Browse through our school listings to find details on costs, curricula, and admissions procedures. Learn how hybrid & online California RN to MSN programs are structured. And discover if tuition rates for the cheapest RN to MSN programs in California match up to your budget.
Interested in how California stacks up to other states? Check out the discussion on CA’s healthcare landscape and our extensive job section, with ideas for employment hotspots and career resources (e.g. APRN job listings & salary reports). There’s even a list of important CA nursing organizations & associations.
While you’re evaluating your RN to MSN options, we also suggest a quick look at two websites. Although it doesn’t post exam pass rates for students in specific graduate programs (i.e. national certification), the BRN does publish NCLEX Pass Rates for California universities. This can be a useful quality marker. CANP also provides advice on NP Schools.
Online RN to MSN Programs in California
If you need the flexibility of a distance learning program, you’re in luck! California is full of 100% online RN to MSN programs and hybrid alternatives (a blend of campus coursework and online study). Each College of Nursing has specific admissions requirements, so we recommend you examine the profiles in our school listings to determine if you’re eligible to apply. Here are a few extra points to consider:
- University of San Francisco: Applicants who are interested in the 100% online MSN (as opposed to the hybrid program) must reside in an approved state—see the State Authorization Status page for more info. Online students must be a licensed RN in the state where they reside and have chosen to complete their clinical practicums. In the 100% online option, students complete coursework asynchronously, with classes that contain modules and video content. In-person class sessions are not required and classes are offered year-round.
- West Coast University: It’s important to know that WCU Nursing has two campuses: distance education nursing programs for Texas residents are offered through the Dallas, TX campus. For other states, online nursing programs are offered through the Orange County, CA campus. However, bear in mind that the online program may not be available to residents in all states. Non-NP concentrations are delivered in a 100% online format; courses include video, simulations, and adaptive quizzing. Students in the FNP take most of their courses online, but they are also required to attend two 3-day, on-site intensives on the Orange County campus (or Dallas, if you’re in Texas). Travel costs are not included in tuition & fees.
And this is just the start! If you can afford to spend a little bit of time on campus, then you can expand your options even further.
- California State University-Dominguez Hills: The non-NP concentrations from CSUDH are hybrid in nature— most courses are delivered online, in an asynchronous format; there are periodic mandatory on-campus meetings for just a few courses. The FNP program tends to have more face-to-face components. It includes online course work, on-campus instruction days, and clinical practice days in ambulatory settings.
- Holy Names University: In HNU’s hybrid set-up, MSN classes meet one weekend per month and students complete the rest of the coursework online. Typically, clinical experiences may be arranged close to students’ homes.
- Touro University: Half of Touro’s program is face-to-face (one evening per week and one Sunday per month) and the remaining half is online. Clinical hours may be conducted in the agency where the student is employed if the health care facility agrees.
- Western University of Health Sciences: WesternU’s hybrid program consists of a web-based curriculum, weekend sessions at the Pomona, CA campus (twice per semester), and clinical training experiences in the student’s community. Weekend sessions include traditional lectures, group-skills labs, exams, and presentations. Distant students enrolled in clinical programs are required to periodically extend their weekends to work with clinical faculty. Applicants who live outside of California should check the State Authorization page to ensure they can apply.
Cheapest RN to MSN Programs in California
To come up with this ranking of the most affordable California RN to MSN programs, we examined per graduate tuition rates. That’s why you’ll see CSUDH at the top of the list—as a public school, it can afford to offer a reasonably low rate to residents. But please don’t take this list as definitive. Each program in our school listings has a different number of credits, different transfer policies, and different discounts. Once you examine your final budget, you may find that a private school is actually more affordable for your situation.
- California State University-Dominiguez Hills: In-State (Out-of-State is much higher)—View Tuition Rates
- West Coast University: Non-NP Specialties (FNP concentration courses have a slightly higher rate)—View Tuition Rates
- California Baptist University: View Tuition Rates
- Touro University: View Tuition Rates
- Western University of Health Sciences: View Tuition Rates
California’s Healthcare Landscape
California is full of contrasts. In a state with so much land, an overwhelming majority of residents live in urban areas—LA and San Diego Counties alone account for a third of the state’s population. The state’s population is incredibly diverse, as are the income levels. That means RNs and APRNs encounter a huge range of healthcare issues on a day-to-day basis (e.g. high levels of air pollution exposure in big cities vs. low childhood immunization coverage in high income suburbs).
Despite all this, California often does remarkably well in America’s Health Rankings. It tends to have a low prevalence of obesity, a low infant mortality rate, and even a falling rate of children in poverty. The introduction of the Affordable Care Act and a push by the state government to provide health benefits to all (including undocumented immigrants) has meant the percentage of uninsured residents has also been steadily dropping.
California Nursing Challenges
Better yet, California has an active & vocal network of nurses who are pushing for better care. For example, in 2004, the state enacted a landmark nurse-to-patient ratio law that requires minimum staffing standards for all kinds of situations. The CNA/NNOC has also sponsored laws involving whistleblower protections for caregivers who expose unsafe hospital conditions, a ban on inappropriate personnel providing telephone medical advice, and increased funding for nursing education programs.
One of the most pressing issues for California APRNs is independence. As of 2019, California was the only western state that restricts NPs by requiring them to work with physician oversight. In that year, the California Future Health Workforce Commission issued a report that said expanding the role of nurse practitioners would help to ensure California’s growing population received direct access to care. That would mean reforming regulations to give NPs full practice authority after a transitional period of collaboration with a physician or experienced NP.
Empowering nurses may be critical for California’s future—the state is facing a growing shortage of healthcare professionals:
- In a 2017 report, the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis warned that California was projected to have a major shortfall of full-time equivalent RN positions by 2030, with deficits exceeding 44,000.
- The push for universal health coverage in the state is also causing a surge in demand for qualified primary care providers.
- The Future Health Workforce Commission report recommended increasing the growth rate of NP supply by 25%.
Jobs for California RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
In other words, you should be looking at great job opportunities in CA. You’ll see this exemplified in the employment maps on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’s pages for Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary. California has some of the highest employment levels for these two job categories in the country.
As you might expect, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA metropolitan area is a massive center of employment for NPs and nurse educators, but it’s not the only city with healthcare needs. Other major hotspots for NPs include San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, and the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area. Many of these metropolitan areas have great wages, especially for nursing instructors, but high numbers usually reflect the hefty cost of living.
If you’re thinking of applying for a hospital position, U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Best Hospitals in California may be of interest. You’ll notice that many of the top ten names are a) affiliated with the UC system or a major university (e.g. Stanford) and b) located in Los Angeles or the greater San Francisco area. Magnet Facilities in California also tend to be centered around San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
Considering a teaching role in a university? You’re likely to be in demand. California nursing schools are struggling to hire more teachers, even in the face of multiplying applications. A Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions, released in 2018 by AACN, reported that there was a national nurse faculty vacancy rate of 7.9%. Having said that, most of the vacancies (90.7%) were faculty positions requiring or preferring a doctoral degree. You may want to consider a DNP after the MSN.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
California Nursing Job Boards
- ANA/C Career Center: Job listings for California nurses, including NPs and nurse leaders
- CANP Job Center: Postings for California NPs and nurse educators
- ACNL Career Center: Job listings for California nurse leaders, including executive-level positions
California APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for California Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Listed under “Nurse Practitioners” and “Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary”
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
California Nursing Organizations
State Board of Nursing
CA Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- American Nurses Association (ANA) California
- California Association of Colleges of Nursing (CACN)
- California Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (CANP)
- California Hospital Association (CHA)
- California Nursing Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC)
- HealthImpact (formerly the California Institute for Nursing and Healthcare)
- National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN): California Chapters
- National Black Nurses Association (NBNA): California Chapters
- SEIU Nurse Alliance of California (NA of CA)
- United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP)
CA Nursing Specialty Organizations
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association – California Chapter (APNA California)
- Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL)
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – California (AWHONN – California)
- California Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CACNS)
- California Association of Nurse Anesthetists (CANA)
- California Emergency Nurses Association (California ENA)
- California Nurse-Midwives Association (CNMA)
- California Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA)
- California School Nurses Organization (CSNO)
- California State Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CSAOHN)
- PeriAnesthesia Nurses Association of California (PANAC)