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2020 Accredited RN (ADN) Programs in California – Overview & Rankings

If you are interested in a career as an RN, an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program in California offers all the preparation you need. Just over 8% of all the RNs in the US are employed in the state of California, making it one of the most popular states for people interested in pursuing this career. What's more, 33% of the RNs currently employed in their fields across the state have an associate degree. California is home to some of the country's best ADN programs, all of which are designed to prepare you to sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN licensure examination.

Typical California ADN Program Overview


• Curriculum: You will take courses such as the Fundamentals of Nursing, Pharmacology, Nutrition, and Mental Health Nursing, just to name a few. You will also need to complete a clinical rotation, which provides you with hands-on experience under faculty supervision. The average number of clinical hours you will need to complete is 240, but this may vary from school to school. In some cases, you may be able to complete additional clinical hours as elective courses. While these are not required to graduate the program, they can provide you with more real-world experience that can serve you well as you start your career. At the end of your program, you will be prepared to sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN examination.

• Program Length: It takes anywhere from 18 months to two years to earn your ADN in California depending on the school you choose to attend.

• Cost: The average cost of varies based on the type of school you attend. Public schools offer the least expensive route; private, for-profit schools tend to cost the most. The total cost for your education ranges from $5,736 - $84,192. Books and supplies will cost another $1,723 - $4,814.

Tuition Range $5,736 - $84,192
Average Tuition $19,692
Books & Supplies $1,723 - $4,814

• Admission Requirements: In order to be accepted into an ADN in CA, you will need to meet minimum admission requirements. You will need a high school diploma or GED, and while many schools will consider your application if your GPA is at least 2.5, you will have a better opportunity to be accepted into one of these competitive programs with a GPA of 3.0 and above.

Our ADN Ranking Methodology


Programs Evaluated90
Programs Ranked10
CriteriaMust be approved by California Board of Registered Nursing
Must be accredited by ACEN
NCLEX pass rates should be available for last 4 Years
Weightage Assigned For NCLEX-RN Pass Rate Years2013/2014 = 0.10
2014/2015 = 0.20
2015/2016 = 0.30
2016/2017 = 0.40

We have analyzed 90 California Board of Registered Nursing approved ADN programs, and after applying our ranking methodology, we have come up with a list of the 10 best ACEN accredited ADN programs in California that boast the highest NCLEX-RN pass rates.

Check Out The 10 Best Out of 90 California Board of Registered Nursing Approved RN (ADN) Programs for 2020


1) Los Angeles Harbor College, Wilmington

Los Angeles Harbor College (LAHC) is part of the Los Angeles Community College District. The college offers two different nursing programs. The first is the standard ADN program in California that is designed for high school graduates, and the second is the LVN to RN program, which assists those who are already licensed as LVNs into furthering their education and nursing credentials. LAHC offers advanced placement for members of the military, as well.

The ADN program at LAHC offers concurrent classroom and clinical experience in a variety of local hospitals and clinics. Students may participate in clinicals at Kaiser Medical Center, Providence Little Company of Mary, Torrance Memorial Hospital, and Harbor UCLA, to name a few. The program is four semesters in length and takes two years to complete. During the course of the program, you will participate in a variety of discussions in small groups and gain simulated laboratory experience.

The curriculum includes courses such as Nursing Process, Communication in Nursing, Nursing Process & Practice in the Care of the Adult Clint, Nursing Process & Practice in the Care of Children, an Introduction to Leadership & Management, and more. You may also apply for the Family Nursing Scholarship Program, which is unique to the Los Angeles Community College District, until 2024. This scholarship covers not only the cost of your education, but also the cost of supplies and licensure fees.

2) Saddleback College, Mission Viejo

Saddleback College is part of the South Orange County Community College district, and it offers a top notch ADN program. Saddleback College truly focuses on the student by offering not only education, but also guidance, counseling, child care, a student health center, financial aid, tutoring, and an excellent career center.

Saddleback College's ADN program takes four semesters to complete, and you will be required to work two to three unpaid 12-hour shifts alongside an assigned RN during the evening hours. This will help you obtain your 240 required clinical hours. Classroom coursework includes Pharmacology, Fundamentals of Aging, Nursing Process, Mental Health Nursing, Medical-Surgical Nursing, and more.

Once you complete this accredited nursing program, you will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination. Per the school's Nursing Student Achievement Data from the 2015-2016 academic year, 85% of all graduates obtained a job in the nursing field after graduation.

3) Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey

Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) trains nurses at the Maurine Church Coburn School of Nursing. Here, you will earn an Associate of Science degree that successfully prepares you in the field of nursing. The ADN program is offered in partnership with Montage Health, the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. MPC provides a combination of both classroom and clinical training to prepare you for your career.

This program takes four semesters to complete, and you will take courses such as General Human Anatomy, Lifespan Development, Interpersonal Communication, Applied Foundations of Learning, and more. Out of 73 total units spread over the course of four semesters, four of these units are your clinical rotation. You will work alongside an assigned nurse to complete Supervised Nursing Skills Labs.

You will learn to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide effective care to patients in various settings, to act as a patient advocate, and to provide direct patient-centered care based on evidence and facts. Completing the MPC ADN program in CA prepares you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and work as an RN in an entry-level position.

4) Grossmont College, El Cajon

Grossmont College is located in El Cajon, California, and their ADN program prepares men and women alike to pass the licensure exams and begin their careers in a variety of unique healthcare settings. Grossmont is also home to a chapter of the California Nursing Students' Association (CNSA), and you can find regular meetings on campus. The CNSA hosts regular nursing resource fairs and other events at Grossmont, as well.

This ADN program is a two-year, four-semester program. Per the Grossmont website, you should be prepared to dedicate 40 hours each week to classroom study and clinicals. You will take courses like Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Paramedical Microbiology, and Neurologic and Psychiatric Nursing, just to name a few. You will need to complete a total of 72 units to earn your degree. Three of these units are electives in a Humanities course of your choosing.

At Grossmont, 80% or more of students who enroll in the ADN program complete it within six semesters. Job placement rates are 75% within the first 12 months, and for those who successfully take the program and obtain their licensure, 25% enroll in an advanced degree program within one year.

5) Hartnell College, Salinas

The RN program at Hartnell College is one of the most lucrative ADN programs in California. Groups such as the NAACP and UCSC have lauded Hartnell College's nursing programs for promoting underrepresented students and minorities.

This program takes two years to complete and consists of four semesters of study combined with clinical experience. To pass this program, students must take and pass 44.5 units of study. Unlike many colleges that push clinical experience to the very end of the program, Hartnell has students participate in four levels of Supervised Nursing Skills Practice - one level each semester. This combined approach to classroom and clinical learning has been proven to improve students' ability to retain information learned in the classroom and translate that information into the real world.

Courses include Nursing Theory, Clinical Reasoning, Pharmacology, and more. Upon completing the program, students can communicate effectively with patients, their families, and other medical personnel, utilize critical thinking skills to provide the best possible nursing care throughout the human lifecycle, make ethical decisions when planning patient care, and demonstrate competency in nursing skills at the entry level.

6) Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara

The School of Nursing at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) offers several unique opportunities for those interested in a nursing career, including an outstanding ADN program. This program is four semesters in length and will take you two years to complete. The curriculum is structured in such a way that it meets standards set forth by the Massachusetts Nurse of the Future and Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN).

Courses you will take during the program include Foundations in Nursing, Pharmacology, Medical-Surgical Nursing, Gerontology, Community Health Nursing, and more. You will also be required to participate in clinical rotations which allow you to test your knowledge in a real-world setting. These skills and clinicals are designed to maximize the number of students who pass the NCLEX-RN examination upon receiving their associate degrees.

More than 85% of the students who begin this program successfully compete it. What's more, 91% of those who receive their degrees from SBCC are gainfully employed as RNs within one year of graduating.

7) Riverside City College, Riverside

The Riverside City College (RCC) School of Nursing's ADN program requires four semesters and an intersession. There are 74 total units to complete, and the school does require science prerequisites in anatomy, physiology, and microbiology. RCC offers a pre-nursing workshop designed to introduce new students to the industry every two weeks throughout the academic year, and all students who are interested in nursing programs are encouraged to attend.

During your course of study, you will take courses such as Foundations of Nursing. Chronic Illness, Acute Maternal-Child Specialty, Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, and clinicals each semester. Unlike other ADN programs in CA, RCC makes some of these clinicals elective. All students must participate in the required clinicals to receive their degrees and sit for the NCLEX-RN exams, but in this case, students are given the opportunity to participate in extra clinical hours if they so choose.

Due to the required intersession at RCC, the program length is five semesters, which means the program takes 2.5 years to complete. By the end of the program, you will be prepared to provide quality patient care using evidence-based practices, provide leadership in a wide range of healthcare settings, collaborate and communicate effectively with others, and employ the latest technology to communicate, reduce risk, prevent errors, and support decision-making.

8) Santa Monica College, Santa Monica

At Santa Monica College (SMC), students who are interested in obtaining their ADN can participate in a Nursing Program Information Session. These sessions are open to potential SMC students, but you must register for them in advance. Although Santa Monica College itself does not offer a BSN program, its curriculum is designed to support an ADN to BSN bridge program, and students are encouraged to further their education.

Coursework is combined with supervised tutorials and simulated labs across four semesters. Aside from the required coursework, you may also choose to participate in optional counseling courses to help you improve your study skills at the college level and enjoy success as a nursing student. You will also have access to Supervised Tutoring, which is a more personalized approach to learning and can help you better understand the core concepts taught in your courses.

More than 90% of SMC graduates are gainfully employed in the nursing field within one year of receiving their degrees. SMC transfers more students to University of California campuses than any other college in the US, and it has done so for more than 26 years in a row. Many of these students are nursing students pursuing their BSN or MSN degrees.

9) Palomar College, San Marcos

Palomar College in San Marcos, California offers a highly-rated Nursing Education Program that takes a holistic approach to learning. The program available here focuses heavily on ethics and the ability to think critically, which are both crucial in any nursing career. Unlike many of the other schools, Palomar College offers two different associate degree options for nursing students - an Associate in Science in Nursing (AS) and an Associate in Arts (AA) in nursing. These programs are mostly identical, but the AA program requires additional units in American History and Institutions.

Courses include Nursing Foundations and several levels of generic Nursing courses designed to provide students with all the information they need to not only pass the NCLEX-RN examination, but to enjoy a successful career. These courses are combined with clinicals designed to provide real nursing experience in a supervised setting. If you are interested in attending Palomar College's Nursing Education Program, Informational Meetings are held in the spring of each year.

By the end of your studies, you will be able to make complex decisions, adapt to varying situations, collaborate with others, serve as a patient advocate, and utilize technology to provide outstanding and ethical patient care. Palomar College focuses on evidence-based nursing directed toward disease prevention, the promotion of wellness, and even hospice care.

10) Moorpark College, Moorpark

Moorpark College is a member of the Ventura County Community College District that was ranked the fourth best community college in the United States in the March 15 Huffington Post. Moorpark College takes a unique approach to the ADN program by allowing you access to a variety of elective courses approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing. These courses, including electives like Sex, Gender, and Culture and Peoples and Cultures of the World, are far more diverse than many other schools can offer.

Required courses for this program include Biology, Pharmacology. Physiology, Infant/Toddler Care, Nursing Science, and clinical labs. You might also choose to participate in Holistic Healthcare Practices courses if you choose to pursue a career in holistic medicine. You will also have the option to participate in four levels of nursing skills labs that are not required for graduation but recommended by Moorpark College.

Completing this program will teach you how to apply safety and technical skills on the job, think and reason critically, communicate with others in a healthcare setting, organize your time and set clear priorities, and perform all of the duties essential to your career as an RN.

How to Get My California RN License?


After you have graduated from an accredited ADN program to practice as an RN in California, you will need to apply for licensure, register for the NCLEX-RN examination, and pass the exam.

What can I Do with an ADN in California


An ADN in California can provide you with a lucrative career as an RN as long as you pass the licensure examination and keep your licensure current. With an ADN in CA, you can provide nursing care in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, trauma centers, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers throughout the state. Major job responsibilities include monitoring and documenting patients' health, taking and recording vital signs, administering medications as prescribed by a physician, and working with physicians, patients, and other caregivers to come up with unique care plans based on patients' needs.

An ADN in California prepares you for an entry-level career in nursing, and while this can be lucrative on its own, you may choose to use it as a stepping stone. Many schools offer ADN to BSN programs, and others offer ADN to MSN or BSN to MSN programs that will allow you to pursue a specialty in nursing later down the line.

Salary of RN with ADN in California


The average annual salary of all RNs with ADNs across the state is $99,970, which is significantly more than the national average.

Type Salary Range Average Salary
Hourly $29.51 - $69.50 $48.06
Monthly $5,120 - $12,050 $8,330
Annual $61,380 - $144,550 $99,970
(Source: Compiled using data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Employment Outlook for ADN Graduates in California


The employment outlook for ADN graduates in California is exceptional. Between the years of 2016 and 2026, employment is expected to climb some 15.75% as 14,270 new jobs open up within this 10-year timeframe. California's population continues to grow, and more of these people have access to medical insurance, which means the number of people seeking professional healthcare is expected to grow substantially. Right now, some 6,250 jobs for an RN with ADN are available each year in California.

Number of RN's with ADN 10 Year New Job Growth Projection (2016-2026) Projected Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
2016 2026 Growth in Number Growth in %
90,630 104,900 14,270 15.75% 6,250
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)


ADN Programs in Other States

  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania