There are three schools based in California that offer online graduate nursing programs for students interested in becoming licensed as family nurse practitioners (FNPs). Samuel Merritt University and the University of Southern California (USC) both offer online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs in the specialty. Samuel Merritt University’s program accepts RNs who possess a bachelor’s degree (either in nursing or a non-nursing field), while USC’s program requires RNs to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Brandman University offers two online degree paths for prospective FNPs: a BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and a post-doctoral certificate in the concentration.

While all of these programs feature online coursework, students are still required to complete a set number of clinical placement hours at a local health care facility. The FNP programs at Samuel Merritt and Brandman are both accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), while USC has accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). For more on each program, as well as information regarding FNP licensing requirements in the state of California, see below.

Program Information: Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs in California

Located in Oakland, Samuel Merritt University offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Family Nurse Practitioner program open to RNs who possess a BSN or non-nursing bachelor’s degree. The program is taught entirely online through asynchronous instruction, and requires no campus visits. Over the course of the 49 credit program, students interact with classmates and faculty using the Canvas online learning management system. Samuel Merritt’s online MSN-FNP program is available in both full-time and part-time options.

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles also has an online MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program. Courses are delivered through synchronous instruction, meaning students attend live online lectures and peer discussion groups at scheduled times each week. However, students can access recorded lectures and coursework at any time online. The Nursing@USC online FNP program consists of 49 credits, and students must make two campus visits throughout the entire course of study. A BSN is required for admission, and the program can be pursued on either a full-time or part-time basis.

Brandman University has 20 campus locations across California, and offers several online nursing degree programs. The school has two online options for students looking to specialize as family nurse practitioners: a BSN to DNP program and a post-doctoral certificate program. Their online BSN to DNP, Family/Across the Lifespan NP program uses a cohort model and primarily asynchronous instruction, with students required to visit campus seven times over the course of the nine semester program. The online post-doctoral certificate path is designed for students who already possess a DNP or Ph.D., and want to pursue APRN certification as an FNP.

California FNP Licensing Requirements

In the state of California, certification of advance practice nurses is overseen by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). Applicants looking to obtain state certification as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) must hold active licensure as a registered nurse in California. The next step is to complete a state-approved graduate degree program. California requires that all NPs hold a master’s degree or higher in their specialty from a school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or an equivalent accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

After earning their graduate nursing degree, RNs will need to sit for and successfully pass a national certification exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). RNs must complete a minimum of 500 supervised direct patient care clinical hours in order to qualify for either exam. Once national certification has been attained, they are then eligible to submit an application for state certification to the California Board of Registered Nursing, which can be done online or by mail.

Along with a completed Application for Nurse Practitioner Certification and the associated fee of $75, applicants will need to furnish the following documentation:

  • Verification of the completion of a nurse practitioner degree program
  • Official transcripts from their graduate school
  • Verification of national APRN certification
  • Two reference letters verifying their clinical competency, submitted by a supervising nurse practitioner and a licensed physician
  • Verification of clinical experience
  • A recent passport size photo

It typically takes 10 to 12 weeks for the Board to evaluate and process each application. As for the renewal process, state certification is automatically renewed in conjunction with RN licensure for nurse practitioners in California. There is no additional fee or continuing education required.

Universities in California with Online FNP Programs
School Degree Program
Brandman University DNP (BSN Required) Online Doctor Of Nursing Practice, Family/Across the Lifespan Nurse Practitioner
Samuel Merritt University MSN (BSN or Non-Nursing Bachelors accepted) Online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program
University of Southern California MSN (BSN Required) Online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program