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Top Online Nursing Programs in California: 2024

Learn how you can start or advance your RN nursing career in California through flexible online programs from accredited schools.

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Earning your nursing degree online from a nearby university in California can be a smart way to become a registered nurse or advance your RN career to the next level. Online nursing programs in California combine high-quality, in-person training with the affordability, convenience and safety of online coursework. RNs and other nurses continue to be in high demand across the nation and California, making this the perfect time to start your education.

Yet it can be tough to find the right nursing school, especially when you’re looking to study online. EduMed.org has released its annual ranking of the best online nursing schools in California going into 2024, with a complete breakdown of the essential data and information you need to make a smart higher education decision. See which colleges and universities in CA have the best combinations of quality, affordability, and student services, and read which program essentials contribute to our top contenders’ success.

or
About the ranking

X

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 California State University-Dominguez HillsCarson, CA Public $ 4

California State University offers an online BSN and multiple virtual MSNs through their Dominguez Hills campus. The BSN is accelerated, meaning most successful applicants already have their associate degree and are licensed nurses before applying. For the MSN, successful applicants should be licensed nurses with their bachelor's degree. MSN candidates choose between six online degrees. Five of the degrees are usually completed in three years or less: pediatric, adult/gerontology, neonatal, nurse education, and nurse administration. There's also a longer MSN option to become a family nurse practitioner.

Program Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 32
  • Length: 2-4 years
  • Cost: $294.13/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
25/1
Online
Student %
94%
2 University of Massachusetts GlobalIrvine, CA Private not-for-profit $$ 4

The University of Massachusetts Global houses a RN to BSN degree that can be taken from anywhere in the United States. This degree was designed for licensed RNs who want to move their career to the next level through getting their bachelor's degree in the field. Students can graduate within one to three years, depending on how many credits they enter the program with. While all coursework is online, there is one in-person immersion experience at the University of Massachusetts campus in Irvine, California.

Program Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $500/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
22/1
Online
Student %
99%
3 California State University-East BayHayward, CA Public $ 1

Nurses looking for a flexible, hybrid MSN program should consider the one from Cal State East Bay. In the program, students choose to concentrate on either nurse education or nurse leadership and administration. No matter which concentration option they choose, students take advanced nursing courses before taking classes in their area of specialty. Most courses have an in-person overview at the beginning of the semester, and all other courses take place online.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing, Nursing Education

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Cost: $649/credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Master of Science in Nursing, Nursing Leadership and Administration

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Cost: $649/credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
24/1
Online
Student %
85%
4 California State University-StanislausTurlock, CA Public $ 1

Licensed nurses looking to get their BSN in one year will want to learn more about the program from California State University-Stanislaus. Students in this program take eight-week courses online. Virtual class sessions are designed with flexibility in mind, making this program ideal for a working nurse. Online courses cover topics such as community health, pathophysiology, and nursing research. While all coursework is online, students must complete 90 clinical hours at an approved healthcare facility.

Program Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 35
  • Length: About 1 year
  • Cost: $549.14/credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
20/1
Online
Student %
93%
or
About the ranking

X

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

Students can earn their associate degree in nursing through the Registered Nursing Program at Cerritos College, either on a part-time or full-time basis. Full-time students can complete the program within two years. The program consists of sequenced courses that include lectures and clinical components. Plus, students complete their clinical hours any day of the week and even in the evenings. Students in good standing can also follow a dual enrollment pathway.

Program Highlights:

Associate Degree Nursing Program

  • Credits: 105.5-106.5 units
  • Length: 4 years
  • Cost: $46/unit (resident), $320/unit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: ACEN
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
26/1
Online
Student %
78%
2 Compton CollegeCompton, CA Public $ 1

The Associate Degree Nursing Program at Compton College takes four semesters of full-time study to complete and prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Applicants accepted into the program must undergo a background check and drug screening. Students learn to integrate evidence-based practices; educate others on making healthy decisions; work with patients and collaborate with other health professionals; manage patient care; and recognize potential threats to patient safety.

Program Highlights:

Associate Degree Nursing Program

  • Credits: 98 units
  • Length: 4 years
  • Cost: $46/unit (resident), $320/unit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: ACCJC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
Online
Student %
56%

Find Online California Nursing Programs Near You

Types of Online RN Programs in California

There are a variety of online and hybrid programs for students interested in a degree in nursing, some of which depend on how much experience you have in the medical field. Whether you’re just starting out as an undergrad with no experience, or already far along in your nursing career, there’s an online nursing program in California for you. Check out some of the most popular programs below.

Online RN Bridge Programs in California

LVN to RN Programs

This type of online program is for licensed vocational nurses who already provide basic care and usually work under physicians and registered nurses. By enrolling in an online bridge program they can provide a wider range of care, further their career, and have more opportunities available to them. The program at Mount Saint Mary’s in Los Angeles, for instance, does not offer a bachelor’s degree but after 26 units of courses does make the student eligible to take California examination for the R.N. Licensure. Other LVN to RN programs award an associate or bachelor’s degree after completing the curriculum.

RN to BSN Programs

Designed for RNs who want to pursue their bachelor’s degree while they continue working, these programs are opportunities for nurses to grow as leaders, widen their skill set, improve their mastery, and open new doors to career options. This last component is especially worth considering, as many hospitals will hire BSNs before RNs, or have a policy of only hiring those applicants who’ve completed their BSN.

RN to MSN Programs

RNs who decide to pursue their Masters of Science in Nursing can accelerate their education timeline by enrolling in an online RN to MSN program. Taking their current knowledge and education, these programs can typically be completed in three years. Earning a master’s degree can lead to higher pay and more advanced careers, such as becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse administrator.

Online Graduate and Post-Graduate Degree Programs

MSN Programs

A graduate nursing degree can offer nurses an opportunity to broaden their expertise or hone in on a specific area and specialize in one of a variety of clinical or non-clinical area. While it is possible to enroll in an online MSN program without prior nursing experience, it is more common for applicants to have first completed their BSN or ADN degree.

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Both an online DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) and online nursing PhD are terminal degrees, meaning it’s the highest degree in that field. Which one you choose to pursue will largely depend on what type of work you want do. A DNP is primarily designed for those who want to become nurse practitioners while a PhD will focus more heavily on the research side.

Post-Graduate Certificate

These are programs are designed for nurses who have completed a post-graduate degree but are still looking to expand their skillset, allowing them focus on one area for a short but thorough study. For example, a nurse may want to learn more about trauma care, AIDS treatment, oncology, and more.

Spotlights of Online Nursing Programs in California

We’ve highlighted some of the best online nursing programs in California to give you a head start on your search for a quality degree. These three programs offer study flexibility and strong student support at competitive costs. All three are also accredited by the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education), so you can feel confident you’re getting a quality nursing education. Learn more about each school below, and see if they meet your needs.

California State University, Fullerton

California-State-University-Fullerton

With an NCLEX pass rate of a 100% for 2018-2019, it’s hard to argue Cal State University, Fullerton isn’t providing its nursing students with the preparation and guidance that’s needed. CSUF’s online RN-BSN and location in the Los Angeles metropolitan area makes it one of the most accessible programs in Southern California that is also designed to fit into working RNs busy schedules. Other programs on campus include an entry-level BSN, LVN-BSN, accelerated BSN, and entry-level MSN but their most unique offering is their Jump Start program, which allows students enrolled in a California Associate Degree in Nursing program to complete BSN classes at CSU Fullerton on campus or online.

California State University, San Marcos

csusm

The BSN programs at CSU San Marcos consistently have an NCLEX pass rate of over 95% and on top of that their accelerated online RN-BSN is one of the shortest programs at 14 months (they build in breaks between semesters and holidays to add flexibility) and in terms of affordability they’re also hard to beat as the total estimated cost for the program is under $12,000. The program is eligible for financial aid—in particular the Kaiser IONE forgivable loan and scholarship, which provide up to $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. Info on these can be found here.

West Coast University

West Coast University

West Coast University’s online nursing programs stand out for a number of reasons: students can pursue either a RN to BSN or an MSN online and take advantage of a Career Service Department after they graduate to help them land a job. The school boasts an average NCLEX pass rate above 90% and graduated over 1,600 students last year, which suggests they’re able to accommodate a wide variety of learning styles and deliver a flexible but complete education. The school also offers a Health Services Partner Grant which can reduce tuition by up to 10%.

FAQs About Online Nursing Degrees in California

How Much Does an Online RN Program Cost in California?

Costs for online degrees can vary widely and it’s important to have a sense of how much a degree will cost before enrolling in a program. Online nursing programs in California can cost anywhere from $6,000 to over $25,000, depending whether or not students have transfer credits and whether they are attending a public or private college. Here’s a look at the costs of three online RN programs in California to give you a better idea of how much your degree will cost.

CSU Dominguez Hills

CSU Dominguez Hills

RN to BSN Program

Total Credits: 120 credits (including transfer credits)

Cost: Part-time $2,063 to $2,480 per term / Full-time: $3,269 to $3,986 per term

CSU Bakersfield

CSU Bakersfield

RN to BSN Program

Total Credits: 120 credits (including transfer credits)

Cost: ~$16,000

Stanislaus State

RN to BSN Program

Total Credits: 26 units

Cost: $19,220

How do I get into an online RN program in California?

A majority of the online RN programs in California are bridge programs, meaning they require students to have already obtained their RN license before they can go on to pursue a BSN or MSN. For example, at CSU Fullerton, applicants are expected to have their RN certification within the first semester of the program in order to attend full-time. Applicants must meet the university prerequisites, which include completing 60 semester units from a regionally accredited university, and courses like English Composition and College Level Math, in addition to the School of Nursing’s own prerequisites, like microbiology with a lab, and statistics.

How long do online RN programs take in California?

Depending on the degree, it can take anywhere from 12 months, as in the case of accelerated ABSN (Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing) designed for applicants with no RN license but who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, two to three years for MSN degrees, and four to six years for PhD or Doctorate of Nursing. For example, CSU San Marcos’s accelerated ABSN is an online program that can be completed in 14 months. USC’s online MSN program is offered as a full-time (five semesters) or part-time (eight semesters) program and takes between 21 and 33 months to complete.

California Nursing Schools with Approved Pre-Licensure RN Programs

School NameSchool TypeAvailable Program Type(s)Primary Campus Location(s)NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2020/2021)
School NameSchool TypeAvailable Program Type(s)Primary Campus Location(s)NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2020/2021)

Source: California Board of Registered Nursing; Most recent data as of February 2022

RN Licensing Information and Requirements in California

Planning ahead and taking note of California’s specific RN licensing requirements can save you time and a potential headache down the road. While there’s occasional overlap between California’s requirements, which can be found at California’s Board of Nursing Page, and those of other states, knowing which ones are specific to California is critical to your success. Here’s what you’ll need to do to become licensed as an RN in California after you graduate from your nursing program.

1

Provide Academic Transcripts

In order to take the NCLEX-RN you will need to provide academic transcripts from your school or schools. This can be done electronically by logging into your student account and ordering official transcripts. Keep in mind that the board does not accept unofficial transcripts, so be sure to follow your school’s instructions for submitting those. They must include all completed coursework, as well as the degree awarded and date conferred.

2

Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Applicants for the NCLEX-RN must have completed their associate degree or bachelor’s degree. A list of all associate degree programs approved by the board of nursing in California (including on campus, or online) can be found here.

3

Pay Application Fees

Applicants who completed a board-approved RN program in California will need to pay the following fees:

Application Fee: $300
Interim Permit (optional): $100
Fingerprint Card: $49.00

4

License Renewal and Continuing Education

There are three main components for renewing an RN license in California. The first is the CE (Continuing Education) requirement. For this, an RN must complete 30 contact hours of continuing education. More information on what qualifies can be found here. Applicants who are renewing their license to an active status must provide the Department of Justice with a full set of fingerprints. More information about the fingerprint requirement can be found here. Finally, applicants must report if they’ve had a license disciplined by a government agency or other disciplinary body and if they’ve been convicted of a crime in any state, U.S. territory, military court, or other country since their last renewal. More info on reporting discipline and convictions can be found here.

Salary and Job Outlook for RNs in California

RNs in California are, on average, paid the most out of nurses in any state, although the state’s high cost of living must be factored in. While the healthcare field can be competitive, there are also thousands of new nursing positions that become available every year. The combination of these two trends means becoming a licensed RN can be a smart choice for those considering a job in the healthcare industry.

Are RNs in high demand in California?

Between 2018 and 2028, California is expected to create over 50,000 new RN jobs, with nearly 25,000 existing jobs opening each year during that span. According to a forecast commissioned by BRN and fulfilled by UCSF, California is projected to have a slight surplus of nurses by 2035. This surplus, however, is for nurses lacking specialized skills, and those nurses who do have more specialized skills in their repertoire are anticipated to fall short of the demand, meaning that if the forecast holds true, the next generation of RNs should consider adding at least one of those in-demand specializations to their skillset.

Job Outlook for Registered Nurses 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 registered nurses make in California?

We mentioned earlier that nurses in California make more money, on average, than nurses anywhere else in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time registered nurses in California earn a median wage of $125,340 a year. For perspective, the next highest paying state is Hawaii, with a median annual wage of $111,070.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in California

Location 10th Percentile Median 90th Percentile

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

Online California Nursing Resources

  • California Board of Nursing Here you’ll find resources about state requirements, educational opportunities and materials, and other relevant news. They also have contacts listed for phone and email if you have questions they don’t cover on their website.
  • The California Nurses Association This is the California affiliate of National Nurses United, the country’s largest labor union for nurses. Staying up to date on what they’re working towards is a good way to find out which issues are currently impacting nurses – they are also a resource for CE.
  • The California Hospital Association This not-for-profit corporation does advocacy work on behalf of hospitals throughout the state. Their primary goal is to champion California’s hospitals and to “support their work to care for all Californians in all ways.”
  • California Nursing Student Association This organization’s mission is to help nursing students transition to professional settings “through leadership development, education, mentorship, advocacy, activism, and stewardship.”
  • Association of California Nurse Leaders The goal of this association is help nurses become better leaders and through that improve the work they do, as well as the work of other nurses around them.