Nursing Schools in San Diego, California

Discover California's vast healthcare network for aspiring nurses. Explore the nursing schools in San Diego, California, to uncover the top programs they offer. Programs

Article fact-checked by our Editorial Team.

San Diego stands as a vibrant and attractive destination for aspiring nurses seeking an exceptional education and rewarding career in the healthcare field due to its vast network and public health services.

Within this picturesque coastal paradise, numerous esteemed nursing schools provide a springboard for students to dive headfirst into the world of nursing. These institutions boast cutting-edge facilities, experienced faculty, and comprehensive curricula, empowering aspiring nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their chosen profession. 

Discover the rich tapestry of nursing programs offered in San Diego, California and the many benefits of studying in the beautiful city, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Nursing Schools in San Diego

1. National University

National University offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing. The program emphasizes patient observation, medical equipment operation, diagnostic tests, and therapeutic nursing within the context of transcultural care.  It also offers four-week courses and year-round enrollment.

Undergraduate Nursing Programs Offered:

  • LVN to RN Certificate Program 
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) - Generic Entry
  • RN to BSN 
  • Accelerated BSN
    • Available for students with outstanding academic records, allowing for an accelerated study plan upon dean's approval.

Graduate Nursing Programs Offered

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) - Executive Leadership 
  • Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP)
  • Graduate Certificates
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
    • Nursing Quality and Saftey 

The BSN, MSN, and DNP nursing programs at National University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The DNAP program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). 

2. Point Loma Nazarene University

PLNU's School of Nursing is highly respected in San Diego, leading to sought-after graduates. With extensive clinical experience, personal faculty support, and a faith-based curriculum, students receive a unique advantage and lifelong community support. The approximate tuition for 12-17 units costs around $21,300 per semester or $42,600 per annum.

Undergraduate Nursing Programs Offered: 

  • BSN
  • LVN to BSN  

Graduate Nursing Programs Offered: 

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) 
    • DNP: Healthcare Leadership 
    • DNP: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) 
    • DNP: Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) 
  • Post Graduate Certificate: CNS and FNP

All nursing programs at PLNU are accredited by the CCNE. 

San Diego City College's nursing graduates are prepared to think critically, provide safe nursing care, teach, advocate for clients, demonstrate leadership, manage resources, delegate tasks, and supervise unlicensed personnel within the legal scope of practice as RNs, meeting the competency standards set by the Board of Registered Nursing in California. 

Programs offered:

  • ADN: 59-62 credit units, 24 months
  • LVN to RN: 45 credit units
  • LVN (thirty unit option): Licensed Vocational Nurses can apply for an option to fulfill the 30-unit requirement for the licensure exam, allowing them to take the NCLEX-RN as non-graduates. However, they may face challenges in transferring to another state or pursuing advanced degrees. 

The associate nursing program at San Diego City College is accredited by the Accreditation Commssion on Nursing Education (ACEN). 

4. San Diego State University 

The BSN program at SDSU empowers pre-licensure students to promote equitable healthcare and well-being in diverse communities. Through research and professional development, the program prepares students to address emerging nursing roles and trends that impact health and healthcare systems. 

Programs offered:

  • Direct Entry BSN 
  • Transfer BSN: If students completed 60 or more transferable semester units (or 90 or more quarter units), they are eligible to apply as a transfer student. The duration of the program is 6 semesters (36 months).
  • RN to BSN: 35 units required, 12 to 15 months, hybrid and online learning modality, $13,000 approximate tuition
  • MSN:
    • Advanced Practice Nursing of Adults and the Elderly: 24-36 months program option, 50 units total
    • Leadership in Health Care Systems: 24-36 months program option

The BSN and MSN programs at San Diego State are accredited by the CCNE. 

5. University of San Diego  

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science on the University of San Diego campus offers top-ranked graduate nursing programs. The school's emphasis on personal connections between faculty and students, coupled with a compassionate and supportive environment, fosters success and helps students become the best versions of themselves. 

Programs offered:

  • MEPN: Master's Entry Program in Nursing (21 months); The program offers students a foundational understanding of nursing and includes master's-level courses that equip them with the skills needed for leadership roles.
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) 
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Healthcare Informatics
    • Nurse Practitioner
      • Adult-Gerontology NP (AGNP)
      • Family NP (FNP)
      • Pediatric NP (PNP)
      • Psychiatric-Mental Health NP (PMHNP)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • BSN to DNP 
    • MSN to DNP 
      • APRN Track 
      • Emergency Care for FNPs
      • Health Systems Leadership 
      • Nursing Informatics and Data Science 
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing

The master's and doctoral-level nursing programs at USD are accredited by the CCNE. 

Nursing Program Options in San Diego

Many different types of nursing schools, certificates, and diplomas are available. However, the most common programs obtained by nursing professionals include: 

Undergraduate Nursing Programs

Graduate Nursing Programs

When choosing the right nursing program, it's important to match your professional goals and personal preferences with thorough research on each school.

Studying in San Diego

Studying nursing in San Diego, CA, offers a unique and enriching experience due to the city's diverse healthcare opportunities, exceptional nursing schools, and beautiful coastal setting. Here are some key takeaways: 

  • Diverse Healthcare Environment: The city has many healthcare facilities, including world-renowned hospitals, research institutions, and specialty centers. As a nursing student, you'll have access to diverse clinical settings, exposing you to various medical conditions and patient populations. 
  • High-Quality Nursing Schools: It boasts several prestigious nursing schools with a strong reputation for academic excellence and nursing education.
  • Hands-On Learning Opportunities: Nursing programs emphasize hands-on learning experiences, providing students with ample opportunities for clinical rotations and simulations. These practical experiences allow students to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-life scenarios, building essential nursing skills and confidence. 
  • Supportive Faculty and Mentorship: Many nursing education programs in San Diego have dedicated and experienced faculty members passionate about teaching and mentoring their students. They offer guidance and support throughout the nursing journey, ensuring students receive a quality education and are well-prepared for future nursing careers. 
  • Focus on Cultural Competency: The diverse population presents a unique opportunity for nursing students to develop cultural competency. Interacting with patients from various ethnic backgrounds and cultures enhances students' ability to provide patient-centered care and communicate effectively with a diverse patient community. 
  • Research and Innovation: The city is a medical and innovation hub, with numerous healthcare institutions conducting groundbreaking studies and clinical trials. Nursing students may have opportunities to participate in research projects and gain experience in a research setting, allowing them to discover a unique area of nursing that not every student can have. 
  • Community Engagement: Many nursing schools in San Diego emphasize community engagement and service. Students often participate in health fairs, outreach programs, and volunteer opportunities, fostering a sense of social responsibility and a deeper connection with the local community. 
  • Beachside Lifestyle: The picturesque coastal location offers nursing students a refreshing and calming environment. Students can enjoy beautiful beaches, recreational activities, and outdoor adventures during leisure time, promoting overall well-being and work-life balance. 
  • Networking and Job Opportunities: The thriving healthcare industry provides networking opportunities and potential job placements for nursing students. The city's strong healthcare network allows students to build connections with professionals and potential employers, enhancing their prospects for employment after graduation. 
  • Emphasis on Wellness and Holistic Care: It is also known for its focus on wellness and holistic health approaches. Nursing programs may incorporate integrative healthcare concepts, emphasizing the importance of treating the whole person to promote overall well-being. 
  • Weather and Climate: Everyone can enjoy a mild Mediterranean climate, with pleasant temperatures year-round. This delightful weather fosters an ideal environment for both academic pursuits and comfortable living. 
  • Collaboration and Interdisciplinary Education: The healthcare community encourages collaboration among various healthcare disciplines. Nursing students may have opportunities to work alongside medical doctors, therapists, social workers, and other healthcare professionals, gaining a holistic understanding of patient care. 

Studying nursing in San Diego, CA provides an enriching educational experience. The city's diverse healthcare environment, dedicated nursing schools, emphasis on practical learning, and unique coastal setting create a well-rounded and transformative nursing education journey. Graduating from the city's nursing schools equips students with the skills, knowledge, and compassion needed to positively impact the ever-evolving field of healthcare and the lives of the patients they serve. 

Tips to Enhance Your Admission Success to Nursing Programs

Pursuing admission to nursing programs in San Diego requires a detailed and organized strategy. By meticulously preparing your application and highlighting your dedication to nursing, you can greatly increase your chances of being accepted.

Admission Requirements

  • Complete Required Prerequisite Courses
    • Undergraduate: Verify prerequisites such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy.
    • Graduate: Ensure a relevant bachelor's degree in nursing or a related field. RN to MSN options are available for associate degree holders.
  • Achieve a Strong GPA
    • Undergraduate: Aim for a minimum GPA of 3.0 in highschool and/or prerequisite courses.
    • Graduate: Maintain a GPA well above 3.0 in undergraduate studies. 
  • Prepare for Standardized Tests

    • Undergraduate: Prepare for tests like the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills).
    • Graduate: Some programs may require advanced exams like the GRE.

Experience Requirements

  • Gain Relevant Experience
    • Undergraduate: Volunteer in healthcare settings and participate in leadership activities through community service or student organizations.
    • Graduate: Work in professional nursing roles and seek advanced certifications in specialized areas.

Application Components

  • Personal/Statement of Purpose
    • Undergraduate: Personal Statement detailing your passion for nursing and career objectives.
    • Graduate: Statement of Purpose describing your professional experiences, career goals, and educational motivations.
  • Resume
    • Undergraduate: Include educational background, volunteer activities, and relevant certifications.
    • Graduate: Update with work history, certifications, and any publications.
  • Letters of Recommendation
    • Undergraduate: Obtain from educators, employers, or healthcare professionals who can vouch for your potential and character.
    • Graduate: Secure from nursing supervisors or professional peers who can attest to your qualifications and readiness for advanced studies.

Pre-Application Activities

  • Campus Visits: Tour facilities and meet faculty to gauge the learning environment.
  • Admissions Consultation: Obtain tailored advice from admissions staff.
  • Interview Preparation: Practice responses to typical interview questions.

Application Checklist

  • Documentation: Ensure all transcripts, test scores, and personal documents are complete and meet program standards.
  • Application Fee: Verify that payment has been made.
  • Interview Readiness: Prepare thoroughly to articulate your qualifications and aspirations

Carefully preparing each part of your application and meeting all requirements can greatly improve your chances of being admitted to a program that aligns with your career goals. Always verify the specific application requirements with each program to ensure you meet all standards.

How to Choose a Nursing School

The criteria for selecting a nursing school depend on individual preferences. Some students prioritize tuition costs, while others may focus on NCLEX pass rates, the school's academic reputation, or additional factors.

Although it will vary by individual, a survey by allnurses revealed the top 11 reasons nursing students chose their programs:

  1. Cost
  2. High NCLEX Pass Rate
  3. Location
  4. Academic Reputation
  5. Availability of Financial Aid and Scholarships
  6. Length of Time to Obtain Degree
  7. Flexibility of Schedule
  8. Curriculum
  9. Campus and Surroundings
  10. Nursing Clinicals Location
  11. Availability of Online Courses

Ultimately, prospective students should assess their needs and pick schools that best fit them.

11 Reasons Why Nursing Program Accreditation Matters

Beyond the criteria previously mentioned for selecting a nursing school, accreditation is a critical consideration, especially for those looking at programs in San Diego. Here's why accreditation is important:

  1. Ensures Quality Education: Accredited programs meet high standards for curriculum, faculty qualifications, resources, and clinical training.
  2. Licensure Necessity: In many states, graduating from an accredited program is required for licensure.
  3. Better Job Opportunities: Employers often prefer graduates from accredited programs, increasing your employment prospects.
  4. Licensure Exam Preparedness: Accredited programs thoroughly prepare students for the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN exams.
  5. Simplifies Credit Transfers: Credits from accredited programs are more easily transferable between institutions.
  6. Boosts Professional Reputation: Graduating from an accredited program enhances your professional credibility.
  7. Access to Financial Aid: Many financial aid options and scholarships require enrollment in an accredited program.
  8. High-Quality Clinical Experience: Accredited programs provide superior clinical training.
  9. Certification Eligibility: Accreditation is essential for pursuing advanced and specialty certifications.
  10. Meets Regulatory Standards: Accredited programs comply with important federal and state educational regulations.
  11. Thorough Educational Standards: While state approval ensures local compliance, national accreditation guarantees extensive educational quality.

For aspiring nursing students in San Diego, it's important to choose programs accredited by recognized agencies. The two primary accrediting bodies for nursing programs are:

Understanding the Costs of Nursing Programs: Key Considerations

Grasping the financial implications of obtaining a nursing degree is crucial. When considering the costs of nursing programs in San Diego, keep these key factors in mind:

Tuition Costs

  • In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition: Public universities often offer reduced tuition for residents, while non-residents typically pay higher rates.
  • Online Programs: Generally more cost-effective but may still include additional technology fees.
  • Per Credit Hour Rates: Costs vary depending on the institution, level of degree, and whether the school is public or private.

Additional Costs

  • Books and Supplies: Expenses can differ significantly, covering everything from textbooks to medical tools.
  • Technology and Lab Fees: Often required in online or hybrid programs to support digital coursework.
  • Miscellaneous Fees: Can include application fees, graduation charges, and other administrative costs.
  • Living Costs: Important for those who need to relocate or reduce their working hours.
  • Certification and Licensing Fees: Essential expenses for professional certification after graduation.
  • Opportunity Costs: Potential loss of income from reduced work hours while studying.

To handle these costs effectively, investigate various financial strategies as outlined in Best Ways to Pay for Nursing School.

Nursing Salaries: What to Expect

Nurses' salaries can vary widely due to factors like education level, experience, geographic location, specialty, and the type of healthcare facility. This guide breaks down nursing salaries by degree level and offers insights into potential earnings for nurses in California.

LPN Earning Potential

  • National LPN Average - Hourly $29.23
  • National LPN Average - Annual: $60,790.00
  • California LPN Average - Hourly $36.82
  • California LPN Average - Annual: $76,580.00

RN Earning Potential

  • National RN Average - Hourly $45.42
  • National RN Average - Annual: $94,480.00
  • California RN Average - Hourly $66.20
  • California  RN Average - Annual: $137,690.00

ADN RN vs. BSN RN Earning Potential

  • Average ADN Hourly Salary: $39.00
  • Average ADN Annual Salary:  $80,321.00
  • Average BSN Hourly Salary: $49.00
  • Average BSN Annual Salary:  $102,263.00

Graduate-Level Prepared Nurses (MSN/DNP RN/APRN) Earning Potential

Nurse Anesthetist Earning Potential

  • National Mean Hourly Wage: $102.98
  • National Mean Annual Wage: $214,200.00
  • California Mean Hourly Wage: $120.64
  • California Annual Wage: $250,920.00

Nurse Practitioner Earning Potential

  • National Mean Hourly Wage: $61.78
  • National Mean Annual Wage: $128,490.00
  • California Mean Hourly Wage: $77,66
  • California Mean Annual Wage: $161,540.00

Nurse Midwife

  • National Mean Hourly Wage: $63.26
  • National Mean Annual Wage: $131,570.00
  • California Mean Hourly Wage: $88.34
  • California Mean Annual Wage: $183,740.00

Nurse Administrator 

  • National Mean Hourly Wage: $64.64
  • National Mean Annual Wage: $134,440.00
  • California Mean Hourly Wage: $75.07
  • CaliforniaMean Annual Wage: $156,140.00

Listed as Medical and Health Service Managers on BLS. 

Nurse Educator

  • National Mean Annual Wage: $86,530.00
  • California Mean Annual Wage: $94,530.00

All California specific salary data from the BLS.
Keep in mind that while certain regions, like San Diego, may offer higher salaries, the cost of living can offset these benefits. To explore salary potential based on location, degree, or specialty, refer to the Nursing Salary Guide.

Final Considerations

Choosing the right nursing school is crucial for a successful career in healthcare. San Diego, California, offers a variety of reputable programs for both aspiring and experienced nurses. These institutions provide a blend of rigorous academics, innovative research opportunities, and hands-on clinical experiences in a supportive and vibrant environment.

As you explore your options, consider key factors such as the diversity of programs offered, accreditation status, tuition costs, and availability of financial aid. Engage with admissions offices, visit the campuses, and talk to current students to get a comprehensive understanding. Making an informed decision will lay the foundation for a successful nursing career in San Diego.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are scholarships or financial aid options available for nursing students in San Diego?  

Many nursing schools offer local scholarship opportunities, grants, and financial aid options for eligible students. Additionally, external organizations and governmental programs provide financial assistance to nursing students. 

How are clinical placements arranged during nursing programs?  

Nursing schools in San Diego typically have affiliations with local healthcare facilities to arrange clinical placements for students to gain practical experience. 

What is the cost of nursing school in San Diego?  

Tuition costs can vary significantly between institutions. Public universities generally have lower tuition fees for in-state residents than private universities. Additionally, nursing programs may have additional costs for books, supplies, and clinical fees. It's recommended to research each program of interest and plan how to fund your education before applying. 

Editorial Team / Admin

Julia Liou has 4 years experience as a RN and specializes in Postpartum/Public Health.

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