Definition of Terms and Data Elements

Selection Criteria

Is any nursing school that offered a post-licensure BSN/MSN program with a campus (or satellite location) in California.  The selection criteria during the first phase of this project has excluded programs outside of California that nurses may access with an online curriculum to obtain a BSN or MSN degree.

Name of School/Program

A total of 39 post-licensure nursing programs in California were included in this project (ADN-BSN, n = 35; ADN-MSN, n = 4).


A direct link to a nursing school’s home page or program website is adjacent to the name of the school that offers a BSN or MSN program.  This webpage serves as a resource for prospective students to obtain additional program information and is based on the recommendations of that school’s dean and/or director.   Again, use this link to obtain more information on the application process and recent changes to the curriculum.

Geographical Location

Three categories are used to identify the geographical location of post-licensure BSN and MSN programs in California.  The first is zip code.  A zip code represents the postal address and official business location of a nursing program.  Several schools offer a BSN or MSN program at a satellite campus that is away from the main campus, and in these cases the zip code was obtained from the main campus.  The second is County, or the geographical subdivision of a state.  The third is Geographical Region.  Nursing programs were grouped into regions using the same classification system as the California Board of Registered Nursing.  There are a total of 9 regions: Northern California, Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, Central California & Sierra, Central Coast, Los Angeles Area, Orange County & Inland Empire, San Diego Area & Border Counties, and Out-of-State.

National Nursing Education Accreditation

Accreditation is an important component in higher education.  It ensures the education you are obtaining is at an acceptable level and standard.  There are many types of accreditation – national, state, and regional.   For example, most nursing schools in California are members of the Western Association of School and Colleges, while private schools may be members of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.  But because nursing is a specialized field, this data element lists programs with national nursing education certification.  There are two national nursing accreditation agencies: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc (NLN-AC).  The CCNE is the primary accreditation agency for post- and pre-licensure baccalaureate and graduate programs, and the NLN-AC grants accreditation to schools with programs at various academic levels (pre- and post-licensure).

Type of Program

There are two types of schools that offer a post-licensure BSN and MSN curriculum: Public and Private. All of the public schools belong to the California State University System, and no schools in the University of California System offered post-licensure ADN to BSN or ADN to MSN education. Among private schools, programs can be classified as faith-based, independent, and/or nonprofit organizations.

Primary Curriculum Delivery

This element identifies how a curriculum framework is delivered (i.e., how nursing courses are offered).  Programs were categorized into three groups based on how the majority of classes are delivered.  The first is On-campus where classes meet in-person at the main campus or at a satellite facility.  The second, Online, takes place remotely.  And third, Blended/Hybrid, takes place on-campus and/or remotely.

Length of Program, Full-time Study

Length of program varies by school and depends on the total number of courses that are required to complete the degree and the total number of units taken during any academic term.  This data element is based on full-time study.  In the selection criteria page, BSN programs are listed in these categories: Fewer than 12 months (1 year), 13-23 months, and 24 months (2 years) or greater.  Concomitantly, MSN programs are listed using: Fewer than 24 months (2 years), 25-30 months, and more than 31 months.

Total Application Fee

An application fee is the administrative cost to review and process an application when applying to a school and/or program.  The application process may include fees that are payable to the university, and in some cases to the nursing department.  We show the total application fee by combining university and department fees, which are also shown when applicable.  There were some private schools that do not have an application fee and/or provide a fee waiver when the application is completed online.

Estimated Total Tuition Costs to Complete Program

This is a good estimate of the total tuition costs to complete a program. The amount only applies to tuition cost and does not include other types of school-related expenses (e.g., books, malpractice insurance, room and board etc.).  It is strongly suggested that students check with the registrar’s department to confirm what services are included, as tuition costs vary each year and depend on many factors.  It is possible that some schools may offer a flat tuition fee regardless of the amount of time it takes to complete the program (full-time vs. part-time).

Costs per Academic Unit

Each course is assigned an academic unit that corresponds to the amount of time it takes to attend and complete a course. In general, the total number of academic units (not the total number of classes) is a good estimate of what you may expect to pay for tuition during any term and/or in completing the program.  Schools may charge a different academic unit fee for general education courses compared to classes with a clinical and/or laboratory component.  All schools in the CSU System have structured fees.  CSU costs are based on the total number of enrolled units and residency status.  For example, if the total number of units is above 6.1 units (full-time status) it is billed at a different rate compared to total number of units at or below 6.0 (part-time status).  If schools have a flat tuition fee then the cost per academic unit is not applicable.

Average Class Size

Class size refers to the average number of students that are enrolled at any time in a class/course.  Depending on the type of course, the class size may be different from what is advertised.  Class size is important in calculating student-teacher ratios and impact on the academic environment (e.g., [“your”] education experience).

Admission Cycle

This is when prospective students can expect to start a program.  The majority of nursing programs in our data element identified the following academic terms as their admission cycle: Winter, Spring, Summer, and/or Fall.  A few programs have a continuous/rolling cycle (year-round enrollment).  An admission cycle should not be confused with the application deadline.

School Calendar

All nursing programs follow a school calendar, or the time period when a class starts and ends.

There are three possibilities: Semester, Quarter, and Other.  A semester is an academic term that consists of 14-16 week sessions (Spring and Fall) and an optional, but sometimes mandatory accelerated (summer) term in an academic year.  In contrast, a quarter system consists of 10-11 weeks and classes are offered in the Winter, Spring, Summer (optional), and Fall.  Other types of school calendars are Accelerated (two 8-week courses during a semester) and Term (6-month schedule).

Total Number of Units to Graduate with a BSN/MSN Degree

This number includes the total number of units for both nursing and non-nursing courses to complete a program with the BSN or MSN degree.  A student may transfer academic units into a program; thus, the total number of units that are required to complete the program will be lower than what is indicated.  Each school has a different policy on the maximum number of units that may be transferred, as well as whether any experiential credit may be earned.