10 Best California FNP Programs (Online & Campus) – 2024

Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

Are you an RN in the Golden State considering pursuing an advanced practice degree? As a family nurse practitioner in California, you’ll be on the front lines addressing the Golden State’s primary care crisis. Many FNP programs in California offer online or hybrid curricula so you won’t have to disrupt your current job and family responsibilities. FNPs in California have job security and make good money: The average FNP salary in CA is $157,740 a year and demand for FNP services is expected to increase by 55 percent in the coming decade. Find out more about your educational options with this list of the 10 best FNP programs in California for 2024.


(Based on our Ranking Methodology, we have ranked the 10 best campus-based and online FNP programs in California.)

1. University of California - San Francisco, San Francisco

Programs Offered: MSN & Post-Master’s Certificate

As a registered nurse do you intend to advance your career in primary care? If yes, then by enrolling in any one of the best FNP programs in California you can gain the clinical expertise required to address the complex health needs of a diverse patient population. The University of California is one such school that offers rigorous FNP training through a fine blend of didactic classes and hands-on experiences at some of the prominent Bay Area hospitals and clinical sites. With the goal of removing health disparities across different sections of populations, UCF’s nursing school offers an MSN and a post-master’s certificate which you can pursue, depending on your previous nursing degree.

MSN Program Details: To qualify for this MSN program, you must have completed your BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Additionally, two years of work experience as a registered nurse is required. Also, if you are wondering if you need to take the GRE test for admission, you are in for some luck as GRE is not a requirement for any of UCF’s programs. The program starts in the fall and takes two years to complete.

Post-Master's Certificate Program Details: If you are keen on expanding on your MSN by acquiring specialized skills in the care of individuals and families across the lifespan, enrolling in this post-master’s FNP-certificate program can be a good idea. By completing an additional five quarters of coursework you will gain eligibility to take the FNP certification exam and earn the status of a certified FNP in California.

2. University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Programs Offered: MSN

Are you a BSN graduate who has worked as a registered nurse for more than a year and now keen on taking your career to the next level, but not sure where to start? If so, what better than getting yourself an MSN-FNP degree from any of the top California FNP schools. One among these is University of Southern California, Los Angeles that equips you with the skills and knowledge required to improve the health and well-being of individuals of all ages, their families, and their communities.

As a primary care provider who will work in various types of healthcare settings, treating people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, the program educates you in addressing several factors that affect the physical and behavioral health of a patient. The coursework is offered online with part-time and full-time schedule options, allowing you to juggle personal and professional responsibilities without much hassle. With the full-time track, you can graduate in 21 months, whereas as a part-timer you will complete the program in 33 months.

The 49-credit curriculum comprises courses in health promotion, disease prevention, physical assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and illness management. Additionally, FNP skills are mastered by completing 784 clinical hours. Also, depending on your previous education you may require to complete an additional two credit bridge course that serves as a preparation for pathophysiology & pharmacology courses. This course, if required must be completed before your admission into the program.

3. Azusa Pacific University, Azusa

Programs Offered: MSN & Post-Master's Certificate

If you are looking at faith-based FNP programs in California you might want to check out Azusa Pacific University, a Christian learning environment that offers family nurse practitioner programs in California grounded in the values of service to humanity and compassion. Its nursing school has played a significant role in improving California’s healthcare by producing competent family nurse practitioners who holistically treat patients of all ages. Through enrollment in either its MSN or post-master’s certificate, you can gain advanced practice skills and the eligibility to take the FNP certification examination.

MSN Program Details: This MSN program is typically meant for registered nurses keen on specializing as a primary care provider by completing their graduate nursing education. The program emphasizes evidence-based nursing care and mainly educates you in patient health assessment & diagnosis, and management & treatment of disease. To graduate you complete 10 credits in core courses, 12 in advanced practice core courses, and 18 credits in FNP courses that focus on primary healthcare of the childbearing family, the young family, and the adult and aging family. Also, the program offers an elective course of 4-credits, allowing you to specialize in either evaluation of care management, psychosocial health care of the mature & aging family, or primary healthcare of adolescents, so you can choose one depending on your interests. Finally, you must either complete a seminar or a thesis to earn your MSN-FNP degree.

Post-Master's Certificate Program Details: This 34-credit post-master’s certificate is designed for working MSN nurses who are keen on expanding their role as a primary care provider. Taking 16 months to complete, the program builds up on your previous nursing degree and combines didactic learning with individualized clinical experiences. During your training here, you will be provided with diverse hands-on experiences in treating patients from the vulnerable and underserved sections of the population in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, churches, and schools.

4. University of San Diego, San Diego

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP (Family Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner in Emergency Care, Dual Adult-Gerontology/Family Nurse Practitioner, and Dual Pediatric/Family Nurse Practitioner) & DNP Certifications (Family Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner in Emergency Care, Dual Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner/Family Nurse Practitioner, and Dual Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Family Nurse Practitioner

Whether you enter as a BSN graduate or a doctorally prepared nurse, University of San Diego, known for its dual FNP programs in California, prepares you to lead as an agent of change. Apart from the regular FNP track, if you are keen on adding additional specialized skills in either emergency care, adult-gerontology or pediatrics, this is your go-to FNP school. With the dual specialty tracks not only will you be eligible to earn a dual certification but as a dual certified advanced practice nurse, you can broaden employment avenues and command a much higher salary.

BSN to DNP Program Details: As such, this BSN to DNP-FNP program in California is typically meant for BSN graduates with at least one year of work experience as a registered nurse, however, you can enter this program even after an MSN. The coursework is mainly offered on-campus with few courses delivered through the distance format. This pathway comes with four specialization tracks - FNP, FNP in emergency care, FNP with adult-gerontology, and FNP with pediatrics, so depending on your interest you can choose the single FNP track or the dual specialty tracks. The number of credits required for graduation ranges from 67 to 83, depending on your selected track. If you choose any of the dual specialty tracks, apart from the FNP courses your coursework also includes one course in the dual specialty.

DNP Certification Program Details: This DNP certificate is open to DNP graduates. Just like in the BSN to DNP pathway, this program too comes with four specialty options - FNP, FNP in emergency care, FNP with adult-gerontology, and FNP with pediatrics. The required credits range from 36 to 38, depending on the track.

5. University of San Francisco, San Francisco

Programs Offered: DNP & Post-Doctoral Certificate

University of San Francisco's, two top FNP programs in California not only offer FNP education rooted in Jesuit values but also provide aspiring nurse leaders with innovative program options to help them reach their individual career goals. Today, its FNP graduates are playing pivotal roles in the state as well as across the country, effectively transforming healthcare in a complex environment. Through its DNP or post-doctoral certificate, you can gain training as an advanced family nurse practitioner and cater to the health needs of a diverse patient population.

DNP Program Details: You can enter this DNP program either after completing your BSN or MSN. Additionally, you require an unencumbered RN license to be eligible for this program. The coursework is delivered as a combination of online & on-campus study with options of full-time and part-time classes. Furthermore, BSN graduates have a unique option of completing either a master's in nursing or public health, so upon completion of the four years of the program, you will earn an MSN or MPH and DNP-FNP degree. Alternatively, if you enter the program post master’s you will receive credits for your past nursing knowledge, and earn the DNP-FNP degree within two years.

Post-Doctoral Certificate Program Details: This certificate program is ideal if you want to add the credential of an FNP to your already earned degree of DNP. The coursework takes one year to complete and classes are offered online as well face-to-face. Depending on your previous education, you require to complete credits anywhere between 35 to 38 along with 500 direct patient care hours under the supervision of a mentor.

6. University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles

Programs Offered: MSN

Do you aspire a promising career as a primary care provider and at the same time wish to make a difference in the health care of our vulnerable populations? If your answer is yes to both these questions, you must look no further than University of California-Los Angeles, which offers one of the best FNP programs in California. The college’s research in the field of vulnerable populations has led to its FNPs students consistently work with the underserved sections throughout their period of study here. Not only that, as a certified FNP in California you can choose to follow suit many of its FNP graduates who practice in low cost or free health care centers throughout the state, providing primary care for the uninsured.

This MSN-FNP program prepares registered nurses to play the role of an advanced practice nurse offering primary care to individuals and families across all age groups. The program takes two years to complete and includes core, advanced practice, and FNP courses. Additionally, you require to complete four credits in nursing theory elective from a list of course options for which the college recommends opting for the course in Underserved Populations. Also, apart from the required clinical practicum, you can choose to complete additional clinical hours in the summer months to further sharpen practical skills. The total number of credits required for graduation is 79.

7. University of California, Irvine

Programs Offered: DNP

University of California, Irvine, founded in 1965 has produced several evidence-based FNPs as well as other advanced practice nurses who have gone ahead and improved population health at the local, national, and global levels. Through innovative research, the nursing school has contributed to solving some of the nation’s pressing healthcare issues. As an FNP student, you not only benefit from this rich climate of discovery but with the school’s continuous engagement in community service, you will also have the opportunity to build connections with various people from within the healthcare sector.

This DNP-FNP program in California prepares BSN and MSN graduates with the terminal degree in nursing specializing in family health. The coursework is mainly offered online and requires very few focused on-campus sessions. The coursework spans three years after which you will graduate with a DNP and be eligible for the FNP certification. Considering, optimal healthcare requires interdisciplinary collaboration, you will be provided with umpteen opportunities to collaborate with students from the field of medicine, public health, and pharmacy. The coursework takes you through courses in healthcare policy, interprofessional practice, clinical prevention, analytical method, and population health. To graduate, you require completing around 85 to 90 credits and 1,020 hours of clinical practice.

8. Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Programs Offered: MSN & Post-Master's Certificate

Sonoma State University enjoys the distinction of being the first in the state to offer training to family nurse practitioners, starting more than 40 years back. Being one of the few online FNP programs in California, its curriculum is typically designed keeping working nurses in mind. FNP graduates here are known for their evidence-based knowledge, critical thinking skills, and cultural sensitivity, all of which are vital traits to succeed in diverse types of work environments.

MSN Program Details: BSN students with an active RN license in California along with two years of work experience are eligible to apply for this program. The program builds up on your nursing baccalaureate, further advancing your knowledge in natural, social behavioral and nursing sciences. You can complete this program either on a full-time or part-time basis, depending on your current work schedule. To graduate, you must complete 46 credits in courses including, health promotion, advanced health assessment, health policy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and advanced primary care. Upon culmination of all the entire coursework, you must complete a clinical experience in a healthcare setting.

Post-Master's Certificate Program Details: This post-master’s certificate is a 36-credit program that takes two years to complete. As an MSN graduate, this program helps you acquire specialized skills and knowledge in the primary care of patients across the lifespan. Clinical experiences that form a part of this program can be completed in your community with the approval of faculty.

9. California State University Long Beach, Long Beach

Programs Offered: MSN and Certificate

Are you looking at FNP programs in California that offer affordable quality advanced practice nursing education? If so, your search may end with California State University, Long Beach that offers you a high return on the investment with its affordable family nurse practitioner programs in California. With over 50 years of experience in producing competent nurses, the college’s well-acclaimed faculty leaves no stone unturned in helping FNP students achieve their academic and career goals. Through its MSN and certificate program, the college prepares nurse practitioners to work in various types of primary care settings.

MSN Program Details: To be eligible for this MSN program, ideally you must have completed your baccalaureate education in nursing, however even with an undergraduate degree in a related field you can qualify. Upon enrollment, you require completing core and FNP courses. Some of the courses you take include advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, health care economics, theories & clinical studies in family health. The program ends with either a capstone project or a thesis.

Certificate Program Details: The college offers its post-master’s certificate to both, MSN as well to MSN-NP graduates. Entering the program as an MSN-NP will entail taking fewer courses as you require completing only the FNP-specific courses. Whereas entering post an MSN you require completing both, the advanced practice and the FNP courses.

10. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles

Programs Offered: MSN and Post Master’s Certificate

Few FNP programs in California stand out for their diverse clinical experiences and relentless efforts in addressing health disparities. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s FNP training can easily be counted as one among these for striving towards the cause of social justice and health equity. A private, non-profit institution, it was founded in 1966 with the goal of providing accessible medical care to various regions of California. To aspiring FNPs the college currently offers two FNP programs in California - an MSN and a post-master’s certificate.

MSN Program Details: As a licensed nurse in CA who has completed your BSN you can enter this MSN program and gain specialized skills to certify as an FNP. The program is offered in a flexible format with face-to-face classes held over weekends while taking the remaining courses online. To earn your degree, you must complete a total of 51 credits in core, advanced practice nursing, and FNP courses.

Post Master’s Certificate Program Details: This program requires you to have completed your MSN. By completing this coursework, you will acquire the specialized skills and knowledge to offer primary care to individuals across the lifespan. The coursework entails completing theoretical and clinical courses in the FNP specialization, after which you will be eligible for the certification exam.


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