What are the 10 Best Nurse Practitioner Programs in California (Online & Campus) for 2020?


1) California State University - Long Beach


Programs Offered: MSN, DNP, & Post-Master's Certificate

California State University’s nursing school prepares you with the skills and knowledge required to provide culturally relevant health care. The university produces nurse leaders with a sharp focus on academics, and its rigorous course curriculum helps make graduates industry-ready, right from day one. The school offers several nurse practitioner programs in California through its MSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate tracks.

MSN Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (Acute and Primary Care) , Family Nurse Practitioner , Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner , & Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Life Span)

You can pursue this master's degree program in either one of the four concentrations – Adult Gerontology, Family Health, Pediatric Primary Care, or Psychiatric-Mental Health. In order to graduate, depending on the concentration, you will complete anywhere between 30-48 units. The curriculum is a combination of core, culminating, and specialty courses. You must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 throughout the program. In addition to the theoretical instruction and lab exercises, you will also take part in extensive clinical training sessions and gain real-world experience under the guidance of experts.

DNP: The DNP program prepares students for advanced roles as nurse practitioners through a combination of didactic learning and practical experience sessions. The emphasis of the program remains on evidence-based training, collaborative learning, and developing leadership skills among students. As part of the curriculum, you will undergo 1,000 hours of intensive clinical training. The faculty also encourages students to contribute to the field by engaging in novel research.

Post-Master's Certificate Options: Nurse Practitioner Certificate for Practicing Nurse Practitioners, & Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

CSU-Long Beach offers 2 different pathways for nurses interested in pursuing a post-masters certification program. The Nurse Practitioner Certificate for Practicing Nurse Practitioners is for individuals who hold a master’s degree in nursing and are currently certified in an NP specialty area but want to add an additional specialty. On the other hand, for nurses who hold an MSN degree without the nurse practitioner certification, the college offers a Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate.

Both these programs require you to hold California RN-license, and additionally, the Nurse Practitioner Certificate for Practicing NP’s program requires you to also hold a valid nurse practitioner license in the state of California.

Both these pathways come with the option of choosing from either one of the six NP specializations (Adult-Gerontology Acute Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner & Women's Health Nurse Practitioner). Depending upon the specialization, you will complete 18 to 30 credits in core and specialty courses.

2) Azusa Pacific University – Azusa


Programs Offered: MSN, DNP, & Post-Master's Certificate

Azusa Pacific University is one of the top NP programs in California, known for producing quality nursing professionals. Evidently so, many of its alumni today are occupying prominent positions within the healthcare sector. Some of the primary reasons behind the success of the University’s nursing program include its research-oriented faculty members, rigorous academic curriculum, extensive practical exposure, and strong industry connections. To become a nurse practitioner, the nursing school offers an MSN, DNP, and Post-Master’s Certificate with several specialization options.

MSN Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner , Family Nurse Practitioner , Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care , & Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The MSN program accepts aspirants twice a year and is available with four different specialization options. You can complete the program in two to three years’ time, depending upon the number of classes you sign up for each term. The first leg of the program will require you to complete core academic and advanced practice courses and then take classes in your chosen specialty. This program lays strong emphasis on practical training through its clinical training sessions, which will help you develop into a competent nurse practitioner.

DNP: If you aspire to attain a leadership position in the nursing field, the DNP program at Azusa Pacific is the one you can consider. This evidence-based degree, backed with experiential learning, will equip you with advanced skills and credentials that are highly valued in both the academic and corporate worlds. The curriculum contains a total of 39-52 units, and the training will open-up vast opportunities for you within the global healthcare sector. To earn this degree, a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours is also required. Upon graduation, you can either choose to enter the field of patient-care services or take up clinical research.

Post-Master's Certificate Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) , Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) , Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) , & Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

The post-master’s certificate, offering evening classes, and customized clinical sessions is specifically designed for working nurses who already hold an MSN degree. This certificate program provides you the option of choosing from any of the four NP specialties. The curriculum of each of these specialties integrates theory and practical sessions in a skillful manner. Depending upon the number of classes a student takes, this program can be completed in around one to two years time period. Most students usually take classes one to two nights every week. Clinical training is an important part of the overall curriculum, and the University's School of Nursing leaves no stone unturned in ensuring the students find a suitable clinical setting where they put their skills to practice and gain valuable experience.

3) University of San Diego - San Diego


Programs Offered: MSN, DNP (BSN to DNP & MSN to DNP), & Post-Master's Certificate

If you are looking at taking up a career as a nurse practitioner, then completing an MSN, DNP, or Post Master’s Certificate at the University of San Diego’s Nursing School can be given a thought. The school focuses on imparting quality education through its research and industry-oriented curriculum. It pays special attention to inculcate leadership qualities and collaborative learning among students while preparing them to provide the highest standards of clinical care to patients.

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Family Nursing Practitioner in Emergency Care, Dual Adult-Gerontology/Family Nurse Practitioner, & Dual Pediatric/Family Nurse Practitioner

The BSN to DNP program if pursued full-time, can be completed in 3-years. The part-time option, on the other hand, will take four to five years. This program is available with five different specialization options, and students are accepted only once in the Fall of each year. Depending upon the area of specialty, you will be required to complete anywhere between 67-83 units. Upon completion, you become eligible to take national level certification exams to become a certified nurse practitioner in the area of your specialty. Admission into this program is also open for international students.

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Emergency Care for Family Nurse Practitioner

This online Nurse Practitioner Program in California program is specifically designed for family nurse practitioners who want to specialize in emergency care. Although you will take all your classes online, you are required to be present on-campus for one weekend each semester to complete the intensive sessions. The curriculum requires you to complete 49 units in courses such as strategic planning and quality initiatives, philosophy of reflective practice, family nurse practitioner in emergency care, pathogenesis of complex disease, and health policy analysis. The course structure provides you extensive theoretical and practical exposure, and once completed, you will be able to demonstrate the highest level of leadership and clinical skills. To enroll in the program, one year of prior work experience as an FNP is required.

Post-Master's Certificate Concentrations: Emergency Care for Family Nurse Practitioners

This one-year certificate program trains students to provide emergency care services with desirable efficiency and effectiveness. The course curriculum contains a total of 15 units, and in order to gain the much-required real-world exposure, you will be required to participate in 540 hours of clinical practice. Upon completion of this program, you become eligible to sit for the Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification (ENP-C) Examination conducted by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioner Certification Board (AANPCB).

4) University of California - San Francisco


Programs Offered: MSN

Recognized for its top-rated nursing education, the University of California takes a holistic approach to train nursing aspirants and helps them to become skilled professionals in the field of medical care. Along with theoretical learning, this nurse practitioner school in California offers you a-number-of opportunities to engage in real-world research through clinical and externship exercises. The college offers an MSN degree with several concentration options that you can choose, depending on your professional interests and goals.

MSN Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner , Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner , Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner - Occupational & Environmental Health , Certified Nurse-Midwife / Women's Health Nurse Practitioner , Family Nurse Practitioner , Neonatal Nurse Practitioner , Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care , Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care , & Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The Master’s degree is offered in a total of nine different specializations, providing prospective NP students with a wide choice in terms of choosing the specialty one wants to excel in. The number of units required to complete the course depends upon the specialty you have chosen. You need to note that clinical training experience is an integral part of the curriculum for all the specialties. As a mandatory admission requirement, some of the specialties require a minimum of two years of registered nursing work experience, though having some sort of prior work experience is preferred for all specializations. Upon graduation, you become eligible to take certification exams in the area of your specialty.

5) San Diego State University - San Diego


Programs Offered: MSN

San Diego State University’ School of Nursing has been offering graduate nursing education from 1982 and since then has trained graduates to become leaders in their area of work. The college is equipped with state of the art facilities and a stellar faculty that provides for a stimulating learning environment. If you are exploring the opportunity to earn the nurse practitioner credential in the field of adult-gerontology, then the master’s program offered by San Diego's School of Nursing could be considered.

MSN Concentrations: Dual Concentration in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and Adult Gerontology Acute/Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

This dual concentration program available in both full-time and part-time formats is specifically designed for nurses interested in taking up advanced practice positions in the field of adult-gerontology. The full-time schedule requires two years of dedicated study, while the part-time option takes a total of three years to graduate. The 50-credit curriculum covers subjects such as pathophysiology in adults & elderly, clinical pharmacology for advanced practice nursing, APN primary care, and acute/critical care theory & technology. As part of the curriculum, you will also gain ample real-world exposure through 768-hours of intensive clinical training sessions.

Upon graduation, you become eligible to take the Acute Care CNS-Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (ACCNS-AG), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP-BC), and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP) examinations conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) respectively.

6) Brandman University – Irvine


Programs Offered: BSN to DNP, Post-Masters to DNP, & Post-Doctoral Certificate

The student-centered learning approach of this nurse practitioner program in California sets it apart from other universities in the region. The nursing school of Bradman University enjoys a credible reputation and is well-known for its flexible course structure and effective program delivery. Both the faculty and administrative staff are supportive, and their approach to keep students’ interest first is something that you’ll cherish during your training period. To become a nurse practitioner, the college offers a BSN to DNP, Post master’s to DNP, and post-doctoral certificate program with specialization options.

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Family/Across the Lifespan NP & Psychiatric and Mental Health NP

In order to apply for this 36-month hybrid BSN to DNP course, you must be a licensed registered nurse holding a BSN degree. Offered with two different concentration options, the curriculum of this program is a combination of online classes and on-campus immersion sessions. The focus of the Family/Across the Lifespan NP specialization is to equip nurses with skills to provide efficient medical care services to patients of all ages while the goal of the Psychiatric and Mental Health NP course is to help nurse practitioners handle psychological and mental disorders in patients. Both concentrations require completion of 127 credits and 255 clinical hours to graduate.

Upon graduation, depending on your area of specialty, you will have the opportunity to practice in a variety of clinical settings, such as primary health care centers, private clinics, emergency wards, and outpatient clinics.

Post-Masters to DNP Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Enrollment into this 20-month program, which is a combination of online classes and on-campus immersion sessions, requires you to hold an MSN degree. The program gives you the option of either becoming a family nurse practitioner or a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Out of a total of 97 credits required to graduate, you can transfer up to 40 credits as well as 500 hours of clinical experience from your MSN degree. Out of the remaining 57 credits, you will have to complete 30 credits in core DNP courses and 27 credits in the specialty of your choice, which will be either the FNP or PMHNP courses. One of the important components of this program is the Clinical Scholarly Project that provides you an opportunity to apply your research skills to address a real-world clinical issue.

To graduate, you will have to pass all the courses with a minimum of “B- “grade.

Post-Doctoral Certificate Concentrations: Family/Across the Lifespan & Psychiatric and Mental Health NP

This short 6-month hybrid certificate course provides you the opportunity to add an additional NP credential, post completion of your DNP, or Ph.D. degree. As a graduate of this course, you will increase your scope of practice by gaining skills and knowledge in a new specialty, thus opening up a wider range of advanced practitioner job opportunities. The program is a combination of extensive online learning and in-person as well as virtual immersion sessions. You can earn this certificate either with the FNP or PMHNP specialization by completing a 27-credit curriculum, which also includes 255-hours of rigorous clinical training, which you can complete at a clinical setting closer to your area of residence.

Upon graduation, based on your area of specialization, you can take the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioner Certification Board (AANPCB).

7) Sonoma State University - Rohnert Park


Programs Offered: MSN, & Post-Master's Certificate

With more than 40 years of excellence in nursing education, Sonoma State University has trained an estimated 4,000 nurse practitioners, nurse leaders, and nurse educators to transform patient care across the world. Graduates of the college are known to demonstrate professional leadership and a spirit of lifelong learning. The college offers an MSN and a post Master’s certificate program to advance your nursing career as an NP.

MSN Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner

The 46-credit MSN degree program specializing in FNP is available with both full-time (4-semester) and part-time (6-semester) options. Sonoma state first started offering this program around 40 years back and since then has trained many nurses with advanced clinical skills to serve as family nurse practitioners in a variety of settings where they are currently serving patients across the lifespan. The coursework covers subjects such as health promotion practice in primary care, pathophysiologic concepts in primary care, pharmacology in primary care, and advanced practice in primary care systems. Although most of the learning takes place online, you are required to be present in-person to fulfill the practical training part of the curriculum, which will take place at a clinical site under the watch of a college-approved preceptor.

Post-Master's Certificate Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner

The two-year, FNP certificate course is designed for nurses who already have completed their MSN degree and hold a valid registered nurse license in the state of California. This 36-unit program is offered by the University’s School of Nursing in partnership with the School of Extended and International Education (SEIE). Although a majority of the coursework is delivered online, you are required to be present on-campus to attend in-person sessions a minimum of eight times during the first semester and around three to four times in the subsequent semesters. You will move through the class as a cohort and complete courses tailored for family practice primary care in sequential order. Classes are integrated with the MSN-FNP degree program offered by the college in order to encourage interaction between students, but in comparison, you will take fewer classes as you receive credit for your MSN degree. The program also gives you the added flexibility of completing the clinical preceptorship in your local community at a college approved setting.

8) San Francisco State University - San Francisco


Programs Offered: RN to MSN, & Post-Master's Certificate

The school of Nursing at San Francisco State University is committed to achieving academic excellence. This nurse practitioner program in California is designed skillfully and integrates both academic and practical experience in a seamless manner. The state-of-the-art infrastructure, competent faculty members, and visionary top-management are some of the other important differentiators that make the university a good place to excel in your nursing career.

The college currently offers two different pathways to earn the Family Nurse Practitioner credential. Graduates of both these pathways will be eligible to take the National Board certification as well as the California certification examinations.

RN to MSN Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner

This 3-year master's degree program requires you to complete a total of 97 units. The coursework spread over six semesters contains both core and specialty courses with a strong focus on collaborative research, evidence-based training, and inter-disciplinary learning. You will also gain valuable practical exposure through the lab practical and clinical exercises, both of which are an integral part of the overall curriculum.

Post-Master's Certificate Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner

This certificate course emphasizing on novel research and discovery is ideal for individuals who want to earn the family nurse practitioner credential post-completion of their master's or the doctor's degree in nursing. Depending upon the entry track, the course can be completed within a time frame of 12-18 months. To provide flexibility for working nurses, classes are held mostly during the evenings; however, the clinical practicum sessions require you to be present full-time as they are held during the regular business hours. Admission to this program is competitive, and only a limited number of students are accepted each year.

9) University of San Francisco - San Francisco


Programs Offered: DNP, & Post-Doctoral Certificate

One of the credible names among NP schools in California, education at the University of San Francisco, is rooted in Jesuit values, training students to offer holistic and compassionate nursing care. By producing nurse leaders, the college strives towards transforming healthcare in a constantly evolving environment. The college offers a DNP and post-doctoral certificate program in two concentrations that lead to a promising career as a nurse practitioner.

DNP Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner & Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The DNP degree at USF prepares you for leadership positions within the field of nursing. Depending on your current degree, the program usually takes between two and four and a half years to complete. The coursework is a combination of online and in-person learning. You can enter this degree post completion of your BSN or MSN and choose from either one of the two concentrations - Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. The curriculum is rigorous and involves theory, practical, and clinical training sessions. Both concentrations require you to undergo 1035 hours of clinical training at a clinical site, which you can select in collaboration with the clinical faculty. Students with a master’s degree are required to complete a lesser number of clinical hours as they can transfer up to 500 clinical hours from their master's level practicum coursework.

Post-Doctoral Certificate Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

You are eligible to apply for this 1-year certificate course if you are a registered nurse with a doctoral degree (DNP or Ph.D.) in the field of Nursing. This program is available with two different concentration options, and you can choose to either earn the Family Nurse Practitioner or the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner credential. This hybrid program is delivered through a combination of in-person and online learning. In order to graduate, you are required to earn a minimum of 35-38 credits, including 500 clinical hours of direct patient supervision. Students from other colleges seeking entry into this program can transfer up to a maximum of 12 credits, provided the courses match with the ones offered at USF.

10) Loma Linda University - Loma Linda


Programs Offered: BS to DNP

Completing your nurse practitioner education at Loma Linda University will make a competent nurse leader, grounded in Christian values of treating the patient as a whole, and caring for the mind, body, and spirit. With a student population coming from more than 80 countries, you learn to be culture-sensitive, while enjoying the richness of this diversity. Flexible schedules and a low student-faculty ratio make this college a rather preferred choice. The college currently offers a BSN to DNP program with four NP concentrations.

BS to DNP Concentrations: Adult/Gerontology, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, & Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

The DNP program, available in four different specializations, helps individuals with a BSN degree to make an entry into the lucrative nurse practitioner field. Depending upon the area of specialty, you are required to complete 117 to 122 quarter units. This program is offered only in full-time format and requires a total of 3 years to complete. The curriculum is basically divided into four parts - core coursework, concentration coursework, clinical practicum, and a research-based project. The core and concentration courses help build a strong foundation while the practicum and the research project will provide you an opportunity to put your skills and knowledge to practice and gain real-world working exposure. To apply for this nurse practitioner program in California, you are required to hold a valid RN license and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in your BSN degree. Upon graduation, you will achieve expertise in your chosen specialty and will be ready to take up positions in a variety of healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, and outpatient settings.

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