10 Best RN to BSN Programs in California (Online & Campus) – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

An RN to BSN program in California is a bridge program that allows you to utilize your ADN credits as you pursue a BSN degree. Numerous colleges and universities throughout the state offer RN to BSN programs to fit your schedule, whether you need traditional daytime courses, night classes, or even online learning. Of the 29 nursing schools offering RN to BSN programs in California accredited by either the CCNE or ACEN, we have ranked the best according to factors such as academic quality, affordability, and the overall reputation of the nursing school.

Online RN to BSN Programs in California: What You Need to Know?

When pursuing RN to BSN degree in CA, you will have already obtained your ADN, and there is a very good chance you are already working as an RN. As a result, you will need a flexible program that can fit your schedule, and an online RN to BSN program can do just that. You can learn on your own time and only visit campuses for testing and clinicals.

ACEN/CCNE Accredited & Approved by California Board of Registered Nursing: When choosing an online RN to BSN program, it is vital that it has been approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) and accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Increasingly, employers throughout the state of California seek candidates who have obtained an education from schools that meet or exceed the accrediting bodies’ high standards.

Coursework: The coursework included in an online RN to BSN program is designed to build upon the credits you earned as you pursued your ADN degree, making the coursework more in-depth. You will learn more about leadership and management roles in nursing, laws and ethics as they apply to healthcare, and more advanced nursing practices and procedures. You will likely participate in simulations and labs to reinforce your coursework, as well.

Sample Courses
Collaborative Strategies for Nursing, Community and Population Health Nursing (practicum), Informatics for Nursing and Healthcare, Introduction to Nursing Leadership and Management, Lifespan Health Promotion in Nursing, Nursing Capstone, Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice, Pathopharmacology, Physical Assessment, Policy, Law and Ethics in Healthcare, Theoretical Foundations and Professional Values in Nursing and Professional Nursing Role Transition

Clinical Training: Clinical training may or may not be necessary, and this depends on your school’s requirements. Many of the CA schools offering online RN to BSN programs will not require you to participate in unpaid clinicals if you are currently working as an RN. You should speak with your school’s nursing program advisor to learn more.

Program Length: The length of each online program varies from school to school and from student to student. Remember that you will be able to complete your coursework at your own pace – but only to a degree. Most schools in California give you a maximum of two years to complete the program, but at a minimum, you can expect it to take about 16 months.

Common Admission Requirements: Admission requirements for online programs are much the same as campus-based programs, and they vary from school to school. As an example, California State University at San Marcos will require you to:

• Have at least a minimum 2.0 GPA on all transferable units;
• Successfully complete at least 60 transferrable units;
• Pass 12 units of pre-nursing core classes with a “C” or better letter grade average. (These courses include Oral Communication, Written Communication, Critical Thinking, and Mathematics/Qualitative Reasoning.)
• Provide evidence of successfully completing an ADN degree;
• Provide evidence of a valid RN license;
• Successfully complete all prerequisite courses (Microbiology for Health Sciences Units; Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II; and General, Organic, and Biochemistry for Life unit and lab) with a “C” letter grade average or better
• Pass a criminal background check; and
• Provide evidence of the right to work in the United States.

What are the 10 Best Accredited RN to BSN Programs in California for 2024?

(Based on our ranking methodology, the following are the 10 best RN-to-BSN programs in California (Online & Campus).)

1) San Diego State University, San Diego

Type: Campus

Program Overview: The RN to BSN program offered by San Diego State University is an on-campus program that takes 12 to 15 months to complete. Curriculum includes courses in nursing professionalism, research and evidence-based practice, leadership, caring for complex or critically ill patients, and much, much more.

Key Highlights

• If you already have a baccalaureate degree in another field, you can complete the RN to BSN program at San Diego State University in less than one year.
• SDSU requires all BSN students to participate in an international experience, which is a 10 to 14-day residency that is designed to help increase awareness of health-related issues across borders and cultures.

2) California State University-Chico, Chico

Type: Hybrid

Program Overview: The online program at California State University at Chico was designed to be incredibly flexible and uses mainly online delivery to provide you with your education. This allows you to work as a licensed RN as you pursue your BSN degree. You will be required to attend campuses for testing and travel to assigned facilities to complete your clinicals, however.

Key Highlights

• This program was designed mainly for RNs living in rural communities who have difficult travelling for more traditional campus-based learning programs and for those working full time.
• CSU Chico strives to place RNs in nearby facilities for their clinical experience whenever possible.
• This school offers state of the art resources and has been lauded at the national level for its use of innovation and technology in education.

3) California State University-Sacramento, Sacramento

Type: Hybrid

Program Overview: This is one of the many hybrid online and on-campus RN to BSN programs in California, and it is also one of the most popular. You may attend full-time to complete the program in just two semesters, or you can attend part-time and complete it in three.

Key Highlights

• 70% of courses are online; 30% are face-to-face. On-campus classes take place every other Wednesday, making them easy to fit into your schedule.
• If you complete the community health clinical, you can also apply for your California Public Health Nurse (PHN) certificate after program completion.
• CSU Sacramento is currently expanding its campus to include a cutting-edge lab space with a focus on biology and chemistry.

4) California State University-San Marcos, San Marcos

Type: Online

Program Overview: The online RN to BSN program at California State University at San Marcos is one of the few programs that will allow you to take general education and core nursing courses concurrently. It also offers a variety of funding and financial aid options.

Key Highlights

• Flexible online courses allow you to earn a degree while you work and provides you with knowledge you can apply immediately.
• Because you can take general education and nursing courses concurrently, you can complete the program in less than a year.

5) San Jose State University, San Jose

Type: Campus

Program Overview: The RN to BSN program offered by San Jose State University prepares you with a well-rounded education in just 12 months. Students who hold an active RN license in California are eligible for this program. For those currently enrolled in an associate in nursing, must pass the NCLEX before starting the second semester. Out of the total 120 credits required to earn a BSN degree, 70 credits can be transferred from your associate. This considerably helps lower study time and costs. The on-campus program is offered every fall and spring and admits 40 students each semester. To enhance your chances of admission ensure you score a minimum college GPA of 2.75 and a minimum of “C” grade in nursing pre-requisite courses.

Key Highlights

• If you have earned a bachelor’s degree in another field along with an associate in nursing, you can either complete a second bachelor’s degree (BSN) or apply for a master’s in nursing at San Jose State. Your past education will be given credit in terms of a waiver in the upper division courses.
• By completing this program, you will have broader career avenues open-up and well, you will even be in a position of demanding a higher salary.

6) Concordia University-California, Irvine

Type: Hybrid or Online

Program Overview: The RN to BSN program at Concordia University at Irvine was designed to help current RNs achieve their educational goals at their own pace. The school offers its program entirely online, or you can opt to take some of your courses on campus if this is best for you. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as 12 months; part-time students finish in about 24 months.

Key Highlights

• The RN to BSN program at Concord University at Irvine is accredited by the CCNE and the Accrediting Commission for Schools – Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
• You will develop leadership skills and community health knowledge through outstanding clinical placement in your local area.

7) Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego

Type: Campus, Online

Program Overview: Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) in San Diego offers one of the best and most flexible RN to BSN degrees in the state of California for working nurses. Through a partnership with numerous community colleges across the county, you will participate in both online and on-campus classes to complete your program in roughly 15 months.

Key Highlights

• PLNU’s face-to-face courses take place one night each week, which gives you the opportunity to continue working as an RN to support your family while leaving ample time for your studies.
• The school’s learning environment is ideal for Christian nurses who want to lead, communicate, follow, and provide care faithfully.

8) West Coast University, Irvine

Type: Online

Program Overview: The online RN to BSN program offered by West Coast University in Irvine, California takes 12 months to complete thanks to the streamlined credit transfer process. At WCU, you can transfer up to 84 credit hours, significantly reducing your study time. You will also be required to participate in 135 practice experience hours to help ensure you are ready for the next step in your nursing career.

Key Highlights

• Classes at WCU start every eight weeks, making it one of the most flexible RN to BSN schools in California.
• You can also choose to earn the Certificate of Completion of Sigma Theta Tau International’s Nurse Manager Program, which can give you a strong advantage in the job market.

9) California State University-Northridge, Northridge

Type: Campus

Program Overview: The California State University at Northridge RN to BSN program is a campus-based program that requires a total of 120 units to complete. Some of these units can be challenged via examination, thus reducing your overall study time. The program is three semesters in length, and while all courses take place in the classroom, a handful also incorporate some online instruction.

Key Highlights

• Previous CSUN BSN graduates work successfully as clinical instructors, staff educators, public health nurses, and nursing managers, and many go on to pursue graduate degrees.
• CSU Northridge offers a diverse selection of electives that can help you become better acquainted with chosen specialties.

10) National University, San Diego

Type: Online

Program Overview: National University is a veteran-founded nonprofit school that makes BSN degrees accessible to as many working RNs as possible through its online RN to BSN program, which is one of very few programs in the state accredited by both the ACEN and CCNE. The program takes between one and two years to complete, depending on your needs and schedule.

Key Highlights

• National University will give you up to 30 semester units of credit for clinical courses if you graduated from a three-year hospital nursing school.
• This school places extra focus on cultural awareness and cross-culture communication in healthcare.
• National University’s program includes a Nursing Leadership and Management practicum.



Latest on California’s Push for 80 Percent BSN

A California Action Coalition has been created to bring the state up to the stringent nursing standards outlined in The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health – the 2010 Institute of Medicine Report. Part of that initiative involves ensuring that 80% of the RNs employed across CA have earned BSN degrees. The Action Coalition (AC) wants to move 10 students in each community college into BSN programs, and it is currently developing an online mentorship program. Aside from this, the AC wants to see five RNs appointed to statewide medical decision-making boards.

The gap between the level of education included in ADN and BSN programs is noticeable, and with the state of California being one of the very first to adopt and implement the Affordable Care Act, it has become clear that the need for knowledgeable, experienced, and quality RNs will only continue to increase in the future. The need for more healthcare professionals was made clearer in May 2018 when a bill designed to eliminate legal residency requirements for Medicaid programs in the state passed the general assembly.

Options to Fund Your RN to BSN in California

RN to BSN programs in California can be quite expensive, but you can obtain financial assistance in a variety of ways.

Grants: To apply for state grants, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid the year prior to attending your program. Doing so will indicate whether you qualify for a variety of federal grants. You may also fill out the California Dream Act application to determine your eligibility for various state-funded grants.

Loans: Student loans provided by the federal government are available via the Sallie Mae website, which offers numerous opportunities and options. You may also apply for loans through private financial institutions.

Scholarships: Numerous scholarship opportunities exist throughout California and at the Federal level, as well. Some of these, including a $10,000 scholarship offered through the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, are work-study scholarships that require you to commit to an underserved area for a period of time.

Employer Assistance Programs: Finally, numerous hospitals and medical centers throughout California may offer financial assistance for your RN to BSN program in CA in exchange for your agreement to work with them for a specific period of time. Others may offer scholarships for employees who need financial assistance or display excellence in nursing. Some of these include:

• Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center
• Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital
• Banner Lassen Medical Center
• University of California Davis Health System

6 Potential Advantages of Pursuing an RN to BSN in California

Aside from better preparing yourself for a lifelong career as an RN, there are other advantages associated with pursuing this particular course of study.

1. Expand Your Knowledge, Skills & Abilities: Whereas your ADN program provided you with all the basic knowledge you needed to provide healthcare services to your patients, the RN to BSN program takes this even further. These programs focus on leadership and management in nursing, and they better prepare you for specialized fields through more focused coursework.

2. Salary Bump: A registered nurse who has earned a BSN degree has an additional two years of education, and for many employers, this translates into better patient outcomes. Because of this, they are willing to pay more; in fact, on average, RNs in CA earn an average of $17,900 more per year after completing their BSN programs.

Before RN To BSN After RN to BSN How Much More Will I Earn
(Source: Compiled using data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

3. More Job Opportunities: Though the demand for nurses is on the increase regardless of education, those who have BSNs are in the highest demand. Each year in CA, there are 6,230 openings for ADN graduates as opposed to 11,210 openings for BSN graduates. This means that with a BSN degree, you will have more choices when it comes to your employment, and you will be a far more competitive contender in the job market.

California Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
Annual Openings for BSN Graduates 11,210
Annual Openings for ADN Graduates 6,230
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)

4. The Outlook is Brighter for a BSN Graduate: Job security is yet another important consideration for RNs across CA, and data continues to suggest that BSN graduates will enjoy a brighter outlook. In the decade between 2020 and 2030, the employment of RNs with ADN degrees will climb by 8.95%. For those with BSN degrees, employment will grow by 19.06%. BSN degrees provide RNs with more knowledge and experience, in turn leading to better patient outcomes and high magnet status for employers. This will continue driving the trend in future years.

10 Year (2020-2030) Job Outlook
Employment New Job Growth
2020 2030 Number %
BSN 169,720189,86020,14011.87%
ADN 96,850105,5208,6708.95%
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)

5. Career Advancement: While your ADN qualifies you to work as an RN in numerous settings, your BSN can qualify you to do so much more. After earning this degree, you would be qualified to teach LPN and CNA programs at community and technical colleges across the state of California. You will also have the knowledge you need to enjoy success as a nursing manager, and your BSN degree also makes you a much better contender for a promotion.

Advancement Opportunities
Charge Nurse Director of Nursing
Chief Nursing Officer Nurse Educator
Clinical Nurse Specialist Nurse Manager
Clinical Research Nurse Nurse Supervisor

6. Post-RN to BSN Study Options: Finally, once you have earned your BSN in California, your education and career path does not have to stop there. In fact, there are many other career paths you could take. For example, earning your MSN or MS in California would allow you to serve as a clinical leader, nurse practitioner, or even a certified registered nurse anesthetist and enjoy a salary of as much as $202,340 a year. Earning your PhD or DNP could allow you to serve as an APRN, college faculty, nursing school dean, researcher, or even a senior policy analyst and careers like these come with annual salaries ranging from $95,350 - $236,230.

Type of Degree Length Roles and Responsibilities Salary
Master’s Degree (MSN/MS) Up to 2 years Administrator, Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Leader, Clinical Nurse Specialist & Nurse Practitioner$95,350 - $202,340
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree 4 to 6 years Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, College Faculty, Nursing School Dean, Health System Executive, Researcher, & Senior Policy Analyst$95,350 - $236,230

RN to BSN Programs in Nearby States
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