Best Nursing Schools in Sacramento, CA in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

Best Nursing Schools in Sacramento, CA in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

nursing school in sacramento caAs a metropolitan center and with nursing schools in northern CA, Sacramento provides a bit of a unique combination. It sits at the interstate crossroads of Interstate 5 running north and south across the state of California, and interstate 50/80 running east and west from the coast to the Nevada border. As a result, while a lot of people pass through Sacramento, the community itself thrives on and grows because of those who stay here and are not very influenced by what goes on in the Bay Area or the Los Angeles basin. No surprise, this natural microcosm has attracted marketers for years. However, the home prices and property values spiked in the Bay Area starting in the 2000s and since then Sacramento has been growing exponentially. The results have made the city a premier stopping point, especially for students who want to attend nursing school in Sacramento CA.

The town is well known for being the political capital of California, which is important because many of the laws shaping the medical industry of the state are thought of in the legislature housed in Sacramento’s downtown Capital Park. The major health regulators and administrators in the state also operate in the city, with headquarters on the east side of the capitol as well. Yet, unlike other urban centers of California from the Bay Area southward, Sacramento hasn’t automatically turned into a big city mess. It’s still very much has a small-town feel with a concentrated center and then a lot of spread into residence neighborhoods fanning out into suburbs. That makes a nursing school in Sacramento CA a great place to study. With a solid river running through the center, Sacramento provides a quilt work of different neighborhoods and communities, each with its own style and subculture. Within this network operate various hospitals, clinics, medical offices, non-profit medical help centers, and most importantly, schools training medical workers every day.

Ironically, despite being such a hub for medical politics as well as home to a growing community, Sacramento needs nurses just as much as anywhere else. No one is expecting a big turnaround in California anytime soon. Instead, some qualified estimates put the need for nurses in California as much as 140,000 positions by 2030. In a nutshell, there’ll be no shortage of career opportunities in Sacramento or elsewhere in the state for a long time to come. That means the local schools and nursing programs in CA have a full-time job and then some to keep pumping out qualified graduates as fast as possible. Like other jurisdictions, this is being done with multi-level training from beginner/entry-level practical nursing certificates and degrees to bachelor’s in nursing programs to graduate degrees in specialty areas.

The current nursing schools in Sacramento, CA include the following institutions:

1. University of California, Davis

University of California, Davis Best Nursing Schools in Sacramento CA

While not exactly in Sacramento itself, the University of California, Davis, or UC Davis for short, sits in a small college town just west of the city in Interstate 50 about 10 minutes from Sacramento itself. As a result, most people think of UC Davis as a nursing school actually within Sacramento CA itself. UC Davis started as an agriculture-centric institution of higher learning but expanded to numerous other programs including business, anthropology, medical schools, and, of course, nursing. Today, UC Davis is a top school among the University of California network, providing doctorates and advanced degrees as well as standard four-year degree curriculum tracks.

One of the chief advantages of UC Davis’ program is the fact that the university also runs a full-service trauma level hospital in downtown Sacramento. The nursing program is directly connected with the hospital program, providing hands-on clinical training for both doctors and nurses studying at UC Davis. Many graduates of both programs have parlayed their studies and clinical work at UC Davis’ hospital into direct career positions in the surrounding hospital network of the area.

The doctorate program is specifically geared toward the top of the industry leaders who are planning to teach nursing and run institutions. The program is intentionally designed to be a performance program with students under a deadline to complete their Ph.D. in four years only. The candidates already need to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and must be willing to commit themselves to a fulltime study status. Those passing the doctorate program will accomplish a full oral exam and dissertation in their specific specialty topic.

The master’s degree program is also geared toward leadership with a bend towards practical training. Those entering the master’s track have to meet minimum requirements which include already having licensing to be a nurse, a prior school GPA of at least 3.0, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related health field. Students experience a heavy emphasis on leadership topics since many will take on or advance in management roles. There is also a big focus on data management, informatics, and technology applications in the clinical setting. Graduates complete a thesis and must pass the whole program within 5 quarters (2 quarters per normal generic semester), which is not a lot of time for a graduate degree.

  • Cost per year: in-state $13,607/out-of-state $28,709
  • Public or private: Public
  • Programs offered: Direct Entry MSN, Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, Post-Baccalaureate Ph.D., Post-Master’s Certificate: Family Nurse Practitioner

2. University of San Francisco – Sacramento Campus

Operating as a satellite campus to the main institution located in the Bay Area, the University of San Francisco Sacramento campus is geared toward ongoing nursing education, particularly students who are already licensed, working registered nurses and are seeking leadership training for work or teaching. The USF doctorate program functions online for Sacramento students and provides multiple areas of specialization as well as high-level networking opportunities. Students will experience a heavy emphasis on business aspects of the health industry, informatics and data management, health care administration training, clinical results evaluation, diverse population needs management, and technology application. The USF program is already famous for being hard and not tolerant of lackadaisical work. Students are going to be pressured and challenged to perform successfully. Students are highly advised to handle the program as a full-time student and not compete with a career at the same time.

The USF program also offers a bachelor’s degree program for licensed nurses to advance their career training. The BSN program is partnered with the Veteran Affairs Northern California Health System, which gives students exposure to microbiology, general psychology, and human anatomy lab work.

  • Cost per year:$49,740 undergraduate annually, $34,170 for the doctorate program
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Doctor in Practical Nursing, BSN

3. California State University, Sacramento

On the other side of Sacramento next to the American River sits CSU Sacramento, the main campus that is part of California’s second higher education system. Where the University of California was intended for higher-level graduate studies and terminal doctorate degree programs, the California State University system was geared to be the main powerhouse for original four-year college degrees. Eventually, the CSU system was also expanded to provide master’s degrees in certain fields as well. CSU Sacramento is limited in terms of the number of nursing programs actually offered, only providing one specific track for the initial four-year bachelor’s in nursing degree, but the school does offer alternative paths that allow working nurses to move from a certificate or associate degree and practical nurse license to a full bachelor’s status and registered nurse level. The coursework at CSU Sacramento emphasizes specialty in mental health, leadership and supervision, community health, and research.

Sac State, the other nickname for CSU Sacramento, also provides a master’s degree path for graduate students who see their studies terminating at that level. The Master of Science in Nursing takes two years to complete and provides advanced studies in specific nursing fields. The program is frequently emphasized for experienced middle career nurses who need a refresher on new methods and technology due to fast changes in the field. Advanced studies cover pharmacology, technology, research, role development, and clinical practice in a modern setting.

  • Cost per year: in-state $7,204/out-of-state $19,084
  • Public or private: Public
  • Programs offered:BSN, MSN, LVN to RN Campus, Master of Science in Nursing, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

4. University of Phoenix – Sacramento Valley

As a private institution, the University of Phoenix offers both in-person class training for nursing students in Sacramento as well as online advanced nursing education for distance learning. The school has a physical address in Sacramento city proper, with trainers and professors who have extended experience in the nursing field, and not just in California. The online approach is geared for already-licensed practical nurses who are seeking to reach a bachelor’s degree status with a BSN. The school also provides multiple paths for master’s degree studies.

  • Cost per year: $9,690 (as of 2017)
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: MSN: Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN: Nursing Education, Master of Science in Nursing, Post-Master’s Certificate: Family Nurse Practitioner, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

5. Chamberlain College, Sacramento

Operating fundamentally as a trade vocational school for beginners in the nursing field, Chamberlain University emphasizes expedited training and allows students to realize their ability to work in the field within one year’s time of studies. This assumes significant success in every course on a fast track. Chamberlain has no waiting lists for entry applications and it does not require any prior education classes before entry. Class sizes are small for greater teacher-student exposure, and much of the classwork is performed using technology and digital simulation. The Chamberlain nursing program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. For working nurses with licensing already in place, the school also offers a basic four-year bachelor’s degree program. Advanced masters degree work is also possible, including a doctorate program, all of which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  • Cost per year: $19,320
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Doctor in Practical Nursing, MSN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

6. Unitek College – Sacramento

The programs provided to nursing students at Unitek include a bachelor’s degree program, a vocational nursing track, and multiple medical assistant tracks. The vocational nursing track provides an entry-level path into nursing that can be completed in one year. The bachelor’s degree program is geared for working nurses who want to achieve a registered nurse status with a BSN. There are also separate paths for medical assisting as well as administration.

  • Cost per year: $24,036
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Certificate in Vocational Nursing, Bachelors Degree in Nursing (BSN)

7. Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts – Sacramento

While the Gurnick Academy does offer different programs, its strongest and largest offering is the Licensed Vocational Nurse track. There are 16 programs provided in total ranging from certificates to degrees. Students can achieve a number of different associate degrees as well as pursue an expanded path toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well. Fundamentally, however, Gurnick Academy is geared to provide a trade school education. Those seeking higher specialization will need to look towards a university environment instead.

  • Cost per year: $31,519
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN), Associate of Science in Vocational Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

8. American River College

The Los Rios Community College District serves the greater Sacramento region with job training and initial college requirement studies through four campuses strategically located to serve sectors of the area. American River College was originally focused on northeastern Sacramento but has expanded satellite campuses into northwestern Sacramento as well as new neighborhoods that start and grow. The ARC main campus has traditionally provided a 2-year study path for vocational studies as well as an associate degree. Nursing is included in the ARC standard programs. When complete, the student is ready to take the NCLEX exam to be a registered nurse.

The ARC program is going to provide a student a good amount of exposure in technical and textbook concepts of nursing for a foundational competency, including work in patient contact, microbiology, nursing in general, and preventative health. The entire associate degree program takes 60 units, including general education requirements, and graduates can work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, research facilities, and education centers.

  • Cost per year: in-state $1,104/out-of-state $7,704, (remember, new students can get the first two years free by applying for waivers via financial aid)
  • Public or private: Public
  • Programs offered: Associate’s Degree in Nursing, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option, Nursing Assistant Certificate

9. Sacramento City College

A sister campus within the Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento City College’s nursing program is not very different from American River College that was already discussed. The Sacramento City campus is located practically just minutes south of the downtown core and works exceptionally well for students who want to use public transportation and stay close to an urban center. Functioning as a standard 2-year junior college institution, Sacramento City provides multiple vocational tracks for beginners and experienced nurses to achieve or expand their nursing education with very affordable in-state fees.

The associate degree program at Sacramento City College requires students to achieve a 75 unit curriculum, including general education requirements. Taking an average of two years to complete, Sacramento College is a perfect platform for beginning nursing students as well as vocational nurses or registered nurses to earn a college degree. More notably, with the support towards the first two years of college being free in California, students can pretty much get a college degree education and just pay fees and books without tuition costs. The training topics include microbiology, patient care and maintenance, preventative health, and general nursing. When complete, a graduate is eligible to take the NCLEX exam to achieve registered nurse status.

  • Cost per year: in-state $1,104/out-of-state $7,704, (remember, new students can get the first two years free by applying for waivers via financial aid)
  • Public or private: Public
  • Programs offered: Associate’s Degree in Nursing, Certificate in Vocational Nursing, Associate of Science in Vocational Nursing, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

10. Sierra College

For those who live in the central California foothills or don’t like to study in an urban setting, Sierra College of Rocklin may be a far better choice as a junior college. Situated in the town of Rocklin just off interstate 80 heading east to Reno, Sierra College provides a wide array of programs for two-year associate degree studies. Interestingly, Sierra College is a bit unique in that it can provide an advanced track, gearing students toward an associate degree as well as a bachelor’s degree in nursing within the same program. Nursing students can also achieve a standard associate degree in nursing or an LVN to RN status for working nurses. The school provides nursing assistant training as well.

Sierra’s program is heavily focused on primary care, emergency trauma treatment, and oncology. A key advantage of Sierra is that almost all of its general education areas can be addressed with online classes via Sierra’s Canvas system, letting a nursing student focus campus time just on nursing classes directly. First-time college students are also definitely eligible for free tuition waiver support by requesting it via financial aid.

  • Cost per year: $1,104/out-of-state $7,704, (remember, new students can get the first two years free by applying for waivers via financial aid)
  • Public or private: Public
  • Programs offered: Associate in Nursing, LVN to RN Campus

11. Carrington College

With one of its campuses situated in Sacramento, Carrington College operates as an 18-campus trade school network nationwide. The school provides users either a certificate or associate degree path as a way to enter the nursing field, and students can either expedite completion in a few months or the normal track of about two years. Coursework integrates hands-on practical training, externships, and practical application in lab environments. Carrington College’s program is accredited by the state for operation in California, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC/WASC), and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

  • Cost per year: $17,236
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Certificate in Vocational Nursing, Associate’s Degree in Nursing, Associate of Science in Vocational Nursing, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

12. Charles A. Jones Career & Education Center

Operating as a transition path for high schoolers to get a head start into a career path as part of the Sacramento Unified School District, the Charles A Jones Center offers a 5-week course for accomplishment in being a nursing assistant. Students can also earn a vocational certificate allowing them to begin their career in the very first level of nursing. This in turn makes them eligible to pursue more training toward an associate degree later on.

  • Cost per year: $7,857
  • Public or private: Public
  • Programs offered: Certificate in Vocational Nursing, Nursing Assistant Certificate

13. Sunrise School of Nursing

Primarily geared to function as an entry-level program for those wanting to start in nursing as an assistant, Sunrise School provides students two different choices for certification. The first is the Certified Nurse Assistant role after completing 160 hours of class and practical training. The second path is the Home Health Aide program. Both provide an affordable entry point into the health field as well as some exposure to what higher-level nursing work could offer students.

  • Cost per year: $1,200
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Certified Nurse Assistant

14. Centerpointe Learning Institute

Centerpointe Learning primarily focuses on developing certified nursing assistant graduates. The trade school provides two fast-track programs to achieve a CNA working status as quickly as possible in a month or two. That includes 150 hours of class and clinical training to prepare for the state licensing exam.

  • Cost per year: $2,000-$2,500
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Certified Nursing Assistant, Home Health Aide

15. Careway Health Institute

For those seeking an affordable entry point into a certified nursing assistant role, Careway Health Institute provides a licensed and reputable program choice. Established in 2013, Careway functions as a vocational trade school focused on nursing or allied health training. The school was originally located elsewhere in California and relocated to Sacramento in 2018. Careway offers students three different pathways into the health field career market with the certified nurse assistant as the most relevant to nursing.

  • Cost per year: $3,700
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), Acute Care Nurse Assistant (Acute CNA), Certified Home Health Aide (HHA)

16. Curam College of Nursing

Curam College offers prospective students three choices of entry into the assistant or nurse assistant work field. Curam is a bit unique in that students entering the school need to have already completed specific prerequisites before being allowed to enroll. These include a minimum of a certified nurse assistant status as well as set hours of classwork completed in Anatomy & Physiology (36 hours), Nutrition (36 hours), and Pharmacology (54 hours). Most students on track complete their studies in a 42-week window to earn their nursing certificate.

  • Cost per year: $25,000
  • Public or private: Private
  • Programs offered: Certificate in Vocational Nursing, Certified Nurse Assistant, Certified Home Health Aide


Sacramento is a really smart pick for both in-state and out-of-state nursing students seeking to begin or advance a career on the west coast and in California. The cost of living in Sacramento is far lower than the rest of the state, but the location gives easy access to the Bay Area and its market as well as the Sacramento region. Students can also access the Redding market northward only 3 hours up Interstate 5. With its own airport, plenty of rental and apartment options for affordable living, and multiple schools with different education levels possible, the school life Sacramento offers students is extremely flexible and robust. Finally, the location also gives heavy access to state government departments and agencies, allowing students to seek alternative health careers with their nursing degrees that aren’t available in other parts of the state. At least five large agencies have their headquarters in Sacramento, including the Departments of Public Health, Health Care Services, Managed Healthcare, Covered California, Social Services, the Emergency Management Services Authority, and more.

The ranking of these nursing schools in Sacramento CA is first based on the quality and program reputation of the school, then the school level comparison, and finally the cost level to the student. Like most states, California has a few big-name university schools and then a large portfolio of junior colleges, vocational programs, and trade schools. Sacramento is a microcosm of the same structure and market. If you have questions about a particular school or program or a concern about the information reflected, feel free to contact us. We would be glad to hear from you.

Nursing Articles