The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Private nursing schools in California prepare you for careers as RNs and NPs. Find out how to choose the best private nursing schools in California.
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Updated on November 30, 2023
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Are you interested in becoming a registered nurse (RN) or nurse practitioner? California is the top-paying state for nurses and has the most registered nurses. RNs make six figures on average in California.

The top private nursing schools in California help you pursue a nursing career or graduate studies. You can choose from about 94 private nursing schools in the state.

Check out California's top private nursing programs in this guide and find out how to pick the right school for you.

How to Choose a Private Nursing Program in California

When shopping for private nursing programs in California, these key factors can help you narrow down the best fit for your needs, budget, and lifestyle.

  • Tuition: In California, the average private four-year college charged about $38,500 for the 2020-2021 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Make sure you understand your financial obligations when you enroll in nursing school. Look for affordable private nursing schools in California that offer generous financial aid options.
  • School NCLEX Pass Rate: The California Board of Registered Nursing publishes the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rates. Find a private nursing program in California with a high pass rate, which can indicate a more rigorous curriculum and better resources.
  • Length of Program: Private nursing schools in California have different course lengths, which determine how quickly you can earn your degree. If you have work or family obligations, seek a nursing school offering flexible online courses with shorter semesters.
  • Clinical Experience: Every nursing program requires a clinical component to provide nursing students with the hands-on experience needed for a California RN license. Make sure a nursing program helps you find a clinical placement. Some may allow you to earn clinical credits at your workplace.
  • Accreditation: Always make sure your nursing school and program hold accreditation to qualify for a license.

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

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

Career Outlook for Registered Nurses in California

California is the highest-paying state for RNs in the country. Roughly 325,620 RNs work in the state. RNs in California earn an average annual salary of $133,340, compared to the national average of $89,010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While salaries top national averages, keep in mind that California has a high cost of living, 11.5% higher than the national average. That said, demand will continue for RNs, with growth exceeding national projections. Employment for RNs in California will grow 11% from 2020-2030, compared to 9% for all other jobs.

Career Outlook for RNs
Location Employment Median Annual Wage
California 325,620 $132,660
United States 3,072,700 $81,220
Source: BLS

Salaries for Registered Nurses in California

San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward — home to UCSF Medical Center and Stanford Health Care — offers top pay for RNs. RNs living in San Francisco make an annual mean wage of $164,760. The second highest-paid RNs work in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara metropolitan areas.

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurses in California
Metropolitan Areas Employment Annual Mean Wage
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 41,970 $164,760
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 20,150 $160,020
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 3,790 $158,340
Santa Rosa, CA 3,490 $151,150
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 1,500 $149,750
Source: BLS

How to Become a Registered Nurse in California

Every registered nurse in California must meet educational requirements, pass a criminal background check, and take the NCLEX-RN. After passing the national licensing exam, nurses must apply for an RN license in California.

RN Requirements

California's RN licensing process does not differ from other states. You must graduate with an accredited associate in nursing degree (ADN) or bachelor's in nursing degree (BSN) to qualify for the NCLEX exam. The California Board of Registered Nursing processes all nursing licenses and renewals in the state.

As a California graduate, you pay $300 initially to get your license. You must also complete the fingerprint background check and submit transcripts from your nursing school. For an additional $100, you can get an interim permit. Your RN license is good for two birthdays. You must submit a fee and proof of 30 continuing hours to renew your license.

The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

You will find a variety of private nursing schools in California. There are large universities and smaller colleges. Keep reading to find the right private nursing program in California for you.

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#1 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Fresno Pacific University

  • Fresno, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Fresno Pacific University's nursing program focuses on disease prevention, evidence-based practice, and culturally relevant care. It offers clinical placement in the Central San Joaquin Valley region.

Admittance to the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program starts with general admission to the university and a two-year preparatory curriculum. During their second year, students apply to the BSN program. 

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$32,954
Out-of-state
$32,954
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$14,940
Out-of-state
$14,940
Retention Rate
71%
Acceptance Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
3,995
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
9% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Concordia University-Irvine

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Concordia University-Irvine's nursing program offers an undergraduate pre-nursing minor, a freshman advantage nursing pathway (a pathway to the accelerated BSN), and an accelerated BSN for students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. It also offers accelerated pathways for current military members or veterans with military healthcare training. 

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$37,250
Out-of-state
$37,250
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,121
Out-of-state
$8,121
Retention Rate
68%
Acceptance Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
4,071
Institution Type
Private
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
#3 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Azusa Pacific University

  • Azusa, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Azusa Pacific University's BSN program offers multiple degree pathways, including traditional online and on-campus options and bridge programs. Students looking for a traditional BSN can enter the program in their first year or transfer from another bachelor's program at the end of their second year. There is a faith-based component and students explore the Christian faith and their nursing career, personal spiritual growth, and spiritual care. APU is a designated Yellow Ribbon school.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$40,830
Out-of-state
$40,830
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,571
Out-of-state
$16,571
Retention Rate
76%
Acceptance Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
9,006
Institution Type
Private
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
#4 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Biola University

  • La Mirada, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Biola University's nursing program originated from the school's missionary medicine program and teaches from a Chistian worldview. Most undergraduate programs include 30 credits of theological coursework. Clinical fieldwork in Los Angeles and Orange counties emphasizes serving underserved populations, and students can participate in global programs. A career center dedicated to the health sciences assists students and alumni in career planning and job searches. 

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$43,512
Out-of-state
$43,512
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,772
Out-of-state
$11,772
Retention Rate
78%
Acceptance Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
5,815
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#5 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Vanguard University of Southern California

  • Costa Mesa, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Vanguard University of Southern California, a Christian institution, offers an on-campus four-year BSN program and an online or on campus RN-to-BSN option. Students participate in fieldwork at different sites in Orange County and outlying areas. First-year students and those who need nursing prerequisites can enroll in the pre-licensure BSN program. Vanguard University is a Yellow Ribbon institution.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$35,850
Out-of-state
$35,850
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,080
Out-of-state
$16,080
Retention Rate
75%
Acceptance Rate
50%
Students Enrolled
2,289
Institution Type
Private
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
#6 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Loma Linda University

  • Loma Linda, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Loma Linda University's BSN program requires students to enroll in the university and complete prerequisite courses in the sciences and humanities before entering the nursing track. Applicants must have a C grade or higher. The program offers clinical placement at the Loma Linda University Medical Center and Children's Hospital. Loma Linda is a Seventh-day Adventist university. Admission staff recommend that applicants have volunteer or paid work experience in healthcare. 

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$32,400
Out-of-state
$32,400
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$27,040
Out-of-state
$27,040
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
4,468
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#7 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Samuel Merritt University

  • Oakland, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Samuel Merritt University's BSN program is a degree completion program. The curriculum includes only one elective course in general education. Students must have a basic life support certification, which includes adults, infants, and children. Interested students from low-income or first-generation backgrounds and underrepresented students are encouraged to take the free, three-day Nursing Success! Seminar, offered in the summer and winter on campus. 

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$49,125
Out-of-state
$49,125
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$52,896
Out-of-state
$52,896
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,050
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#8 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

National University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

National University's BSN program features four-week intensive programs, which is not recommended for students working more than eight hours per week. The standard program lasts 22 months, making it one of the fastest options. Students must apply first to the university and then to the nursing program. The school considers and admits students on a yearly basis.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$13,320
Out-of-state
$13,320
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$15,480
Out-of-state
$15,480
Retention Rate
45%
Acceptance Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
18,070
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#9 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Simpson University

  • Redding, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Simpson University's BSN program has one of the higher NCLEX-RN pass rates, at 91.30%. Its RN-to-BSN program is designed for working nurses, meeting weekly on Thursday evenings and covering one course at a time. Some courses are online or hybrid, while others are entirely on the campus. The curriculum for the regular BSN track includes extensive Bible study, along with general social sciences, humanities, and nursing topics. 

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$32,700
Out-of-state
$32,700
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,543
Out-of-state
$10,543
Retention Rate
72%
Acceptance Rate
60%
Students Enrolled
855
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
86% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#10 The Best Private Nursing Schools in California

Western University of Health Sciences

  • Pomona, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Western U's RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner program takes two years of full-time study to complete. Current Western U students receive admission preference. Applicants must interview in person. The program includes a three-course clinical project and students complete fieldwork in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Bernardino County Students can choose a concentration in health systems leadership, administrative nurse leader, or ambulatory care nursing.

Program Snapshot

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$23,556
Out-of-state
$23,556
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,813
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
0% 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 Nursing in California

How much does a nurse practitioner license cost in California?

You must pay $500 to submit your nurse practitioner (NP) licensing application. In California, NPs can prescribe drugs and devices to patients. You must pay $400 to receive your NP furnishing number. To renew your license, you need to pay $150.

How much is a private nursing school in California?

Tuition for undergraduate private nursing schools in California varies. In the 2020-2021 school year, undergraduates at private four-year colleges paid $38,480 for tuition and fees and an additional $15,200 for room and board. Tuition and fees for private colleges exceeded the national average of $32,825.

How long does it take to become a nurse in California?

Depending on your degree, it can take 2-4 years to become a nurse. It takes at least two years to complete an ADN program, the minimum requirement to become an RN in California. An ADN degree qualifies you for an entry-level nursing position. But, a four-year BSN degree can offer you more career opportunities and higher pay.

How much do nurses make in California?

California nurses earn more than nurses in other states. Salaries for nurses typically depend on their educational level. RNs make an average annual salary of $133,340 or $64 an hour. NPs earn a higher average annual salary of $158,130 or $76 an hour.

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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