Skip to main content

A Look at Nurse Practitioners in California

California has it all: beaches, mountains and vibrant cities, all of which may be attractive to nurse practitioners (NP) looking for a job. California is also one of the top-paying states for nursing. Whether you are already a California resident or you are deciding to relocate, there are both advantages and disadvantages for NPs seeking employment in the state.

What Is an NP?

An NP is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has completed either a master’s or doctoral degree. NPs may be prepared in a variety of specialties:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Adult NP
  • Geriatric NP
  • Women’s Healthcare NP
  • Acute Care NP
  • Outpatient NP
  • Academic NP

What Is the Role of NPs?

The role of an NP bridges the responsibilities of a nurse and a physician, with NPs often providing primary care to patients.

The difference between a physician and an NP is the amount of preparation required to practice. Typically, it takes physicians an average of 12 years to complete their training, while NPs generally take up to eight years.

NPs focus on wellness and routine healthcare. Physicians provide the same service but they are also prepared to treat patients with more serious and complicated health issues. NPs are prepared to carry out the following:

  • Document patient histories
  • Perform physical exams
  • Order lab tests
  • Analyze lab results
  • Diagnose medical conditions
  • Prescribe and dispense medications
  • Authorize treatments
  • Educate patients and family members about home care

What Is the Scope of Practice for NPs in California?

NPs in California are recognized as primary care providers. According to California state law, however, NPs do not have full practice authority. They must be supervised by a physician to coordinate and provide primary care to patients and prescribe medication. California is the only western state that still requires NPs to have supervising physicians oversee their practice.

A change in federal rules in February 2018 gave NPs full practice authority within California Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Is There a Demand for FNPs in California?

There were 13,420 NPs in California as of May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The “California’s Primary Care Workforce: Current Supply, Characteristics, and Pipeline of Trainees” study published by the Healthcare Center at the University of California, San Francisco, notes an insufficient number of physicians to provide care to the state’s population. NPs could help alleviate the shortage, so there is a demand.

What Are the Salaries for NPs Nationally and in California?

The annual average salary for NPs in the U.S. is $107,906 as of August 2019, according to ZipRecruiter which lists the following salaries for the highest-paying cities in California for nurse practitioners.

  • San Francisco – $126,300
  • Santa Monica – $115,229
  • Santa Barbara – $113,916
  • Los Angeles – $113,852
  • San Diego – $110,121

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for NPs will increase by 31% from 2016 to 2026. This is more than four times the average growth rate for all occupations, which signals bright job prospects for nurse practitioners nationwide. With 13,420 NPs, California is second in the nation for number of NPs employed, with New York in first place and Texas in third.

The main drawback for NPs in California is their restricted practice authority and the need for a supervising physician. Given that full practice authority was accorded to NPs in California’s Veterans Affairs hospitals, it’s possible for similar changes to occur in the state’s healthcare system that enable it to cope with the physician shortage.

Learn more about UTA’s online MSN – FNP program.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages – Nurse Practitioners

Scope of Practice Policy: California Scope of Practice Policy: State Profile

California Health Report: In a First for California, Nurse Practitioners to Deliver Primary Care Without Physician Supervision

Healthforce Center at UCSF: California’s Primary Care Workforce: Current Supply, Characteristics, and Pipeline of Trainees

Los Angeles Times: California Doesn’t Have Enough Doctors, and This Bad Law Isn’t Helping

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse Practitioner FAQ: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

ZipRecruiter: Average Nurse Practitioner Salary, U.S.

ZipRecruiter: Highest Paying Cities for Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Request More Information

Submit this form, and an Enrollment Specialist will contact you to answer your questions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Or call 866-489-2810

Ready to Begin?

Start your application today!

or call 866-489-2810 866-489-2810
for help with any questions you may have.
  • Choose All That Apply