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Best ADN Programs in California: Online & Campus

Explore accredited, state-approved nursing programs that can help you become a CA registered nurse in as little as 24 months.

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If you live in California and want to become a registered nurse, earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can be a smart choice. Yes, getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will help you become a registered nurse, but the ADN has the advantage of taking just two years to complete instead of four. Another advantage of the ADN program is that if you decide to continue your academic studies, you’ll still be on track to earn a bachelor’s or master’s and move into the advanced practice and leadership roles that come with those degrees.

The purpose of this guide is to provide information to help you locate a state-approved, accredited ADN program in your area that best matches your study preferences, career goals, and budget. You’ll also learn more about the advantages ADN programs have over other nursing degree programs and get answers to common questions you might have. Keep reading to find out how to get started on your RN nursing career by earning your degree through a great California ADN program.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS. 

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted. 

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Institutional Aid – Percent of full-time undergraduate students who are awarded institutional grant aid, as self-reported by the school.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Cerritos CollegeNorwalk, CA Public $ 1

Cerritos College's AA of Nursing program is designed for people who desire a traditional college experience with the option of some online classes. The nursing program has a set schedule of classes to be completed in order in 4 semesters. Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam to become a licensed RN. Students are also eligible to apply and transfer credits to a four-year BSN program at a partner school.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Arts in Nursing

  • Credits: 47
  • Length: 4 semesters
  • Cost: $366/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: ACEN
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
26/1
Online
Student %
78%
2 Compton CollegeCompton, CA Public $ 1

Compton College offers an associate degree in Nursing with several courses offered in a hybrid format. The main goal of the program is to provide students with the skills they need to perform well as entry-level nurses. Students who apply and are accepted into the program must pass a background check and drug screen. After graduation, students are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which will allow them to become RNs and practice in the state of California.

Program Highlights:

Associate in Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 98 units
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $320/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: ACCJC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
56%

Popular 2-Year ADN Nursing Programs in California

We’ve spotlighted three of the most popular state-approved ADN programs in California to help give you a better idea of what students just like you look for in a school. All three programs are regionally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and fully prepare graduates to meet the academic requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN, which is required to be an RN in California.

Chaffey College

Two-year nursing programs in California are a mainstay of public community colleges, which provide students with the coursework and hands-on training to qualify for RN licensure. Among the best is the ADN program at Chaffey College. The program consists of four semesters of full-time coursework and clinical rotations. Students complete academic nursing classes and labs on Chaffey’s Rancho Cucamonga campus and clinical practice hours at program-affiliated hospitals and medical centers in Claremont, Colton, Fontana, Pomona, and Upland. Admission requirements include a high school diploma (or equivalent), completion of the TEAS 6 exam, and completion of several prerequisite general education and biology courses. Current LVNs may be admitted as advanced placement students. This allows them to reduce the number of credits needed for their ADN degree.

Long Beach City College

The Associate Degree in Registered Nursing program at Long Beach City College (LBCC) is another high-quality and affordable nursing program. Offered by a community college, the ADN curriculum consists of 67.5 credit hours of nursing theory courses, labs, and clinical practice experiences. Full-time students can expect to complete the four semesters of study in about two years. Classes are held weekdays on the school’s Long Beach campus. Clinical hours are scheduled during evenings and weekends at local hospitals and healthcare facilities. Students must complete 18 credits of coursework before starting the ADN course. Admission is selective (based on GPA) and limited to 40 students and 20 alternates each semester.

If you’re already an LVN, LBCC also offers a three-semester LVN to RN Career Ladder program to obtain California RN licensure. LVNs can choose a 30-unit certificate (non-degree) program that makes them eligible to take the NCLEX-RN.

Ventura College

Ventura College offers its Associate in Nursing Science program through the School of Nursing and Allied Health. The two-year program combines five to six hours each week of nursing theory coursework with 12 to 15 hours per week of supervised clinical experiences in a variety of nursing topics (pediatrics, obstetrics, emergency room, critical care, etc.). Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, a GPA of 2.5 or higher on previously completed college coursework and in all science courses, and a successful score (currently 62%) on the TEAS exam. Applicants must have a current certified nursing assistant (CNA) credential. Applications are accepted twice each year (September for spring admissions and March for fall admissions). Students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in each course are eligible for membership in the Alpha Delta Nu Nursing Honor Society.

ADN Programs Approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing

The three program spotlights above provide a good idea of what you should expect from an ADN program in California, but they are just the beginning in terms of the ADN programs available in California. Below is the most recent complete list of state-approved ADN programs in California. As you’ll see, two-year nursing programs are available from both public and private schools throughout California, so you’re bound to find a great one near you and at a price you can afford.

School Name Campus Location(s) School Type NCLEX Pass Rate (2020/2021)
Allan Hancock College Santa Maria Public 84%
American Career College Los Angeles Private 92%
American River College Sacramento Public 93%
Antelope Valley College Lancaster Public 94%
Bakersfield College Bakersfield Public 96%
Butte Community College Oroville Public N/A
Cabrillo College Aptos Public 71%
California Career College Canoga Park Private 90%
Career Care Institute Lancaster Private 60%
Carrington College Sacramento Private 73%
Cerritos College Norwalk Public 94%
Chabot College Hayward Public 100%
Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga Public 93%
Citrus College Glendora Public 84%
City College of San Francisco San Francisco Public 93%
College of Marin Kentfield Public 95%
College of San Mateo San Mateo Public 94%
College of the Canyons Santa Clarita Public 90%
College of the Desert Palm Desert Public 87%
College of the Redwoods Eureka; Del Norte Public 94%
College of the Sequoias Visalia Public 88%
Compton College Compton Public 78%
Contra Costa College San Pablo Public 83%
Copper Mountain College Joshua Tree Public 100%
Cuesta College San Luis Obispo Public 93%
Cypress College Cypress Public 85%
De Anza College Cupertino Public 94%
El Camino College Torrance Public 94%
Evergreen Valley College San Jose Public 90%
Fresno City College Fresno Public 81%
Gavilan College Gilroy Public 100%
Glendale Career College Glendale; San Diego; Bakersfield Private N/A
Glendale Community College Glendale Public 98%
Golden West College Huntington Beach Public 92%
Grossmont College El Cajon Public 100%
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts Fresno Private N/A
Hartnell College Salinas Public 98%
Imperial Valley College Imperial Public 93%
Long Beach City College Long Beach Public 91%
Los Angeles City College Los Angeles Public N/A
Los Angeles County College of Nursing & Allied Health Los Angeles Public N/A
Los Angeles Harbor College Wilmington Public N/A
Los Angeles Pierce College Woodland Hills Public 93%
Los Angeles Southwest College Los Angeles Public N/A
Los Angeles Trade-Tech College Los Angeles Public N/A
Los Angeles Valley College Valley Glen Public N/A
Los Medanos College Pittsburg Public 75%
Madera Community College Madera Public N/A
Mendocino College Ukiah Public 96%
Merced College Merced Public 82%
Merritt College Oakland Public 96%
MiraCosta College Oceanside Public N/A
Mission College Santa Clara Public 81%
Modesto Junior College Modesto; Columbia Public 94%
Monterey Peninsula College Monterey Public 94%
Moorpark College Moorpark Public 100%
Mt. San Antonio College Walnut Public 89%
Mt. San Jacinto College, MVC Menifee Public N/A
Napa Valley College Napa Public 94%
Ohlone College Newark Public 89%
Pacific College Costa Mesa Private N/A
Pacific Union College Angwin; Napa Private 85%
Palomar CollegeSan Marcos Public 92%
Pasadena City CollegePasadena Public 89%
Porterville College Porterville Public 94%
Rio Hondo College Whittier Public 96%
Riverside City College Riverside Public 97%
Sacramento City College Sacramento Public 100%
Saddleback College Mission Viejo Public 95%
San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino Public 81%
San Diego City College San Diego Public 100%
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton Public 83%
San Joaquin Valley College Visalia; Ontario Private 88%
Santa Ana College Santa Ana Public 87%
Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara Public 96%
Santa Monica College Santa Monica Public 92%
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa Public 96%
Shasta College Redding Public 96%
Sierra College Rocklin Public 100%
Smith Chason School or Nursing Los Angeles Private N/A
Solano Community College Fairfield Public 92%
Southwestern College San Diego Public 90%
Ventura College Ventura Public 98%
Victor Valley College Victorville Public 93%
Weimar University Weimar Private 100%
West Hills College Lemoore Lemoore Public 90%
Xavier College Stockton Private 95%
Yuba College Marysville Public 96%

Source: California Board of Registered Nursing (Approved Schools; NCLEX-RN Pass Rates); Latest data available as of February 2022

Why Go with an ADN Program in California?

There are several paths you can take to becoming a nurse. So, why choose to become an RN with a two-year nursing program in California instead of, say, a BSN program? Here are a few important advantages to consider:

  1. Less time and more affordable than 4-year nursing schools

Both ADN and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree programs qualify you to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which you must pass to obtain your California RN license. All aspiring registered nurses must pass this exam to obtain a California RN license. The two major advantages of opting for an ADN program in California over a BSN program are time and cost. Not including prerequisites, most ADN programs require two years of full-time study. This means paying for just two years of tuition and related costs. Most BSN programs require four years of full-time study and, therefore, often require twice the amount of money or more to complete. In addition, community college tuition rates for two-year nursing programs in California are substantially lower than those for BSN programs.

  1. Higher pay vs. other entry-level nursing roles

A major consideration for anyone in their choice of career is earnings. As the figures in the chart below show, when it comes to earnings for entry-level nursing occupations, the hands-down winner is registered nurse.

Mean Hourly Pay in California Mean Annual Pay in California
Registered Nurse (RN) $59.62 $124,000
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) $19.12$39,760
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) $31.32 $65,140

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

  1. Strong demand for registered nurses in California

Another major consideration in choosing a career is job security, something California RNs don’t have to worry about. Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Projection Central website project job growth for California RNs to be 10.8% in the long term (2020-2030).

  1. Ability to advance your nursing education and career in the future

Another major concern for anyone considering a career in nursing is the ability to move up the career ladder. Two-year nursing programs in California leading to RN licensure not only offer a quick and affordable path to starting your nursing career, but they also provide a solid academic foundation for continuing your nursing education, whether you’re interested in earning a BSN or graduate nursing degree.

To find out more about advancing your nursing career by earning a BSN or graduate degree, be sure to check out EduMed’s Online RN to BSN Programs in California and Top RN to MSN Online Programs guides.

Inside Look at Online ADN Programs in California

If you were hoping to complete your two-year nursing program in California entirely or primarily online, you are, unfortunately, out of luck for now. Given the inherently hands-on nature of the nursing profession, the education necessary will include extensive experiential learning requirements. However, many programs offer some required nursing and prerequisite courses online.

Examples include the ADN program at San Joaquin Delta College, which offers over a half-dozen of its ADN curriculum courses in a hybrid (part in-person/part online) format. Then, there’s Mt. San Jacinto College’s AS in Nursing program, which has five prerequisite classes that can be completed entirely online. You’ll also find that almost all ADN programs in California feature some distance learning components, such as readings, written assignments, recorded lectures, and communication with instructors and fellow students.

FAQs About ADN Programs in California

What nursing knowledge and skills do you learn in ADN programs in California?

It might only take two years to complete, but two-year nursing programs in California prepare graduates for entry-level RN employment in a range of practice settings. Students gain knowledge and skills founded on the core nursing concepts of critical thinking, professionalism, patient-centered care, leadership, safety, communication, and teamwork. The result is safe, competent patient treatment through evidence-based decision making. To achieve this, the curriculum for two-year nursing programs in California combines nursing-related theory coursework with hands-on labs and clinical practice covering nursing fundamentals such as anatomy, medical/surgical nursing, microbiology, and professional ethics. Coursework in related subjects such as psychology, sociology, mathematics, and communication is also typically part of a two-year California nursing program.

Check out these current curricula from Mendocino College and the College of San Mateo to get an idea of the subjects you’ll cover in your ADN program in California.

How much do ADN programs cost in California?

The costs of ADN programs in California can vary a lot. Community colleges offer most of the ADN programs and are surprisingly affordable. For example, two-year nursing programs offered by schools in the California Community Colleges system have a current per-unit rate of $46 for California residents. Rates for private programs (like the one at Pacific College) can be substantially higher.

The two biggest factors influencing costs are whether the school is public or private and, in the case of a public school, whether the student is a California or out-of-state resident.

It’s important to remember, also, that tuition makes up only a portion of the cost for a two-year nursing program. You’ll also pay for books, supplies, uniforms, parking fees, etc. As a result, community college ADN students in California should expect a total program price tag of approximately $4,000 to $5,000.

Fresno City College

Associate of Science in Nursing

Total Credits: 72

$46/credit (California resident); $375/credit (out-of-state resident)

Mendocino College

Registered Nurse Associate of Science

Total Credits: 60 (including prerequisite courses)

$46/credit (California resident); $341/credit (out-of-state resident)

Pacific College

Associate of Science in Nursing

Total Credits: 71 (including prerequisite and co-requisite courses)

$1,530/credit

Can I get financial aid to help pay for my ADN program in California?

Of course! Regardless of your program’s price tag, you’re likely to need help paying for your ADN program in California. Luckily, there are many financial aid options available, including scholarships, grants, employer tuition reimbursement, and, most common of all, student loans. Major financial aid sources for California nursing students include the federal government (including federal student loans and loan repayment opportunities from the Health Resources & Services Administration) and the California Board of Registered Nursing.

To learn exactly what you’re eligible for and what’s available at a nursing school you’re interested in, you should contact the financial aid office for each school you’re thinking about applying to. To learn more about paying for your nursing education, visit EduMed’s guides on nursing scholarships, financial aid, and graduating from nursing school debt-free.

How long do ADN programs in California take to complete?

All state-approved standard ADN programs in California require two years of full-time study, which include a four-semester structure. Most programs start in the fall and/or spring, although some programs include an additional summer session. Remember, though, that all of these two-year nursing programs in California require a number of prerequisite courses before admission, which may add a semester or more to your degree timeline, depending on what you’ve already taken in high school or another college.

Many ADN programs in California offer advanced placement options for current LVNs seeking their nursing associate degree. Typically these programs require about one year of full-time coursework. Examples of LVN-to-RN programs in California include the two-semester programs at Citrus College and the College of San Mateo, and the three-semester LVN to RN Career Ladder program at Long Beach City College.