11 Best RN-to-MSN Programs in California – 2024


Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

Have you yearned to be a nurse practitioner or nurse executive in California but given up because your nursing education doesn’t qualify you for the role? Graduates of RN-to-MSN programs in California can earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree even if they don’t have a BSN. RN-to-MSN programs in the Golden State combine essential BSN and MSN curricula components. In California, graduates of RN-to-MSN programs earn salaries of $153,290 a year on average, and there is high demand for their services. Start the next phase in your career today by perusing this list of the 11 best RN-to-MSN programs in California for 2024.


WHAT ARE THE BEST RN-TO-MSN PROGRAMS IN CALIFORNIA (ONLINE & CAMPUS) FOR 2024?

(Based on our ranking methodology, the following are the 11 Best RN-to-MSN Programs in California (Online & Campus).)

1. University of San Francisco - San Francisco


Program Details: University of San Francisco’s RN to MSN program can empower you to positively change healthcare. Home to one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs in California, the school emphasizes interprofessional collaboration and promotes the professional as well as personal development of students.

The coursework is offered online, having asynchronous classes that easily fit into your life as a working nurse. The program is offered to RNs with an associate degree or with a BSN. If you enter with an associate, you’ll bypass the BSN to seamlessly earn the MSN.

The post-ADN to MSN coursework comprises 33 credits, whereas, if you enter after a BSN, you’ll require completing 38 credits. In addition to the evidence-based didactic courses, the program also consists of a clinical practicum. The practicum, comprising 400 hours, can be completed where you are currently working or at a site secured by the school.

Some of the topics that are covered in this program include, the foundation of leadership, quality, and patient safety, health informatics, health policy & advocacy, and evidence-based quality improvement.

Admission Requirements: To apply to this RN-to-MSN program in California, you must submit your online application along with an application fee of $55. To qualify, you must have either an ADN or a BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Also, you must submit your transcripts, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential University of San Francisco RN-to-MSN Students

• University of San Francisco’s RN to MSN program is grounded in faith-based values of justice and service. When you graduate, you’ll be prepared to provide holistic care to diverse patient populations.
• The University of San Francisco ranks #1 in the nation for diversity in student population as per the U.S. News & World Report. As an RN to MSN student, when you study in a culturally diverse environment, you’ll be better equipped with skills in cultural competence.
• University of San Francisco nursing school’s location advantage not only opens up a plethora of internship opportunities while still in school but also provides the benefit of employment options post-program completion.


2. Western University of Health Sciences - Pomona


Specialties Offered: Health Systems Leadership-Clinical Nurse Leader, Health Systems Leadership-Administrative Nurse Leader, and Ambulatory Care Nursing


Program Details: As a registered nurse, there is only that much that you can do to improve patient care. If you are seeking autonomy and greater job satisfaction, then the Western University of Health Sciences can prepare you for this desirable career advancement. The school offers one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs in California and provides three specialization options, including Health Systems Leadership-Clinical Nurse Leader, Health Systems Leadership-Administrative Nurse Leader, and Ambulatory Care Nursing.

The web-based curriculum requires you to attend the campus for intensives, twice, each semester. The program, leading to the MSN degree, surpasses the BSN. Regardless of the RN to MSN specialization you choose, to graduate, you must complete credits around 41 to 44. Most students complete this program within two years.

Admission Requirements: To apply to this RN to MSN program, you must have either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited college. Also, you must submit your resume, a personal statement, official transcripts, and a copy of your unencumbered RN license. Besides, you are required to have completed pre-requisite courses in communications statistics, social sciences, psychology, nutrition, human anatomy, human physiology, and microbiology. You are also required to have one year of work experience as a registered nurse. If in case you do not fulfill this criterion, then you should be working as a nurse during the program.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential Western University of Health Sciences RN-to-MSN Students

• Western University of Health Sciences MSN is ranked among the best in the nation as per the U.S. News & World Report, making it an excellent option for students seeking to enroll in an RN-to-MSN program in California.
• Western University of Health Sciences offers RN to MSN students the advantage of joining the large nursing alumni network of the university. You’ll be able to build meaningful connections with nurse graduates who are serving across the globe.
• Western University of Health Sciences produces top-quality RN to MSN graduates who are desired by employers in the region. Not surprising that the program takes pride in its excellent employment rate.
• Western University of Health Sciences RN-to-MSN program offers the same tuition costs, regardless of your residency status.


3. San Diego State University - San Diego


Specialties Offered: Advanced Practice Nursing (Adult Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioner/Adult Gerontology Acute, Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist) and Leadership In Health Care Systems


Program Details: Whether you desire to enter the field of advanced practice nursing or prefer to play leadership roles, San Diego State University’s RN to MSN program helps you reach your career goals. Counted among the best RN-to-MSN programs in California, the program offers two tracks in advanced practice nursing and a track in healthcare systems leadership. The advanced practice tracks include; Adult-Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioner/Adult-Gerontology Acute and Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist.

The advanced practice tracks can be completed within two to three years, depending on whether you choose part-time or full-time. The curriculum comprises around 50 credits and requires you to complete courses in advanced health assessment, pathophysiology, clinical pharmacology, and issues & policies in healthcare.

On the other hand, the RN to MSN leadership program emphasizes organizational and management skills. You’ll obtain proficiency in research methods, health policy, healthcare informatics, healthcare quality improvement, and health policy.

Admission Requirements: To gain admission into this RN-to-MSN program in California, you must have an ADN or a BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Also, you must have completed a course in statistics with a minimum grade of C. Besides, the school requires you to have at least one year of work experience as a registered nurse. If you are applying to any of the advanced practice tracks, then it is preferred that you have related work experience. To fulfill the application requirements, you must submit your transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential San Diego State University RN-to-MSN Students

• San Diego State University’s RN to MSN is built on 40 years of experience in training competent nursing professionals.
• San Diego State University’s experienced faculty is highly qualified and provides you with individual attention to reach your academic and professional goals.
• San Diego State University nursing school maintains partnerships with several healthcare facilities across the state. So, as an RN to MSN student, you’ll be able to access a wide range of options to hone skills in your chosen area of focus.


4. California Baptist University - Riverside


Specialties Offered: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist Adult Gerontology, Family Nurse Practitioner, Healthcare Leadership, Nurse Educator, Nursing Informatics, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner


Program Details: By producing high-quality graduate nurses, California Baptist University’s RN to MSN program strives to address the increasing shortage of nurses prepared at a graduate level. Standing out among the other RN-to-MSN programs in California, the program offers a wide range of specializations in direct and indirect patient care. The direct patient care roles include adult gerontology acute care NP, adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist, family health NP and psychiatric mental health NP. Whereas if you prefer indirect patient care, you can choose from nursing informatics, healthcare leadership, or nursing education.

Based on the RN to MSN specialization you choose, you’ll require completing anywhere from 42 to 60 credits, with the healthcare leadership track requiring the least number and the adult gerontology acute care NP track comprising the highest number of credits.

Regardless of the RN to MSN track you choose, the coursework will cover core topics such as nursing science, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, research & scholarship, advanced health assessment, health policy & bioethics, population health, and health promotion, applied statistics, advanced nursing leadership, and healthcare informatics. In addition, you’ll complete courses in your chosen specialization. If you’ve entered the program after an ADN, you’ll require completing bridge courses, which are otherwise waived off for RNs entering with a BSN.

Offered through the on-campus format, all the RN to MSN specializations are offered only part-time, taking eight to ten semesters to complete.

Admission Requirements: To be considered for this RN-to-MSN program in California, your ADN/BSN must be accredited and your GPA must be at least 3.0. Also, your RN license must be active and unencumbered in CA. Additionally, the school requires you to submit three recommendation letters, a professional resume, a personal essay, and a copy of your RN license.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential California Baptist University RN-to-MSN Students

• California Baptist University’s RN to MSN program is designed for working nurses and hence requires you to attend classes, weekly once, at night. The schedule stays the same throughout the program, allowing working nurses to juggle a full-time job.
• California Baptist University nursing school is a military-friendly school that offers veterans and servicemen several benefits to not only make their transition to student life seamless but to also make their RN to MSN education rather affordable.
• California Baptist University nursing school ranks among the best in the nation according to the U.S. News & World Report.


5. Point Loma Nazarene University - San Diego


Specialties Offered: Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Pediatrics Clinical Nurse Specialist, Women’s Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nursing Education, and Healthcare Leadership


Program Details: Are you an RN, seeking to enroll in one of the best RN-to-MSN programs in California? If so, Point Loma Nazarene University’s RN to MSN program can be an excellent choice. The program combines the spiritual and emotional aspects of nursing with evidence-based knowledge to produce nurse leaders who are compassionate caregivers.

Designed for working nurses, the program offers most classes weekly once in the night, so that you can handle a full-time job along with studying. The RN to MSN program offers specializations including, adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist, pediatric clinical nurse specialist, women’s health clinical nurse specialist, nursing education, and healthcare leadership.

If you enter this RN to MSN program after an ADN, the credits required for graduation will be around 54. If you enter after a BSN, you’ll require completing 43 credits. In addition, all the RN to MSN specializations include at least 500 hours of clinical practice.

Every RN to MSN track includes core courses that cover topics such as healthcare policy & ethics, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, advanced health assessment, health promotion, evidence-based nursing practice, and leadership and innovation in healthcare. Most students complete this program within 2.5 years.

Admission Requirements: To apply to this RN-to-MSN program in California, you must have an ADN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Further, you’ll be required to possess an RN which is active and unencumbered in CA. To fulfill the admission requirements, you must submit your official transcripts, resume, personal essay, and two professional recommendations. Also, you are required to have at least two years of work experience. You must know that the school evaluates your applications holistically, so you must highlight all aspects of your application.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential Point Loma Nazarene University RN-to-MSN Students

• Point Loma Nazarene University nursing school offers a close-knit environment, that allows close interactions with faculty and peers. Besides, the cohort model that the RN to MSN program follows, provides great support and plenty of opportunities to make lifelong friendships.
• Point Loma Nazarene University’s RN-to-MSN program provides clinical training in multicultural healthcare settings, thereby preparing you to offer care to the state’s diverse patient population.
• Point Loma Nazarene University nursing school is not only one of the best in the nation for the top-quality education it offers but also one of the military-friendly schools in the nation as per the U.S. News & World Report.


6. San Francisco State University - San Francisco


Specialties Offered: Family Nurse Practitioner


Program Details: San Francisco State University prepares you for one of the most in-demand fields of advanced practice nursing. This RN-to-MSN program in California, which leads to an MSN and FNP certification offers a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum. As a certified FNP, you’ll be prepared to provide evidence-based primary care to patients across the lifespan in interdisciplinary healthcare settings.

The RN to MSN-FNP curriculum comprises a total of 52 credits in core MSN and FNP courses. The required core courses educate you on health systems management, healthcare informatics, healthcare policy & leadership, advanced physical assessment, advanced pathophysiology, epidemiology & biostatistics, and program planning & financial management. You also learn about ethics in advanced nursing practice and research and evidence-based practice in nursing. Further, the FNP-related courses train you for diagnosis & healthcare management in primary care. Your training also includes at least 600 hours of clinical practice.

Admission Requirements: This RN-to-MSN program in California is designed for BSN-prepared registered nurses who have a GPA of at least 3.0. Additionally, you must carry a valid RN license in CA and have a minimum of one year of nursing work experience. To submit your application, you must be prepared with documents, including a personal statement, a set of official transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a copy of your RN license.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential San Francisco State University RN-to-MSN Students

• San Francisco State University nursing school provides ample opportunities to sharpen clinical skills in the underserved communities of San Francisco. Completing your clinical experiences while working with patients from underserved and vulnerable neighborhoods makes you a compassionate and ethical care provider.
• At San Francisco State University nursing school, you’ll be taught by faculty members who are skilled clinicians and experts in the field of advanced practice nursing.
• San Francisco State University nursing school has significantly contributed to healthcare in the Bay Area by producing skilled primary care nurses, who are committed to health equity, service, and lifelong learning.


7. Vanguard University - Costa Mesa


Specialties Offered: Nurse Educator


Program Details: If you aspire to influence the future workforce of nurses, then gaining specialized skills in nursing education will be a great idea. Vanguard University’s RN to MSN program, leading to the Nurse Educator certification, prepares you to teach and play advanced nursing roles. The program emphasizes theoretical as well as practical training and comprises 47 to 50 credits.

Counted among the well-known online RN-to-MSN programs in California, the program takes eight terms to complete. The coursework makes you proficient in various topics such as ethical issues & legal aspects, community health nursing, advanced health assessment, advanced concepts in pathophysiology, advanced concepts in pharmacology, and health promotion & disease prevention. In addition, the nurse educator courses prepare you for the theoretical frameworks of education, the use of technology in healthcare & nursing education, and strategies of simulation learning & instructions. Towards the end of the program, you’ll complete a capstone project and an education practicum.

Admission Requirements: To be considered for this RN-to-MSN program in California, you must have an associate degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Also, your RN license must be current and active. The school requires you to have completed courses in statistics. Further, you must be prepared to submit your official transcripts, resume, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential Vanguard University RN-to-MSN Students

• Vanguard University nursing school’s small-sized classes are capped at 8 to 12 students. The small cohort allows personalized attention and close interaction with faculty and peers.
• Vanguard University offers generous funding options to make your RN to MSN education affordable. It is good for you to know that here, nearly 90% of its students receive some sort of financial assistance.
• Vanguard University’s RN to MSN program easily fits into your busy life. The flexible format of the online program allows you to complete one class at a time.
• Vanguard University’s RN-to-MSN program includes a course in spirituality and spiritual care in nursing. The course prepares you to provide nursing care that enhances the overall well-being and healing of the patient.


8. Holy Names University - Oakland


Specialties Offered: Nursing Education and Nursing Administration


Program Details: Are you ready to take the next step in your nursing career? If you are looking at entering the field of nursing education or nursing administration, then Holy Names University’s RN to MSN program empowers you to play these desirable non-clinical roles. Whether you choose nursing education or the nursing administration specialization, you’ll complete the program through the hybrid format, attending in-person classes once a month, while completing the majority of courses online.

This RN-to-MSN program in California emphasizes leadership, social justice, clinical reasoning, communication, and safe quality care. The core MSN courses which are common to both these RN to MSN tracks cover topics such as health law & ethics, the role transition of a graduate nurse, and the theoretical basis & philosophical foundation for advanced nursing practice.

If you choose the nursing education track, you’ll learn about advanced pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, and learning theories & teaching strategies. You’ll also learn about evaluation & test construction and curriculum development.

On the other hand, if you opt for the nursing administration specialization, you'll gain proficiency in topics such as the concepts of nursing administration, finance & budgeting in healthcare, human resource management & development, and organization theory.

Admission Requirements: If you are interested in applying for this RN-to-MSN program in California, then you must foremost have a BSN or an associate degree from an accredited school with a minimum GPA of 2.8. Further, the school requires you to have a current and unrestricted RN license. To fulfill the admission requirements, you must submit your official transcripts, a written personal statement, and two letters of recommendation.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential Holy Names University RN-to-MSN Students

• Holy Names University nursing school offers a student-centered learning environment in its small-sized classes. Further, with the majority of faculty members holding a terminal nursing degree, it will be rather easier for you to achieve your academic and professional goals.
• Holy Names University’s RN to MSN is offered in a hybrid format, combining the benefits of online classes with in-person classes. The in-person meets that happen once a month allow you to interact with faculty and other like-minded students. Also, during these sessions, you’ll be provided with ample opportunities to hone clinical skills.
• Holy Names University nursing school partners with several healthcare organizations to offer employee discounts to RN to MSN students working at these organizations. The tuition discount also extends to dependents and spouses of employees.


9. Touro University California - Vallejo


Program Details: If you are keen on enrolling in one of the fast-paced RN-to-MSN programs in California, then you should check out Touro University California’s RN-to-MSN program. Here, you can gain graduate nursing education within as little as 18 months. The program equips you with the didactic knowledge and clinical skills to improve health outcomes across patient populations. Also, upon completion of the program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the CNL certification exam.

This RN-to-MSN program in California comprising 46 credits, is offered in a cohort format. The program educates you on various topics including, leadership in professional nursing, evidence-based practice & informatics, community health nursing, advanced physical assessment, advanced pharmacology, and advanced pathophysiology. Also, you’ll gain proficiency in healthcare leadership, healthcare informatics, resource management in healthcare, and epidemiology & population statistics. You also learn healthcare policy & ethics, and health promotion & disease prevention. The program also takes you through concepts of clinical leadership, clinical care management, and clinical education & outcomes improvement.

Admission Requirements: Applications for this RN-to-MSN program in California are accepted on a rolling basis, so you must apply early. To qualify, you must have an associate degree from an accredited college. Your GPA must be a minimum of 2.75. Your RN license must be valid and unencumbered in California. Also, you must submit letters of recommendation and your official transcripts to complete the application.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential Touro University California RN-to-MSN Students

• Touro University California’s RN to MSN program also allows you to earn a certificate in Public Health Nursing.
• Touro University California nursing school offers several financial aid opportunities to make your RN to MSN education rather affordable.
• Touro University California nursing school is a military-friendly nursing school that helps military students in reaching their academic and professional goals.


10. Fresno State - Fresno


Specialties Offered: Nurse Practitioner Primary Care-Family


Program Details: Fresno State produces excellent quality graduate nurses who use evidence-based knowledge and clinical reasoning skills to enhance patient outcomes. The school offers one of the sought-after RN-to-MSN programs in California that lead to the family nurse practitioner certification.

The program comprises 40 credits in core courses, FNP-specific courses, and the culminating experience that you must finish towards the end of the program. The RN to MSN coursework covers topics such as health assessment, advanced pathophysiology, healthcare policy, advanced pharmacology, advanced research, and healthcare management in primary care. As part of the culminating experience, you may complete a project or thesis, where you’ll apply your graduate nursing knowledge to practice.

Admission Requirements: To apply, you must have a BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Also, your RN license must be unencumbered and active in California. The school also requires you to complete an introductory course in statistics and research. You must also possess an active CPR certification.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential Fresno State RN-to-MSN Students

• Fresno State nursing school’s proximity to the region’s four largest hospitals opens up doors to a variety of clinical learning opportunities.
• Fresno State nursing school boasts a state-of-art simulation lab where RN to MSN students hone clinical skills in a non-threatening environment.
• Fresno State nursing school offers interdisciplinary learning opportunities, allowing RN to MSN students to gain skills in interprofessional collaboration.


11. West Coast University - North Hollywood


Specialties Offered: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Nurse Leader, and Psychiatric - Mental Health Nurse Practitioner


Program Details: If you are keen on completing your graduate nursing education from one of the reputable online RN-to-MSN programs in California, then you must learn about West Coast University’s RN-to-MSN program. Designed for ADN-prepared registered nurses, the school offers six specializations, including adult gerontology acute care, adult gerontology primary care, family health, nursing education, nursing leadership, and psychiatric mental health.

Regardless of the RN to MSN track you choose, you’ll require completing 51 credits. The common courses that are part of all the RN to MSN tracks cover topics such as pathophysiology, leadership for healthcare, public health nursing, health policy, project management, and health promotion & disease prevention. Also, courses in research utilization and healthcare informatics prepare you for leadership positions in healthcare. In addition to the core courses, each RN to MSN track comprises courses in your chosen specialty.

Admission Requirements: Similar to other RN-to-MSN programs in California, to qualify for admission, you must have an associate degree or diploma, and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Also, you must be prepared to submit your transcripts, resume, letters of recommendation, and personal goal statement.


Must-Know Highlights For Potential West Coast University RN-to-MSN Students

• West Coast University’s RN to MSN program not only offers competitive tuition costs but also provides plenty of financial aid opportunities and scholarships to further bring down the cost of your RN to MSN education.
• West Coast University’s RN to MSN program is offered 100% online. In addition, you’ll be able to access the simulation labs at the university’s campuses in Texas and California. The flexibility of taking courses online and visiting either of the campuses for clinical training makes it rather convenient for working nurses to reach their academic and professional goals.
• All West Coast University’s RN to MSN tracks start multiple times a year, allowing you to begin your coursework at your convenience.
• West Coast University’s RN to MSN-NP tracks includes training in telehealth. So, if you enroll in any of the nurse practitioner specializations, you’ll be prepared to offer nursing care remotely as well.


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