Do you want to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) in California?
That’s a great idea!
All types of nurses, including LVNs/LPNs, are in high demand in California. And the demand is expected to rise in the next few years!
So, how do you become one? What are the specific requirements?
We know it can get pretty confusing because of the different nursing terms and the different processes per state.
So, here, we are going to give you all you need to know about how to become an LVN in California! And we’ll give it to you in just 4 steps!
We’ll also address other questions you may be thinking of, such as:
- What is the difference between a CNA, LPN, and RN?
- What is the average salary of an LVN in California?
- Are LVNs still in demand?
- Where do most LVNs in California work?
- How much does it take to become an LVN?
But, before any of that, we just want to clarify that an LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse) and an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) are basically the same. In California, however, the official term to use is LVN.
So, are you ready to jump in? Let’s go!
How to Become an LVN in California – 4 Simple Steps
The process of becoming an LVN is very straightforward. Here are the steps:
- Get the Necessary Training to Become an LVN
- Register for Your LVN License in California
- Find Your First Job as an LVN and Pursue Further Education
- Keep Your LVN License Active
Let’s discuss each step, one by one.
How to Become an LVN in California Step #1: Enroll in a State-Approved LVN Training Program
The most straightforward path to becoming an LVN is to enroll in a state-approved training program.
State-Approved LVN Programs
To check if the program or school you are interested in is state-approved, you can use the website of the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.
This will ensure that you gain the proper knowledge and skills to become an LVN, and will help you prepare for the licensure examination.
Program Length or Duration
LVN programs can be completed in 12-14 months if you are studying full-time.
If you are studying part-time, you can complete this in 18-20 months.
The minimum requirement for an approved LVN program is 1,530 hours of training, which includes:
- Theory – 576 hours (which should include 54 hours of Pharmacology)
- Clinical – 954 hours
The course content includes topics such as:
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Normal Growth and Development
- Nursing Fundamentals
- Patient Education
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Communicable Diseases
- Gerontological Nursing
- Rehabilitation Nursing
- Maternity Nursing
- Pediatric Nursing
- Ethics and Unethical Conduct
- Critical Thinking
- Culturally Congruent Care
- End–of–Life Care
Requirements for Enrollment
The requirements to enroll in an LVN program will differ per school, but you can (more or less) expect to be asked for the following:
- High school diploma or GED
- At least 17 years old
- CPR certification for healthcare providers
- Transcripts of previous college work (if any)
The cost of LVN programs varies widely in California, ranging from $4,000 to $30,000.
This will depend on the school you are trying to enroll in.
Aside from enrollment fees, you may also need to pay for other things, such as uniforms, textbooks, training materials, etc.
How to Become an LVN in California Step #2: Register for Your LVN License in California
In California, there are 4 main methods for you to qualify for your LVN license. These are through:
- Examination (based on Equivalent Education and/or Experience)
- Medical Corps of the U.S. Military
Let’s break down each method.
Licensure by Examination
If you graduate from an approved LVN program, the next step is to apply for licensure by examination.
You need to take and pass the NCLEX-PN exam, administered by the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical (Vocational) Nursing (NCLEX) or the National League for Nursing Test Pool Practical Nursing Examination (NLN).
According to the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), these are the requirements to apply for licensure by examination:
- Complete and sign the “Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure”.
- Submit the required fingerprints.
- Attach the appropriate non-refundable fee made payable to the “BVNPT”.
- Complete the NCLEX-PN.
- Pay the Initial License Fee (after being advised by the Board). This fee is in addition to the application fee.
If you fail the NCLEX-PN the first time, don’t worry! You can retake the exam 45 days later.
There are practice exams available online that you can take to prepare you for the exam.
Licensure by Endorsement
If you are already an LPN from another state, you can apply for a license in California through endorsement.
Just make sure that the school you graduated from was approved by the Board of Nursing in the State where you came from.
To apply for licensure by endorsement, you need to submit:
- Two fingerprint cards
- High school diploma or GED certificate
- Verification of licensure (directly from the State Board of Nursing where you were originally licensed)
- Current Licensure in another state (if you are licensed in another state other than the state where you were originally licensed)
Licensure by Examination (based on Equivalent Education and/or Experience)
This method still requires you to take the NCLEX-PN exam, but we separated it because this is unique to California.
If you become an LVN through this “equivalency method” rather than through a state-approved LVN program, you may not be able to apply for licensure by endorsement in other states. Other states may not recognize this form of qualification.
Aside from the limitation above, certain hospitals or healthcare facilities in California itself may require LVNs who apply for work to be graduates of a formal state-approved LVN program.
However, you can opt for this method if you completed 51 months of paid bedside nursing experience in an acute care facility, have verification of your skill competencies, and took 54 theory hours of pharmacology.
To read more about how to apply through this method, you can read this article from BVNPT.
Licensure for Medical Corps of the U.S. Military
If you worked or are working as a medical corps in the U.S. Military and are planning to work as an LVN in California, then you can take advantage of this method.
To qualify for licensure as an LVN through this method, you need to:
- Submit proof of having at least twelve (12) months of service on active duty in the medical corps of any of the armed forces rendering bedside patient care.
- Submit proof of having completed a basic course of instruction in nursing while in the armed forces.
- Submit proof that service was honorable (DD-214).
It would be good to note that this method of licensure may not be accepted in other states. You may have a difficult time applying for endorsement in other states if you qualified using this method.
How to Become an LVN in California Step #3: Find Your First Job as an LVN and Pursue Further Education
Once you have your license… CONGRATULATIONS!
You can now move forward and find your first nursing job!
If you’re wondering where to start looking for a job, you may consider any of these:
- Acute Medical/Surgical Hospitals
- Convalescent Hospitals (Long Term Care, Skilled Nursing)
- Home Care Agencies
- Outpatient Clinics
- Doctor’s Offices
- Ambulatory Surgery Centers
- Dialysis Centers
- Blood Banks
- Psychiatric Hospitals
- Correctional Facilities
- Vocational Nursing Programs
But landing your first job isn’t the end of the road for you… You can also consider pursuing further education.
If you enjoy working as an LVN and want to go higher in the nursing ranks, you might consider transitioning from an LVN to an RN.
There are some LVN to RN bridge programs that you can look into.
You might always want to improve your skills through other training programs and certifications.
How to Become an LVN in California Step #4: Keep Your LVN License Active
LVNs are required to keep their licenses active. Otherwise, you cannot work as an LVN.
To keep your license active, you need to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
If you fail to renew your license after 2 years, you will need to pay a delinquency fee aside from the renewal fee.
If you fail to renew your license after 4 years, you can no longer renew, reissue, or reinstate it.
You will need to apply for a new license and retake the NCLEX-PN exam.
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an LVN in California
Now that you know the process of becoming an LVN in California, you may still have some lingering questions in your mind.
Let’s try to answer a few of those!
What is the difference between a CNA, LPN, and RN?
There are so many different terms in the nursing field, and they can get confusing.
So, here is a simple breakdown of the terms CNA, LPN, and RN.
|Type of Nurse||Meaning||Time to Complete Training Program||ExaminationRequired||Tasks|
|CNA||Certified Nursing Assistant/ Certified Nursing Aide||4-12 weeks||State-approved exam (eg CNA Prometric Exam)||Assists nurses with basic nursing care services such as feeding, grooming, bathing, transferring, etc.|
|LPN/LVN||Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse||12-18 months||Nationwide Exam (NCLEX-LPN)||Under the supervision of RNs and assists RNs with slightly more complex services such as administering medicines and changing bandages.|
|RN||Registered Nurse||About 2 years if you take the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)|
About 4 years if you take the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
|Nationwide Exam (NCLEX-RN)||ADN-RN|
Create patient care plans, monitor patients, answer questions, assist with procedures, take vital signs, track patient progress, and guide LPNs, and CNAs.
Includes all the tasks of an ADN, as well as more specialized nursing care and more administrative positions
What is the average salary of an LVN in California?
According to the BLS, the average wage of an LVN is $31.32 per hour and $65,140 per year.
This makes California the top-paying state for LVNs in the U.S.
You can see this chart on the BLS website.
Are LVNs still in demand?
This is due, in part, to an increasing population of aging people, which means that more and more people will be looking for nursing care.
Although RNs are the types of nurses most in-demand, LVNs are invaluable to the whole nursing system.
Where do most LVNs in California work?
According to the BLS, the industries with the highest levels of employment are nursing care facilities, home health care services, and offices of physicians.
Industries with the highest levels of employment in Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses:
Industries with the highest concentration of employment in Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses:
In terms of top-paying industries for LVNs, these include personal care services, office administrative services, and insurance carriers.
How much does it take to become an LVN?
Aside from the cost of your LVN program, you can also expect other fees for licensing and examination.
If you are applying for the first-time based on examination after graduation, you can expect to spend about $490, with an additional $200 for the NCLEX exam.
For more details on the fee schedule, you can check the website of the BVNPT.
And there you have it!
Four simple steps to becoming an LVN in California! Plus some of the most common questions you may be thinking of!
We hope this will help you in your journey to becoming an LVN.
Dream big and work hard!
And if you have any more questions, just leave us a message.