Last Updated/Verified: September 15th, 2023
California has a consistently high demand for trained nursing professionals at every level of healthcare. Becoming an LPN/LVN (Licensed Practical Nurse, or Licensed Vocational Nurse in California) is a solid step on the professional career ladder in California’s healthcare industry. In fact, 21% of the total nursing care workforce in California are LVNs.
The most popular cities in which to find work as an LVN span all of California. In Southern California, there is high demand in San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, and Long Beach. In the Bay Area, San Francisco and San Jose also present many employment options for LVN/LPNs. The state capital Sacramento has high demand, as do the Central Valley cities of Bakersfield, Stockton, and Fresno. In fact, there is considerable demand for LVNs across the state.
LVNs in California Quick Facts
- LVN school typically takes 12 months to complete
- LVNs in California earn an average of $31.33/hr and an annual income of $56,237
- The LVN job outlook is bright with a 9% increase predicted from 2019 to 2029
- LVNs make up 21% of California’s nursing population
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Overview of LVN/LPN Schools in California
The first step in a new career as an LPN is to complete an accredited training program. Fortunately, there are plenty of training opportunities throughout California. Most big cities in the state have several course options to consider.
While you are searching for LVN programs in California, remember that the official job title in the state is LVN or Licensed Vocational Nurse. You will find some programs use the term LPN, some use LVN, and some use both.
Colleges, community colleges, and vocational training schools offer LPN/LVN training courses. While the duration of the course may vary, they will all cover the same basic topics, including:
- Physiology and anatomy for vocational nurses
- Fundamentals of patient care
- Nursing fundamentals
- Maternity, adult, gerontology, and pediatric nursing
- Various leadership, ethics, and other courses
Courses are usually 12–14 months for full-time programs and 18–20 months for part-time training. You can view the full list of course requirements on the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians. This is the state board for LPNs/LVNs in California.
Nursing students in California need to make sure an LVN program is accredited, whether by a regional organization, a national organization, or both. Check with the national Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing before signing up for an LVN course.
Schools that offer LPN or LVN programs set their own admission requirements, so expect those requirements to vary from one institution to another.
The minimum education requirement for most vocational nursing programs in California is a GED or high school diploma. You might also need a CPR certification, and transcripts for any other courses you have completed that might be relevant. Most programs require you to be at least 18 years old.
Waivers may be available for recognition of prior learning, for example, equivalent training that you received in the military. Consult the admissions department at your potential school to find out about this option.
Tuition and Costs
Fees for LPN programs in California vary widely. Current course costs range from around $4,000 to more than $30,000. Community colleges and similar programs usually have lower tuition costs, whereas specialist training colleges that focus only on nursing tend to be more expensive.
There is a higher demand for lower-cost programs, which can make it harder to get a spot on the course. If you are planning to attend a community college, start your search early and be ready to apply as soon as enrollment opens.
Tuition is not the only cost associated with LPN training programs in California. You will also have to cover the cost of books and training materials, uniforms, lab fees, and your accommodation and meals if you are living on campus.
LVN/LPN Licensing Requirements in California
In California, the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians licenses LVNs.
There are several steps in the process to get your LVN license in California:
- Complete an accredited LVN program
- Complete the required number of in-class training and clinical practice training hours
- Apply to the state and wait for approval
- Complete a fingerprinting and screening process
- Take the NCLEX-PN exam. If you do not pass the first time, you may retake the test 45 days later. (If you graduated in California, you might work on an interim permit while you wait to take your NCLEX-PN exam.)
- Renew your LPN nursing license every two years. If you don’t, you must complete 30 hours of extra continuing education over the next two-year period.
Before licensure, nurses in California must pass the NCLEX-PN exam, which is administered by the National Council Licensure Examination. Expect to be tested on a wide range of subjects including medical procedures and effective patient care. Practice tests are available online.
California is a Nurse Licensure Compact state. NLC states allow qualified nurses licensed in another state to transfer their credentials. There are no exams or extra training required. If you are seeking a license endorsement from another country, however, the state does require additional steps. Read all about the process on the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians website.
LVN/LPN Salaries in California
According to Indeed.com, the median wage for LPNs in California as of May 2020 is $56,327. Individuals with the right qualifications and experience can earn considerably more. The average salary for LPNs nationwide is $48,820 (per the BLS).
LPNs don’t earn as much as RNs in California, but they earn enough to expect a reasonable standard of living in most parts of the state. There are more opportunities for LPNs in big cities and metropolitan areas. However, those opportunities are at least partially offset by significantly higher housing costs and other living expenses.
Here are the average salaries for LVNs in California’s major metropolitan areas according to the BLS:
- Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim: $62,220
- San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward: $74,520
- San Diego, Carlsbad: $65,900
- Sacramento, Roseville, Arden, Arcade: $64,990
- San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara: $75,950
Throughout the state, the median wage for LPNs in California is well above the national average. California is generally a great place to become an LPN.
Job Outlook for LPNs in California
California, like most of the nation, has an aging population. The Employment Development Department of California expects this to be a significant factor in the demand for LPNs and LVNs in California in the future. As more people need long-term care facilities and home health care, there will be more jobs available in nursing.
Overall, the growth in demand for LVNs in the United States is significantly greater than in many other sectors. Studies predict growth of about 9% between 2019 and 2029.
Top LVN/ LPN Schools in California
Vocational schools and community colleges present the majority of LPN programs in California. Local educational institutions in your own town or city are therefore good places to start a search. Make sure that you check the accreditation of any program before you sign up.
If you are looking for some of the top LPN programs in California, consider one of the following:
Stanbridge University – Orange County, Los Angeles
Stanbridge offers LPN training at two campuses – in Los Angeles and Irvine (Orange County). Both offer full-time programs, and the Orange County campus has a part-time option. The facilities at these locations are top-notch. The program duration is 13–14 months for full-time students, and double that for part-time training.
Stanbridge University Los Angeles: 2215 West Mission Road, Alhambra, CA 91803
Stanbridge University Orange County: 2041 Business Center Dr., Irvine, CA 92612
Allan Hancock College – Santa Maria
The Allan Hancock College’s LPN program combines traditional studies with high-tech simulation. The program starts in January and ends in December, and the school has a very high pass rate for the NCLEX-PN exam.
800 S College Dr, Santa Maria, CA 93454
Copper Mountain College – Joshua Tree
The Copper Mountain College is a modern facility that offers a three-semester full-time LPN program. They require students to pass with at least a C to receive their certificate. Once they do, there is an option to continue studying and complete an Associate Degree in Vocational Nursing.
6162 Rotary Way, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Santa Barbara Business College – Bakersfield, Rancho Mirage & Santa Maria
Established over 125 years ago, Santa Barbara Business College has campuses in Bakersfield, Rancho Mirage, and Santa Maria. The college may be old, but the facilities are modern and well equipped. The LVN program at this college is 12 months and includes all required theory and practical training.
Santa Barbara Business College Bakersfield: 5300 California Avenue, Bakersfield, CA 93309
Santa Barbara Business College Rancho Mirage: 34275 Monterey Avenue, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Santa Barbara Business College Santa Maria: 303 Plaza Drive, Santa Maria, CA 93454
Riverside City College – Riverside
The Riverside City College LVN program has been running since 1952. Students consistently score well on their NCLEX exam. LVNs who complete this program must have a GPA of at least 2.10 and be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to get into this program. The program accepts between 40 and 60 students and starts in the fall.
4800 Magnolia Ave, Riverside, CA 92506
Citrus College – Glendora
Citrus College is close to Los Angeles and has been welcoming students since 1915. The 12-month LVN program begins in fall or spring and requires students to attend five days a week, with some practical training at night or on weekends. Students can decide to continue their studies at the end of the course to get their Associate’s Degree.
1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora, CA 91741
Annenberg School of Nursing – Reseda
The century-old Annenberg School of Nursing offers a one-year, full-time LVN program that covers all theoretical and practical requirements. The course includes 1,680 hours of classwork, lab work, and practical training.
19300 Sherman Way, Reseda, CA 91335
Bakersfield Adult School – Bakersfield
Bakersfield Adult School offers one of the most affordable ways to qualify as an LPN in California. The program starts in the summer. Students must be at least 18 years old and be a C.N.A., an R.M.A., or a C.M.A. This program is 22 months, and you need to get at least a C to complete the course. Graduates of this program usually score highly on the licensure exam.
501 S Mount Vernon Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93307
Mission College – Santa Clara
The Mission College LVN program is a three-semester program that covers all requirements for licensing. You need to have a current C.N.A. (California Nurse Certification) accepted to this program. There are options to continue your studies after completing this course and earn your Associate’s Degree.
3000 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95054
Unitek College – Bakersfield, Concord, Fremont, Hayward, Sacramento, San Jose, & South San Francisco
Unitek College offers its LVN program at seven different campuses. This offers students flexibility about where they want to study. The LPN program lasts 12 months as a full-time student, or there is an option to complete the course part-time over 18 months.
Unitek College Bakersfield: 333 Palmer Dr. Suite 200, Bakersfield, CA 93309
Unitek College Concord: 1401 Willow Pass Rd,, Concord, CA 94520
Unitek College Fremont: 4670 Auto Mall Parkway, Fremont, CA 94538
Unitek College Hayward: 21615 Hesperian Blvd, Hayward, CA 94541
Unitek College Sacramento: 1111 Howe Avenue Suite #300, Sacramento, CA 95825
Unitek College San Jose: 6800 Santa Teresa Blvd, Ste. 200, San Jose, CA 95119
Unitek College South San Francisco: 257 Longford Drive #5, South San Francisco, CA 94080
The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians is a comprehensive resource covering all the requirements for LVNs and LPNs in California.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a wealth of data about the nursing profession.
Learn more about the economic outlook for nursing at the Employment Development Department, Government of California.