How to Become a Nurse in California

CDI Students and Instructor Smiling in front of clinic

There are more and more people who are interested in becoming a nurse in California. We can think of a few reasons why. One, it’s a well-paying job, with LVNs ranked amongst the top 25 highest-paid professions by job search site Two, nurses are also one of the most in-demand careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), by 2030 the demand for nurses is expected to grow by over 250,000 positions

Three: California is an excellent place to work as a nurse. Our state commands the highest salaries for the profession and has the third-highest demand in the country. How quickly can you become a nurse, and what’s the fastest road to success? 

Apply to an RN, BSN or LVN Program

There are two educational paths for becoming a licensed nurse. The first option is to apply and get accepted to a four-year college or university with an RN or a BSN program. Both RN and BSN programs have become so popular with young students, many four-year schools only allow enrolled students to apply for nursing programs after at least one year of school. 

The second, and far faster, route many students opt for is enrolling in an associate degree program to become an LVN. (Most associate’s degree programs are designed to be completed in two years or less.) 

Becoming an LVN in California now doesn’t bar you from completing a more costly and time-consuming RN program later. In fact, many LVNs enroll in an LVN to RN bridge program later on in their careers.

The need for nurses is so great, future employers may reimburse the cost of tuition for a transition program. As an LVN, it’s not unheard of to expect a future employer to offer potential pay bonuses for further certifications and education. 

NOTE: To become an LVN in California, you may also prove that you’ve worked in a related healthcare field (i.e., as a paramedic, bedside CNA, pharmacology) for a specified period. If you’re able to prove your work history, you may be eligible for licensure examination. Check out more info about those qualifications here.

Getting a Degree from an Accredited Nursing Program in California

To become a registered nurse in California, you need a diploma from an accredited school with a nursing program in California. Most LVNs also go through a certificate or associate’s program to prove their licensure eligibility. 

How do you select the right program? 

There’s no hard and fast rule about finding the right LVN or RN program for you. However, you do want to make sure that the institution:

  • Has a reliable reputation for job placement
  • Is accredited
  • Provides plenty of support while you’re enrolled as a student
  • Satisfies your lifestyle (especially if you have to work while you go to school) and near-term goals 
  • Offers full financial aid application support

For more tips, feel free to check out: Deciding on an LVN School in Los Angeles 

What is Included in the Curriculum? 

Both LVNs and RNs complete coursework that involves extensive physiology/anatomy, pharmacology, first aid, IV therapy, and so much more. Nursing students are also trained in ethics, leadership, and different aspects of care like gerontology (elderly or older patients), maternity and neonatal care, and post-surgical care.

For a full breakdown of the LVN curriculum in California, check out the state board requirements here.

Many RN programs also include additional math and chemistry requirements. RNs and LVNs compete hands-on practicum hours. Working alongside licensed nurses gives students the work experience they need for the “real world”. The combination of classwork and practicum hours may vary per program.

In both situations, be prepared to work…and work hard. Your fellow nursing students will serve as a critical support system. No matter what path you take initially, the relationships you make while you’re a student can serve as the foundation of your career. 

Many of our LVN students in Los Angeles tell us the friends they made at CDI become not just friends, but lifelong colleagues who continue to mentor and inspire them.   

Take Your Licensing Exam

After you graduate, whether you are going to become an LVN in California or an RN, you are required to pass the NCLEX-RN or the NCLEX-PN. Most academic programs offer extensive exam prep and practice tests. The State of California is required to publish the pass rates for the NCLEX-RN

Is it Faster to Become an LVN or an RN?

Generally, it takes far less time and costs far less money to become an LVN. Accelerated programs get you working in the field even faster, so you can start earning a competitive salary sooner. This could be a better option for students working their way through school or are concerned about the high cost of a four-year degree.

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself which option is better for you. Because nursing is such a popular field with so many more applicants than ever, it can be tough to get accepted into an RN or a BSN program

LVN to RN bridge programs exist for that very reason. Many young students are attracted to LVN programs because they’re usually a faster pathway to a job with a competitive salary and good benefits. Older students likewise enroll in LVN programs in Los Angeles because it allows them to switch career paths faster. 
Once you’re working in the field, you can also discover other specialties that you may not have been aware of while you were in school. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse in as little as 13 months, contact us today to find out about our next class and our hands-on LVN program.


Have questions about becoming an LVN?

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