The Best Nursing Schools in California

The Best Nursing Schools in California

Most nursing students quickly realize that attending nursing school is an experience that is unlike any other. The school you choose to attend can have a huge impact. If you’re looking into attending nursing school in California, you’ll find that there are many great options. In this article, I’ll be sharing some of the best nursing schools in California and what sets them apart from one another.


Preparing for Medical School
Sophia M.


August 28, 2023

How I Picked

When weighing out your options for nursing school, there are a couple of important factors to consider. When writing this article, I looked at NCLEX pass rate, cost, and location. 

NCLEX® pass rate

The NCLEX pass rate can give you an idea of how prepared you will be to take the NCLEX after completing your nursing program. This is the percentage of how many students passed the NCLEX on the first try after graduating from a given nursing program. 

It can help represent how well-prepared the students were, giving you an idea of what to expect when attending a certain program. Although you should not rely too heavily on the NCLEX pass rate when deciding on nursing schools, it can give you a general idea of how well your program will prepare you. 


The cost of the school is an important consideration as well. Most people go into college assuming that they’re going to be spending a lot of money, but tuition rates can vary quite a bit. For this reason, it is very important to pay attention to tuition rates since some are affordable while others may require you to get a scholarship or take out loans. 


The town of your nursing school will be your home for the next four years so you should pay attention to the location of the nursing school to get an idea of whether it is somewhere you can see yourself living. Luckily, there are plenty of beautiful cities across the state of California so you’ll have plenty of great options to choose from. 

Best Nursing Schools in California 2023

California State University, Bakersfield

  • Annual Tuition Estimate: $15,270
  • NCLEX® Pass Rate: 98.36%
  • Location: Bakersfield 

The California State University campus that is located in Bakersfield, California is a great option for nursing school. They have a very high NCLEX pass rate of over 98%. This college offers a couple of different nursing routes including a pre-licensure nursing program for students who are brand new to the field of nursing. 

They also have an online RN-to-BSN program for associate prepared nurses who already have an RN license and want to take the next step and get their bachelor’s degree. Bakersfield,considered a small college town, is said to be a nice place to live. It doesn’t have a big city feel to it but it is located in close proximity to bigger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, so you can always travel to those areas when you want to. 

California State University, Fullerton

  • Annual Tuition Estimate: $6,995
  • NCLEX® Pass Rate: 98.67%
  • Location: Fullerton

CSU Fullerton offers affordability and a high NCLEX pass rate. Additionally, the town of Fullerton is considered one of the nicest places to live in California, offering residential areas as well as more urban areas. It has a lot of great restaurants and parks and many of the local people own their homes. CSU Fullerton offers a couple of different nursing routes including a traditional BSN program, Upper Division Transfer BSN, an accelerated BSN, and an RN to BSN program. 

University of California, Irvine

  • Annual Tuition Estimate: $11,928
  • NCLEX® Pass Rate: 93%
  • Location: Irvine, California

University of California Irvine has been recognized in the past as one of the best public universities in the United States. This college places an emphasis on diversity and graduates even tend to have a higher income when compared with recent graduates from other colleges. UCI has a 93% NCLEX pass rate and they offer their students clinical hours at the world-renowned UCI Medical Center. Being one of the top nursing schools in the area does have some drawbacks: UCI nursing is a very competitive program, so you may not get accepted on your first try. 

The college is located in Irvine, California, which is generally considered to be a nice place to live. They have a welcoming community and plenty of job opportunities. However, it can have a higher cost of living and sometimes feel over-populated, so it isn’t for everyone. 

California State University, Long Beach

  • Annual tuition estimate: $6,834
  • NCLEX® Pass Rate: 97.20% 
  • Location: Long Beach, California

CSU Long Beach offers a student-centered nursing program which aims to be the premier nursing program in the area. They have reasonable tuition as well as a high NCLEX pass rate. They have a traditional BSN program, an RN to BSN program, and an accelerated nursing program. The college is located in one of California’s most sought-after locations. Long Beach offers beautiful beaches and plenty of things to do.  

California State University, Los Angeles

  • Annual tuition estimate: $6,782
  • NCLEX® pass rate: 94.74%
  • Location: Los Angeles, California

If you’re interested in living the city life, then California State University Los Angeles may the school for you. This nursing program offers a traditional BSN program, an accelerated BSN program for people who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and an RN to BSN program for associate prepared RN’s who want to get a bachelor’s degree. 

Because this college is located in such a large city, students can benefit from being exposed to a variety of different health centers throughout the area. This offers a diverse educational opportunity and allows you to weigh out different employment options, if you plan to remain in the area following graduation. CSU LA has a high NCLEX pass rate and reasonable tuition rates. 

Benefits of Going to Nursing School in California

Whether you already live in California or you’re moving there specifically to go to nursing school, you’ll be able to enjoy many benefits of attending nursing school in California. 

First of all, California is a wonderful place to live. With so many diverse cities to explore, it is unlikely that you’ll get bored living in California. From beaches to vineyards and everything in between, California is known for being home to beautiful scenery and lively cities. 

In addition to this, being a nursing student in California provides the opportunity for getting plenty of great experience since there are many different world-renowned hospitals throughout the state, such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Stanford Hospital. 

There is also plenty of work opportunities throughout California. Most new nursing graduates want nothing more than to line up their first nursing job. California has experienced nursing shortages throughout the years so there are plenty of work opportunities available to you once you graduate.

Is California a Nice Place to Work as a Nurse?

California is a great place to work as a nurse. Even though the cost of living is going to be higher in California when compared with most other states, your nursing salary will definitely balance this out. On average, nurses in California make around $116,270 per year

One of the most unique aspects of working as a nurse in California is the state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. This means that nurses can only care for a set amount of patients at one time and these numbers are legally enforced. This is a huge benefit since many nurses in other parts of the United States can be given higher amounts of patients when the staffing is low. 

Is California one of the compact states?

Some states are considered “compact states” this means that if you receive a nursing license in one of the compact states, then your license is transferable to any of the other states that are also compact states.

Unfortunately, California is not one of the compact states. So, if you go to nursing school in California and acquire your nursing license there, then you’ll have to apply for separate license in any other state in which you wish to work. If you only plan to work in California, then this shouldn’t matter to you. It only matters if you plan to move out of California and practice nursing in a different state. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the benefits of going to nursing school in California are undeniable. With many great schools to choose from and plenty of benefits of working as a nurse in California, you’re unlikely to regret going to nursing school in California. Highly sought after nursing schools means that you may have to apply to a few different schools before you get an acceptance letter, but this shouldn’t be an issue since there are so many wonderful options to choose from.

We've been there.
We get it.

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