Nurses help patients reach their health goals. This profession emphasizes core values including integrity, altruism, and social justice. Nurses often provide direct preventive, restorative, and therapeutic health guidance and treatment. However, nurses can also pursue careers in research, teaching, and administration.

Students with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field can typically complete accelerated nursing programs in California and other states in one to two years. These second-degree BSN programs often deliver courses year round and require only 50 to 65 core nursing credits. Applicants to such programs must have completed prerequisite courses and must typically have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Graduates of nursing programs often work in settings such as community health and emergency care. Nursing salaries vary depending on geographical area, employer, and position. According to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) registered nurses earn a median salary of $73,300 per year. Additionally, the BLS projects employment for RNs to increase 7% from 2019 to 2029. This guide explores accelerated nursing programs in California and common career paths for graduates.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Nursing?

Nursing professionals apply general and specialized skills to promote patients' health, prevent illnesses, and provide diverse medical care to individuals of all ages. Graduates of the best nursing schools in California typically obtain an RN license. Many nursing jobs in family nursing, public health nursing, critical care nursing, and surgery nursing require licensure. Nursing graduates can also pursue careers as paramedics, nurse case managers, nursing informatics specialists, and legal consultancy nurses.

BSN graduates can work in local medical offices, clinics, labs, and hospitals. Others work in the field as rural, home health, and travel nurses. Some students pursue graduate degrees and professional certificates, and nurses can specialize in fields such as dermatology, pediatrics, hospice, and radiology. A graduate-level nursing degree can qualify holders for roles in research, management, and teaching.

Graduate Degree Options for a Career in Nursing

After earning their BSN, graduates often pursue additional degrees or certificates to specialize their skills. These credentials can also lead to advanced career opportunities and increased earning potential. Learners who pursue a master of science in nursing (MSN) often specialize in an area such as family nursing, nursing education, psychiatric nursing, or gerontology. Many accredited MSN degrees meet the educational requirements for a nurse practitioner license.

BSN-to-MSN programs typically require two years. Learners cultivate skills in health assessment, research, and patient care. In addition to coursework, students complete clinical practice requirements and may pursue a specialization. An MSN can qualify graduates for positions in nursing research, leadership, and academia.

BSN graduates can also complete certification programs, which are generally faster and less expensive than master's programs. Earning a certification can prepare RNs for specialized roles and can lead to advanced career opportunities.

Accreditation for a Degree in Nursing

The top nursing schools in California hold regional accreditation, which indicates that their programs meet set standards of academic quality. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees the accreditation process in the United States. The best nursing schools in California boast regional accreditation from the Western States Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Regionally accredited schools typically only accept degrees and credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Additionally, requirements for nursing licensure typically include a degree from an accredited school. Students at nationally or regionally accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid.

In addition to institutional accreditation, nursing students can look for programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Prospective students can search the Department of Education's  online database to find the accreditation status of prospective schools and programs.


Q. How do I become a nurse in California?

To become a nurse in California, candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. To qualify to sit for the exam, candidates must have completed one of three types of pre-licensure programs or one of two alternative routes specified by the California Board of Registered Nursing .

Q. Are nurses in demand in California?

Like many states, California is currently experiencing a nursing shortage. Some state organizations fund nursing students' education in exchange for 1-2 years of service in an approved nursing shortage area.

Q. What is the yearly salary for a RN?

According to the BLS, registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $73,300 in 2019. Individual salaries vary based on the nurse's employer, geographic area, and credentials.

Q. How much do nurses earn in California?

California is the top-paying state for nurses. According to the BLS, registered nurses in California earned an annual mean salary of $113,240 in 2019.

What Are the Requirements for a Degree in Nursing?

Accelerated BSN programs in California typically include a core nursing curriculum of about 60 credits. Coursework builds on foundational knowledge gained during nursing prerequisites prior to admission. Learners explore topics including mental health nursing, public health nursing, family nursing, and gerontology. The top nursing schools in California emphasize hands-on practice through supervised clinical rotations and practicum experiences.

Applicants to accelerated BSN programs must typically hold a bachelor's degree in another discipline. The best nursing schools in California generally require applicants to have a minimum 3.0 GPA and strong grades in nursing prerequisite courses. Some programs also require a minimum score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills examination.

Courses in a Nursing Program

Many accelerated nursing programs in California prepare students to obtain licensure through a core curriculum emphasizing crucial general nursing skills. Nursing students develop skills in critical thinking and decision-making. Learners may also study major nursing fields such as gerontology, family nursing, acute care, and psychiatric nursing.

Many core nursing courses include both a classroom component and an applied clinical rotation. Clinical rotations help nursing students cultivate the interpersonal, critical-thinking, and technical skills necessary to succeed. Many programs also include nursing leadership courses, which focus on professional development and often include practicum experiences. Although curricula vary by program, the classes below are common to many of the top nursing schools in California.

Nursing Foundations

Programs often require a nursing foundations course during the first term of a BSN program. This introductory class explores nursing philosophies, ethics, and clinical skills. Students examine best nursing practices for treating patients with diverse backgrounds, and they learn how to foster safe environments for patients. Coursework may also emphasize skills in health education and promotion.

Mental Health Nursing

This course typically includes classroom and clinical components. Learners prepare to care for patients with mental illnesses. Topics include psychopharmacology, psychopathology, and community resources. Learners also examine collaborative aspects of a nurse's role in caring for patients' mental health. All California RNs must demonstrate competency in this area.

Family Nursing Care

This field encompasses reproductive nursing, pediatrics, and parenting. BSN curricula often include multiple family nursing courses and corresponding clinical experiences at community facilities. Learners examine various sociocultural perspectives on families and develop key skills for supporting families' well-being and addressing health problems.


The best nursing schools in California require BSN students to complete a supervised practicum. This experience helps learners hone their nursing skills, often in a particular context, population, or field. Degree-seekers typically complete their practicum or internship near the end of their studies, in an approved setting and under the supervision of registered nurses. Practicum and internship requirements vary by program.

Older Patient Care

An essential and in-demand nursing field, geriatrics focuses on caring for older patients. Courses in this field explore relevant research, skills, and evidence-based practices. Students learn about aging, corresponding risk factors, and prevention strategies. This class often emphasizes a holistic nursing approach that considers sociocultural, gender, behavioral, and biological factors. Learners also study the ethics and legality of geriatric care.

Certifications and Licensure for Nursing Majors

Obtaining licensure and certifications can help graduates of nursing programs qualify for jobs, promotions, and specialized nursing positions. Most California nursing jobs require either the licensed practical nurse credential or a registered nurse license from the  C Board of Registered Nursing . Additionally, obtaining voluntary nursing credentials can help candidates stand out in the job market.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    LPNs can work as nurses, aides, and medical assistants in various healthcare settings. To become an LPN in California, candidates must either complete a program approved by the state nursing board or demonstrate alternative pathway qualifications. LPN candidates must pass the NCLEX-PN examination.
  • Registered Nurse

    RNs must hold a license to practice. Candidates for RN licensure must have completed a state board-approved BSN program and must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Depending on the nurse's experience and credentials, licensed RNs may provide direct care in nursing or case management. RNs may also serve as nurse consultants, nursing managers, or teachers.
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification in Adult Gerontology

    The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers this advanced practice board certification. The credential is ideal for individuals with a nurse practitioner graduate degree. This certification can lead to specialized positions in gerontology nursing and acute nursing for chronic and terminal illness. Candidates must pass the association's licensure examination.

Professional Organizations for Nursing Students

Professional organizations in the field support nurses and nursing students through career development, networking, and continuing education opportunities. These organizations often host conferences and disseminate relevant news and publications to help members stay updated on new developments in the field. Below are a few nursing organizations that accept California BSN students.

Boasting 28 local chapters across the state, this California organization supports nurse practitioners through events, continuing education, and leadership opportunities. Members can access nursing publications, and the association works to educate the public and advocate for nurses. This major nursing association establishes practice standards and advocates for nurses and patients. ANA oversees the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the American Academy of Nursing, and the American Nurses Foundation. The association also provides career development resources and online mentorship opportunities for nursing students. Founded in 1883 as the first professional nurse organization in the United States, the NLN focuses on nursing-related public policy and professional development. The NLN provides networking opportunities, research grants, career resources, and testing services. This nonprofit organization offers career development and licensure guidance and support NSNA delivers mentorship and emphasizes professional standards and ethics. The association also hosts conferences, provides resource guides and publications, and advocates for accessible high-quality healthcare and nursing education.

Scholarships for Nursing Students

BSN students can apply for scholarships based on merit, financial need, and group membership. Many private donors, professional and nonprofit organizations, corporations, and schools offer scholarships for nursing students. Scholarship awards often cover tuition and expenses, and they do not require repayment. The scholarship programs below accept applications from students attending nursing programs in California.

Career Mobility Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The American Nephrology Nurses Association offers six scholarships for undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Applicants must have held membership with the association for at least two years and must have nephrology-related healthcare experience. Scholarship applicants must also hold current certification from the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission.

Amount: $1,000 to $4,000

Bachelor of Science Nursing Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The Health Professions Education Foundation offers this scholarship through the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Recipients must provide direct patient service in a medically underserved community for at least 12 months after graduation. Applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and must be accepted to or enrolled in a BSN program.

Amount: Up to $10,000 annually, renewable for up to three years

National Association of Hispanic Nurses Scholarships

Who Can Apply: NAHN administers several scholarship programs to support its members. Applicants must be Hispanic nursing students attending an accredited nursing program full time. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must have been in good academic standing for at least six months. Scholarship amounts vary, but all awards include an expenses-paid trip to the United Health Foundation Diverse Scholar Initiative Forum and the NAHN Annual Conference Gala.

Amount: Varies

National Black Nurses Association Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Candidates for this award must hold general and chapter membership with NBNA. Applicants must be in good academic standing and must have at least one year remaining in their nursing program. Applicants submit recommendation letters, an essay, a professional headshot, and evidence of participation in the African American community and student nursing activities.

Amount: $1,000-$5,000

Nurse Corps Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The Health Resources and Services Administration offers this scholarship, which covers tuition and living expenses. Recipients must commit to serving in an approved critical-shortage facility upon graduation. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. nursing program and must submit a resume, a short essay, recommendation letters, and additional paperwork.

Amount: Usually covers tuition, fees, books, and supplies, plus a monthly living stipend

Accelerated Campus Nursing Programs in California

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