Nursing Schools in Northern California

Northern California has more than 50 colleges and universities that offer nursing programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition info and program options for the 10 largest schools to make an informed education decision.

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Essential Information

Aspiring nurses in northern California must decide if they wish to begin working as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) or Registered Nurses (RNs). The state has a number of 2-year colleges and 4-year universities that offer nurse education. Students can enroll at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels, depending on their prior education. Programs exist in nursing, nursing science, nursing practice and health care leadership. The programs consist of classroom and laboratory instruction as well as clinical experiences. Some classes may be offered online. Graduate programs could include areas of specialization.

Career Requirements

In order to become licensed, LVNs must complete 1,530 hours of approved training and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or another approved exam. Students seeking RN positions have a variety of training options, depending on their educational background. Most RN programs lead to an associate's degree, although LVN to RN, bachelor's and master's programs can also prepare students to work as RNs. RNs must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before becoming licensed. Following are descriptions of the program offerings at ten northern California-based schools. An at-a-glance table includes tuition rates.


American River College

Sacramento's American River College offers an Associate in Science in Registered Nursing, an LVN to RN career mobility associate's degree and an LVN certificate. The standard associate's program includes courses in medical surgical nursing, maternal and child nursing, nutrition, microbiology and bacteriology. The LVN to RN career mobility associate's program includes a transition to associate's degree nursing course. Students also learn about surgical nursing and managing multiple patients. Both associate's programs prepare students for the NCLEX-RN. The LVN certificate program allows graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN after completing just 30 credit hours.

  • Programs Offered: Associate in Science in Registered Nursing,
    Associate in Science - LVN to RN Career Mobility,
    LVN Certificate
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,104 in-state; $7,200 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large suburb

California State University - Fresno

At the Fresno campus of California State University, also referred to as Fresno State, students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with limited entry, an RN to BSN degree program, a LVN 30-unit option, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with four tracks and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The standard BSN program prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN. Incoming learners must be students at Fresno State or transfer students from another school. The RN to BSN program is designed for students who are already RNs. Students can expect to take a mix of online and laboratory courses. The 30-unit LVN option can prepare students to become RNs, but the program does not award a degree.

In the MSN program, which can be completed in three years, students get to choose from specializations in family nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist/nurse educator, pediatric nurse practitioner or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. At the doctoral level, students can pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice, which is offered in conjunction with San Jose State University. The program is designed to be completed in five semesters of full-time study.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
    LVN 30 Unit option,
    Master of Science in Nursing,
    Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $6,228 in-state; $17,886 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

California State University - Sacramento

Sacramento's campus of California State University offers four options for aspiring nurses: a traditional BSN, an RN to BSN degree program, an LVN to RN program and a Master of Science in Nursing. In the traditional BSN program, students take two years of general education and prerequisite courses and two years of clinical nursing courses. Courses in the program include adult care, clinical nursing, physical assessment, therapeutic communication, mental health nursing and nursing for the childbearing family. Designed for RNs with an associate degree, the RN to BSN degree completion program requires that applicants have a minimum GPA of 2.6 on their last 60 semester hours of transferable coursework. Incoming students must have completed courses in anatomy, physiology, psychology, pharmacology, nutrition and microbiology prior to admission.

In the LVN to RN program, individuals certified as LVNs must have taken courses in microbiology and physiology. This 30-credit program does not result in a degree award. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. At the graduate level, RNs who have a bachelor's degree can pursue the MSN. This degree program can be completed in six semesters by part-time students and covers nursing role development, pathophysiology and pharmacology. Students can also find a school nurse program that's offered in conjunction with the school's College of Continuing Education.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
    LVN to RN,
    Master of Science in Nursing
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $6,620 in-state; $18,278 out-of-state
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

City College of San Francisco

This 2-year college in San Francisco offers two award options for individuals interested in a career in nursing. The first is a Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing, which takes three semesters to complete and features classroom instruction and practical lab work. Course topics include vocational nursing fundamentals, maternity nursing, pediatric nursing and medical surgical nursing.

In the 52-credit hour Associate of Science in Nursing degree program, mandated nursing courses include nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, surgical nursing, surgical skills, newborn care and nursing trends. Graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. California LVNs may apply to complete a modified 30-credit program. Admission is considered on a case-by-case basis, according to space availability.

  • Programs Offered: Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing,
    Associate of Science in Nursing
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,238 in-state; $6,270 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large city

De Anza College

Cupertino's De Anza College offers an Associate of Science in Nursing degree program with an RN track and an LVN to RN transition track. Students in the RN track take courses in fundamental nursing, acute care pediatric nursing, medical surgical nursing and leadership in nursing. Some courses also have required clinical or laboratory components. The LVN to RN program requires applicants to be licensed as vocational nurses in California. This program takes at least three quarters to finish, and the standard RN program requires six quarters of study. Both programs prepare students to take the NCLEX-RN upon graduation.

  • Programs Offered: Associate of Science in Nursing
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,542 in-state; $6,357 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; small city

Fresno City College

This Fresno school features an Associate of Science program that prepares students to become RNs. Those who finish the program are eligible for the NCLEX-RN. For those who are already LVNs, the school has an advanced placement option that allows them to enter in the second year of the program. The classes are administered at the school, but the clinical experiences take place at local health centers and hospitals. This program is designed so students can transfer to a 4-year school and continue their studies in a nursing bachelor's program.

The school also has a refresher course for RNs who haven't worked in a clinical setting recently. Students attend class on Fridays and complete clinical experiences on Saturdays, and this course can be finished in around two or three months.

  • Programs Offered: Associate of Science in Nursing
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,140 in-state; $6,780 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large city

Sacramento City College

At this 2-year college, students can pursue an Associate of Science in Nursing or a Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing. The associate's program offers a training option for vocational nursing or registered nursing. The RN associate's program requires 74 credits, while the vocational nursing associate's program consists of 60 credits. The vocational nursing certificate and associate's programs both require 53 credits of coursework focused in nursing or related concepts, and students can expect to learn about adult health needs, medical language and nutrition. Both vocational programs prepare students to take the licensure exam for LVNs, while graduates of the RN program can take the NCLEX-RN.

  • Programs Offered: Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing,
    Associate of Science in Nursing,
    Associate of Science in Nursing in Vocational Nursing
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,104 in-state; $7,200 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large city

San Francisco State University

This 4-year college offers multiple educational options for aspiring nurses - a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a BSN with an advanced placement option for RNs or a Master of Science in Nursing with multiple concentration options. In the BSN program, students take courses in human development and health assessment, nursing interventions, care of adults and care of children. The advanced placement option allows RNs to transfer up to 70 credit hours of previous courses. Students in the advanced placement option can complete the program on a full- or part-time basis.

At the graduate level, MSN emphasis options may include pediatrics, women's health and community health. Students who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing can pursue the pre-licensure program, while RNs who hold a bachelor's degree can enroll in the standard MSN program. The school also features a post-master's certificate program in family nurse practitioner. Credit and course requirements for each MSN program vary, depending on a student's undergraduate education.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
    Master of Science in Nursing,
    Post-Master's Certificate in Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $6,440 in-state; $18,098 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

San Jose State University

This 4-year university offers an RN to BSN program that allows students to transfer up to 70 credit hours from a community college. The program can be completed in three semesters, and incoming students must be licensed as RNs in the state. The school also has a standard BSN program that requires 130 credits. Students can expect to take courses in role development, community theory, pharmacology and nursing skills. Multiple clinical experiences are also required.

At the graduate level, the MSN program offers specialization options in nurse administrator, family nurse practitioner, nurse educator and clinical nurse specialist - school nurse. Students who already have a master's degree can pursue the post-master's certificate for nurse educators. The school also has a Doctor of Nursing Practice program that's offered jointly with California State University - Fresno. Most of the coursework in the DNP program is offered online, although students are required to attend sessions at either campus.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
    Master of Science in Nursing,
    Doctor or Nursing Practice
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $6,852 in-state; $18,510 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

University of California - Davis

At the Davis campus of the University of California, students can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Philosophy through the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. The master's program features specialization options in leadership and nurse practitioner. Students in the leadership track get to take courses in health status and care systems, leadership in health care and research skills for nurses. Students also must complete a thesis project under the supervision of a faculty member. The nurse practitioner option also requires a thesis and can be finished in two years.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership is a full-time program that usually takes four years to complete. Doctoral students must pass an oral qualifying examination and complete a dissertation in addition to taking a set of core and elective courses.

  • Programs Offered: Master of Science in Nursing,
    Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership
  • Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $13,107 in-state; $28,209 out-of-state (graduate figures)*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; small suburb

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Nursing Degree Programs Offered Tuition & Fees (2012-2013)
American River College 2-year, public; large suburb Associate in Science in Registered Nursing,
Associate in Science - LVN to RN Career Mobility,
LVN Certificate
$1,104 in-state; $7,200 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
California State University - Fresno 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
LVN 30 Unit option,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor of Nursing Practice
$6,228 in-state; $17,886 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
California State University - Sacramento 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
LVN to RN,
Master of Science in Nursing
$6,620 in-state; $18,278 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
City College of San Francisco 2-year, public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing,
Associate of Science in Nursing
$1,238 in-state; $6,270 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
De Anza College 2-year, public; small city Associate of Science in Nursing $1,542 in-state; $6,357 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
Fresno City College 2-year, public; large city Associate of Science in Nursing $1,140 in-state; $6,780 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
Sacramento City College 2-year, public; large city Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing,
Associate of Science in Nursing,
Associate of Science in Nursing in Vocational Nursing
$1,104 in-state; $7,200 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
San Francisco State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Post-Master's Certificate in Family Nurse Practitioner
$6,440 in-state; $18,098 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor or Nursing Practice
$6,852 in-state; $18,510 out-of-state (undergraduate figures)*
University of California, Davis 4-year, public; small suburb Master of Science in Nursing,
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership
$13,107 in-state; $28,209 out-of-state (graduate figures)*

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics.

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  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania campus Philadelphia
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Dental
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Ethics and Bioethics
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
        • Clinical Nursing
        • Critical Care Nursing
        • Mental Health Nursing
        • Neonatal Nursing
        • Nurse Anesthetist
        • Nurse Midwife
        • Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
        • Nursing Administration
        • Nursing for Adults and Seniors
        • Occupational Health Nursing
        • Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
        • Pediatric Nursing
        • Registered Nurse
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina campus Durham
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
        • Nurse Anesthetist
        • Registered Nurse
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) campus Washington
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
        • Registered Nurse
      • Optometric and Ophthalmic Services
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee campus Nashville
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Nursing Professions
        • Clinical Nursing
        • Critical Care Nursing
        • Mental Health Nursing
        • Neonatal Nursing
        • Nurse Midwife
        • Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
        • Nursing Administration
        • Nursing for Adults and Seniors
        • Nursing Science
        • Pediatric Nursing
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Florida campus Gainesville
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
        • Nursing Science
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      • Public Health and Safety
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
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