California is an excellent state for nurses to work in. It is one of the top-paying states in the country (BLS) and offers many opportunities for nurses to advance their careers. Nurses can advance to BSN, MSN and DNP level, with the doctoral degree being the terminal degree available for nurses.

Many nurses are looking for careers in executive level nursing, education, and advanced-practice nursing. A doctoral degree is required for certain areas, so it is a wise move to earn a DNP degree depending on the nurse’s goal. Curriculum specific to a doctoral degree may include:

  • Advanced assessment and pharmacology
  • Quantitative methods and research
  • Evidence-based medicine and practice
  • Leadership & management
  • Population-specific care
  • Healthcare policy

Choosing a DNP Program

California has about 14 DNP programs. Some are part of a consortium, which means different schools in California are part of the same program. Because there are many to choose from, students who choose to advance their degree to a DNP should consider several things when researching schools in California.

What to Consider When Choosing a DNP Program

  • Cost – The average tuition for DNP programs in California is around $1000 per credit. This does not include additional fees imposed by the school, supplies, or living expenses. Most schools offer financial aid options, as well as the ability to attend part-time.
  • Online Option – Most DNP programs in California are online. Some require minimal campus visits. Two of the DNP programs in California are in-person campus study. Students are encouraged to research programs to find the one that is right for them.
  • Accreditation – Prospective students must make sure the school they choose is accredited by The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This ensures the DNP program meets the highest standards in education.
  • Residency Options – in state/ out of state: Because most of the DNP programs in California are in the distance-learning format, out-of-state students may attend. Occasionally, schools may impose out-of-state tuition fees, which can be significantly higher than resident tuition. Students are urged to research this before applying.

One DNP program in California is through Samuel Merritt University. The school is based in Oakland but has another campus in Sacramento. The university offers both an FNP DNP track as well as a post-master's curriculum. BSN students may apply to the FNP DNP track, and courses are online. Those interested in finding out more about the DNP programs at Samuel Merritt are encouraged to visit their website at

Admission & State Licensing or Certification Requirements


The admission requirements for DNP programs in California may vary but may include

  • Hold an unencumbered, active RN or APN license
  • Have a BSN or MSN degree
  • Possess current certification in a specialty area as an APN
  • Complete an interview with faculty
  • Submit a resume/ CV/ written statement of purpose (or other writing samples)
  • Complete the GRE or TOEFL
  • Ensure transcripts from all educational institutions are submitted
  • Provide professional references


Certification in a specialty area may be required for licensure. Usually, it’s for those on an APRN track (nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, etc.). However, Clinical Nurse Specialists may also need certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is one certification agencies and has many options available for advanced-practice nurses.


The licensing entity in California is the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). The BRN also can certify certain advanced-practice nurses. For example, California graduates can be certified by the board OR a national organization by the ANCC. The board also offers "equivalency" certification if the program meets the BRN's educational standards listed in the California Code of Regulations.

Additional licensing requirements may include:

  • Fingerprinting
  • Consenting to a background check
  • Completing an application
  • Submitting a photograph
  • Obtaining a furnishing number if prescribing medications or devices
  • Paying any fees

California BSN to DNP programs

Many BSN RNs wish to climb the clinical ladder and obtain their DNP. Rather than completing an MSN program then a DNP program, many schools offer BSN to DNP tracks. Going from BSN to DNP can take three to four years depending on whether the student attends full or part-time. Many DNP tracks for bachelor’s prepared nurses are for the nurse practitioner specialty, therefore supervised clinical hours are also required. Admission requirements for BSN to DNP tracks are similar to the general admission requirements listed above, but also include:

  • Current RN license
  • BSN degree from an accredited school
  • One year or more of clinical experience as an RN (length of time may vary between institutions)
  • Completion of a statistics course
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher

The University of San Diego is one institution that offers a BSN to DNP track. Their website offers curriculum plans for the different NP tracks that are offered.

Related Education Paths

Helpful DNP Agencies and Organizations in California

List of Campus and Online DNP Programs in California

Fresno, CA

DNP Programs
2345 E. San Ramon
Fresno, CA 93740
(559) 278-2041

20 River Park Pl W
Fresno, CA 93720
(559) 708-4484

Fullerton, CA

800 N. State College Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831
(657) 278-2011

Irvine, CA

Loma Linda, CA

Long Beach, CA

DNP Programs
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90840
(562) 985-4111

Los Angeles, CA

5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032
(323) 343-3000

Oakland, CA

3100 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
(180) 060-7637 x7

Pomona, CA

309 E. Second St.
Pomona, CA 91766
(909) 623-6116

Riverside, CA

DNP Programs
8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504
(877) 228-3615

San Diego, CA

5998 Alcal? Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4600

San Francisco, CA

DNP Programs
UCSF Box 0602
San Francisco, CA 94143
(415) 476-1435

School of Nursing and Health Professions
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 422-5555

San Jose, CA

DNP Programs
One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192
(408) 924-1000

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