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Top 5 Nursing Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area

Nursing Shortage in America

A nursing shortage has plagued America since the 1990s, prompting nursing schools to increase the attractiveness of their training programs with online classes, increasing amounts of student financial aid, more numerous internships in nursing, more opportunities for direct job placement post-graduation, and other amenities. The top five nursing schools in the San Francisco Bay Area offer all of these.

As the second most populous state in America, California needs a large number of nurses. According to Indeed and GlassDoor job search websites, November 2022 found over 555,000 different listings for registered nurse vacancies. Such vacancies are projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to increase every year of the 21st century.

Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

— Registererd Nurses; US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Leading Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area

According to surveys taken among students, instructors and staffs of a large group of area nursing training facilities, these five schools led the pack:


1. University of California, San Francisco

Rated Number One in the San Fransico area, this school is also Number Ten on the list compiled for the entire United States by

The UC San Francisco Medical and Nursing Schools also joined the National Clinician Scholars Program in America in 2022.

Since 2015, the UCSF School of Nursing has received more research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than any other American nursing school. Its Master of Science in nursing program offers over a dozen specialties that include clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners (NPs).

UCSF provides a master’s entry program (MEPN) that preps on-nurses for their first RN license licensure and these graduates as a group average at least 94% passing marks the first time they take the National Council Licensure Examination.

In addition to in-person study, this university offers an online Master of Science in healthcare administration, a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, and PhD programs in nursing and sociology.

Newest train station near UCSF: UCSF-Chase Station

Newest train station near UCSF: UCSF-Chase Station

2. Samuel Merritt University

Over 100 years old, this school is totally dedicated to health sciences and the majority of the educational programs are at the graduate level. The schools medical care simulation unit gives students hands-on experience in a safe atmosphere with new technologies.

The SMU College of Nursing provides two BSN degree programs: a regular course and an accelerated program. In addition, podiatry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing practice are also provided at the doctoral level and the physician assistant program provides a master's level degree. Nearly 400 BSN students graduate yearly, along with about 100 MSN graduates who specialize as case managers and family practice professionals.

SMU's average graduation rate in all programs combined is 95 percent, with most graduates passing license testing on the first try and then placed into high paying positions. Graduates also have opportunities to serve around the world.

The Jesuit University of San Francisco was established in 1833.

The Jesuit University of San Francisco was established in 1833.

3. University of San Francisco

This school is known for a number of nursing degrees, including an online MSN program, along with a multi-site traditional in-person program. There is also a combined bachelor’s and course that provides the MSN-CNL, Master of Public Health degree, an MS in behavioral health, or an MS in health informatics.

Graduating student in the 2020s have done well in licensing exams, 88% of BSN grads and 90% of MSN grads passing on the first try.

The degrees offered at USF include

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), especially useful for working RNs who want to advance. This is the first California school to offer the degree.
  • Master of Science Nursing (MSN)/Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN)
  • Combined MSN-CNL.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)

The combined five-year BSN-MSN program has become more popular in the 2020s. The school has such created new curricula specifically for nurses already at work and has initiated study programs for nursing students who have had no prior health or medical experience or credentials.

A residence hall at the Dominican University of California

A residence hall at the Dominican University of California

4. Dominican University of California

This nursing school is private, non-profit, and faith-based (Catholic), but students of any faith or no faith are readily accepted. Over 70 percent of all entrance student applications are accepted, which includes people of all faiths or no faith at all, despite the school having been founded by Jesuit priests.

Special consideration and advanced placement are offered to healthcare personnel trained in the US military and international students trained in their own countries.

DUC Nursing School is located in the School of Health and Natural Sciences, the largest school in the university. This facility includes a BSN program that gives students the chance to work in a simulated hospital and clinic for 1,000 hours of hands-on experience at the technologically advanced Clinical Simulation Center.

Since 2012, the school has graduated 70-130 BSN students each year and 81% on average pass the required licensing exam. An RN degree can be completed in just six semesters.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University

5. San Francisco State University

The SF School of Nursing’s operates its hands-on health practicums in underserved local neighborhoods. The school offers three BSNs: in-person training, similar training on its Cañada College campus, and an RN-to-BSN program.

Since 2010, the school's BSN graduates have passed licensure exams at the ratee of 84% of the graduating class.

An MSN program includes several specializations offered in three tiers: entry-level, accelerated entry-level, and traditional in-person study. MSN graduates pass licensure exams at the rate of 90% of each class.

The university has been particularly progressive in recruiting new nursing students since 2010 in an effort to not only prepare the San Francisco medical workforce, but also to allow a people to work in well-paying jobs. One goal off this is to reduce the overwhelming deficit of nursing professionals nationwide.

The administration and governing board have expanded their system of nursing programs to include new specialties like

  • Robotics
  • 3D printer usage
  • Genetic testing

The staff at this university believes that instruction, research, and utilization of the best nursing practices make for the highest quality nurses. It delivers advanced programs to professional nurses holding associate degrees, speeding them toward bachelor's and master's degrees efficiently. Since 2017, SFSU initiated an accelerated RN-to-Master's program. A Nurse Practitioner's Certificate is also offered as a post-graduate program.

Ongoing research opportunities with this institution give nursing students greater expertise when it comes time for them to enter the professional medical workforce.

Ongoing Research at SFSU's Nursing and Health Schools

  • Aging Processes and Illnesses: Geriatrics and Gerontology (This includes chronic illnesses.)
  • Clinical Best Practices: Nursing Simulation Program (This is part of a consortium in the Bay Area.)
  • Emergency and Critical Care
  • Family and Pediatric Development
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Health and Environment
  • Health Promotion Education and Disease Prevention
  • Services to the Incarcerated and Urban Populations
  • Symptom Management (This includes tobacco-related issues, substance abuse, pregnancy and postpartum, sleep cycles, incarceration and health, and more.)
  • Women's Health (This includes health equity across all demographics.)

With a full lineup of degree programs, from associate to doctoral, and opportunities to conduct stimulating research aiming to solve humanity's most pressing health issues, this is one of the finest nursing schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Career Prospects for Nursing Students

Nurses at all levels are in high demand in America. This greater demand is because of the increasing number of baby boomers who are retiring from workforce.

Also, a lot of nurse practitioners are accepting jobs as physician assistants or entering research professions, reducing the number of nurses available for actual nursing services for patients.

Another career option is travel nursing, which takes nurses all over the world and offers higher wages, covers travel expenses, and can even pay for rent or a mortgage.

But nursing is still a rewarding profession in California, and the San Francisco Bay Area is a perfect place to receive outstanding training.

Nursing Programs Offered in the Bay Area

Students enrolled in Bay Area nursing schools can choose from a variety of specialties as they prepare for a rewarding and high demand career. These programs include:

  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN)
  • Master of Science Nursing (MSN)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP)
  • Combined Programs
  • Legal Nurse (LN)

10 High-Demand Specialties:

  1. Anesthetics
  2. Critical Care Nursing
  3. Hospice Care
  4. Midwifery
  5. Pediatrics
  6. Geriatrics
  7. Forensic Nursing
  8. Family Nursing
  9. Psychiatric Nursing
  10. Nursing Data Informatics

Nursing students may also pursue paths in medical research or health care administration.

The Bay Area's Largest Employers of Nurses

  1. Kaiser Permanente: Kaiser has hospitals, laboratories, and other health and bio-related facilities located all around the Bay Area. The headquarters are located in Oakland at Kaiser Plaza.
  2. Sutter Health: The headquarters are located at 2200 River Plaza Drive, Sacramento CA 95833.
  3. University of California at San Francisco (UCSF): UCSF includes a medical complex and nursing school, both of which are leading receivers research funding since 2011. Health research staff and nurses are in the highest demand. The complex is located at 505 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94143.

Additional Hospitals, Recommended by Staffs

  • California Pacific Medical Center
  • Chinese Community Health Resource Center (CCHRC)
  • Golden Gate Healthcare Center
  • Hayes Convalescent Hospital
  • Nineteenth Avenue Healthcare
  • St Francis Memorial Hospital
  • Saint Mary's Medical Center
  • Saint Luke's Hospital
  • Veteran's Affairs Medical Center


This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can a BSN gained at an American University be utilized in Australia and the UK?

Answer: The best course of action is to contact a Travel Nursing Agency ( near you and ask their advice. Ask how to can register your BSN in other nations and whether the agency can help you do that. Travel nursing is quite popular throughout the USA, UK, and Australia, as well as in other nations.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS

Comments and Additions

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 21, 2015:

My pleasure Patty!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 21, 2015:

Great! Students sometimes come to HubPages for information, so I hope a few will see this. Thanks for posting a comment!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 21, 2015:

Great list of the top five nursing schools in California. This would be useful for any high school student who wants to be a nurse. Voted up!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 25, 2013:

The school ranks very high on several lists of top schools and I doubt if the information in phony or that all the medical, educational, and business entities that research and write the lists decided to skew the findings purposely.

Rachel on November 25, 2013:

I'm about to move to San Francisco from my birth state of sc and I'm not used to big cities. I've been looking at colleges and I really can't decide which is best for me. I think this helped a little but it sounds kind of like there is bias on ucsf

Thea on August 15, 2010:

Thanks, this is very useful info for LA nurses.

Lyssa Bachler RN on June 10, 2010:

Very interesting. A lot of good data here. I lived in this area in 1968!

Twin XL on May 09, 2009:

Interesting stats. Thanks for sharing.