Nursing Schools and Programs in San Diego

Updated September 27, 2022 • 3 Min Read

Nursing in San Diego

Nurses who are interested in living and working in San Diego and its surrounding area can find a variety of educational opportunities and job openings. With 35 hospitals in San Diego County that have all been classified as registered nurse shortage areas by the state's Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), aspiring nurses have a number of employment options available to them. This page details the various degree programs available in San Diego, as well as the career outlook for different types of nurses.

San Diego Nurses: By the Numbers

Q. How many nurses currently work in San Diego?

There are currently 28,980 nurses working in the San Diego area. The majority of these professionals are registered nurses.

Q. What percentage of all healthcare workers are nurses?

In San Diego, nurses make up 43 percent of the healthcare workforce.

Q. What are the primary working environments for nurses?

The primary sources for nursing jobs in San Diego are general and surgical hospitals, medical offices, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers. Some of these local facilities include Scripps La Jolla Hospitals and Clinics, UC San Diego Medical Center, and Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.

Q. How is the job outlook for nurses in San Diego?

According to a report issued jointly by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and the San Diego Workforce Partnership, nursing in San Diego County is expected to increase eight percent by 2019. This increase will amount to 800 new job openings annually.

Salary for Nurses in San Diego

Although nursing salaries can vary depending on where professionals work and what they specialize in, generally, those looking for nursing jobs in San Diego can expect to make healthy salaries. In fact, the earning potential of nurses in the area is significantly higher than the national averages. Also, while in most cases, those in San Diego nursing jobs make about the same amount as other workers in California, some specialists earn higher salaries than the state averages.

Annual Median Salary for Nurses
Year San Diego California National
Registered Nurses $83,500 $96,470 $69,790
Nurse Anesthetists $173,390 $171,260 $158,900
Nurse Midwives $133,560 $125,630 $97,700
Nurse Practitioners $113,930 $114,040 $97,990
Licensed Vocational Nurses $50,570 $51,700 $43,420
All Occupations $39,040 $39,190 $47,230

Source: Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)

San Diego Nursing Schools Highlights

According to the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, San Diego County has 40 nursing training and education programs, from those that train for entry-level positions to degrees that are designed to help nurses advance in their careers. The report breaks down some of the local degree programs as follows:

  • 4 training programs for vocational nurses at public and private colleges
  • 18 programs for licensed vocational nurses who want to become registered nurses; 12 of these programs award bachelor's degrees
  • 13 programs offering master's degrees in nursing that allow students to specialize in research, teaching, or an area of advanced clinical nursing

In addition, some local schools offer doctoral nursing degrees, which are generally earned by those who want to become nurse educators, researchers, or leaders at healthcare facilities.

Below, find profiles of some of the city's most noteworthy nursing schools:

San Diego State University (SDSU)

Originally opened as an accredited baccalaureate program in 1953, San Diego State University's School of Nursing later added a master's program in 1982. Since then, SDSU has been known for its accredited programs. The school is gaining praise for its recently revamped policies that allow students to apply directly to the nursing program as incoming freshmen. The school has also received various accolades for its work in nursing informatics, elder health, and geriatric nursing and provides an accredited nurse midwifery degree program.

Programs offered

  • RN-to-BSN
  • LVN-to-RN
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

University of San Diego (USD)

The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego is ranked #30 of the Top 100 Graduate Nursing Schools and #1 in Catholic Graduate Nursing Education by U.S. News & World Report. To keep up with this tradition of providing high-quality nursing education, the school is currently building the Betty and Bob Beyster Institute for Nursing Research, Advanced Practice and Simulation, a 30,000-square-foot facility that will allow the school to increase its simulation nursing education and clinical research studies. In addition, the school has also begun providing education in healthcare informatics.

Programs offered

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • Master's Entry Program in Nursing (EL-MSN)
  • Ph.D. in Nursing
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University combines nursing education with Christian values in order to promote care that is based on serving others. These values, which include helping patients in medically underserved areas, contributed to the school winning the State of California Song-Brown grant—a $105,000 award provided by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development for contributions the school has made to the community. The nursing school plans to use this funding to purchase simulators to be used in the PLNU Nursing Skills Lab.

Programs offered

  • BSN
  • RN-to-BSN
  • LVN-to-BSN
  • MSN

San Diego City College

San Diego City College is ranked #2 in the country by the PayScale College Salary Report for two-year colleges that have the highest paid alumni. In addition, the school was named the best area college by San Diego Downtown News. The nursing department offers programs to teach students how to provide care across the illness continuum, while ensuring that students are well-prepared for the California licensing examination. In fact, in the last several years, about 90 percent of the school's students have passed the NCLEX-RN.

Programs offered

  • Associate of Science Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • LVN-to-RN

Licensing Requirements and Nursing Associations in California

Although all nurses around the country are required to obtain a license in order to practice, the licensing requirements vary from one state to the next. San Diego requires that nurses follow the licensure guidelines set forth by the state of California, and nurses in the area do not need to meet any additional criteria.

Professional associations allow nurses to continue learning about the field long after they have completed their studies. These organizations offer services such as networking opportunities, conferences, professional journals, and continuing education courses. Some national nursing associations, like the Association of perioperative Registered Nurses and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, have special chapters in San Diego.

For more information about getting a nursing license or joining a professional association, visit our detailed page on nursing schools and programs in California.

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