How to Become an LPN in California

professional nurse at hospital

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are essential members of the healthcare field, providing quality care for patients in various medical settings.

Education and Training

To become an LPN in CA, you’ll need to undergo specialized training and education, then obtain the necessary credentials to qualify for LPN jobs in California.

Trade Schools with LPN Programs

    Concorde Career College
    12 to 13 month LPN/LVN program accredited by the ACEN.

    • Garden Grove, North Hollywood, San Bernardino, San Diego


    Institute of Technology
    Vocational Nursing program that preps students for the NCLEX-PN. Exam fees included. Day and evening classes. Approved by the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.

    • Clovis, Modesto, Redding


    West Coast University

    • North Hollywood, Ontario, Anaheim, Los Angeles


What Do You Study in LPN School?

During an LPN certificate or degree program, students learn the skills they need to provide excellent patient care.

LPN school classes in California may include:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Nutrition
  • Phlebotomy
  • Communication
  • Medical Recordkeeping
  • Healthcare Ethics and HIPPA Regulations

Clinical Experience or Externship

Students in California LPN programs also receive hands-on training in on-campus medical simulation labs or through externships at local doctor’s offices.

During this portion of your certificate or degree program, you’ll practice using the skills you’ve learned in class and develop an appropriate bedside manner for communicating with patients.

LPN Program Costs

Generally speaking, the total cost of LPN school in California ranges from:

  • $3,000 to about $51,000 for certificate and diploma programs
  • $10,000 to roughly $74,000 for associate’s degrees

If you’re working in a medical facility while pursuing your certificate, diploma or degree, your employer may have a tuition assistance or reimbursement program that can help you cover the cost of your training.

How Long is LPN Training?

Curriculum requirements for LPNs in CA usually include 1,530 total hours of instruction, which breaks down into roughly 576 hours of classroom instruction and 954 clinical hours.

It can take anywhere from 12 to 20 months to complete your program, depending on whether you attend classes full-time or part-time. Meanwhile, it takes at least two years to obtain an LPN degree.

Educational Requirements

A high school diploma, GED, or equivalent is the minimum educational requirement for those wondering how to become an LPN in California.

California LPN Requirements

As the job title suggests, a licensed practical or vocational nurse must have an official license in order to legally work as an LPN in CA.

To obtain this credential, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

License Requirements

Once you pass your exam, you must submit the following items to the California State Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT):

  • Proof of identity, certifying that you are at least 17 years of age
  • A copy of your high school diploma, GED, or equivalent
  • An Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure form
  • Fingerprinting information for required Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI background checks
  • Your NCLEX-PN scores
  • Proof of completion of a California-approved school of vocational nursing OR Documentation showing Equivalent Education/Experience
  • A non-refundable application fee

License Review Period

After a four- to six-week processing period, applicants will receive confirmation of their successful applications and must pay an additional Initial License Fee to get their official credentials and become certified LPNs in California.

Do LPNs in California Need a Degree?

Although completing an accredited LPN training program is optional in this state, employers usually prefer to hire candidates with certificates or degrees.

Those applying for LPN jobs in California hospitals, clinics, or ambulatory care facilities may need a degree before they can work in specialized areas of the medical field, like:

  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • Urgent Care
  • Cardiology
  • Labor and Delivery
  • Rehabilitation and Gerontology

Out-of-State LPNs

If you already have an official LPN credential from another state, you must register for a new license before getting an LPN job in California.

Rather than applying for Vocational Nurse Licensure by Examination, you’ll need to submit the following to receive Vocational Nurse Licensure by Endorsement:

  • Two fingerprint cards for California DOJ and FBI background checks
  • Proof of 12th-grade education
  • A Verification of Licensure form from the state that issued your original LPN/LVN credential
  • A copy of a valid LPN license from another state

Other Occupations to LPN

Some people choose to work their way up to LPN from lower-level healthcare or nursing jobs, such as:

Those who choose this method must complete at least 51 months of general duty bedside nursing experience before they can qualify for licensure.

If you’re looking for a faster way to become an LPN in CA, consider enrolling in an accredited training program at a California trade school or community college.

LPN Salaries in CA

The average LPN salary in California is about $76,580 per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Below are some average salaries and hourly wages for LPNs in areas of the state.

Area Hourly Annual
Bakersfield $33.04 $68,710.00
Chico $33.48 $69,630.00
Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region $33.82 $70,350.00
El Centro $33.34 $69,340.00
Fresno $33.73 $70,150.00
Hanford-Corcoran $33.89 $70,500.00
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $36.48 $75,880.00
Madera $33.99 $70,710.00
Merced $31.98 $66,520.00
Modesto $35.35 $73,540.00
Napa $40.05 $83,310.00
North Coast $34.51 $71,790.00
North Valley-Northern Mountains $32.98 $68,590.00
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $35.45 $73,730.00
Redding $32.91 $68,450.00
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $34.51 $71,780.00
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $37.75 $78,530.00
Salinas $36.24 $75,380.00
San Diego-Carlsbad $35.52 $73,890.00
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $41.88 $87,120.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $41.92 $87,180.00
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $35.91 $74,700.00
Santa Cruz-Watsonville $35.83 $74,520.00
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $35.71 $74,280.00
Santa Rosa $39.60 $82,360.00
Stockton-Lodi $35.14 $73,100.00
Vallejo-Fairfield $39.55 $82,270.00
Visalia-Porterville $32.64 $67,900.00
Yuba City $34.03 $70,780.00

Occupation: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses(SOC Code292061)
source: data.bls.gov

As you gain more experience in the industry, you may be able to negotiate a higher salary than the average LPN in CA. Candidates might also earn more money if they specialize in oncology, pediatrics, or another area of the medical field.

Job Description

What Do They Do?

LPNs provide basic medical care to patients in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities. In addition to monitoring patients’ vital signs and overall health, LPNs are responsible for completing tasks like:

  • Dispensing medication
  • Assisting with bathing, dressing, and transferring patients
  • Basic wound care
  • Inserting catheters
  • Changing bandages
  • Collecting samples and specimens for testing
  • Observing patient reactions to medicines and vaccinations
  • Entering patient care information into computer systems to update medical records

Career Outlook

Experts at the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict a six-percent increase in the demand for LPN jobs over the next ten years. Because of this projected growth, LPNs throughout the U.S. can expect to see roughly 58,800 employment opportunities per year between 2021 and 2031. As more LPNs in CA move on to RN and BSN careers, more job opportunities are likely to open up.