Eight Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in California

  1. Earn an RN Degree – All Nurse Practitioners (NPs) must first become RNs. Getting your RN through an ADN or BSN program is your first step. Be sure to earn your RN or BSN from a university that is accredited by the ACEN or CCNE. Your credentials are more likely to be accepted by your NP program if you earned your RN from an accredited school.
  2. Pass The NCLEX-RN Exam – Our practice tests  and NCLEX-RN exam study guide are just the tools you need to help you prepare for test day.
  3. Earn Your MSN or DNP – To become an NP you can either get your masters or doctorate. Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs take about 2 years while Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs take about 4 years. You will choose a population foci such as gerontology, family, neonatal when you start your program:
  4. Complete Supervised Clinical Hours – If you earn your MSN you will need to between 500-600 clinical hours depending on your population focus. To earn your DNP you need 1000 hours.
  5. Become Board Certified – Your certifying body to become an NP depends on your population foci:
  6. Obtain Licensure – Licensure is done on a state-by-state basis. Contact the California State Board of Nursing for more information.
  7. Obtain a DEA Number – DEA registration is required in order to prescribe medication in California. Once you are licensed, apply for your NPI number which is free. Then you use this to apply for your State Controlled Substances Authority for California and then your DEA registration so that you can prescribe medications.
  8. Maintain Active Certification and Licensure – Your certifying body and BON in California will tell you what is required to maintain certification and licensure. Usually this requires a certain amount of continuing education (CE) credits as well as clinical practice. You may also have to fill out an application and pay a fee every 2-3 years.

Online NP Programs Liked by California Nurses

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner in California

How much time it takes to become an NP in California really depends on your background. Depending on the path you take it will be 2 to 4 years of education before you can become a Certified Nurse Practitioner. If you’re already an RN it can take as little as 2 years by earning your MSN. If you are not an RN some direct entry programs are as short as 2 years as well. If you already have your MSN but are not an NP you can do a DNP program in 2-3 years and become and NP while also earning your doctorate.

Here are examples of how long it will take you to become an NP depending on what degree you are starting with:

Starting Degree

How Many Years to Become an NP

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)

2 – 3 years
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) 2 years

Bachelor’s in a non-nursing field 2 – 3 years

Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)

1 – 2 years

Nurse Practitioner Requirements and Types in California

BSN to MSN

If you are getting your MSN after having your BSN in the state of California, you can expect to spend 2 years earning your degree to become NP. If you have your RN, but not your BSN, you can complete a program that is similar in length and will give you an MSN. General requirements to enter and complete your BSN to MSN program in California include:

  • A 3.0 GPA or the equivalent of a B average
  • Must be licensed as an RN in California
  • Complete about 50 credits of classroom work
  • Complete 500 to 800 hours of supervised clinical experience depending upon the University

Direct Entry MSN Programs

Direct Entry MSN programs or accelerated MSN programs give people who are not nurses but have a bachelors degree in something else the opportunity pursue nursing. These programs prepare you to be an NP without having you repeat non-nursing college courses that you have already taken. There are a handful of these programs in California. Direct entry programs take between 2 and 3 years to complete. After the program you will be an RN and an NP. General requirements to enter and to complete your accelerated MSN program in California include:

  • A 3.0 GPA or the equivalent of a B average
  • Completion of pre-requisites such as anatomy and physiology, developmental psychology, microbiology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and more
  • Complete about 50 credits of classroom work
  • Complete 500 to 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience depending upon the University

MSN to NP Certificate

If you already have your MSN but are not an NP you can complete a certificate program to train you to be an NP. This may be the right path for you if you have your MSN in something like nursing education, nursing administration, or if you are a clinical nurse specialist. In general MSN to NP certificate programs take about one year and to enter and to complete your NP to Certificate program requires the following:

  • You must be an RN in California to be eligible to apply for these programs
  • Typically you are not required to take the GRE again for these programs
  • You will have to submit an application with your resume, references, past transcripts and more
  • Complete 500 to 700 clinical hours depending on the school and your population focus

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

DNP programs are the doctorate level programs that prepare nurses to be NPs. In these programs you will be trained to provide nursing care at the expert level and will also be able to teach in most universities. DNP programs are becoming more popular as the entry pathway into becoming an NP.  Program length varies from 3 to 5 years depending on whether or not you already have your masters. The eligibility requirements vary a little between the BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs.

BSN to DNP: These programs are for bachelor’s level trained nurses.

  • You must be a licensed California nurse and have had a GPA of at least 3.0 (B average) or better.
  • The BSN to DNP programs will take about 5 years depending on the university.
  • Your application will need to include GRE scores, letters of recommendation, previous transcripts, and more.
  • You will need to complete 1000 hours of supervised clinical experiences.
  • Some programs will require you to have nursing experience.

MSN to DNP: These programs take into account that you are already a nurse trained at the master’s level. Depending on the program you may be required to already be an NP in California.

  • All programs will require you to have your California RN license.
  • These programs will take between 2 and 3 years to complete.
  • Like the BSN to DNP programs you need to submit an application with letters of recommendations, past transcripts, and more.
  • You do not have to take the GRE however, as it is assumed that you already had to take it for your MSN.
  • At the end of your DNP education you will not only be an NP but you will also have completed the highest level of clinical nursing education available.

Where Do Nurse Practitioner Typically Work?

As an NP the world is at your fingertips. You can work in a variety of settings and will have the flexibility throughout your career to change it up. Here are some examples of where you may work.

  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP: Cardiology,  neurology, emergency departments, intensive care units, medical surgical units, military settings, and more.
  • Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP: primary care clinics, nursing homes, correctional facilities, college health, occupational health, military settings, and more.
  • Family NP: Primary care clinics, community health, urgent care, college health, occupational health,  military settings, dermatology, shelters, and more.
  • Neonatal NP: neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), emergency departments, labor and delivery units, and more.
  • Pediatric Acute Care NP: Emergency departments, specialty units in children’s hospitals, urgent care.
  • Pediatric Primary Care NP: community health centers, schools, children’s hospitals, private practices.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP: outpatient therapy, inpatient psychiatric units, partial hospitalization units, nursing homes, and more.
  • Women’s Health NP: Community health centers, women’s prisons, private practices, urogynecology practices, adolescent health, and more.

Nurse Practitioner Types by Primary Certification

CertificationPercent of NPs
Family Nurse Practitioner69.7
Adult Care10.8
Adult–Gerontology Primary Care7.0
Psychiatric/Mental Health4.7
Acute Care4.1
Pediatrics–Primary Care3.2
Adult–Gerontology Acute Care2.9
Women’s Health2.9
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care1.8
Neonatal1.0
Pediatrics–Acute Care0.7
Source: AANP

Campus and Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

University Offered asCity/State
California State University-San Marcos Campus, Hybrid, OnlineSan Marcos, CA
Brandman University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineIrvine, CA
Sonoma State University Campus, HybridRohnert Park, CA
University of San Francisco Campus, Hybrid, OnlineSan Francisco, CA
Samuel Merritt University Campus, HybridOakland, CA
University of San Diego/Hahn CampusSan Diego, CA
San Francisco State University Campus, HybridSan Francisco, CA
National University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineLa Jolla, CA
Loma Linda University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineLoma Linda, CA
Fresno Pacific University Campus, HybridFresno, CA
Holy Names University CampusOakland, CA
University of California-Los Angeles CampusLos Angeles, CA
California State University-Long Beach CampusLong Beach, CA
California State University-Los Angeles CampusLos Angeles, CA
California State University-Dominguez Hills Campus, Hybrid, OnlineCarson, CA
California State University-Fresno Campus, OnlineFresno, CA
Azusa Pacific University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineAzusa, CA
California Baptist University Campus, OnlineRiverside, CA
California State University-Bakersfield Campus, HybridBakersfield, CA
United States University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineChula Vista, CA

NP Program Costs in California

Nurse practitioner programs vary in price depending on the school; however, they usually fall within the following ranges:

• RN to MSN nurse practitioner program: $22,000 – $235,000
• BSN to MSN nurse practitioner program: $19,000 – $1750,000
• Direct entry MSN nurse practitioner program: $23,000 – $220,000
• BSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: $27,000 – $255,000
• MSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: $18,000 – $170,000
• Post-master’s certification nurse practitioner program: $9,800 – $84,000

Nurse Practitioner Salaries in California

CareerOneStop projects that demand for Nurse Practitioners in California will grow 30 percent in the next 10 years. On average graduates from California accredited nurse practitioner schools $104,890 annually to start. Across all specialties and experience levels, the average Nurse Practitioner Salary in California is $138,660.

Nurse Practitioner Title

Average Annual NP Salary

Adult Gerontology Acute Care

$131,000

Adult Gerontology Primary Care $131,000

Family Nurse Practitioner

$137,000

Neonatal NP

$147,100

Psychiatric Mental Health

$144,300

Pediatric Acute Care $131,500
Pediatric Primary Care$130,500
Women’s Health$132,000

Nurse Practitioner Schools in California

California

California State University-San Marcos

  • 333 S Twin Oaks Valley Rd, San Marcos, CA - 92096-0001

Family Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Brandman University

  • 16355 Laguna Canyon Road, Irvine, CA - 92618

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Sonoma State University

  • 1801 E Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park, CA - 94928-3609

Family Nurse Practitioner

University of San Francisco

  • 2130 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA - 94117-1080

Family Nurse Practitioner

Samuel Merritt University

  • 3100 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA - 94609

Family Nurse Practitioner

San Diego State University

  • 5500 Campanile Dr, San Diego, CA - 92182

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

University of San Diego/Hahn

  • 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA - 92110-2492

Family Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

San Francisco State University

  • 1600 Holloway Ave, San Francisco, CA - 94132

Family Nurse Practitioner

National University

  • 11255 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA - 92037-1011

Family Nurse Practitioner

Fresno Pacific University

  • 1717 S Chestnut Ave, Fresno, CA - 93702-4709

Family Nurse Practitioner

Holy Names University

  • 3500 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA - 94619-1699

Family Nurse Practitioner

University of California-Los Angeles

  • 405 Hilgard Ave, Los Angeles, CA - 90095-1405

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner

California State University-Fullerton

  • 800 N State College Blvd, Fullerton, CA - 92831-3599

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

California State University-Long Beach

  • 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA - 90840-0115

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

California State University-Los Angeles

  • 5151 State University Dr, Los Angeles, CA - 90032

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult Psychiatric - Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

California State University-Dominguez Hills

  • 1000 E Victoria St, Carson, CA - 90747-0005

Family Nurse Practitioner

California State University-Fresno

  • 5241 N Maple Ave, Fresno, CA - 93740

Family Nurse Practitioner

Azusa Pacific University

  • 901 E Alosta, Azusa, CA - 91702-7000

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

California Baptist University

  • 8432 Magnolia Ave, Riverside, CA - 92504-3297

Family Nurse Practitioner

California State University-Bakersfield

  • 9001 Stockdale Hwy, Bakersfield, CA - 93311-1099

Family Nurse Practitioner

United States University

  • 830 Bay Boulevard, Chula Vista, CA - 91911

Family Nurse Practitioner

Source: American Association of Nurse Practitioners

California Organizations for Nurse Practitioners

Online MSN Programs Liked by California Nurses

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

National Organizations for Nurse Practitioners

Since it is such a popular career path there are multiple resources and organizations available for you to utilize as you gather more information:

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Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.