Students outside of Peralta Pavilion

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Samuel Merritt University has been preparing highly qualified nurses for more than 100 years. In fact, we’re one of the leading providers of new RNs in California.

Campus Location


  • On Campus

Program Duration

  • Two Years (Four Semesters)


Community-Focused Nursing Education

Nurses are a vital part of the health care system, and they are in high demand. The U.S. Department of Labor projects the field of nursing will grow 15 percent through 2026, much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Our two-year nursing program is designed for students who have completed their general education and prerequisite courses at another institution. So when you begin at SMU, you’ll be ready to participate in hands-on learning experiences sooner. Your clinical courses will take you into hospital and community settings, giving you plenty of opportunities to put theory into practice.

In addition to acquiring the medical knowledge and technical skills necessary to practice as a nurse, you’ll develop the leadership, communication, and teamwork skills you’ll need to thrive as part of an integrated health care team.

Our BSN program also serves as a stepping stone for those looking to move into leadership, education, or an advanced practice nursing specialty. Many of our graduates go on to earn a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice.

What we look for:

  • An interest in working with underserved populations
  • Compassion
  • Interpersonal/interprofessional communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Responsibility

Featured Events

Program Requirements & Info

Admission to the BSN program is competitive. Applicants are considered for admission based upon the following criteria:

  • A minimum of 66 semester/99 quarter units of transferable coursework, including the completion of all prerequisites with a grade of “C” or better by the time of entry into the program

  • A recommended minimum 3.0 GPA in all prerequisite coursework

  • A recommended minimum 3.0 GPA in the four science prerequisite courses

  • At least one term with a minimum of nine semester or 14 quarter units of academic courses completed in the past two years

  • Acceptable scores on the HESI A2

  • Two letters of reference: one from a faculty member, preferably a math or science instructor, and the other from a healthcare professional. References from family and friends will not be considered.

  • Writing sample

The information below outlines the prerequisite requirements for entry to the BSN program. The courses are a combination of the general education necessary to award a bachelor's degree, as well as those that are common to nursing programs as required by the California Board of Registered Nursing. Transfer students will find many similarities in our requirements and those of other nursing programs in the Bay Area. We believe these are the courses that lead to successful careers in nursing. 

All prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of “C” or better by the start of the program. Although it is acceptable to have courses planned or in progress, it is in the students best interest to have as many courses completed as possible at the time of application. It is not possible to complete any prerequisites concurrently with the BSN program. Courses may only be repeated once.

Prerequisite Requirement, Semester Units (except as otherwise specified)

  • English Composition (Equivalent to English 1A), 3.0
  • English Literature/Critical Thinking (Equivalent to English 1B or 1C; courses in Philosophy are not acceptable), 3.0
  • Interpersonal Communication (Courses in public speaking are not acceptable), 3.0
  • Introduction to Sociology OR Cultural Anthropology (Biological anthropology is not acceptable), 3.0
  • General Psychology, 3.0
  • Lifespan Developmental Psychology (Content must cover birth to death), 3.0
  • Fine Arts Theory (Art history, music appreciation, history of jazz, etc. are examples of acceptable theory-based courses. In contrast, courses focused on "how to do" or "how to play" something (e.g. intro to painting, intro to piano) are not acceptable), 3.0
  • Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics or Bioethics (Only one course is needed. Critical Thinking courses are not acceptable), 3.0
  • U.S. History (Any time period), 3.0
  • Modern World History (Must be global in perspective and include the period up to the present), 3.0
  • Diversity/Ethnic Studies (One course in culture, race or ethnicity. Generally taught in a social science department), 3.0
  • Humanities Elective (One course in humanities, such as religious studies, foreign language, theory courses in art, music or theatre, or an additional philosophy course), 3.0
  • Nutrition (General, broad-based course), 3.0
  • Statistics (Research methods courses are unacceptable), 3.0 
  • Algebra (Completed within the last 4 years at a college/university. See exceptions below), 3.0
  • Human Anatomy with Lab, 4.0
  • Human Physiology with Lab, 4.0
  • Chemistry with Lab4.0 semester or 6.0 quarter units
  • Microbiology with Lab, 4.0

Applicants to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program must have taken a course, and received a grade of “B” or higher, in Algebra at a college or university. Non-UC/CSU transferable courses in elementary or intermediate algebra are acceptable. Course content should reflect that of a high school algebra course. Applicants may be exempt from the requirement if, during the previous four years, the applicant completed one of the following:

  1. Took a higher level math course at a college/university and received a grade of “C” or better
  2. Achieved an acceptable score on one of the following exams while still in high school:
    1. Scored 3, 4 or 5 on an AP Calculus exam or 5, 6 or 7 on an IB Higher Level Math exam
    2. Scored 600 or higher on the SAT math section or SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test
    3. Scored 26 or higher on the ACT math section
    4. Scored 50 or higher on a CLEP exam in College Algebra

New Prerequisite Course Articulation Tool

Wondering if you took the right courses as a local CSU, UC or community college student? Use our new Prerequisite Course Articulation Tool to see which courses meet the prerequisite requirements for ABSN, BSN and ELMSN programs

AP and IB Credit

AP exam scores of 3 or higher and IB exam scores of 5 or higher may be used to meet prerequisite requirements, but are only acceptable if the exam scores are clearly noted on NursingCAS and/or university transcript. Official score reports must be sent to Samuel Merritt University.  

HESI Admission Assessment (A2)

HESI A2 scores must be available at the time you submit your application for admission. You will be asked to self-report your HESI A2 scores and upload a copy of the score report in the application.

Applicants must submit scores from the following exams: Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary and General Knowledge, Grammar, Math, and Anatomy & Physiology. Additionally, applicants must take the Learning Style and Personality Profile assessments.

More information about taking the HESI A2


The need for the TOEFL will be assessed based on information provided by the applicant on the application for admission. If the TOEFL is required, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 100 (Internet Based Test). Scores must be submitted during the application process.

Military Education and Experience Review for Nursing Program Admission

Students who apply to the nursing programs at SMU and have military based health care training and/or experience will be evaluated on an individual basis. All classes and experience previously obtained will be evaluated for equivalency to the desired program requirements. A program completion plan will be implemented based on this evaluation. Students will be required to complete the HESI A-2 exam.

Application Fees
Application fees are payable to Nursing’s Centralized Application Service (NursingCAS). Samuel Merritt University does not charge an additional admission fee.

Non-Refundable Deposits and Fees
Students offered admission pay a non-refundable tuition deposit of $350 to secure their seat in the class.

Application fees and tuition deposits are non-refundable, whether or not the student withdraws in the first week of the term.

Tuition Calculator
There is a tuition calculator that provides a detailed summary of annual tuition, all fees for the program, and a cost estimator for the entire program.

Tuition Calculator

Your nursing education at Samuel Merritt University is an important and valuable investment in your future.  Not only will you have the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career in health care, but Samuel Merritt University graduates have a loan default rate of less than one percent.  This means that students who borrowed to attend Samuel Merritt University have found employment in their chosen field that allows them to pay off their loans. 

Samuel Merritt University is proud to offer a variety of ways to assist in funding your education including scholarships, work study and student loans. The first step in applying for financial aid at SMU is to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Scholarships and Grants

These are “gift aid” and do not need to be repaid.  These funds may come from the government, private groups and/or directly from Samuel Merritt University.

Scholarships for BSN include:

  • Sharon Clark Diaz
  • Employee Campaign
  • Samuel Merritt College Scholarship
  • Brosuis
  • Kessler
  • Providence Alumni
  • Marshal Steele Scholarship
  • Hearst Scholarship

Samuel Merritt Scholarship Award- this is a scholarship awarded by Samuel Merritt University based on financial need and GPA.  It will be renewed every semester and does not need to be repaid.  For the 2019-2020 academic year, the award will be between $5000 and $8000. 

Federal Grants- up to $6,195 in Pell Grant and up to $1000 in Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).  These are need based awards, and will not be repaid. 

Student Loans - There are also a number of student loan options for BSN students. See the financial aid office page for details.

In addition to the cost of tuition, books and fees, financial aid can also cover other indirect educational costs, so the total cost of attendance includes:

  • Books and Supplies
  • Room and Board
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Other fees as determined by program/college

Once you receive your financial aid package, check this budget against your actual living expenses and we can make necessary adjustments to meet your needs.

Detailed information about financial aid, budgeting, total cost and application processes are available on the webpage.

We realize that the financial aid process can be difficult and overwhelming.  We are here to help.  Financial Aid staff can assist with budgeting, understanding your awards and understanding the process.  The SMU staff is committed to each and every prospective student and enrolled student.  We have an open door policy and are available via phone or email. or 510-879-9200

BSN Curriculum Overview

Junior One
Nursing 111 Pathopharmacology I  3.0 units
Nursing 129 Psychiatric/Mental Health  5.0
Nursing 125 Health Assessment  5.0
Nursing 137 Introduction to Professional Nursing  3.0
Total units  15.0

Junior Two 
Nursing 112 Pathopharmacology II  3.0
Nursing 127 Managing Care of the Adult I and II  10.0
Nursing 128 Healthy Aging  2.0
General Education Course I  3.0
Total units  18.0

Senior Year-32 Units
Senior One 
Nursing 108 Nursing Research  2.0
Nursing 144 Care of the Childbearing Family  5.0
Nursing 158 Care of Infants, Children, and Youth  5.0
Nursing 164 Managing Care of Adults III  5.0

General Education Course I  3.0
Total units  20.0

Senior Two 
Nursing 160 Leadership  3.0
Nursing 170 Community Health  5.0
Nursing 190L Synthesis  6.0
Total units  14.0

Total Units:  67 units

Nursing program applicants with military-based health care training and/or experience will be evaluated on an individual basis. All classes and experience previously obtained will be evaluated for equivalency to the desired program requirements. A program completion plan will be implemented based on this evaluation. Students will be required to complete the HESI A2 exam.

Licensure Exams, Graduation, and Employment Rates

Licensure Pass Rates (First-Time Takers Only)
2018 Pass Rate (NCLEX)      91%
2017 Pass Rate (NCLEX)      88%
2016 Pass Rate (NCLEX)      85%

Graduation Rate*
2016-2017 Cohort      97%
2015-2016 Cohort      91%
2014-2015 Cohort      94% 

*% of Entering Cohort Graduated Within 150%  of Expected Time     

Employment Rate in the Profession (within one year of graduation)**
2016-2017 graduating class     100%
2015-2016 graduating class     95%
2014-2015 graduating class     96%

**Employment data only includes graduates who responded to SMU Alumni Survey; employment rate not necessarily representative of graduates who did not respond to SMU Alumni Survey.

Underrepresented students (low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students) who are interested in Samuel Merritt University's BSN, ABSN, and ELMSN programs are encouraged to attend our three-day Nursing Success! Seminar. Students learn about the admissions process; meet current students, faculty, and staff; and tour the Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC) during this semi-annual event.


Visit our Admission Events page for Nursing Success! FAQs

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Samuel Merritt University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001.  Direct contact information for CCNE staff is accessed via the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Staff Directory.

Baccalaureate Accreditation
Initial Accreditation Date: April 21, 2001
Most Recent Accreditation Date: October 11, 2010
Accreditation Term Expires: June 30, 2021
Last On-Site Evaluation: October 2010
Next On-Site Evaluation: Fall 2020

Bachelor of Science in NursingTechnical Standards

The mission of Samuel Merritt University is to produce highly skilled and compassionate nursing professionals. Students are expected to develop a robust healthcare knowledge base and requisite clinical skills, with the ability to appropriately apply knowledge and skills, effectively interpret information, and contribute to patient-centered decisions across a broad spectrum of clinical situations in all settings. The following technical standards, in conjunction with the academic standards, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation. The term “candidate” refers to candidates for admission to any of the Prelicensure Programs well as current students who are candidates for retention, progression, or graduation.

These requirements may be achieved with or without reasonable accommodations, the cost of which will be borne by the institution. These standards should not serve as a deterrent to any candidate with disabilities who desires to pursue baccalaureate level education. Candidates with disabilities bring unique perspectives which contribute to the diversity of the student population and will create a diverse health care workforce of culturally competent practitioners who can meet the needs of their patients. Candidates with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center immediately to begin a confidential conversation about possible accommodations necessary to meet these standards. Fulfillment of the technical standards for graduation from any Prelicensure Nursing Program does not guarantee that a graduate will be able to fulfill the technical requirements of any specific clinical position.

Technical Standards

Observational Skills

A candidate must acquire information as presented through demonstrations and experiences in foundational sciences. In addition, a candidate must be able to evaluate a patient accurately and assess relevant health, behavioral and medical information.  Candidates must be able to obtain and interpret information through comprehensive bio-psycho-social assessment of patients, correctly interpret diagnostic representations of patient data, and accurately evaluate patient conditions and responses in all clinical settings. 

Communication Skills

Candidates must exhibit interpersonal skills to enable effective care and collaboration for patients, including the ability to communicate effectively in English with all members of a multidisciplinary health care team, patients, their families, faculty, and staff.  Candidates must be able to clearly and accurately communicate verbal and written information and accurately interpret verbal and non-verbal communication in a timely manner.

Patient Care Skills 

Candidates must be able to perform health assessment and physical examination skills.  A candidate should be able to perform or direct basic laboratory tests (e.g., urinalysis), diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (e.g., venipuncture, placement of urinary catheters, electrocardiogram), and interpret findings.  A candidate must be able to provide or direct general and emergency treatment for patients, and respond to emergency situations in a timely manner (e.g., cardiopulmonary resuscitation, administration of intravenous medications, application of pressure to arrest bleeding).  Candidates must meet applicable safety standards for the environment and follow universal precaution procedures.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Cognitive Skills

Candidates must be able to learn through a variety of modalities, including but not limited to: lecture; group or team and collaborative activities; simulation; individual study; and use of computer technology.  A candidate must effectively interpret, assimilate and understand the complex information required to function within the Prelicensure Program’s curriculum. The candidate must be able to synthesize information both in person and via technology; interpret causal connections and make accurate, fact-based conclusions based on available data and information; formulate a plan of care, investigate the potential answers and outcomes; and reach appropriate and accurate practice decisions. A candidate must be able to find sources of knowledge and possess the ability to be a life-long learner.

Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills and Professional Expectations

A candidate must be able to exercise good judgment, promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the care of patients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, faculty, and fellow students in the learning community. The skills required to do so include the ability to effectively handle and manage heavy workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in clinical practice and academia.  Candidates are expected to exhibit professionalism, personal accountability, compassion, integrity, concern for others, and interpersonal skills including the ability to accept and apply feedback and to respect boundaries and care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of gender identity, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other protected status. Candidates should understand, and function within, the legal and ethical aspects of the nursing practice, including patient advocacy, and maintain and display ethical and moral behaviors commensurate with the role of a nurse and a Samuel Merritt University student in all interactions with patients, faculty, staff, students and the public. Interest and motivation throughout the educational process are expected of all candidates.

Nursing at SMU

SMU has a reputation for developing highly skilled and compassionate nursing professionals.


Employment Rate Within One Year of Graduation

Our nursing graduates are heavily recruited experts in their field.


Years SMU Has Been Educating Nurses

We have a revered reputation and rich history of providing health education in California.


Median Annual Salary for Registered Nurses

Nursing is an in-demand field and a smart career choice.