Sunny San Diego is a wonderful place to start your nursing career. With registered nursing (RN) programs that span from novice to advanced, prospective RNs in the city have their choice of quality options.

To get started in nursing or to advance your nursing career, check out our accredited program listings sections below:

Entry-Level ADN, BSN, MSN Programs in San Diego

The San Diego area boasts a number of schools offering direct-entry Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. No matter where you are on your journey to become a nurse, there's a program out there to help you reach your goals.

LPN to RN Programs

Licensed vocational nurses are experienced at providing basic patient care in a variety of healthcare settings, and many LVNs choose to build upon these skills and become registered nurses. Specialized LVN to RN programs, like the one at San Diego City College, provides a pathway for LVNs to earn their associate’s degree and pass the RN licensing exam.

ADN Programs

Two-year ADN programs are typically available at community colleges throughout the city. San Diego City College, for example, offers an ADN program that requires 62 total units, and includes courses in Medical-Surgical Nursing, Maternal-Child Health Nursing, and more. Graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN examination for nursing licensure.

Direct-Entry BSN Programs

These four-year degrees are considered the gold standard in nursing education, and are often required for hospital positions. Direct-entry programs mean that the student does not have to hold an RN license or nursing degree prior to starting the program. San Diego State University offers a traditional BSN that includes a unique international experience component that students have the option to fulfill via study abroad. Most accredited BSN programs in San Diego are found at traditional colleges and universities. Required courses may include Pathophysiology, Clinical Pharmacology, and more.

Learn more about California RN to BSN Programs

Direct-Entry MSN Programs

Direct-entry MSN programs, also often referred to as Master's Entry Programs in Nursing (MEPN) are designed for those who hold already hold a bachelor's degree in another field. These programs can generally be completed in less than 2 years. While not as common as other program pathways, San Diego does offer one through the University of San Diego. Their program includes courses in Health Assessment, Evidence-Based Practice, and more, and takes 21 months to complete.

Find out more about California Accelerated MSN Programs

San Diego RN Program NCLEX-RN Pass Rates

 San DiegoCalifornia
NCLEX-RN Students Total99910,473
NCLEX-RN Students Passed9359,619
NCLEX-RN Pass Rate93.6%91.8%

Top Ranked Accredited Nursing Programs in San Diego

Listed below are the top nursing schools in San Diego based on our RegisteredNursing.org RN program rankings for California out of 129 other accredited programs offered in the state:

  • California State University, San Marcos - #20
  • Grossmont College - #8
  • Mira Costa College - #15
  • San Diego City College - #17
  • San Diego State University - #29
  • University of San Diego - #35
SchoolContact Information
California State University, San Marcos
333 S Twin Oaks Valley Rd
San Marcos, CA 92096
(760) 750-4000
Grossmont College
8800 Grossmont College Dr
El Cajon, CA 92020
(619) 644-7000
Mira Costa College
1 Barnard Dr
Oceanside, CA 92056
(760) 757-2121
National University
9388 Lightwave Ave
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 521-3910
Palomar College
1140 W Mission Rd
San Marcos, CA 92069
(760) 744-1150
Point Loma Nazarene University
3900 Lomaland Dr
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 849-2200
San Diego City College
1313 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 388-3400
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Dr
San Diego, CA 92182
(619) 594-5200
Southwestern College
900 Otay Lakes Rd
Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 421-6700
University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4548

RN to BSN/MSN Programs in San Diego

Licensed RNs who have earned a diploma or ADN and are looking to obtain higher degrees have the option of enrolling in "bridge" programs. This allows the nurse to build upon their nursing knowledge and credits them for the courses they have already completed, making the programs quicker to complete. RN to BSN and RN to MSN pathways are the most common bridge programs.

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN programs in San Diego allow nurses to complete a bachelor's degree in nursing in less than 2 years. This type of program is commonly found online, so that busy RNs can fit in their studying. California State University - San Marcos offers a fully online RN to BSN program designed to be completed in just 16 months. The total cost of the program is currently $9,880.

Learn more about California RN to BSN Programs

RN to MSN Programs

The RN to MSN program typically has two options: a pathway for those who hold an ADN and one for those who hold a BSN. Depending on the entry point, this type of bridge program can take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete. While RN to MSN programs can be offered online, San Diego's Point Loma Nazarene University offers a traditional program that meets one night a week and select Saturdays to accommodate working RNs.

Learn more about California RN to MSN Programs

SchoolContact Information
California State University - San Marcos
333 South Twin Oaks Valley Road
San Marcos, CA 92096
(760) 750-7553
National University
11255 N Torrey Pines Rd
San Diego, CA 92037
(800) 628-8648
Point Loma Nazarene University
3900 Lomaland Drive
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 849-2766
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182
(619) 594-2540
United States University
7675 Mission Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 876-4250

Advanced RN & Nurse Practitioner Programs in San Diego

For San Diego nurses who are ready to further their nursing careers, advanced programs are available. This includes MSN, Post-Graduate Certificates, and DNP programs for those who wish to become nurse practitioners.

MSN Programs

A traditional MSN degree typically requires a BSN and takes around 2 years to complete. San Diego is home to many MSN programs where students can specialize in areas such as Women's Health & Midwifery, Nursing Informatics, Adult Gerontology, and more. The University of San Diego offers an MSN program with many different specialization tracks. Courses taken may include Introduction to Health Care Delivery Systems and Theory of Nursing Education.

Learn more about California Nurse Practitioner Programs

Post-Master's Certificate Programs

For MSN-educated nurses who want to switch specialties (for example, a Family Nurse Practitioner who wishes to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner), post-graduate certificates are a wonderful choice. Post-grad certificate programs are often shorter and cheaper than traditional degree programs, and many are delivered in an online format. National University offers San Diego nursing students certificate programs in Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialties.

Learn more about California Post-Graduate Certificate Programs

DNP Programs

One of the highest nursing degrees obtainable is the doctorate nursing degree. The University of San Diego offers both BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP program pathways. The length of these programs hinges on the nurse's prior level of education. Specialization options include Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and several dual specialization options.

Learn more about California DNP Programs

SchoolContact Information
Ashford University
8620 Spectrum Center Blvd
San Diego, CA 92123
(866) 711-1700
California State University San Marcos
333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd
San Marcos, CA 92096
(760) 750-4000
National University
9388 Lightwave Ave
San Diego, CA 92123
(800) 628-8648
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Dr
San Diego, CA 92182
(619) 594-5200
United States University
7675 Mission Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 876-4250
University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4600

San Diego, CA Related Topics

The setting in which a nurse works greatly influences salary. The average salary for the highest-paid positions for nurses is approximately $103,000 per year in San Diego, according to Glassdoor.  This includes hospital jobs, as RNs that work in hospitals are paid the highest in San Diego. Wage scales are typically based on years of experience.

The starting wage for an inexperienced RN in a hospital in San Diego is in the low to mid $40/hour range.

Due to the multitude of hospital systems in San Diego, wages are very competitive among hospital systems. If one system gets a raise, it is not uncommon for neighboring hospitals to hear and reevaluate their hourly wages for employees as well. As the cost of living in San Diego continues to rise, so do the wages of nurses.

For a variety of other medical settings in San Diego including clinics, skilled nursing facilities, home care, hospice and more, the average drops down to between $30-$35/hour to start for an RN. For a full-time employee, this could range from $62,000-$72,800 per year. LVNs in these roles average $20-$25/hour in these roles, resulting in a lower annual income than their RN counterparts.

Along with a large number of people that come to live in San Diego, there is also a steady supply of nursing jobs for RNs.

There are many hospital systems in San Diego that meet the needs of the large population of residents. Among these organizations include Scripps Health, which has four hospitals, Kaiser Permanente with three hospitals, Sharp Healthcare with three hospitals (and in one in nearby La Mesa), and UCSD with two hospital campuses. Many of these hospitals have specialty departments. There are smaller hospitals that meet the needs of the psychiatric patients including Alvarado Parkway Institute as well as the County Mental Health facility.

San Diego also has a plethora of Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC) facilities. There are two major organizations that provide nursing jobs: Vibra and Kindred.

San Diego is home to hundreds of primary care and specialty care clinics that employ RNs. All of the major hospital systems have a network of clinics. Some larger community clinic systems include Family Health Centers that service an underserved population with over 10 clinics in the San Diego area alone.

San Diego also has hundreds of home health agencies. Many of these also partner with hospice and have a hospice component. Jobs for hospice nurses entail home visits as well.

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