Campus and Online BSN Nursing Programs in California

California needs nurses, and a BSN degree can be your path toward a meaningful, in-demand career. Whether you’re new to the field or already working as an LVN or RN, a BSN degree often leads to higher pay and leadership roles.

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James Mielke

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James Mielke is a freelance writer currently based in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to higher education topics, other areas of research and writing include food history, cooking, dining, and golf. James has a history degree from Belmont University and is an unapologetic fan of the Grateful Dead.

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California is home to more than 10 percent of the registered nurses working in the United States. As the demand for competent and compassionate nursing professionals exceeds the supply, there couldn’t be a better time to enter California’s nursing field. While an associate degree in nursing gets you in the door, a bachelor’s degree in nursing boosts your career options when competing for higher-paying jobs and new responsibilities.

This guide highlights several paths toward earning your BSN degree. From traditional in-person BSN degrees to online bridge programs for current RNs with an associate degree or LVNs, the best programs provide the theoretical learning and hands-on training you need to qualify for top nursing positions. In addition to spotlighting standout online and campus programs across the state, the guide also looks at California’s nursing job market, supplies you with some helpful financial aid resources, and answers key questions you likely have. Keep reading for a closer look at BSN programs in California, see what they can do for your career, and find the one that’s best for you.

Best Accredited BSN Programs in California

The best BSN programs in California are accredited, state-approved, and provide students with the learning experiences necessary in preparing for a nursing career. Additionally, top BSN programs boast high NCLEX-RN pass rates, providing the preparation needed to help you ace your exam. In the following section, we’ve spotlighted three high-quality programs to help as you begin your school search. See who stands out in 2021.

University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) 

Continuously ranked as the top BSN program in California, UCLA graduated its first BSN class in 1954. Designed to take four years to complete, this curriculum includes rigorous nursing courses that build theoretical knowledge and hands-on clinical work that builds practical skills. Common courses include human physiology for healthcare providers, fundamentals of epidemiology, and introduction to nursing and social justice. The program culminates with a capstone project designed to improve care for patients.

Acceptance is competitive, with just 40 freshmen and ten transfer students accepted each year from over 3,800 applications. UCLA uses a holistic admissions process and considers criteria such as achievement in high school coursework, personal qualities, and involvement in academic enrichment programs. The school appreciates applicants who are likely to contribute to the intellectual and cultural environment of the university.

San Diego State University 

Valuing the critical thinking and professional decision-making required by skilled nurses, the San Diego State University (SDSU) BSN program prepares you for a meaningful career. While striving to create the next generation of nursing leaders, SDSU provides the practical and theoretical knowledge needed for licensure. This program typically takes about four years to complete.

Common courses for this BSN degree include clinical pharmacology, pediatric nursing, and community health nursing. In addition to the expected classroom and clinical work, SDSU also requires an international experience before graduation. While you can meet this requirement through coursework outside the nursing discipline, a study-abroad experience is encouraged to increase student awareness of global health and cultural issues.

Prospective students must have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.0. Additionally, applicants must have earned at least a B in high school algebra, biology, and chemistry. SDSU gives special consideration to applicants who’ve overcome hardships along with those who have participated in college prep programs.

San Jose State University 

San Jose State University’s prelicensure, full-time program is designed for students new to nursing and prepares them for their professional careers through rigorous classroom and clinical work. Upon entering the program, students gain clinical experience in various settings such as hospitals, community clinics, and long-term-care facilities. Once completed, you are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam along with California’s Public Health Nursing certification. This program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Before enrolling in the nursing program, students must complete various prerequisites that include human anatomy, human physiology, and elementary statistics. Core nursing coursework includes gerontological nursing theory, mental health theory, and child health theory. These theoretical courses are paired with practicum courses, allowing students to apply their classroom knowledge.

Acceptance to San Jose State University is conditional until students clear a background check and drug screen. Admission into this program favors local applicants, students with military experience, and first-generation college students.

Key Benefits of Earning a BSN Degree in California

BSN programs in California prepare you for a career that’s informed by competent and professional nursing care. Whether you’re interested in a traditional BSN track or an online BSN bridge program, the best programs help satisfy licensure requirements and supply essential hands-on clinical learning experiences. We’ve highlighted three key benefits of earning a BSN degree in California.

Benefit #1

Increased job options and earning potential

While you can certainly earn your RN license and enter the nursing field with just an associate degree in nursing (ADN), BSN programs in California have the potential to lead to expanded job opportunities and increased salaries. A BSN degree challenges you with rigorous coursework and additional clinical experience that an ADN won’t provide.

Benefit #2

It’s meaningful work

Nurses in California rake in the country’s highest average salaries, but it’s a safe guess that they’re not in it for the money. While a nursing career does provide a relatively good wage, it’s dedication to helping others that drives nursing professionals. If you’re interested in a career centered around providing compassionate care to the sick and injured, a BSN nursing program in California could be a great academic option.

Benefit #3

Prepares you for graduate-level nursing programs

Without a BSN degree, your future academic aspirations will be stunted. A BSN program in California not only augments your career opportunities but also allows you to keep the door open for future master’s or doctoral work. A BSN is an excellent choice for nursing students interested in future leadership positions.

Program Checklist: Qualities to Look for in a BSN Program in California

From online to in-person, the best BSN programs in California boast three essential characteristics: they’re state-approved and nationally accredited, they prepare you for your licensure exam, and they provide you with meaningful clinical opportunities. Read on to see why these attributes are essential when finding the BSN program in California that suits your needs.

State Approved and Nationally Accredited

When considering a BSN program in California, it’s critical that the program is nationally accredited and approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing. With this oversight you can be confident that you’re paying for a quality nursing education. Additionally, it means that your instructors, the courses, and the learning objectives meet the rigorous standards of nursing professionals. The best programs are accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Prepare you for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam

For students without RN licensure, one of the most practical benefits of a great nursing program is effective preparation for your licensure exam. The best programs offer far more than test prep; however you won’t be able to put your hard-earned skills to use without a license.

Emphasize Hands-on Clinical Experiences

Whether you’re an online or on-campus student, hands-on clinical learning is essential when preparing students for a career in nursing. The best programs have robust working relationships with medical institutions. In addition to being a necessary part of a nursing degree, clinical experiences can also lead to job opportunities.

Types of BSN Programs in California

Traditional BSN

Traditional BSN programs typically cater to students with no prior nursing experience. These programs usually take four to five years to complete and provide students with the theoretical and clinical skills needed to pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. In addition to nursing coursework, students also complete general education courses that satisfy the requirements for an undergraduate degree.

Examples of California Nursing Schools with This Program

UCLA School of Nursing

California State University—Long Beach

Accelerated BSN

Designed for students who have earned an undergraduate degree in a different field, accelerated BSN programs focus solely on the theoretical and clinical nursing education needed to earn licensure. Because these students have met undergraduate general education requirements, they often complete accelerated nursing tracks in as few as two years.

Learn more about accelerated BSN programs in California

Examples of California Nursing Schools with This Program

California State University—Fullerton

California State University—Los Angeles


RN to BSN programs are designed as an academic track for individuals who graduated from an accredited ADN and hold—or are eligible to hold—a current California RN license. Students take additional theoretical nursing coursework followed by clinical experiences such as critical care, pediatric care, and special populations. Students typically complete these programs in 18 months.

Examples of California Nursing Schools with This Program

California State University—Long Beach

San Diego State University


This academic track is designed for licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) interested in advancing their career by earning a bachelor’s degree and RN licensure. Typically about two years to complete, LVN to BSN programs allow students to meet remaining undergraduate general education requirements while tackling additional nursing training such as professional nursing, mental health nursing, and advanced clinical practicums.

Learn more about LVN to BSN bridge programs in California

Examples of California Nursing Schools with This Program

California State University—Stanislaus

Azusa Pacific University

Online BSN Programs in California

Online BSN programs in California offer a flexible and affordable academic option for students interested in entering the nursing field. Just like in-person nursing programs, online options provide you with the coursework and clinical experience needed as you prepare to enter the field. This academic option is beneficial for adult students juggling personal and professional obligations. Keep reading to learn more about online BSN programs in California.

Learn more about online BSN programs in California

FAQs About BSN Programs in California

How long does it take to earn a BSN in California?

The cost of your California-based BSN program varies from school to school. Public schools and private institutions often have dramatically different tuition rates. Plus, in-state tuition is typically less expensive than out-of-state rates. While your BSN degree is a significant investment, scholarships, grants, and work-study options are available to help offset the cost. We’ve highlighted tuition data for three popular California BSN programs—review the schools to see how much your program might cost.

How much do BSN programs in California cost?

The cost of your California-based BSN program varies from school to school. Public schools and private institutions often have dramatically different tuition rates. Plus, in-state tuition is typically less expensive than out-of-state rates. While your BSN degree is a significant investment, scholarships, grants, and work-study options are available to help offset the cost. We’ve highlighted tuition data for three popular California BSN programs—review the schools to see how much your program might cost.


BS degree in Nursing

Total Credits: 180

Total cost: $5,556/ year)

California State University—Los Angeles

Nursing, BS

Total Credits: 120


Azusa Pacific University

Traditional BSN

Total Credits: 120


What are the admission requirements for accelerated BSN programs in California?

General admissions requirements for BSN programs in California rely heavily on your academic performance during high school. More competitive programs like UCLA require that math and science courses like algebra, biology, and chemistry are completed with a grade of B or better. Additionally, BSN bridge programs require that applicants hold an LVN or ADN degree. Here are some standard admissions requirements for California BSN programs:

  • High school transcripts
  • Minimum GPA
  • Personal essay
  • Resume detailing extracurricular activities and work experience
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Background check
  • Drug screen

Where can I find financial aid to help pay for my BSN program in California?

As long as you’re willing to do the legwork, there are many financial aid options for BSN students in California. Federal and private loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs can all help offset the cost of your undergraduate degree. College Board, SallieMae, and Finaid all offer helpful scholarship information.

Additionally, professional organizations like the California Nurses Association and the American Nurses Association-California often provide financial assistance to students in need. The California Board of Registered Nursing is also an excellent resource for scholarship information.

Make sure to check out our nursing scholarship guide and financial aid guide when you’re considering your financial aid options.

Inside Look at Online BSN Programs in California

Online BSN programs in California offer the flexibility needed to earn a BSN degree while keeping up with your personal and professional responsibilities. A popular academic option for adult students, online programs mirror their in-person counterparts in course content but allow you to complete much of the coursework at your own pace. Additionally, you still are required to complete hands-on clinical work, giving you the practical experience needed when entering the field.

Like in-person options, online BSN programs in California strive to develop competent, ethical, and socially responsible nurses. While California schools don’t often offer traditional BSN tracks in a distance-learning format, it’s common for schools to offer LVN to BSN and RN to BSN bridge programs online in California. Many programs provide the bulk of the required general education and core nursing classes online. Whether your degree is online, hybrid, or in-person, students complete clinical practicum work in person. Keep reading to learn more about online BSN programs in California.

Standout Online BSN Programs in California

California State University—Chico (CSUC) 

CSUC has been offering an RN to BSN track since the program began in 1954. Creating a relatively quick pathway to a BSN degree, CSUC designed this flexible online option to reach interested nursing students in Chico’s vast, rural region. This distance learning track provides a convenient way for working RNs to secure their bachelor’s degree while keeping up with the responsibilities of around-the-clock nursing.

Comprised primarily of online coursework, you can complete this degree in as few as 15 months. In addition to completing general education requirements not met through an ADN program, students tackle nursing courses that include topics such as nursing informatics, public health nursing theory, and academic writing for nurses. Before graduation, you’ll complete a degree-culminating nursing practicum in a community health setting.

Applicants for this online RN to BSN program must be California residents and have an active California RN license. Prospective students must submit official college transcripts and have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

California State University-Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) 

Designed for students nearing the end of the ADN degree, CSUDH’s RN to BSN degree allows you to complete required coursework wherever and whenever is most convenient. While test dates and due dates are sometimes set in stone, this uber-flexible academic option utilizes web conferencing, message boards, and prerecorded lectures to best mirror an on-campus experience.

Prerequisites for this online program include critical thinking, oral/written communication, and lab-based science classes such as human anatomy, human physiology, and microbiology. Core nursing requirements at CSUDH include cultural diversity and healthcare, community-based nursing, and leadership in healthcare systems. Students also gain over 90 hours of hands-on clinical experience in a community-based healthcare setting.

Prospective students must have a college GPA of at least a 2.0 and have at least 60 transferable college credits. Applicants are required to hold current RN licensure or documentation verifying that you’re in the last semester of an ADN program.

Job Outlook & Salary Details for BSN Nurses in California

California employs more nurses than any other state while also boasting the highest annual average wage. Los Angeles employs almost 175,000 nurses alone, and the state is home to more than 10% of registered nurses working nationwide. Keep reading to learn more about job prospects in California for BSN graduates.

Are BSN nurses in high demand in California?

With almost 24,000 job openings and estimated job growth of nearly 17% over the next decade, the demand for nurses in California is high. In addition to raw job numbers, the Healthforce Center at the University of California-San Francisco conducted a study to determine the need for registered nurses in the state. The results showed that the vast majority of hospitals indicated a noticeably greater demand for nurses than supply. Review the table below to see the anticipated job numbers in California over the next decade.

Employment Projections for RNs in California

Employment (2018) New Jobs(2018-2028) Job Growth Rate (2018-2028) Average Annual Openings (2018-2028)
California 319,800 53,400 16.7% 23,850
United States 3,059,800 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

How much do BSN nurses make in California?

Not only does California lead the nation in the hiring of RNs, but it pays the most as well. The annual mean wage for RNs working in the state tops $113,000. That number isn’t restricted to major metropolitan areas like LA or San Francisco, either—RNs working in the Eastern Sierra region of California (parts of Yosemite and Death Valley) lead the country in nonmetropolitan earnings at over $106,000 per year.

While most of the salary data focuses on RNs, it’s worth noting that a BSN has the potential to boost your career options, increase competitiveness, and grow your earning potential.