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How to Choose the Best Nursing School in the Bay Area

The Rewards of Pursuing Your Educational Goals at Bay Area Schools.

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It might go without saying, but let’s repeat it, anyway: Nurses are pillars of strength who provide crucial support to countless hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout the world. While nursing school comes with its own unique set of challenges, it is a necessary experience that can be incredibly rewarding and will prepare you for the future.

In addition to choosing the right school, you also want to choose the right area. We decided to focus on the Bay Area because of its diverse culture, sunny climate, culinary landscape, and booming tech and healthcare industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bay Area also has some of the highest-paying cities for LVNs and RNs in the country.

Our guide will teach you everything you need to know about choosing the right nursing school in the Bay Area. Continue reading to learn about the benefits, requirements, and challenges that go along with finding the best program for you.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse.)

Researching Nursing Schools in the Bay Area

Factors to Consider When Researching Nursing Schools in the Bay Area

Now that you’ve decided to pursue nursing school, the next step is to find the best program for you. There are several questions you should consider when searching for a nursing program in the Bay Area. In your research, you should gather as much information as possible, such as accreditation, online vs. in person, faculty-to-student ratio, NCLEX pass rates, and available programs.

Furthermore, the best nursing program should be tailored to your individual needs. For example, some students may prefer smaller class sizes. In contrast, others might place more value on time set aside for clinical externships or benefit from a large university setting. Don’t forget to consider specialization, too.

Here’s a quick breakdown to make your research a little easier:


Accreditation is one of the first factors you should consider. This is because only accredited schools should make it to your list. Why? Accreditation helps ensure that a program is held accountable and meets the standards of the industry (not to mention safety regulations). To put it simply, accredited schools provide you with the best education possible. Start by checking websites like the California Board of Registered Nursing or the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Online vs. In Person

There are pros and cons to every type of educational setting. To prepare yourself for success, it’s important to understand what works best for you. For instance, if you prefer to study in your own space, an online program could be ideal. Others cannot focus unless they are in a traditional classroom. Again, determine what’s right for you and go from there.

Faculty-to-Student Ratio

In a similar vein, you should decide if you work best in small or large classes. You might find that smaller class sizes suit you best. Alternatively, you might prefer large lecture halls where you can listen and take notes. Think about previous school experiences and what equipped you for success.

NCLEX Pass Rates

This is another crucial one. NCLEX pass rates will provide you with a window into each school and allow you to measure their efficiency. If a good percentage of graduates pass the NCLEX exam, then it’s likely you will, too! It also demonstrates that the school is effective at preparing its students for success as a nurse. When you speak with a school representative, remember to ask for their NCLEX pass rates and documentation to back them up.

Close up of a nurse in scrubs using a computer

Available Programs

This probably goes without saying, but you should also ask about each school’s available programs. Some places might have longer wait lists than others. In addition, there could be lengthy prerequisites or other requirements. Start by asking about the programs they offer.

Here are some sample questions you could ask when researching any nursing school:

  • What are the tuition costs and financial aid options?
  • What are the academic prerequisites?
  • How long does it take to complete the program?
  • What specific topics are covered?
  • Is the program online, in person, or a combination of both?
  • Where is the school located, or where do they offer campuses?
  • Is the program accredited?
  • Can the program help me pursue nursing specializations? (i.e. pediatrics, geriatrics, critical care, etc.)
  • What is the faculty-to-student ratio?
  • Are there any clinical externships or simulations?
  • What percentage of students graduate?
  • What percentage of graduates find employment?
  • What are the NCLEX pass rates?

Evaluating Nursing Programs in the Bay Area

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Nursing Programs in the Bay Area

While researching each school, you should ascertain as much information as possible in relation to your selection criteria, including factors such as the program’s curriculum, clinical opportunities, and student support services.

Before you decide to enroll anywhere, do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions when meeting with admissions representatives. In fact, the more, the merrier! Reps of a standout school should always be willing—if not enthusiastic—to answer all your questions.

Program Curriculums

Think about it like this: The curriculum of a program is a preview of your future. If there’s a class you’re not ready for (or one missing that you need), the program might not be right for you. Since nursing school can be expensive, it’s crucial that you are fully invested and ready to take on the curriculum of your chosen program. Typically, you can find program curriculums on the website of each school. There should be program pages or course catalog sections that provide you with all the information you need.

Clinical Opportunities

In a nursing program, clinical opportunities are your time to shine. They allow you to practice (under supervision) in real-world scenarios. There are some things you must learn by doing; so, be sure to ask school representatives about the clinical opportunities in their programs. You could inquire about the amount of hours on the ground, the type of healthcare settings students use, etc.

Student Support Services

All students need help along the way. This is why a school’s student support services team is especially important. Normally, student support services can help you with things like the below:

  • Study and time-management skills
  • School / life balance
  • Overcoming test anxiety
  • Connecting with your peers
  • Building technology skills
  • Campus and community resources

During your research, ask each school if they have a student support services team and what they do to help.

Close up of a city street in the Bay Area

School Location and Facilities

Other factors to consider include convenience and accessibility. Remember to look at the location of each nursing school, because this will impact traffic and commute times when it comes to your daily trek in the Bay Area. Examine the availability and quality of each facility to determine if longer commute times would be worth it, too.

All these elements should help you make the right choice.

Traffic Patterns

If you’re new to the Bay Area or commuting, it would be a good idea to investigate traffic patterns on your route. Is there an 8:00 AM rush for office workers? Or are there times when the streets are loaded with school buses? Pay close attention on your route and observe the best times to avoid the road. That way, you can plan ahead and get to school as efficiently as possible.

Rush Hour

Life happens and, sometimes, rush hour can be unavoidable. Try using resources like mySidewalk or TomTom to help you navigate through a busy trek to school. If necessary, they can help you find alternative paths.


While a car is ideal for some, others rely on public transportation. Remember to look at public transportation near your desired campus, added costs or fees to use it, etc. If public transit isn’t nearby, you should consider the nearest available services and how much more time it will add to your commute. Start by looking at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) website.

Reviews and Reputation

When it comes to choosing the right school, online reviews and testimonials are your best friends! In particular, search for reviews from both current and former students. Additionally, research each school’s reputation within the nursing community. This will help you get a well-rounded look at all the schools on your list.

Some places to start could include organizations like the below:

Bay Area Nursing School Cost

How Much Does Nursing School Cost in the Bay Area?

It’s equally important that you consider the cost of each nursing school in the Bay Area. While salaries are often high, the same can usually be said for rent and tuition. Keep in mind that out-of-pocket school costs can vary depending on your individual situation. They will also depend on the location, school, and type of program. Nursing school prices might range anywhere from $5,000 to $130,000. In addition, tuition costs over $100k are likely for bachelor’s degree programs, which span three to four years.

Some programs may also charge a higher price for more clinical externships or cutting-edge medical equipment. Again, be sure to research your favored schools and ask the admissions representatives about tuition costs as well as their financial aid options. You might be eligible for financial aid, which can cover many college expenses, such as:

  • Tuition
  • Transportation
  • Room and Board
  • Books
  • Computer Equipment
  • Living Expenses

Two men sitting on opposite sides of a desk

Bay Area Nursing School Financial Aid

Financial Aid Options for Nursing Students in the Bay Area

In a similar vein, you should consider financial aid options to help pay for nursing school in the Bay Area. Most schools will offer several financing options to qualifying students. For instance, the financial aid team at Unitek College is ready to assist you with finding the right combination to help you achieve your goals.

Some of Unitek’s financial aid options include the following pathways.

Federal and State Grants

Grants provide money based on financial need. In most cases, the money does not have to be repaid (with some exceptions). To give you a better idea, Unitek College participates in these grant programs:

Federal Grants

State Grants

Student Loans

Student loans are the most common form of financial aid. Loans may be issued by the US Department of Education or by private institutions. Loans may be taken by students and/or their parents and must be repaid with interest. Terms for federally issued loans are public and determined by the federal government.

Private lenders are not insured by the federal government, may have variable requirements for application approval, and set their own terms. Note: While students may borrow funds from any lender, schools like Unitek College do not make recommendations regarding private lenders.

Federal Loan Programs


Scholarships, like grants, represent money that does not have to be repaid. Scholarships are awarded based on a variety of criteria, including financial need and alumni status. Unitek College offers several institutional scholarships to students who meet the eligibility criteria as described in their school catalog.

Federal Work Study

Students demonstrating financial need and interest in working part-time while in college may qualify for the FWS program. You will earn at least the hourly minimum wage and could work at your school, a non-profit agency, or a for-profit business while enrolled in classes. FWS awards are limited and awarded on a first come, first served basis.

More information about the work-study program at Unitek College can be found here.

Visiting Nursing Schools in the Bay Area

It’s vital that you visit potential nursing schools in the Bay Area before you make a final decision. Let’s say you have narrowed down your list to three or five top schools. Contact each one and inquire about free campus tours, meeting with faculty and current students, and observing a nursing class. Some schools may even allow you to shadow a student for a day.

Most importantly, ask questions about each school’s nursing program. This combination of practical knowledge and campus experience will allow you to envision life at each school as accurately as possible.

African-American nurse sitting on the ground with a laptop and stacks of books

Choosing the Right Nursing School in the Bay Area

We cannot emphasize the importance of research enough. Before you choose a school in the Bay Area, remember to review all your notes and consider personal preferences as well as time constraints.

If you haven’t already, compile a list of strengths and weaknesses. Think about your personality type, interests, and motivations. Most importantly, decide which aspects of your nursing program are non-negotiable. For example, if you work full time, you may already know that an online or hybrid-online program format is essential to your success.

The difficulty of your studies may also depend on the type of program you select. While degree programs lay the foundation for higher study—and potentially more job opportunities—they also require more time in school.

Finally, consider each school’s admissions requirements. Many nursing programs will have a unique set of obligations and prerequisites. Make sure you carefully check the school’s website or speak with an admissions representative to understand those entry requirements better.

Unitek College Nursing Programs

If you’d like to become a nurse, Unitek College offers several nursing programs in the Bay Area that could meet your needs. Some of these programs offer hybrid-online classes, day or evening options, and more. Unitek also maintains a strong financial aid team to better assist their students.

Here are the highlights for each Unitek nursing program.

Vocational and Practical Nursing Programs

The Vocational Nursing program gives students the knowledge, training, and confidence they’ll need to pass the licensure exam. These programs prepare students with 12 months of instruction, at least 900 hours of hands-on training, and access to healthcare facilities. Most importantly, the program prepares graduates for the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN). This exam must be taken for graduates to become LVNs in California and LPNs in Nevada.

Associate of Science in Vocational Nursing Program

Vocational Nurses who have already completed an approved Vocational Nursing or Practical Nursing program can expand their education and training with the Associate Degree in Vocational Nursing program. This program builds on the Vocational Nursing diploma by adding some of the same 100% online General Education and Science courses required for students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program. The goal of this post-licensure program is to educate and develop Vocational Nurses to become well-rounded professionals through undergraduate general education.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program can lead to a rewarding career as a Registered Nurse, or it can serve as a pathway for current LVNs and Associate Degree RNs to take their career to the next level. Obtaining your BSN equips you with advanced tools and experience to meet the more complex demands of healthcare and nursing today.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is a three-year program; however, those who have successfully completed nursing-board-approved Vocational Nursing or Practical Nursing programs and the required General Education courses may qualify for Advanced Placement status at Unitek. This status would allow eligible students to complete the program in two years.

Unitek College Bay Area Locations

View of the Unitek College Concord location


The Concord campus is located at 1401 Willow Pass Road in Concord, California. This Bay Area location spans two floors and covers about 24,000 square feet of space. It contains 7 classrooms, 9 labs, and various learning resource stations. Students in Concord have access to a breakroom and a café within the building. They can also schedule appointments with various administrative staff in the financial aid and career services departments.

This renovated site includes clinical teaching wards and diagnostic equipment. In addition, Concord instructors utilize medical simulation mannequins (SIM) to better educate their nursing students. The Unitek campus received accreditation in 2015 from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and offers various programs for aspiring healthcare professionals. These include classes for future Medical Assistants and Vocational Nurses, two occupations that fill critical roles in the healthcare system.

Available Nursing Programs at UC Concord

View of the Unitek College Fremont location


At Unitek College in Fremont, California, you will gain the necessary skills to pass the licensing exam and begin your nursing career. Covering more than 50,000 square feet and serving as the main campus for Unitek College, the Fremont campus offers several nursing programs.

Here, Vocational Nursing (VN) students have access to 13 classrooms and 10 simulation labs. The nursing labs contain patient-care stations to simulate actual hospital settings. As a VN student, you will learn to use various types of medical equipment, such as IV poles, enteral feeding pump, blood pressure cuffs, and adult and pediatric mannequins. Fremont students also have access to our extensive library, student lounge, and career-services center.

The Fremont VN program combines simulation training with professional instruction to create a well-rounded curriculum. The VN courses focus on the best-student outcomes and successful licensure. Nursing instructors seek to prepare you through a caring, guided style of learning, which ensures a team approach between student and teacher.

Available Nursing Programs at UC Fremont

View of the Unitek College Hayward location


The UC Hayward campus is located near Interstate 880 and the Hayward Executive Airport. Situated along Hesperian Boulevard, the campus has several major store chains within its sight. Nearby cities include popular destinations like Burbank and Santa Clara.

Various Unitek programs prepare students by giving them access to healthcare facilities, simulation training, and extensive instruction. Students can utilize about 13,000 square feet of space, which contains labs and a learning resource room. There are also a number of lecture rooms and even a student lounge. All the programs at the Hayward campus can be completed in a year or less. Recently, the Hayward campus was recognized as a 2023 ACCSC School of Distinction.

Available Nursing Programs at UC Hayward

View of the Unitek College San Jose location

San Jose

The San Jose campus is located 25 miles from the Fremont main campus. Bordered by Santa Teresa Boulevard and Great Oaks Boulevard, the San Jose Campus is also located near the W. Valley Freeway. There are various nearby establishments, including shopping centers, schools, and apartment complexes. Several parks and eateries are nearby as well.

Various programs at the San Jose campus prepare nursing students by giving them access to healthcare facilities, simulation training, and extensive instruction. In about 28,000 square feet of space, students utilize various classrooms and skills labs. The programs offered in San Jose are convenient and efficient, as they can all be completed in a year or less. Last year, San Jose was recognized as a 2023 ACCSC School of Excellence.

Available Nursing Programs at UC San Jose

View of the Unitek College South San Francisco location

South San Francisco

Earning your healthcare degree or diploma in South San Francisco can prepare and equip you with access to healthcare facilities, hands-on training, and dynamic instruction. The unique programs are also time-sensitive and well-suited for busy adults, as they can all be completed in one year or less.

This South San Francisco campus is located near the Junipero Serra Freeway. Local destinations include several major grocery stores, schools, and healthcare systems. The campus occupies more than 10,000 square feet within a classic building from the 1960s. As a fixture in the community, the South San Francisco campus is an institution of learning and progress. In 2018, South San Francisco received the ACCSC School of Distinction Award.

Available Nursing Programs at UC South San Francisco

Your Journey into Nursing Starts Here

Without a doubt, nurses play an essential role in healthcare. Many schools can offer high-quality education for aspiring nurses or active nurses who would like to advance their careers. Not only can these schools give you the knowledge and skillset to succeed in your career, but they can also help determine the very course of your career path. As you can see, it’s vital that you choose the right school in the right area. Remember to ask questions about each program’s curriculum, clinical opportunities, reputation, and student support services.

If you have an avid desire to help others, then becoming a nurse could be a very satisfying career path for you. So, are you interested in nursing education? Unitek College offers several campuses in the Bay Area with tailored programs to help you become a nurse in a shorter duration of time. Start by checking out the Vocational Nursing program. Unitek also offers an LVN to BSN Advanced Placement Option for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

The programs and pathways at Unitek are designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful nursing career. Pursue your career goals today!