How to Become an LPN in California

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.

Per the Bureau of Labor, California is the #1 state in the nation for LPN pay.

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

    American Career College
    The Vocational Nursing (VN) program at American Career College (ACC) offers comprehensive training to become a licensed vocational nurse in just 13 months for full-time students or 20 months for evening/weekend classes. With campuses in Los Angeles, Ontario, and Orange County, the program features hands-on experience in simulation labs and over 800 hours of clinical training. The curriculum covers essential nursing skills, including medical-surgical nursing, maternal child nursing, and mental health, and prepares students for the national licensing examination to become an LVN.

    • Anaheim, Ontario, Los Angeles

    Central Coast College
    Central Coast College's Vocational Nursing (VN) Diploma Program offers hands-on, comprehensive training designed to equip students with the essential skills and knowledge needed for a successful nursing career. The full-time program, completed in just over a year, includes classroom study and clinical practice across various healthcare settings. Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET) and approved by the California Board of Vocational Nurse and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), CCC supports students with job placement assistance and federal financial aid for those who qualify. The curriculum covers fundamental nursing, anatomy & physiology, pharmacology, medical-surgical, obstetrics & pediatrics, and clinical experiences.

    • Salinas

    Concorde Career College

    • 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

    National Career College
    National Career College's (NCC) Vocational Nursing (VN) program in Los Angeles offers a comprehensive pathway to a rewarding nursing career. This program combines in-depth theoretical learning with extensive practical experience, including simulation labs and clinical externships, ensuring students are well-prepared for real-world nursing roles. Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), the program supports students with experienced faculty, personalized career services, and licensure exam preparation, making it an ideal choice for aspiring vocational nurses.

    • Panorama City

    Summit College
    Summit College's Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program provides comprehensive training in patient care techniques and protocols, preparing students for a rewarding career in healthcare. The program offers flexible schedules, allowing students to complete their training in 12 months full-time or 18 months part-time, and includes both clinical and classroom instruction in areas such as obstetrics, pharmacology, pediatrics, nutrition, and psychology. Graduates are qualified to take the Vocational Nurse License Exam and can work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

    • Colton, San Diego, Anaheim

    West Coast University
    The LVN/LPN to BSN program allows licensed vocational or practical nurses to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in as little as 34 months through 10-week terms. This program grants 9 units of advanced placement credit for previous nursing licensure and prepares students to become registered nurses with access to simulation labs, no-cost tutoring, and innovative learning tools. Graduates are equipped to take the NCLEX-RN exam and pursue diverse career opportunities in healthcare settings.

    • 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.

Salary Range

Median salaries for LPNs in CA:

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)

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.

Career Overview

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.