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Inside Look at Nursing Schools in San Diego, CA for 2024

Explore the best nursing schools in San Diego, learn about the kinds of online and hybrid programs available, and find the top option for your career goals.

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Panoramic view of a coastal city skyline with dense modern buildings and a marina filled with numerous sailboats, under a clear blue sky.

The benefits of working in the nursing profession are broad and substantial. They include a high-demand career with great pay, job security with diverse opportunities, and plenty of potential for advancement. And we haven’t even touched on the satisfaction that comes with doing a job that so positively impacts the lives of others. Before you can join the ranks of the nursing profession, though, you’ll need a nursing degree.

If you live in San Diego and are thinking about launching or advancing your career in nursing, we’re here to help get you going. Among other things, this guide introduces you to the many online nursing school options available to students in the San Diego area. Below you’ll find details (admission and curriculum requirements, delivery methods, completion times, program costs, and more) on several current online degree programs as well as information on the potential salaries and job opportunities awaiting you once you’ve earned your degree.

Sound good? Then let’s get started on the search for the right online degree program for you from one of the top nursing schools in San Diego for 2024.

Deeper Dive Into Standout San Diego Nursing Schools for 2024

The sheer number of California nursing programs can be overwhelming. The quickest and most effective way to familiarize yourself with what to expect in your studies is to look at some of the programs available today. We’ve spotlighted three nursing degree programs at top colleges and universities in San Diego below to help you do just that.

National University

National University is a private, non-profit school with several campuses in Nevada and California, including its main campus in San Diego. National also offers a substantial number of accredited online and hybrid degree programs that include this Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Generic Entry (California). This BSN program consists of 180 quarter credits of coursework in both general education and nursing courses.

Didactic nursing coursework is facilitated synchronously online, requiring attendance during the day. To supplement this online coursework, students attend clinical labs in-person on National University’s San Diego campus. The program is available at NU’s Los Angeles and Fresno locations as well. General education courses are offered online, many in an asynchronous format. Students can transfer in a substantial number of previously earned credits. LVNs and medics may also be able to challenge some nursing courses by exam or be considered for equivalency. The current tuition rates for BSN students are set at $407/quarter unit for nursing courses and $370/quarter unit for all other courses. Classes start on a monthly basis throughout the year.

Point Loma Nazarene University

Current San Diego-based registered nurses interested in advancing their careers by earning their BSN can do so through the convenient and affordable RN to BSN Online program at Point Loma Nazarene University. All didactic coursework is presented entirely online in an asynchronous format allowing each student to complete their studies according to their availability. The program also offers a hybrid option for those who prefer to attend some on-campus classes. All students are required to attend three in-person community health-based practicums in the first, third, and fourth semesters at assigned practice locations. The program is self-paced and can be completed in as few as 15 months.

To earn their degree, students must complete a total of 120 semester credits, including the 36 credits that make up the program’s curriculum and the 70+ credits they earned in their ADN program. Students are awarded the remaining 15 credits for passing the NCLEX-RN exam. With a current per-credit tuition rate of $500, affordability is another key feature of Point Loma’s RN to BSN program.

San Diego State University

The RN to BS in Nursing program at San Diego State University is delivered in a primarily online format and is designed for current nurses looking to bolster their credentials and careers. The course of study consists of 35 credits — 26 credits of nursing coursework and 9 credits of general education coursework. Students complete in-person clinical experiences at assigned practice sites to supplement and apply their online training. Completion time varies from student to student, but typically hovers around 15 months. Students with a bachelor’s degree in another major may be able to waive the program’s general education requirements and earn their BSNs in as few as 12 months. Start dates are available each January and August.

Admission requirements include an ADN degree or nursing diploma (with a minimum 3.0 GPA); completion of a number of anatomy, physiology, critical thinking, and statistics courses; and other general education coursework. A registered nurse license is also required, but students who are eligible for RN licensure pending passage of the NCLEX-RN exam can begin their BSN studies prior to doing so. The current estimated total tuition cost is $13,000.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in San Diego

There are many nursing programs in San Diego to accommodate students at different levels of education and nursing experience. No matter your professional nursing goals, one of the nursing programs available in San Diego is likely to meet your needs.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in San Diego

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An ADN is ideal for those who want to become RNs as quickly as possible. The ADN pathways allows you to become a registered nurse in roughly two years.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

San Diego City College
Grossmont College

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (Traditional BSN)

With its advanced nursing focus, a BSN offers greater opportunities for career advancement. Training in theoretical nursing, leadership, and general education subjects provide the background needed for nursing leadership positions.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

San Diego State University
National University

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs are for students who already have bachelor’s degrees in a field unrelated to nursing. Because students get credit for previous college courses, they can finish their BSN in an accelerated manner, often in less than two years.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

Brandman University
San Diego State University

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

Direct-entry programs allow individuals with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to become RNs. Given the advanced training available, these programs are best suited for those who want to work as advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse anesthetists, nursing midwives, and nurse practitioners.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

University of San Diego
AZUSA Pacific University

Nursing Bridge Programs in San Diego for Current Nurses

LVN to RN and LVN to BSN Programs

The LVN to RN or LVN to BSN programs bridge the gap between vocational and registered nurses. These programs are for LVNs who want to become RNs or take the first step toward advanced practice nursing.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

Grossmont College
San Diego City College

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN programs normally enroll nurses with ADNs. A BSN is often necessary for supervisory functions or for moving into specialized RN roles.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

San Diego State University
Brandman University

RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN programs allow RNs to move into advanced practice. Generally speaking, incoming students have associate degrees they can add to and earn an MSN degree. Some RN to MSN programs allow students to also earn BSN degrees.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with this Program

Point Loma Nazarene University
National University

Advanced Nursing Programs in San Diego

Traditional MSN Programs (Master of Science in Nursing)

Traditional MSN programs allow RNs to become APRNs. Incoming students usually have BSNs. Those with bachelor’s degrees in other fields can utilize the direct-entry MSN academic pathway.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with This Program

San Diego State University
University of San Diego

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and PhD Doctoral Programs

Doctorate nursing programs (DNP) serve as the pinnacle of nursing knowledge. A DNP is typically for aspiring nurse practitioners who need more specialized training or training in a subject relating to clinical nursing practice, like informatics or executive leadership. PhD programs are ideal for nurses looking to shift careers into research or academia.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with This Program

University of San Diego
National University

Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates

Many of the nursing programs in San Diego offer post-graduate nursing certificates. These certificates provide training in a nursing specialization. Many students earning a post-graduate nursing certificate are practicing APRNs looking to focus their practice areas.

Examples of San Diego Nursing Schools with This Program

Brandman University
AZUSA Pacific University

Detailed Look at Additional Online Nursing Programs in San Diego

In general, pre-licensure online nursing programs are hybrid programs that allow students to complete prerequisites and other classwork online but require completion of clinicals and labs in person. Many programs have labs on campus with clinicals or practicums at program-approved sites. Fully online nursing programs with no in-person requirements do exist but typically only at the graduate level.

Best Online Nursing Programs in San Diego

Azusa Pacific University

Nursing programs at Azusa Pacific University include an RN to BSN, a traditional MSN, a direct-entry MSN, a Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate, and an ADN to BSN bridge program. All have been approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Several of these programs are available online, including the RN to BSN, BSN bridge program, and select specializations in the MSN program. One of APU’s more popular pre-licensure programs, the RN to BSN program, is designed for students at local community colleges who are about to earn their associate degree in nursing. Upon completion of their ADN, students can enroll at APU to begin their bachelor’s level curriculum leading to a B

Palomar College

The Nursing Education Department at Palomar College offers two academic tracks, an Associate of Arts in Nursing (AAS) and an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). Both programs are approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The Associate in Arts in Nursing degree includes additional general education classes as a part of the curriculum, but both degrees follow the competencies outlined in the Quality and Safety Education for Nursing standards.

To make learning flexible, Palomar College allows students to take three of the required nursing classes online: Pharmacology for Nurses I, Pharmacology for Nurses II, and Adult Health Assessment.

Palomar College also has a Nursing Education Department’s Job Board where you can find employment as a student or after graduation.

University of Massachusetts Global

The University of Massachusetts Global, formerly known as Brandman University, offers most of its nursing programs in a hybrid format. These CCNE-accredited online programs include:

  • BSN to DNP in Family Across the Lifespan
  • BSN to DNP in Psychiatric and Mental Health
  • Post Doctoral Certificate in Family Across the Lifespan NP
  • Post Doctoral Certificate in Psychiatric and Mental Health NP
  • RN to BSN in Nursing

The RN to BSN program is designed for registered nurses looking to advance in their careers, move into leadership positions, and become more marketable. The RN to BSN program is 100% online, but in-person practicums are still required. These may be completed at approved locations near a student’s home or place of employment. Tuition is set at $500/credit.

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in San Diego

Can I earn my nursing degree in San Diego completely online?

Many programs, especially those for pre-licensure, have a practicum, clinical, or immersive in-person components but offer coursework online. A few graduate-level nursing programs in San Diego have curriculums that can be completed 100% online.

Will my online San Diego nursing degree be considered less valuable by employers?

For most healthcare employers, graduating from an accredited and board of nursing-recognized nursing program and having a valid registered nursing license is all that matters. Many employers actually expect at least some online coursework given the rapid growth and acceptance of distance learning.

Are online nursing programs in San Diego more affordable than campus programs?

Online nursing programs in San Diego have tuition rates comparable to traditional, on-campus programs. Distance learning tuition rates can be slightly lower, especially for those who might otherwise pay non-resident tuition rates. At a minimum, attending an online nursing school saves money in reduced travel costs to and from campus.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in San Diego

To help you pay for your education, a variety of sources offer grants, scholarships, and loans. These include state and federal governments, charitable organizations, corporations, and nursing schools. For financial aid options tailored for students in San Diego, visit the California Board of Registered Nursing and The San Diego Foundation. EduMed’s nursing scholarship guide and financial aid guide provide additional resources.

How to Become an RN in San Diego: Licensing Requirements

The first step to becoming a registered nurse in San Diego is completing a nursing program that’s accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the state of California. The second step is applying to the California Board of Registered Nursing for an RN license. This requires passing a background check, submitting an application, and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. More details about the licensing requirements are available on our RN Licensing Information and Requirements in California page.

Career Prospects for San Diego RNs

The career outlook for registered nurses in the San Diego area is healthy — at least according to recent jobs data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD).

In fact, the EDD estimates over 3,400 new RN jobs in the San Diego-Carlsbad Metropolitan Area between 2020 and 2030, a growth rate of 12.6%. That outpaces DOL job growth estimates of 10.8% and 9% for RNs across California and the country, respectively. The news is even better for nurse practitioners in the San Diego area who are forecasted to see a staggering job growth rate of 79.3% over the same ten-year period.

How Much Can You Make as an RN in San Diego?

Exactly how much you can earn as a registered nurse will, of course, depend on your particular employer, specialty, and the extent of your professional experience. Nevertheless, you can expect to be well-compensated as a working RN in the San Diego area, as the following salary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate.

Earnings for Registered Nurses in San Diego

Area Occupation Median 90th Percentile
San Diego-Carlsbad Registered Nurses $118,270 $162,830

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022

Additional San Diego Nursing Resources

National Student Nurses’ Association – Local Chapters

The NSNA prepares nursing students for licensure through mentorship, collaboration, and advocacy. It promotes skill development and advocates for the advancement of the nursing profession.

HHSA Nursing Administration – San Diego

The HHSA of San Diego is a local government organization working on behalf of professional nurses by improving standards of practice and updating nursing policies.

San Diego National Association of Hispanic Nurses

The San Diego National Association of Hispanic Nurses helps nurses in San Diego better serve Hispanic and underserved communities. Initiatives include promoting nursing education and community healthcare programs.

AACN – San Diego Chapter

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses has local chapters that partner with community leaders and other medical professionals to improve the standing and professional opportunities of critical-care nurses in San Diego and surrounding areas.

California Association for Nurse Practitioners – San Diego, North Chapter

The California Association for Nurse Practitioners represents the interests of nurse practitioners within the state of California. It focuses on promoting the profession and developing growth opportunities for nurse practitioners in San Diego and neighboring areas.