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Nursing Schools in Sacramento: Top Online & Campus Programs

See which Sacramento nursing schools stand above the rest and find the online or campus program that can help you achieve your nursing career goals.

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Wide-shot image of a large, stately building with a white facade and a prominent dome, surrounded by lush green trees under a bright blue sky.

If you live in the Sacramento area and are thinking about becoming a registered nurse or expanding your current nursing skills, now is a great time to do so. Due in part to the pandemic but also because of retirements and an aging populace, there’s a critical shortage of nurses throughout the U.S., including in and near Sacramento. This nursing shortage has resulted in a significant spike in nursing salaries and the appearance of substantial signing bonuses by employers desperate to fill a growing number of nurse vacancies.

There’s a wide selection of accredited nursing schools in or near Sacramento that can help you take advantage of the strong job market for nurses. This guide showcases the top online and in-person nursing programs in Sacramento that can help you begin or advance your nursing career. You’ll also learn about financial aid opportunities and find other helpful resources for Sacramento nursing students.

Best Nursing Schools and Programs in Sacramento for 2024

Academic success at the college level begins with selecting the right degree program, and the right program is the one that best prepares you to meet your personal and professional goals. To help get you started on your search for a Sacramento nursing program, we’ve spotlighted the best nursing schools in Sacramento for 2022. Our choices are based on a combination of factors, including affordability, curriculum comprehensiveness, study options and convenience, and access to quality student support services.

Best Overall Nursing Schools in Sacramento

California State University, Sacramento (Sacramento State)

Sacramento State offers two pre-licensure options for students seeking to launch or advance their nursing careers as RNs. The Traditional BSN program is designed for students with no previous nursing experience. Its two-year format requires completion of general education and other lower-division coursework before starting the program. This coursework can be completed at Sacramento State or another accredited institution or applied from a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Current LVNs can opt for the 30-unit LVN to RN non-degree program that qualifies them to take the NCLEX-RN. LVN to RN students do not receive a BSN with this program.

Sacramento State also offers an RN to BSN program for current RNs without nursing bachelor’s degrees. It also has a traditional MSN for RNs with nursing bachelor’s degrees interested in preparing for advanced clinical or educator positions.

Sacramento City College

RN options at Sacramento City College include a four-semester AS in Registered Nursing, a three-semester AS in LVN-RN Transition to Registered Nursing, and an LVN to RN 30-Unit Option Certificate program. All three of these RN programs are full-time and include the nursing theory coursework and clinical rotation hours needed for NCLEX-RN eligibility. SCC also offers a three-semester, full-time AS in Vocational Nursing program that provides LVN examination eligibility.

SCC’s nursing programs are among the most affordable from nursing schools in Sacramento. The RN program costs $5,860, and the LVN associate program costs $4,000. The low cost of the programs allows full-time students to reduce their working hours to under 12 hours a week to manage the rigorous nature of these programs.

Samuel Merritt University

Samuel Merritt University is a private, healthcare-focused university that offers several nursing degree programs on its Sacramento Campus. Undergraduate options include an Accelerated BSN program that allows students with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing majors to qualify for the NCLEX-RN. The intensive full-time curriculum combines nursing theory coursework with clinical rotation hours into a fast-track format that is completed in around 12 months.

Current RNs can earn their nursing bachelor’s degrees through Merritt’s RN to BSN program. This program features a 20-month, part-time hybrid format with face-to-face classes that meet four hours each week plus one Saturday in the first and third terms. Students also complete in-person community health clinical rotations eight hours per week in the fourth term.

Graduate-level nursing programs at Merritt include standard and entry-level MSNs with Family Nurse Practitioner and Case Management specialization options and a DNP with Family Nurse Practitioner specialization. Merritt also offers a 100% online DNP option.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Sacramento

Chamberlain University

Chamberlain University is a private university based in Illinois that offers nursing and other healthcare-related programs online and on campuses throughout the U.S., including in Sacramento. Via NC-SARA participation, Chamberlain offers more than 40 accredited online degree and certificate programs authorized for California students. This includes an RN to BSN program featuring 100% asynchronous online coursework that can be completed in as little as one year of full-time study.

In addition to its RN to BSN, Chamberlain offers a substantial slate of online nursing graduate options, including MSNs in three clinical and five non-clinical specializations, post-graduate certificates in 10 specializations, an RN to MSN with both accelerated and RN-BSN options, and a DNP that can be completed in as little as one year.

University of San Francisco – Sacramento

The University of San Francisco, a Jesuit-affiliated private university, offers a traditional BSN program through its Sacramento campus that can be completed partially online. This is a completion program, meaning that admission requires substantial clinical prerequisite coursework. The two-year (six semesters) curriculum is primarily campus-based with students attending the bulk of their nursing classes on the Sacramento campus. However, some required nursing courses are offered online as are many core curriculum (general education) courses.

Clinical hours focus on the care of veterans with facility placements made through the program’s partnership with the VA Northern California Health Care System. Additional clinical hours are attended at Mercy San Juan and Shriners Hospital. Other online options from USF include RN to MSN, 4+1 BSN-MSN, and DNP programs.

Sierra College

Sierra College is a community college offering several nursing programs that can be completed partially online. These include a two-year ADN for students with little or no previous college or nursing experience and a 1 ½-year LVN to RN Upper Mobility program where LVNs join the school’s ADN program in either its second or third semester to complete all RN prelicensure requirements. Sierra also offers an ADN to BSN Collaborative Merger Track that allows select ADN students to take nursing bachelor’s courses through Sacramento State while completing their ADN programs at Sierra.

All Sierra nursing programs are campus-based, which means students complete most required classes (including all nursing classes) on-campus. Clinical rotation hours are completed at healthcare facilities in the Rocklin and surrounding area. However, many required general education courses are available online, most in an asynchronous format.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in or Near Sacramento

There’s no shortage in the variety of degree and certificate types offered by nursing schools in Sacramento. To help you figure out which one is right for you, below are descriptions of the most common types along with links to actual program examples of each.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Sacramento

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The ADN (AS or AAS) is for students seeking a time-efficient and cost-effective route to NCLEX-RN eligibility and RN licensure. Like most associate degrees, ADN programs are almost always through community colleges and require two years of full-time study to complete.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (Traditional BSN)

The traditional BSN prepares students with little or no prior nursing or college experience to become RNs. It also provides general education and nursing-related coursework to make graduates more attractive to employers. Traditional BSN programs normally require four years of full-time study, but some are two-year completion programs that require applicants to have completed general education and lower-division nursing coursework before admission.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Individuals with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees looking to start an RN career can save time and money through an accelerated (second degree) BSN program. Accelerated BSN programs vary in length depending on transfer coursework. Some students can complete them in as few as 12 months.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Direct-Entry MSN Programs (Master of Science in Nursing)

Direct-entry (sometimes called accelerated or entry-level) MSN programs provide the quickest path to nursing leadership and advanced practice jobs for students with no prior nursing experience or education. Curriculums consist of both undergraduate and master’s coursework and substantial clinical practice hours. Admission typically requires a non-nursing bachelor’s or master’s degree and completion of substantial course prerequisites. Graduates are eligible for the NCLEX-RN and California RN licensure.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Sacramento for Current Nurses

LVN to RN and LVN to BSN Programs

LVN to RN programs provide a streamlined process to LVNs seeking to advance their careers by becoming RNs. These programs are offered by both community colleges and four-year universities and typically require three to four semesters to complete. Three-year program lengths are common.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

Current RNs without nursing bachelor’s degrees can earn their BSNs through an affordable and convenient RN to BSN program. These programs are often available fully or partially online and in both full-time and part-time formats. Program lengths vary, but full-time students can finish in as little as one year.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN programs are designed for current RNs without BSNs who are seeking to move their careers into advanced nursing practice and leadership roles. Both full-time and part-time options are common with full-time students able to complete requirements in as few as three semesters. RN to MSN program choices in Sacramento are limited, but some feature 100% online coursework. Some RN to MSN programs award both BSN and MSN degrees while others award only an MSN.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Sacramento

Traditional MSN Programs (Master of Science in Nursing)

MSN programs prepare current RNs for certification in advanced practice specializations and leadership positions. The traditional MSN is for students with BSN degrees. Completion times vary by specialization and whether full-time or part-time study, but most programs are completed in two to four years.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and PhD Doctoral Programs

DNP programs are geared toward nurses interested in top administrative and practice positions. Nursing PhDs are designed for nurses seeking top jobs in research and postsecondary academics. DNP students should expect to make a one to three-year commitment. PhD completion times are longer with four years or more not uncommon.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates

Postgraduate certificates offer current nursing master’s and doctoral degree holders a way to expand their knowledge and skills to include a specialized area of practice without taking on another full degree program. Popular specializations include nurse educator, administration and leadership, and many nurse practitioner fields. Completion times vary by specialization.

Examples of Sacramento Nursing Schools with this Program

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Sacramento

Nursing programs in Sacramento are expensive, and most students at nursing schools in Sacramento need help paying for their degree programs. Fortunately, there are several valuable financial aid resources available, including the federal student loan. Student loans may also be available from other public and private lenders. Other popular funding sources include scholarships and grants, fellowships and assistantships (primarily for grad students), work study opportunities, and employer tuition assistance programs. There’s also the GI Bill for active and veteran military.

Nursing students in California should also consider a student loan repayment opportunity like those offered through the Health Resources & Services Administration. Another great source for funding is the State of California itself. To learn more on how to pay for your nursing program in Sacramento, check out EduMed’s financial aid, nursing scholarship, and nursing student loan forgiveness guides.

How to Become an RN in Sacramento: Licensing Requirements

You need a current unencumbered registered nurse’s license issued by the California Board of Registered Nursing to work as an RN in Sacramento. If you have an RN license from another state, U.S. territory, or Canada, you can apply for your California license through the Licensure by Endorsement process. If you’re seeking your first RN license, you’ll use the Licensure by Examination process that includes taking and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

For a detailed look at the steps required for obtaining your California RN license by examination, visit EduMed’s guide to nursing programs in California.

Job Market and Earnings for RNs in Sacramento

The employment outlook for nursing professionals is strong throughout the U.S. but even more so in California, including in the Sacramento area. The State of California’s Employment Development Department projects RN openings in the Sacramento Metropolitan Area to grow by 18.4% through 2028. Growth estimates are similarly strong for nurse practitioners (34.5%), and nurse anesthetists (41.7%).

Nurses in Sacramento and its surrounding area can expect healthy salaries as well. With median hourly wages above $65 for RNs, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives, many nurse professionals in the Sacramento area can make well above $130,000 a year.

How Much You Could Make as an RN or Advanced Practice Nurse in Sacramento

Median Hourly WageAvg. Hourly WageAvg. Annual Wage
Registered Nurses$66$65$134,350
Nurse Practitioners$70$71$148,150
Nurse Midwives$78$76$157,100

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020