How To Become A Nurse In California

In California, much like any other state, the need for nurses is ever-present. Studying for a career in the medical field is a good start to attaining a solid career in a stable working environment. Choosing to enroll in nursing school is the first step to a new career. Nursing also gives you the opportunity to attain different levels depending on the type of nursing you want to practice. For those who have never worked in a medical field you can become an LVN or Licensed Vocational Nurse in California or LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) as they are known elsewhere. This only requires 12 to 18 months of training and you can save money by enrolling in an LVN program offered by a community college, vocational school or technical school. It gives you the chance to work in the medical field in a capacity that will allow you to determine your desire to continue. If you already work in the medical field, you can choose to start your nursing career as an RN at either an associate’s degree level or bachelor’s degree level. While both train you to be an RN, an associate’s degree allows you to work in general nursing and moving up to a bachelor’s degree allows you to work in a specialty field of nursing or in nurse management.

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians is the California State Board that is responsible for accrediting schools that offer LVN programs. They are responsible for making sure that your educations requirements are sufficient to pass the NCLEX-PN or National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nursing and attain your state license. The California Board of Registered Nursing is the entity responsible for accrediting colleges that offer RN programs, both associate’s and bachelor’s degree, to make sure that the training is sufficient to pass the NCLEX-RN which is the same exam required for an LVN license, but is presented on a level of questioning for RNs.

LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse)

Becoming an LVN or Licensed Vocational Nurse gives you a good start in the nursing field. The training usually takes between 12 and 18 months based on your ability to attend full-time or part-time. LVN courses are often available at local community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools that offer accelerated programs at a much lower cost. Keep in mind that you may be put on a waiting list to take your nursing courses, but use your wait time wisely and take all your prerequisite classes. Nursing is a popular field, but not everyone that starts nursing school finishes. You want to make sure that wherever you end up attaining you LVN training, that the school is accredited with the California Board of Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians. This will assure that you will receive the proper training to be able to pass your NCLEX-PN to obtain your state license to practice vocational nursing. The test is made up of four sections that you must pass at a certain aptitude to pass the test in its entirety.

While working as an LVN, you will have a limited scope of practice, or care that you can legally provide. You can provide basic patient care and perform tasks that do not require nursing judgment or decision-making. You also cannot administer medications, start or provide IV (intravenous) therapy without further training. Depending on the facility you gain employment, they may provide access to this training for you or offer tuition assistance to attain the training yourself. If you are working in a facility that employs all levels of nursing, you may also be provided tuition assistance to further your nursing degree as well.

RN (Registered Nurse)

If you are already employed in the medical field but want to make a career as a nurse, you can enroll in school to become an RN and not need to start as an LPN. You also have the option of attaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you are on a limited income, you may want to start with an associate’s degree then attend school later to receive your bachelor’s degree. As an RN with an associate’s degree, you are able to provide more involved nursing care as well as assess patients and make suggestions for their care. As an RN with a bachelor’s degree, you can provide patient care as well as work in a specialty area of nursing and work in nursing management as well. While most community college’s offer the opportunity for an associate’s degree in nursing, it is a better strategy to enroll in a four-year college or university, as it makes returning to school to attain your bachelor’s degree in nursing easier. You may also want to contact any large hospitals in your area to inquire if they have a school of nursing. The only caveat with hospital nursing schools is that they usually only accept a limited number of people based on grades and require much higher grades and commitment than a four year college or university does. No matter where you decide to attend school, you want to make sure that the school is accredited by the California Board of Registered Nursing. This ensures that your education is focused enough so that you can take and pass the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX-RN is a similar test given to LVNs to attain their license but the caliber of questions is on an RN level.

Working as an RN gives you a much larger scope of practice than that of an LVN. You are able to use your nursing judgment to assess patients, provide more intense care and be a part of their care plan process. Being an RN also means that you are in most cases responsible for supervising LVNs and making sure they are following their scope of practice. As an RN with a bachelor’s degree, you may work as a Director of Nursing in a long-term care facility or other nursing management that does not involve direct patient care.

Becoming an RN – Associate’s versus Bachelor’s degrees

Deciding to attain your associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree should depend on your career goals and budget. Most people do not have the means to attend four straight years of college, so by getting an associate’s degree, you can begin working, and if you choose to further your degree, you can in the future. Depending on the facility you are hired into, they sometimes offer tuition assistance for those that want to attain a bachelor’s or master’s degree as well. An associate degree gives you the opportunity to work in all areas of general nursing. If you would rather work as a nurse that is involved more in management and patient care planning than actual patient care, you may want to continue and attain your bachelor’s degree. This is especially the case if you want to work as a nurse in a specialized field such as Oncology or Geriatrics.

To keep your license current, no matter what level of nursing you are at, you must take Continuing Education (CE) courses. These courses provide credits that allow you to renew your license every two years. They also help to keep you up to date on advancements in patient care and the nursing practice. There are a set number of credits that the state requires each year. If you work in a large facility, they will usually offer you the opportunity to take these courses on-site. If you are unable to attend those or work in a smaller facility, various sites provide this training online.

Nursing Schools in California

While the LPN program is offered at a majority of technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges in California, the following schools are based on those attending for an RN degree of any level.

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Do you want to start working toward a career that actually makes you excited? If so, an education from West Coast University (WCU) could be the perfect choice for you! This accredited, private University has a history that dates back over 100 years. Today, WCU offers health care degrees that will help prepare you and educate you on the current trends and issues within the health industry.


  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • LVN to BSN
Locations: Anaheim
Choosing a school and a new career path can be a very overwhelming process. Here at NCC we understand the importance of education, and that the healthcare industry is in constant need of trained professionals. Our short term allied health programs will give you the skills and the knowledge to become a part of the exciting healthcare field. In addition to providing career training, we offer our graduates employment assistance. At NCC you are not just a student; you are part of a community that includes faculty with industry specific experience and administrators committed to education, and your success in your career objectives.


  • Licensed Vocational Nurse
  • Medical Assistant
Locations: Panorama City

Why Brightwood?

Real-World Training

We keep education relevant by employing instructors with real-world experience in the field, who bring their career backgrounds to the classroom. Our programs are continually assessed by faculty, staff and members of the business and education communities to help ensure your studies align with your career goals. Programs offered by Brightwood College focus on local employment needs, in areas such as allied health, nursing and technical and professional programs.


  • Medical Assistant
  • Vocational Nursing
  • Healthcare Assistant
Locations: Vista
Blake Austin College, located in Vacaville, CA, can help you get the skills you need to reach your career potential. Choose from a variety of business and medical programs.


  • Vocational Nursing
Locations: Vacaville

North-West College prides itself for having modern, well-equipped facilities that are centered on the student’s experience.

 North-West College (NWC) was founded in 1966 by Marsha Fuerst. Mrs. Fuerst's family has been involved in the allied health field since the early 1950's. North-West College continues to be owned and operated by Mrs. Fuerst's son Mitchell Fuerst. The Fuersts' passion for career education and their desire to provide high quality, relevant training is one of the guiding principles of the College.

 Our College's mission is to prepare students in short term programs for gainful employment. To accomplish this, we furnish a professional faculty, well-qualified administrators, and a top-notch support staff. Facilities are well equipped, clean, and decorated to keep the atmosphere vibrant, friendly, and warm. The quality of education is the highest priority at the College. Students are accepted on their ability to benefit regardless for race, color, or creed.


  • Vocational Nursing
  • Medical Assistant
Locations: Van Nuys

Designed with the needs of working adult students in mind, South University, Online Programs is built on the similar curriculum offered at South University's campus locations. As a student at South University, Online Programs you will receive the same quality instruction, variety of learning options and level of service found at the campus locations.


  • Nursing (RN to BSN)

Unitek College - About Us

Unitek College™ is a privately held vocational school dedicated to helping you gain the skills needed to advance your career or begin a brand new career. Your training at Unitek College will position you to take advantage of the rising demand for experts in allied health, nursing, and technology professions. Our programs include Medical Assisting, Pharmacy Technician, Dental Assisting, Vocational Nursing, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing: RN-to-BSN Degree Completion.


  • Vocational Nursing
  • Medical Assisting
Locations: Bakersfield
  • RNs, looking to advance your career? GCU offers a 100% online CCNE-accredited RN to BSN program.
  • Online and evening classes designed to meet the needs of working students and adults.
  • The baccalaureate degree in nursing at GCU is accredited by The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Courses are taught by practicing nurses and experts in their respective fields.
  • Designed to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and maximize the strengths that a working RN possesses.


  • B.S. in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to B.S.N)

At UEI College, we want you to succeed. We’re like a family and we want you to be a part of it. From the moment you enter ourschool, to graduation and beyond, we are right there with you.


  • Medical Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
Locations: Bakersfield

You can prepare for a new career with help from Charter College. Our accelerated Associates Degree, and Certificate programs are designed to help you complete your education as quickly as possible. We offer year-round classes and flexible scheduling - study anytime from anywhere. We provide students not only with the technical skills necessary for success, but also job search and placement assistance so you can find new opportunities after graduation.


  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
Locations: Oxnard

Nursing School Locations

University of California–San Francisco
2 Koret Way, #N-319X
San Francisco, CA 94143-0602
Phone: (415) 476-1435

University of San Diego
Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
Phone: (619) 260-4600

California State University–Los Angeles
School of Nursing
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8171
Phone: (323) 343-3901

Loma Linda University
School of Nursing
School of Nursing Admissions Office
Loma Linda, CA 92350
Phone: (909) 558-4923

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