Best Nursing Schools in Orange County in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

Best Nursing Schools in Orange County in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

nursing schools in orange countyCalifornia provides a very robust selection of nursing schools to choose from, ranging from top-of-the-list university institutions respected nationally to small, private institutions geared to help students just starting in the nursing field get their foot in the career door as soon as possible. None of them should be overlooked, especially if you’re looking for nursing schools in Orange County.

Among the different nursing schools in Southern California, Orange County offers some great choices. The busy metropolitan area that’s Orange County offers such a wide range of choices, the school differences vary considerably in all categories, from tuition and fee cost to the range of programs offered. Different schools work better for students at different points in their lives and careers, so many students take the following list into consideration with where they want to be for their entire career. That means some schools work as stepping stones or starter institutions and others are ultimate academic goal institutions in a student’s plan. Whether you’re looking for a great RN to BSN program in CA or another type of nursing program, you can find the best here.

The California nursing schools in Orange County include the following:

1. University of California, Irvine

University California Irvine Nursing Schools in Orange County, California

Being the flagship of the California state’s higher education system, the University of California has long been recognized as the top resource for academic research and training combined. No surprise then, that many of the nursing students that attend the UC system have a strong interest in going much farther than just a basic nursing license path for their careers. UC Irvine provides multiple education levels for all types of nursing students, including the standard 4-year bachelors degree as well as masters degree programs and a doctorate pathway as well in Nursing Science. The master’s degrees offered provide specialization in either adult-gerontology or as a family nurse practitioner, both of which take about 2 years to complete.

  • Cost per year – $13,700 (in-state), $42,692 (out-of-state)*
  • Private or Public – Public
  • Degrees offered – accelerated 2nd BSN, Direct Entry MSN, PhD in Nursing, LVN-to-RN, MSN

2. California State University, Fullerton

The California State University system is one of two four-year state-funded programs providing the fundamental bachelor’s degree education for all students attending. The other is, of course, the University of California system. Like the UC system, the CSU system has campuses across California serving students in different regions. As one of a handful of CSU campuses in southern California, CSU-Fullerton provides all students a state-certified four-year college degree, as well as a fully accredited nursing program and multiple degrees to choose from. And, due to being a university, Fullerton also offers an additional selection of nursing masters degrees as well. All of the degrees focus on emphasizing nursing ethics, patient management, and healthcare quality improvement.

  • Cost per year – $6,886 (in-state), $18,766 (out-of-state)*
  • Private or Public -Public
  • Degrees offered – Accelerated Second Degree BSN, Doctor of Nursing Practice, LVN-to-BSN Bridge Program, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option, MSN: Nurse Anesthesia, Master of Science in Nursing, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

3. Western Governors University – Southern California

Providing multiple tracks in the same institution allows a school to build an ongoing pathway for students who want to go farther than just entry-level training in nursing. Western Governors University makes available a specific bachelors and masters degree path for working students, geared toward providing them a flexible training schedule around regular nursing work demands. The school’s programs are CCNE-accredited, and the master’s degree paths include education, informatics, and leadership specific training.

  • Cost per year – $6,670 / graduate cost $7,790 (both including fees)
  • Private or Public – Private, Non-Profit
  • Degrees offered – LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option, BSN, Master of Science in Nursing

5. Vanguard University

Unlike many online schools providing RN-to-BSN programs, Vanguard maintains an in-person classroom approach providing the same kind of education for working students who already have nursing licensure. Each course is typically scheduled one night per week with each course working in 8-week windows. Students cover relevant nursing theory, IT applications, research training, and leadership to prepare for supervisory roles in nursing. All students need to already have a working RN license prior to acceptance into the school’s programs. The school also applies a preference for students with a higher GPA track record above 3.0.

  • Cost per year – $33,720
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – Master of Science in Nursing, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion, RN-to-MSN Degree Completion

6. Concordia University Irvine

Designed with multiple training paths in mind for nursing students, the curriculum at Concordia takes a broad market approach to appeal to students from different backgrounds seeking diverse nursing paths. There is a strong emphasis on patient advocacy, as well as practical nursing knowledge in the clinical exam room. Students are also exposed to nursing leadership concepts to prepare them for supervisory roles. All nursing students receive at least 90 hours of clinical training in addition to textbook theory and ethics, making Concordia one of the most well-rounded nursing schools in Orange County.

  • Cost per year – $35,400
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – Accelerated Second Degree BSN, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

7. CNI College

CNI College is technically a trade school type operation but it is approved as a nursing institution by the state board. Students can achieve a basic associate degree level education and become eligible to sit in on the NCLEX-RN for their first shot at becoming a licensed RN. Additionally, LVNs can upgrade to an RN status within the CNI program as well and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Associate’s Degree in Nursing: 74.5% NCLEX-RN pass rate (2016-17)

  • Cost per year – $30,737
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

8. Saddleback College

Accredited by both the state Board and the National League of Nursing, Saddleback College provides two basic paths to a practical nursing degree through either a standard associate degree or an LVN-to-RN path. Located in Mission Viejo, the nursing school provides students a solid 72-credit training package that can then be taken forward to a bachelor’s program with the state university system or the University of California. This is a special arrangement Saddleback has established with the two university systems, specific to California.

  • Cost per year – $1,328 (in-state), $9,392 (out-of-state)*
  • Private or Public -Public
  • Degrees offered – Associate’s Degree in Nursing, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

9. Pacific College

Designed generally for students who are already working as registered nurses, Pacific College’s program is intended to be a gateway for students to reach the bachelor’s degree level and a pathway to an even higher degree down the road. The school puts a heavy emphasis on the soft-skills management training needed for nursing leadership as well as patient advocacy. There is also a strong support for community-based healthcare perspectives, and Pacific College is CCNE-accredited as well as by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The main campus is located in Costa Mesa with two satellite campuses in Commerce and Ontario. The program is provided in an online format, assuming students are already working and in need of a flexible learning schedule.

  • Cost per year – $28,500
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

10. Cypress College

Students attending Cypress College can expect a basic training program that prepares them to pass the entry position nursing exam (NCLEX-RN) and licensing requirements. The school’s program focuses on providing nursing students with basic hands-on experience in lab settings, work with test patients, and collaboration with nursing teams. Those students who want to move forward to a bachelor’s program can take advantage of transfer agreements Cypress already has in place with local universities as well.

  • Cost per year – $1,142 (in-district), $1,140 (in-state), $6,158 (out-of-state)*
  • Private or Public -Public
  • Degrees offered – Associate degree in Nursing, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

11. Golden West College

Located in Huntington Beach, the School of Nursing at Golden West College is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Nursing practice is dynamic, diverse and offers a wide variety of employment opportunities in health care. The program’s focus is on providing a degree path that incorporates textbook sciences, lab work, basic clinic practice, and general education. Upon completion of the curriculum, students are qualified to receive the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and are eligible to take the National Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX). In addition, the curriculum prepares the student for a smooth transition into an RN – Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Graduates of the GWC School of Nursing are employed in all area of hospitals and health care agencies.

  • Cost per year – $1,178 (in-state), $7,682 (out-of-state)*
  • Private or Public – Public
  • Degrees offered – Associate’s Degree in Nursing, LVN-to-RN

12. Santa Ana College

Local students attending the Santa Ana College nursing program can choose from three main pathways towards a nursing career, essentially deciding whether to just go straight to a work role or prepare for further studies like a bachelors degree in nursing down the road. All students get basic science theory, nursing lab prep, nursing concepts, and pharmacology. Students can then either take the national licensing test or transfer their coursework to a 4-year institution.

  • Cost per year – $1,160 (in-state), $8,960 (out-of-state)*
  • Private or Public – Public
  • Degrees offered – LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

13. West Coast University – Orange County

West Coast University offers a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) in two states, California and Texas. It emphasizes a fast-track training program, simulation labs for practical training, 10-week start cycles at different times in the school calendar, and community outreach programs to help students build up their practical portfolio with opportunities to help specific patient populations. Surely it’s one of the best nursing schools in Orange County.

  • Cost per year – $34,060
  • Private or Public – Private
  • Degrees offered – LVN-to-BSN Bridge Program, LVN-to-RN 30-Unit Option

14. North Orange County Regional Occupational Program

The County ROP provides students with a path into work-based learning since it’s designed as a job-training or re-training resource for the regional community. Students have access to basic medical terminology study as well as dental assistant, medical assistant, and nurse assistant training. Here students can complete a basic certificate program and build on it further at a local community college or bachelor’s program. Students are allowed into the Vocational Nursing program by application, but individual assistant classes can be taken separately. Graduates are able to work as a trained LVN after passing licensing tests.

  • Cost per year – $16,500
  • Private or Public -Public
  • Degrees offered – Certificate in Vocational Nursing

15. California Career Institute – Garden Grove

Designed for training LVN students to achieve basic career entry and employment, California Career Institute puts a high emphasis on core knowledge, practical skills training, and preparation for the national nursing exam required for licensure. Graduates who pass the exam after course completion are able to work as vocational nurses throughout California in all types of institutions employing LVNs.

  • Cost per year – $30,000
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – Certificate in Vocational Nursing

16. Summit College – Anaheim

Summit College provides both a traditional learning schedule for a fulltime student as well as a part-time approach for working students. Those attending the full-time program can expect to complete their training within approximately 12 months. The alternative part-time approach takes about a half-year longer. Students are provided with solid training in nursing theory, opportunities to meet clinical requirements, and, upon completion, a certificate in vocational nursing. The graduate can then take the 1300 plus hours in lecture and clinical work and sit in on the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) for entry-level nursing employment.

  • Cost per year – $32,844
  • Private or Public – Private
  • Degrees offered – Certificate in Vocational Nursing, Nursing Assistant Certificate

17. Concorde Career College – Garden Grove

Concorde provides students multiple choices for getting a start in the health industry, ranging from instruction as dental assistant to a nursing assistant. The school is small, with a total of 570 students at any given time. The program is equipped to provide graduates with a basic vocational nursing certificate, allowing them an entry-level training qualification and a stepping-stone to the RN path at a higher training institution.

  • Cost per year – $34,000
  • Private or Public – Private
  • Degrees offered – Certificate in Vocational Nursing

18. American Career College – Orange County

For those who want to get right into nursing as fast as possible, American Career College markets a 13-month program that gives a student vocational nurse training status and the ability to seek ground level employment in the nursing field. The same can be used later to leverage a higher RN certification down the road. The school also provides an associate degree in nursing (ADN) that combines general college education with nursing-specific coursework. That package to some extent can then be transferred to a four-year school if desired.

  • Cost per year – $65,100
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – Associate degree in Nursing, Certificate in Vocational Nursing

Bonus Online Programs

Though the following colleges are not located in Orange County, California, students who wish can decide to attend these nursing programs that are available 100% online.

1. University of Phoenix – Southern California

Operating as an online higher education institution, the University of Phoenix also provides in-class training in some programs at major campus locations. Its primary southern California campus is located in Ontario, but the school makes available an online RN-to-BSN nursing degree approach for working students. The program takes approximately 14 months and applicants can transfer in prior coursework taken elsewhere. Each course is taken by a student one at a time over 5-week windows for overall program completion. The university’s nursing program is CCNE-accredited.

  • Cost per year – $9,690
  • Private or Public -Private
  • Degrees offered – MSN: Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN: Nursing Administration, MSN: Nursing Education, Master of Science in Nursing, Post-Master’s Certificate: Family Nurse Practitioner, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

2. Brandman University

The California-located Brandman University is situated in Irvine and offers students multiple choices for nursing advancement training. All of the programs are geared toward already-licensed nurses typically working at the RN level. Most of the courses are provided in an online format, assuming the need for a flexible education schedule. Where practical training is required, Brandman partners with local health facilities, clinics and hospitals to provide the necessary practice time for students.

  • Cost per year – $12,380
  • Private or Public – Private
  • Degrees offered – Doctor of Nursing Practice, Post-Baccalaureate DNP, RN-to-BSN Degree Completion

The above nursing schools in Orange County have been rated first on their quality as a multi-level university program (i.e. BSN, MSN, and Ph.D. combined), then as a bachelor’s-only degree-granting school, and finally as an entry-level only school (i.e. associate or certificate in vocational nursing only). Within those groups, the institutions were then rated in priority based on the cost of tuition and value for the degree or certificate earned.

If you’re thinking about attending one of the nursing schools in Orange County and need more information on any of the schools above, drop us a note and we would be glad to help out with more details.

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