For our 2021 rankings of direct entry MSN programs, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac compiled an extensive database of student performance on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Aspiring registered nurses in the United States must pass this examination before they may commence practice. Thus, student performance on the NCLEX-RN exam provides an excellent benchmark for comparing the relative quality of prelicensure programs.

We used our database to calculate each program’s NCLEX-RN pass rate among first-time test-takers. This is the standard program assessment metric reported by the California Board of Registered Nursing and the test’s administrator, Pearson Vue. Whenever possible, we calculated this first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate over an extensive period of time, typically the past decade of student performance. We then used this metric to rank all of California’s direct entry MSN programs accordingly.

#1: University of California, San Francisco
Two Koret Way
San Francisco, CA 94143
https://www.ucsf.edu

94.3% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 67 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#2: University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
https://www.sandiego.edu

91.3% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 46 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#3: Western University of Health Sciences
309 East Second Street
Pomona, CA 91766
https://www.westernu.edu

91.3% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 55 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#4: University of California, Los Angeles
700 Tiverton Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
https://www.ucla.edu

89.9% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 66 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#5: San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
https://www.sfsu.edu

89.5% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 28 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#6: Samuel Merritt University
3100 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609
https://www.samuelmerritt.edu

89.4% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 87 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#7: University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
https://www.usfca.edu

88.6% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 79 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#8: California Baptist University
8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504
https://www.calbaptist.edu

85.5% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 29 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2010-11 through 2019-20


#9: University of California, Davis
2570 48th Street
Sacramento, CA 95817
https://www.ucdavis.edu

82.0% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 33 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2017-18 through 2019-20


#10: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
1748 East 118th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90059
https://www.cdrewu.edu

69.6% first-time NCLEX pass rate
Direct Entry MSN
Average of 43 students graduated per year
Data analyzed from 2011-12 through 2019-20