If you are considering becoming an RN in San Diego, you must decide which option you wish to pursue. While it may be tempting to take the ADN route, you must also keep in mind that many of the medical institutions in San Diego are seeking highly educated nurses, you are much more likely to acquire a long-lasting better-paying position if you acquire a BSN. Regardless, be sure that you choose the program that is most in line with your professional and educational goals.
If you are considering taking nursing jobs in San Diego, this is an excellent idea. This is because California is presently facing shortages in the nursing realm, making it very easy to acquire a long-term position once you have completed your schooling. In fact, studies have shown that the state of California has only produced 50% of the number of nurses they need in order for the healthcare system to be as stable as possible. This means that there are plenty of nurse jobs in San Diego that are waiting to be filled. Moreover, California also employs the most RNs in the entire nation. Therefore, nursing jobs in San Diego are quite plentiful.
How We Ranked the Top Nursing Schools in San Diego
To rank the best nursing schools in the San Diego metro area, TopRNtoBSN editors researched accredited, reputable institutions of all kinds offering certificates and degrees in nursing. From our initial pool, editors ranked programs according to their affordability, reputation, and student success, using data from IPEDS and Niche.
1. The University of San Diego
The University of San Diego’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science offers a variety of nursing programs at the graduate and doctoral levels. The University of San Diego is recognized among the best nursing schools in San Diego by US News with regard to all nursing academic degrees. Graduate-level programs include an entry-level program and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Doctoral-level programs in nursing include a DNP – a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Ph.D. – a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing.
The University of San Diego was originally established in 1949 as an all-girl institution of higher education with a religious affiliation with the Roman Catholic church known as the San Diego College for Women. The school joined with San Diego University in 1972 to create a coeducational university. The school’s campus in Sa Diego I home to nearly 5,800 students.
2. Point Loma Nazarene University
Point Loma Nazarene University’s School of Nursing offers a variety of baccalaureate, graduate, and post-graduate academic degree programs. Among the best nursing schools in San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene University’s nursing programs have received accreditation from the CCNE – the Commission on Collegiate Nursing. At the undergraduate level, PLNU offers a BSN program and a bridge program for LVNs to BSNs. At the graduate level, PLNU offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a bridge program from RN to BSN, and a DNP – Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Point Loma Nazarene University was established as the Pacific Bible College in 1902, with several name changes subsequent to that name. Point Loma Nazarene University has a religious affiliation with the Church of the Nazarene. PLNU’s suburban campus serves more than 3,300 students. Point Loma Nazarene University is one of eight liberal arts member schools organized under the Church of the Nazarene.
3. California State University, San Marcos
The California State University, San Marcos School of Nursing offers a variety of nursing programs at the baccalaureate & master’s level. Cal State San Marcos is recognized among the best nursing schools in San Diego and throughout the state of California. In addition to several Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, Cal State San Marcos offers an online RN to BSN degree program plus an accelerated BSN program that can be completed in 2 years for those students who already hold an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field.
Cal State San Marcos was established in 1989 by California State Senate Bill 635. CSUSM is a member school and one of 20+ member schools organized as the California State University system. Cal State San Marco consists of four colleges/schools that serve more than 14,400 students. Cal State San Marcos is the third newest of the 23 members school in the CSU system.
4. San Diego State University
San Diego State University’s School of Nursing offers four different nursing academic programs. Among the best nursing schools in San Diego, San Diego State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a bridge program from a Registered Nurse (RN) to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or a bridge program from a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) to Registered Nurse. SDSU also offers a graduate-level nursing program for nursing professionals seeking a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). The undergraduate and graduate nursing programs provided by SDSU have received accreditation from the CCNE and ACME – the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.
San Diego State University (SDSU) was established in 1897 as a research institution of higher learning. SDSU is a space-grant school that serves more than 35,000 students. San Diego State University is the campus that sponsors the most Fulbright Scholars of all the campuses in the California State University System.
5. Palomar College
Palomar College offers two associate-level nursing programs that prepare degree candidates to sit for the national Registered Nurse examination – the NCLEX – RN exam. Students enrolled in Palomar College receive nursing education from one of the best nursing schools in San Diego as either an Associate of Arts degree or an Associate of Science degree in nursing. The coursework for the AA and AS degrees are identical except for the American History requirements for the Associate of Arts degree program. Graduates of Palomar College’s nursing program find rewarding work as nurse advocates, school nurses, clinical nurses, and nurse educators, to name a few.
Palomar College was established as a public institution of higher education in 1946. Palomar College offers more than 240 certificate programs & associates degree in media, business, technical, language, literature, math, health sciences, and behavior sciences, to name a few. Palomar College operates eight centers and academic sites throughout San Diego county.
6. MiraCosta College
MiraCosta College offers several levels of nursing academic programs as one of the best nursing schools in San Diego. The nursing programs from MiraCosta College include a Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) program, a bridge program from an LVN to a Registered Nurse (RN), a Registered Nurse (RN) degree program that have been approved by CBRN – the California Board of Registered Nursing. MiraCosta College also offers military personnel several pathways to transition from military service to a career as a professional nurse as a private citizen.
MiraCosta College was established in 1934. The school’s suburban campuses are located on a hilltop, which is the translation of its name – Behold the Coast. The school serves more than 17,000 students on a campus that was once owned by world-renowned figure skater – Sonia Henje. MiraCosta College operates two campuses along the Pacific Coast in Northern San Diego country – in Oceanside and Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
7. National University
National University offers several nursing programs that have received accreditation for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the CBRN – the California Board of Registered Nursing. Among the best nursing schools in San Diego, National University offers both baccalaureates, master’s, and doctorate level academic nursing programs focusing on patient care and nursing excellence. Students can choose from several BSN options, RN completions programs, MSN programs, plus a family nurse practitioner and doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP) programs.
National University was established as a nonprofit institution of higher education in 1971 specially developed to serve adult learners in southern California. Coursework is delivered in one-month class formats on-campus, plus a comprehensive list of available online degrees. National University operates several campuses in California plus affiliate programs at the University of Seattle.
8. Grossmont College
Grossmont College offers several academic nursing programs that have received accreditation from the California Board of Registered Nursing and ACEN – the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Grossmont College is considered among the best nursing schools in San Diego by offering a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) to Registered Nurse (RN) transition program, a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, and an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Grossmont College offered advanced placement for military personnel who have healthcare training backgrounds.
Grossmont College was established in 1961. Grossmont College’s 135-acre suburban campus sits along the Santee and San Diego County border and is home to more than 18,000 students. Grossmont College’s name was given in honor of silent film producer who chose to invest in the land for the school’s campus – William J Gross.
9. San Diego City College
San Diego City College is recognized among the best nursing schools in San Diego. Nursing programs have received accreditation by ACEN and the California Board of Registered Nursing. San Diego City College’s Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program prepares graduates for rewarding careers in clinics, nursing facilities, hospitals, and hospice agencies. Program graduates have an NCLEX – RN pass rate in 2019 of 98.4%.
San Diego City College was established in 1914. The school’s 60-acre campus is located near San Diego high school and the I-5 freeway. San Diego City College’s student enrollment exceeds 16,500 students studying for more than 225 degrees offered by college’s many divisions. The Chief Executive Officer of Costco Wholesale Warehouses, James Sinegal, and Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder are San Diego City College, alumni.
10. Southwestern College
Southwestern College offers a variety of quality nursing programs and is considered among the best nursing schools in San Diego. Additionally, Southwestern College has partnered with Point Loma Nazarene University to create a comprehensive BSN program. Southwestern College’s nursing programs have received accreditation from the California Board of Registered Nursing and ACEN the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. These programs include an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a bridge program for LVNs to ADNs, plus nursing specialty programs for operating rooms and surgical technology.
Southwestern College was established in 1961 by offering classes in a local high school at night. Southwestern College’s campus is located south of San Diego near the US – Mexico border and home to more than 18,900 students. Southwestern College is considered a feeder school where students complete their core baccalaureate education credits with the hopes of being accepted to UC San Diego or San Diego State University.
What Kinds of Nursing Programs are in San Diego?
If you are wondering how to gain acceptance into schools in San Diego for nursing, you have 5 separate options in terms of career tracks. They are as follows:
- The Associate’s Degree Program (ADN): This track takes around 18 months to complete and allows students to get prepared for the NCLEX-RN exam. While this track allows nurses to acquire a limited amount of lower-paying positions initially, they can choose to take an 18-month RN to BSN course, which will allow them to pursue high-paying positions.
- The Bachelor’s Degree (BSN) Program: This track takes 4-years, and also prepares students to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Nevertheless, those who choose this track will have greater job opportunities and qualify for higher-paying positions.
- Entry Level Masters Program in Nursing (ELM): This career track was created for those who have already acquired a baccalaureate degree in other fields and wish to become a registered nurse. This can take 1-2 years, depending on how many nursing course prerequisites you have already completed while earning your bachelor’s degree. You will receive a master’s degree upon graduation.
- LVN 30 Unit: This career track was created as a way for California Licensed Vocational Nurses to become registered nurses. This tack takes approximately 18-24 months to complete. However, there is no degree is awarded upon completion. This is because the vast majority of other states do not recognize California’s LVN 30 Unit Option.
- Military Corpsmen: This career option is especially for military corpsmen in California who wish to take the national exam to become an RN. This is provided that they have already earned an RN level of education and clinical experience while serving in the military.
How Do I Get Into Nursing School in San Diego?
If you are interested in gaining entrance into accredited nursing schools in San Diego, you will need to complete the following steps:
- Take College Prep Courses in High School: Given that the nursing field can be highly competitive, you should start getting prepared as early as possible. One method of doing so is taking college prep courses while still in high school. For instance, you need to take 4 years of English, 3-4 years of math (including algebra and geometry), 2-3 years of science (including courses such as biology and chemistry; physics and computer science). You will also need 3-4 years of social studies, as well as 2 years of a foreign language. Additionally, be sure to check with the colleges you are considering attending, to find out which college courses are recommended. You may also talk to your guidance counselor for further assistance in this matter.
- Choose the Type of Nursing School You Wish to Attend: In the state of California, there are three types of pre-licensure nursing programs, as well as two alternative tracks you can take to become a registered nurse. You must choose from one of the above-listed options before moving to the next step.
- Apply for Financial Aid: Unless you are prepared to pay for your schooling out of pocket, you will need to apply for financial aid.
- Obtain an RN License: To become an RN in California, you must submit an application to the BRN website at least 6-8 weeks before graduating, have your school send over your transcript, complete and fingerprint background check, take and pass the National Council Licensing Examination, and apply for an interim permit.
How Much Do Nurses Make in San Diego?
If you are wondering about nursing salaries in San Diego, the rates vary and are negotiable. However, nursing salaries in San Diego are an average of $101,750 annually. Either way, no matter if you are looking for a nurse practitioner salary in San Diego or registered nurse salary in San Diego you can look forward to hourly wages, plenty of overtime, as well as amazing benefits packages.