The Best Acute Care NP Programs in California

Acute care nurse practitioner programs in California help prepare graduates for in-demand positions in the nation's highest-paying state.
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Updated on November 30, 2023
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Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) deliver critical care to patients in acute care settings. With a blend of clinical expertise, compassionate care, and a passion for making a difference, ACNPs in California are at the forefront of providing top-notch healthcare.

Fueled by growing demand, the Golden State offers ACNPs some of the highest salaries in the country. Learn how to become an ACNP, along with the nursing programs in California.

How to Choose an Acute Care NP Program in California

Selecting the right ACNP program in California requires you to consider several factors:

  • Accreditation: Check for accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
  • Tuition: Note whether the tuition rates differ for in-state, out-of-state students, and distance learners.
  • National Certification Exam Pass Rates: High rates of ACNP certification can indicate effective preparation.
  • Financial aid options: Explore school websites for loans, grants, scholarships, and tuition forgiveness programs, especially nursing- or California-specific opportunities.
  • Online vs. in-person requirements: Understand the in-person attendance requirements for clinicals and intensives, even for online students.
  • Program length: Consider graduation timelines and whether the school offers part-time or accelerated learning options.
  • Clinical experience: Check whether the program offers clinical placement assistance and opportunities at nearby hospitals.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Career Outlook for Nurse Practitioners in California

ACNPs earn an average annual base salary of $110,000, according to Payscale data from June 2023. In California, all NPs earn an average of more than $155,000 per year — nearly 27% higher than the national nurse practitioner (NP) salary.

In addition to high salaries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that California NP jobs will grow 56% from 2020-2030. This rate exceeds the national projection of 46% for NP jobs in that same time period.

NP Employment And Salaries
Location Employment Annual Median Wage
California 19,130 $157,160
United States 258,230 $121,610
Source: BLS

Salaries for Nurses in California

Nine of the 10 top-paying metro areas for NPs are located in California. California NP salaries in non-metro areas, including the Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region, the North Coast Region, and the North Valley-Northern Mountains Region, also rank among the top five for highest-paying non-metro regions.

The table below lists the top five highest-paying cities for California NPs.

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurses in California
Metropolitan Areas Employment Annual Mean Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 1,170 $199,630
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 2,680 $190,070
Napa 70 $189,190
Vallejo-Fairfield 110 $180.990
Yuba City 50 $161,690
Source: BLS

How to Become an Acute Care NP in California

California requires a master's degree in nursing (MSN) to become an NP. Prospective registered nurses (RNs) with a bachelor's in nursing can expect to spend 2-3 years completing their master's degree and passing a national certification exam.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Requirements

MSN degree holders can apply for credentials as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Some APRNs hold doctor of nursing practice degrees, particularly those interested in high-level administrative roles.

The California Board of Registered Nursing oversees and certifies APRNs. Application requirements include a registered nurse (RN) license and proof of graduation from an NP preparation program. Out-of-state applicants also need national NP certification or equivalent clinical competency and experience.

Organizations that offer acute care certification include the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. Certification requires an MSN in an acute care specialty and a passing exam score.

The Best Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Schools in California

Our rankings list of the best acute care NP programs in California can jumpstart your nursing school research and help narrow your choices.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that's best for you.

We use datasets from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such. All data is current as of the date this article was published. Program-specific information may vary.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#1 The Best Acute Care NP Programs in California

University of California-Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UCLA offers the top-rated acute care adult/gerontology nurse practitioner program. The program includes 739 clinical hours and 101 hours in conferences, laboratory work, or simulations. You  need a 3.0 GPA while in the program. You also need a BSN and an RN license to apply and a California RN license by the time you enroll, among other requirements. 

Approximately 34% of all UCLA nursing students identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, 27% as white, 24% as Hispanic or Latino/a American, 8% as Black or African American, and 1% as Native Americans or Alaska Natives.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$26,544
Retention Rate
96%
Acceptance Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
44,589
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 The Best Acute Care NP Programs in California

California Baptist University

  • Riverside, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California Baptist University's adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program's admission requirements include a BSN with a 3.0 GPA, a California RN license, and at least one year of experience as an RN. You must work as an RN during the program. To accommodate this, classes are held on one work night per week, from 3:30-9:00 p.m. 

The curriculum includes 10 core programs for all MSN students and a specific track for NP students. The school complies with the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, including its definition of family.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$33,930
Out-of-state
$33,930
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,410
Out-of-state
$13,410
Retention Rate
76%
Acceptance Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
11,317
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#3 The Best Acute Care NP Programs in California

California State University-Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Cal State LA's acute care NP program allows you to complete either a thesis/research project or a comprehensive examination. To be eligible to choose the thesis option, you must have a 3.5 GPA, an A grade in the theory, research, and practice course, and at least two faculty members' agreement to supervise it as a committee. 

The program also requires 540 clinical hours during the second year. The federal government has recognized the school as a Hispanic-serving institution, minority-serving institution, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$16,680
Retention Rate
83%
Acceptance Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
26,745
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Everything Else You Need to Know About Acute Care NP Programs in California

How long does it take to become an acute care NP in California?

Becoming a California acute care NP can take 6-8 years. NPs typically need an RN license, 1-2 years of RN experience, an MSN, and an NP certification. An RN license requires a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor's of science (BSN) degree. An MSN program typically takes two years if you have a BSN degree.

Are acute care NPs in demand in California?

NPs comprise the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S. In California, an increasing shortage of physicians means that NPs, with their expanding autonomy, can help fill the primary care provider gap.

What are the different types of acute care nurse practitioners?

Acute care NP subspecialties include adult gerontology and pediatric acute care. Acute care NPs fill positions in critical care units, emergency rooms, long-term care facilities, and neonatal intensive care units.

Can nurse practitioners prescribe medication in California?

California NPs can prescribe medication after six months of physician-supervised experience, a pharmacology course, and, if applicable, a Schedule II controlled substance course. NPs who want to prescribe medication must apply for a furnishing number with the state's nursing board.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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