal State San Marcos launched a two-year nursing program in 2006, in part to address the persistent shortage of nurses in North County and the larger San Diego region; in 2014, the program was expanded to a four-year training curriculum. The school is managed by the College of Education, Health, and Human Services.

The curriculum is based on a self-care paradigm, which posits that diseases, injuries, and a lack of knowledge interfere with individuals’ capacity to care for their own health requirements. It is this disruption that requires nursing care. The nursing school also has a satellite campus in adjacent Temecula, which was established in response to the high demand for nurses in Riverside County.

A sophisticated simulation lab enables nursing students to gain hands-on experience in a virtual hospital before beginning to work with actual patients. Clinical rotations are held at Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers, Scripps Health, Rady Children’s Hospital, and the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

The nursing school’s Student Healthcare Project maintains free community clinics around San Diego County that provide health screenings, medical care, and preventative education.

NCLEX pass rate: 96%
The current tuition for this university’s RN to BSN program is $11,590.

9. National University, San Diego

National University was formed in 1971 to satisfy the requirements of adult learners who may be balancing work, family, and other responsibilities with their desire to learn. Almost 9% of the University’s students are on current duty in the military.

Like all other classes at the institution, nursing classes may be taken in four-week modules, and students can enroll in nursing degree programs at any time during the year. Kearney Mesa is home to the School of Health and Human Services.

A powerful computer lab is part of the 12-classroom Technology and Health Sciences Center. The program emphasizes the critical role nurses play as members of an interdisciplinary team that strives to provide patient-centered care that leads to favorable health outcomes. Students participate in clinical rotations at clinical sites in the San Diego region, which preceptors monitor.

NCLEX pass rate: 100%

Tuition starts at $277.50 per quarter unit with a scholarship. Standard tuition rates start at $370 p/quarter unit.

10. Samuel Merritt University, Oakland

The Samuel Merritt School of Nursing was among the last in California to transition from a three-year diploma program to a four-year bachelor’s degree. At other colleges and universities, students fulfil their first two years of general education requirements. The school was created in 1909 thanks to a donation from Dr. Samuel Merritt, one of Oakland’s first mayors.

The classes are held at the Alta Bates campus in adjacent Berkeley and the 44,000-square-foot Health Education Center. The Health Education Center also houses the John A. Graziano Library, one of the East Bay’s most extensive collections of health sciences resources.

Students hone their clinical skills in the 5,500-square-foot Health Sciences Simulation Center, which features simulation action rooms designed to resemble hospital settings and lifelike manikins integrated with computer software that can replicate normal and pathological physiological responses.

Nursing students begin clinical rotations at Children’s Hospital and Research Center of Oakland, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Kaiser Foundation Hospital Oakland, and Bay Area Community Services during their first year of study.

Samuel Merritt University is extremely tough to gain admission into. Getting into Samuel Merritt University is a difficult task, and you will need to distinguish yourself with more than just statistics and facts.

NCLEX pass rate: 85%
Annually, full-time students can expect to pay a whopping $80,842 in tuition. 


NCLEX Pass Rates. (2021). NCLEX Pass Rates.


We try to have the most current information, however the data may change over time. We strongly encourage you to research the schools you are interested in prior to making any decision on the school that you decide on.

Photo of author

Anna Curran. RN, BSN, PHN

Anna Curran. RN-BC, BSN, PHN, CMSRN I am a Critical Care ER nurse. I have been in this field for over 30 years. I also began teaching BSN and LVN students and found that by writing additional study guides helped their knowledge base, especially when it was time to take the NCLEX examinations.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.