Online BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP Programs Available in California

California’s first Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program began accepting students in 2006, providing students with the highest level of practice-focused expertise in evidence-based practice. Since then, the demand for DNP-educated nurses in the state has increased, along with the demands of California’s complex healthcare environment.

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Featured DNP Programs:

The increased demand for DNP nurses is no doubt brought on, in part, by a growing shortage of primary care physicians throughout the state. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), California is projected to experience a deficit in primary care practitioners through 2025. The HRSA estimates the demand for practitioners to reach 34,020 by 2025, while the supply at this time to fall short at just 32,470 – a nearly 5% shortage.

Nurses in California, from advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to nursing administrators and executives, are taking advantage of the opportunity to enhance their practice expertise and scientific knowledge by earning DNPs. At the same time, they are filling the void left by a lack of primary care practitioners.

DNP programs in California offer entry-points for bachelor’s-prepared RNs, as well as MSN-educated RNs and APRNs.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in California

California’s nurses can avail themselves of the many accredited online programs that offer BSN and MSN-prepared nurses the opportunity to earn a DNP in a flexible format that accommodates the busy schedules of working RNs and APRNs. Such programs usually offer a great deal of flexibility and make it easier for practicing nurses to obtain a DNP while continuing in their career. Online DNP programs frequently offer options for accelerated study, as well as a more relaxed part-time pace.

Post Bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP Programs – Online programs, as well as California’s large number of campus-based programs, both offer the opportunity for RNs with a BSN to earn an MSN and DNP through one accelerated program. Known as a BSN-to-DNP, these programs allow students to sit for national certification exams in an APRN role and patient population focus prior to transitioning to the DNP phase of the program. Tracks are also available for those interested in an aggregate/organizational/systems focus for jobs in public health, administration, healthcare policy, informatics, education and more. BSN-to-DNP programs typically involve taking about 90 credits over the course of 3-4 years.

One of California’s BSN-DNP programs offers two alternatives to an MSN in preparation for the DNP phase of the program:

  • MSBH – Master of Science in Behavioral Health
  • MPH – Master of Public Health

Post Master’s MSN-to-DNP Programs – Nurses who already possess an MSN can further enhance their skills by entering the post-MSN phase of one of California’s many DNP programs, available in a number of advanced practice tracks, as well as tracks with an aggregate/organizational/systems focus that don’t involve providing direct patient care. Post-MSN programs generally involve earning about 30 credits over the course of a 1.5-2 year period.

DNP Program Components and Practicum Requirements

DNP programs have four main components:

  • DNP core – DNP programs include a core comprised of coursework in quality improvement, health information systems, evidence-based practice, health policy, nursing theory and research, statistics and more.
  • Specialty courses in the student’s chosen focus – Students will focus on their chosen specialty, whether in an APRN role and patient population focus or in an aggregate/organizational/systems track in health policy, executive leadership, public health, informatics, etc.
  • Post-baccalaureate practicum hours – DNP programs require students to participate in at least 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate practicum. Students entering post-MSN programs can count their previous post-baccalaureate hours (typically 500 hours) towards the 1,000-hour requirement as long as hours are in a common track and have been documented appropriately.
  • DNP Project – The culmination of a student’s DNP education is a rigorous research project often referred to as a “Translational Research Project” in California. Students generally produce a manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Part of this process entails returning to campus to defend their research before a faculty committee.

Post-Bachelor’s and Post-Master’s DNP Programs Available in California

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Other DNP programs in California not shown here may hold regional accreditation or specialty accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).

Azusa Pacific University, Azusa

  • Post-MSN for APRNs

Brandman University, Irvine

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Family/Across the Lifespan NP
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Acute Care
    • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

California State University Northern California Consortium – Fresno

  • Post-MSN program
  • Specializations:
    • APRN
    • Management and leadership

San Jose State University

  • Post-MSN
  • Specializations:
    • APRN
    • Management and leadership

Consortium of Nursing Schools at California State University – Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles

  • Post-MSN programs
  • Specializations:
    • APRN
    • Management and leadership

Loma Linda University, Loma Linda

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

National University, San Diego

  • Post-MSN program
  • Specializations:
    • Nursing Administration
    • Nursing Informatics

Samuel Merritt University, Oakland

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specialty in Family Nurse Practitioner

University of San Diego, San Diego

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Pediatric/Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology/Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

University of San Francisco, San Francisco

  • Available as a BSN-DNP
  • Specializations:
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSBH to DNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSBH to DNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MPH to DNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSN [Clinical Nurse Leader] to DNP)
  • Post-MSN in Executive Leader

Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona

  • Post-MSN program

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in California

According to the HRSA, the demand for RNs is projected to rise consistently through 2030. The HRSA projects the demand for these professionals to increase by 43,710 in 2020, 52,100 by 2025, and 63,370 by 2030.

But it’s not just RNs that are in demand in California; it’s the highest educated RNs; those who hold the DNP. DNP-prepared RNs are qualified to educate the next generation of nurses, serve as leaders and changemakers in the field, and assume the role of primary practitioner, particularly in medically underserved areas.

Fortunately, the DNP continues to gain steam in California’s university and colleges. As of 2019, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports a total of 21 DNP programs in California.

The following job posts highlight some of the opportunities available to DNP-prepared RNs in California:

Advanced Practice Nurse – Diabetes Care, Scripps Health, La Jolla, CA

  • Current CA RN license
  • Two years of full-time experience as an RN, preferably in the APN role
  • Master’s degree; doctorate in nursing recommended
  • Clinical leadership experience

Nurse Practitioner – Urgent Care Clinical Providers, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach, CA

  • MSN or DNP graduate NP program
  • Evidence of satisfactory performance and completion of proctoring and other requirements required by medical staff office
  • Licensed and board certified to provide care to patients of all ages

Tenure-Track, Health Sciences, California State University, Long Beach, CA

  • DNP or PhD in nursing or a related field
  • Current license or eligible for licensure as an RN and NP or other clinical care provider in California
  • Demonstrated potential for teaching at the college level
  • Demonstrated potential for research, scholarly, and creative activities

FNP Clinical Coordinator for the DNP Program, The Regents of the University of California, Irvine, CA

  • Nationally board certified as a family nurse practitioner
  • Minimum of two years of clinical experience as an FNP within the past four years
  • Minimum of one year of teaching experience
  • DNP degree, or in progress

Nurse Practitioner – Small Bowel Diseases & Nutrition, Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles, CA

  • Graduate of an accredited NP program
  • MSN or DNP

Academic Tenure Track Faculty – Nursing, California State University, Sacramento, CA

  • Terminal degree in nursing (PhD or DNP) or a master’s degree in nursing and a terminal degree in a related discipline


Examples of DNP nursing positions were taken from a survey of job listings in January 2020 and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.

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