Your Earning Potential as an LVN in California: How Does it Compare?

Dollar bills on a yellow sign

Investing in your education is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. As you research different careers, you’re probably also researching programs at both trade schools and 4-year colleges/universities. 

Today, young people are more interested than ever in becoming a nurse. With thousands of nurses all over the country getting closer to retirement age, healthcare facilities will need even more help caring for an aging population. This means that the occupational outlook for LVNs over the next 10 years is strong. Demand for LVNs is expected to increase 11%, significantly higher than the national average.

The advantage of an LVN certification is that you can start working in the field as a nurse far sooner than your peers who study at a four-year college. Many prefer the route of becoming an LVN because it requires less schooling. In fact, employers have programs in place to reimburse tuition costs for a four-year degree because nursing is such an in-demand field. 

It’s natural that you’re curious about what you could earn as an LVN working in California once you graduate with your nursing license. We pulled some numbers together below to show you how your earning potential compares to other fields and careers that require a four-year degree right out of the gate. 

“What Can I Earn as an LVN in California?”

LVNs start to earn competitive salaries sooner than many professionals with a 4-year degree. According to the National Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2018 LVNs earned a median salary of just over $46,000 annually

How does that line up with other professions?

Preschool teachers also require an associate’s degree or some level of certification, but earn a median salary of only $29,000. Vet techs receive technical degrees and licensure but earn far less than LVNs. Other career paths in healthcare that do not require an investment in a four-year degree don’t quite offer the same level of opportunity or pay, yet often have even higher levels of stress. For example, paramedics earn a median salary of just $34,000/year. 

What about a general liberal arts degree? Creative jobs that require a bachelor’s (and the debt that comes with it) like graphic designers earn comparatively similar pay rates to LVNs (or just $50,000/year). 

Elementary school teachers (a bachelor’s degree and education certification required) receive a median salary of just over $58,000. When you factor in educational debt for a four-year degree, and the work hours (classroom and curriculum prep, test and homework grading, and a gruelling work day), the long-term and short-term prospects for nursing remains competitive and cost-effective. 

The Real Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree

For students who have support and the resources to attend a four-year college right out of high school, we say congratulations. It’s hard work to get into a university that will offer you the opportunities that you and your parents have been working towards during your high school years.

For the rest of us, that college education represents a huge financial burden, especially if we have to work while we’re attending college. It’s not unheard of to pay $50,000/year for a private education, and those costs are climbing. 

The real expense of a bachelor’s isn’t just the tuition. Consider your living expenses, books, and the cost of campus life (travel, eating, socializing, etc.) while you’re a student. College is a privilege, and there’s no question about it. Ultimately, a degree program should offer you a holistic experience that includes building a social network, increasing your skills, and preparing you for the career that lies ahead. 

Technical schools offer students that holistic experience with a faster route to a competitive salary. Also, what if college just isn’t for you? Perhaps you’re more interested in working as soon as you can rather than staying in school for another four years. Maybe you want to get some work experience under your belt before you jump into a BSN program. Maybe you’ve tried applying to a BSN program and, due to their increasing popularity with students, can’t find one that will allow you to graduate in four years. 

Why Become an LVN?

Becoming a nurse is a huge commitment, whether you graduate from an accelerated program or enroll in a BSN program. LVNs and RNs are both the backbones of the healthcare community, and no facility can provide safe and effective patient care without either. 

What are some of the advantages of becoming an LVN?

  • Enter the workforce sooner
  • Earn a living wage immediately
  • Start a career with of room for growth
  • Pick from many available jobs
  • Start a new job right out of school 
  • Become an RN down the line
  • Enjoy the college experience without the cost of a 4-year degree 

A quick note about bridge programs: because of the need for nurses all over the country, it’s getting easier and easier to enroll in and complete LVN to RN bridge programs while you’re working full time. You can read more about bridge programs here.

No matter which way you decide to go, have the conversation with an expert about your educational options. Get informed today and make the right decision for your future.

More reading:



Have questions about becoming an LVN?

Connect with us today and get answers!

CDI Logo and Career Development Institute, Inc.


Consumer Notice

Personal Information you submit through our Sites, such as your name, address and other contact information, may be collected by Career Development Institute for internal marketing and development purposes as well as to respond to your inquiry, complete a transaction for you, or fulfill other forms of customer service. You can choose not to receive marketing from us by “unsubscribing” using the instructions in any marketing email you receive from us.

Skip to content