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2021 Best Nursing Schools in California

75 Schools Ranked
$40,821 Average Earnings
$29,946 Avg Student Debt

When it comes to higher education, there are a lot of options for nursing students. With more and more schools offering online options, you could even register for a great program on the other side of the country. Or you may find the programs at a trade school or bootcamp to be a better alternative for you.

To assist you in seeing some of the education options that are available to you, Nursing Degree Search has created its Best Nursing Schools in California ranking. Our analysis looked at 75 schools in California to see which programs offered the best educational experiences for nursing students.

View our full ranking methodology.

Top Nursing Schools in California

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

#1

Samuel Merritt University

Oakland, California
933 Total Awards
$94,020 Average Earnings
$133,081 Avg Student Debt

Our analysis found Samuel Merritt University to be the best school for nursing students in California. Oakland, California is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out degrees to 933 students in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $133,081 in loans while pursuing their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $1,580. Once they receive their degree, Samuel Merritt University graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $94,020 during the early year of their career.

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#2

Unitek College

Fremont, California
1,493 Total Awards
$47,360 Average Earnings
$13,244 Avg Student Debt

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Unitek College. It ranked #2 on our 2021 Best Nursing Schools in California list. This small private for-profit school is located in Fremont, California, and it awarded 1,493 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $13,244 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $124 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Unitek College, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $47,360 during the early years of their career.

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#2

Unitek College

South San Francisco, California
100 Total Awards
$39,100 Average Earnings
$11,372 Avg Student Debt

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend Unitek College. The school came in at #2 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. This very small private for-profit school is located in South San Francisco, California, and it awarded 100 degrees in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $11,372 in loans while pursuing their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $132. Once they receive their degree, Unitek College graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $39,100 during the early year of their career.

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#3

Unitek College

Hayward, California
128 Total Awards
$51,700 Average Earnings
$14,217 Avg Student Debt

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend Unitek College. The school came in at #3 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. Unitek College is a very small private for-profit school located in Hayward, California that handed out 128 degrees in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $14,217 in loans while pursuing their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $166 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Unitek College, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $51,700 during the early years of their career.

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#3

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda, California
1,560 Total Awards
$79,891 Average Earnings
$94,881 Avg Student Debt

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around you if you attend Loma Linda University. The school came in at #3 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. Located in Loma Linda, California, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 1,560 diplomas to qualifed students in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $94,881 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $1,042, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Loma Linda University graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $79,891 during the early year of their career.

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#4

Xavier College School of Nursing

Stockton, California
76 Total Awards
$46,600 Average Earnings
$13,823 Avg Student Debt

Out of the 205 schools in California that were part of this year’s ranking, Xavier College School of Nursing landed the # 4 spot on the list. Xavier College School of Nursing is a very small private for-profit school situated in Stockton, California. It awarded 76 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $13,823 in student loans. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $170, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Xavier College School of Nursing, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $46,600 during the early years of their career.

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#4

Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts

San Mateo, California
1,095 Total Awards
$48,600 Average Earnings
$14,300 Avg Student Debt

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts. It ranked #4 on our 2021 Best Nursing Schools in California list. This small private for-profit school is located in San Mateo, California, and it awarded 1,095 degrees in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $14,300 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $154, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $48,600 during the early years of their career.

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#5

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California
17,922 Total Awards
$61,420 Average Earnings
$61,429 Avg Student Debt

A rank of #5 on this year’s list means University of Southern California is a great place for nursing students. University of Southern California is a large private not-for-profit school located in Los Angeles, California that handed out 17,922 degrees in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from USC accumulate an average of $61,429 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $697. During the early years of their career, USC graduates make an average of $61,420 annually.

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2,632 Total Awards
$39,047 Average Earnings
$20,608 Avg Student Debt

California State University - Stanislaus came in at #6 in this year’s edition of the Best Nursing Schools in California ranking. Cal State Stanislaus is a fairly large public school situated in Turlock, California. It awarded 2,632 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $20,608 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $209 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Cal State Stanislaus graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $39,047 during the early year of their career.

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1,031 Total Awards
$75,575 Average Earnings
$33,760 Avg Student Debt

West Coast University - Orange County ranked #7 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. Located in Anaheim, California, the small private for-profit school handed out 1,031 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $33,760 in student loans. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $368. During the early years of their career, West Coast University - Orange County graduates make an average of $75,575 annually.

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#8

Stanbridge University

Irvine, California
464 Total Awards
$34,625 Average Earnings
$29,158 Avg Student Debt

With a ranking of #8, Stanbridge University did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students working. Irvine, California is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private for-profit school handed out degrees to 464 students in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from Stanbridge accumulate an average of $29,158 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $368 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Stanbridge graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $34,625 during the early year of their career.

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#9

Azusa Pacific University

Azusa, California
3,305 Total Awards
$43,641 Average Earnings
$37,652 Avg Student Debt

Azusa Pacific University landed the #9 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Located in Azusa, California, the medium-sized private not-for-profit school awarded 3,305 diplomas to qualifed students in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from Azusa Pacific accumulate an average of $37,652 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $427, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Azusa Pacific graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $43,641 during the early year of their career.

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#10

Mount Saint Mary's University

Los Angeles, California
975 Total Awards
$56,078 Average Earnings
$35,116 Avg Student Debt

With a ranking of #10, Mount Saint Mary’s University did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students working. Los Angeles, California is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out degrees to 975 students in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $35,116 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $367, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, MSMU graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $56,078 during the early year of their career.

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#11

Touro University California

Vallejo, California
516 Total Awards
$91,625 Average Earnings
$96,691 Avg Student Debt

Touro University California came in at #11 in this year’s edition of the Best Nursing Schools in California ranking. Located in Vallejo, California, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 516 diplomas to qualifed students in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from TUC accumulate an average of $96,691 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $1,258. Once they receive their degree, TUC graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $91,625 during the early year of their career.

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60 Total Awards
$39,800 Average Earnings
$14,629 Avg Student Debt

Marian Health Careers Center-Los Angeles Campus ranked #12 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. Marian College is located in Los Angeles, California and has a very small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 60 degrees to qualified students.

On average, students take out $14,629 in loans while pursuing their degree. For those students on a 10-year repayment plan, the average payment due each month is around $169. Once they receive their degree, Marian College graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $39,800 during the early year of their career.

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#12

Pacific College

Costa Mesa, California
102 Total Awards
$69,600 Average Earnings
$18,410 Avg Student Debt

With a ranking of #12, Pacific College did quite well on this year’s best schools for nursing students working. Costa Mesa, California is the setting for this very small institution of higher learning. The private for-profit school handed out degrees to 102 students in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $18,410 in loans while pursuing their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $185 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, Pacific College graduates make an average of $69,600 annually.

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#13

California State University - San Marcos

San Marcos, California
4,094 Total Awards
$42,221 Average Earnings
$23,860 Avg Student Debt

California State University - San Marcos came in at #13 in this year’s edition of the Best Nursing Schools in California ranking. Located in San Marcos, California, the fairly large public school awarded 4,094 diplomas to qualifed students in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from Cal State San Marcos accumulate an average of $23,860 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $232, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Cal State San Marcos graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $42,221 during the early year of their career.

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#14

University of California - San Francisco

San Francisco, California
913 Total Awards
$93,670 Average Earnings
$96,537 Avg Student Debt

University of California - San Francisco came in at #14 in this year’s edition of the Best Nursing Schools in California ranking. University of California - San Francisco is a public institution located in San Francisco, California. The school has a small population, and it awarded 913 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $96,537 in student loans. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $1,230, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, University of California - San Francisco graduates make an average of $93,670 annually.

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#15

Homestead Schools

Torrance, California
124 Total Awards
$35,700 Average Earnings
$16,679 Avg Student Debt

Homestead Schools did quite well in this year’s ranking of the best places for nursing students. It came in at #15 on the list. Homestead Schools is a very small private not-for-profit school located in Torrance, California that handed out 124 degrees in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from Homestead Schools accumulate an average of $16,679 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $177 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Homestead Schools graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $35,700 during the early year of their career.

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#16

American University of Health Sciences

Signal Hill, California
74 Total Awards
$80,400 Average Earnings
$35,458 Avg Student Debt

American University of Health Sciences landed the #16 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Signal Hill, California is the setting for this very small institution of higher learning. The private for-profit school handed out degrees to 74 students in 2018-2019.

Degree recipients from AUHS Signal Hill accumulate an average of $35,458 in student debt by the time they complete their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $390, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, AUHS Signal Hill graduates make an average of $80,400 annually.

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549 Total Awards
$44,217 Average Earnings
$27,106 Avg Student Debt

Vanguard University of Southern California landed the #16 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. Costa Mesa, California is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out degrees to 549 students in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $27,106 in loans while pursuing their degree. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $283 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, Vanguard graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $44,217 during the early year of their career.

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#17

University of California - Davis

Davis, California
10,948 Total Awards
$42,168 Average Earnings
$23,440 Avg Student Debt

University of California - Davis ranked #17 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. Located in Davis, California, the large public school awarded 10,948 diplomas to qualifed students in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $23,440 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $235 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, UC Davis graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $42,168 during the early year of their career.

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#17

West Coast University - Ontario

Ontario, California
361 Total Awards
$77,900 Average Earnings
$32,550 Avg Student Debt

West Coast University - Ontario ranked #17 on this year’s Best Nursing Schools in California list. West Coast University - Ontario is a private for-profit institution located in Ontario, California. The school has a small population, and it awarded 361 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $32,550 in student loans. Those who take out this much in loans have to make a monthly payment of about $362 if they are on a 10-year repayment plan. During the early years of their career, West Coast University - Ontario graduates make an average of $77,900 annually.

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#18

National University

La Jolla, California
5,452 Total Awards
$53,717 Average Earnings
$33,636 Avg Student Debt

National University came in at #18 in this year’s edition of the Best Nursing Schools in California ranking. National University is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in La Jolla, California that handed out 5,452 degrees in 2018-2019.

By the time they get their degree, students from this school have racked up an average of $33,636 in student loans. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $380, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan. Once they receive their degree, National University graduates enter the workforce, making an average salary of $53,717 during the early year of their career.

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#18

West Coast University - Los Angeles

North Hollywood, California
587 Total Awards
$75,580 Average Earnings
$47,165 Avg Student Debt

West Coast University - Los Angeles landed the #18 spot in the 2021 rankings for the best nursing programs. North Hollywood, California is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private for-profit school handed out degrees to 587 students in 2018-2019.

On average, students take out $47,165 in loans while pursuing their degree. If you borrow this amount, expect your monthly student loan payment to be around $563, assuming you are on a 10-year repayment plan.After graduating from West Coast University - Los Angeles, students go on to jobs where they make an average of $75,580 during the early years of their career.

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Best Nursing Schools in the Far Western US Region

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Honorable Mentions

These schools also performed well in our best nursing schools ranking:

Rank School Location
35 California State University - East Bay Hayward, CA
37 Career Development Institute Inc Los Angeles, CA
38 West Hills College-Lemoore Lemoore, CA

Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

References

  • Read more about our ranking methodology.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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