LVNs in California currently earn an average of $63,676 annually. Demand for licensed nurses has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.
The nationwide shortage of licensed nurses has hit California like an earthquake! It's more obvious now than ever before that we need to put more resources into the nursing profession. Whether it's LVNs or RNs or Nurse Practitioners: WE NEED MORE NURSES! California now has over 120 accredited LVN programs.
No matter which program you decide to go with, ALWAYS make sure it is accredited by California's Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians(BVNPT).
The BVNPT is the state agency that oversees licensing for vocational nurses. You can GO HERE to see if the program you're interested is properly accredited. On lvnsalary.org, we only list programs which have been vetted, approved, and accredited by the BVNPT.
Program length can vary anywhere from 11 months for some full-time programs, to 24 months for part-time programs. Programs at one of California's community colleges tend to be longer than programs at a private school.
Programs at California's community colleges also tend to have more prerequisites. These are classes that must be completed before applying to, or enrolling in, one of their programs. Most of the for-profit programs have minimal if any prerequisites. Private programs are also much less likely to have waiting lists.
Although the private programs are typically more expensive, they can be completed much quicker. We discuss waiting lists more indepth further on in this article.
Once you're done with the nursing program, you'll be eligible to take the NCLEX/PN, also known as the Nursing Boards exam. This exam consists of 4 main categories and 8 subcategories. Most of the questions are multiple choice, although fill-in-the-blank and multiple-response types of questions are also present. Students are given a maximum of 5 hours to complete the exam.
There's usually a trade-off when deciding between a for-profit college program, and a program at one of California's community colleges. The community college route will be much more affordable. However, they also have either waiting lists, or make applicants reapply every year.
All California community colleges require applicants to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in their LVN programs. Prerequisite courses usually include:
A community college program can cost as little as $2,900 to complete, which includes books and lab fees. Many students who enroll at a community college in California benefit from the California College Promise Grant. If you qualify, you can have your tuition paid for. When combined with other grants, you may end up paying little to nothing for college.
Most of the LVN programs in San Diego, for example, are at the city's community colleges. As long as you qualify for the California Promise and financial aid, you may even be able to offset some of the regular expenses college students incur (rent, food, clothing, etc.). The California Promise doesn't make payments directly to students. Colleges are reimbursed by the state. Pell Grants, on the other hand, are payments made directly to the student.
Nearly 50% of accredited LVN programs in California are programs at private colleges. When looking at tuition alone, these private programs are more expensive than community college programs. However, there's much more involved than just tuition alone.
One of the benefits of attending a private college is that most of the programs don't have a waiting list. This can be a HUGE plus. Programs at community colleges across the state are severely impacted. What does that mean? You may have to wait 2 semesters or more before actually beginning your program. And that doesn't even take into account prerequisite courses!
A prerequisite course is a class that must be completed prior to enrolling in a nursing program. For LVNs, prerequisite courses may include an English class, Math class, an Anatomy & Physiology class, and possibly others.
A program at a community college will typically have anywhere from 3 to 5 prerequisite classes.
One of the benefits of enrolling in a program that has prerequisites is that students will be exposed to certain concepts such as math and science BEFORE they begin the actual vocational nursing program.
For private program enrollees, students may have little to no exposure to subjects before they begin the actual program. This can lead to more information being taught in a shorter period of time. This shorter period of time may make it difficult for some students to keep up.
When it comes to choosing between a public or private program, there's pros and cons on both sides.
NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination. The NCLEX is for both Registered Nurses and Licensed Vocational/Practical Nurses: NCLEX-RN for RNs and NCLEX-PN for LVN/LPNs.
The NCLEX is developed and maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing(NCSBN). The NCSBN is the nonprofit organization which includes as as members the regulatory bodies of all 50 states.
No matter which LVN program in California you choose to attend, it requires a serious commitment. And even when you finish the program, you won't yet be authorized by the nursing board to work as a licensed nurse.
You receive your license only after you PASS the NCLEX. If you don't pass on the first try, you're allowed to retake it. Students are allowed to retake the exam every 45 days, up to 8 times a year.
As of the beginning of 2022, there are 61 accredited LVN to RN programs in California. Because Registered Nurses must be licensed by California's Board of Registered Nursing(CBRN), you want to make sure that any LVN to RN program you're interested in is accredited by the CBRN.
Just like with vocational nursing programs in California, RN programs that offer LVNs the chance to join an RN program in progress often comes down to time vs money. As an example, let's look at San Joaquin Valley College in Visalia, California. They offer an 11 month LVN to RN program. Tuition is $35,650 as of January 2022. The program will have a minimal, if any, waiting list.
College of the Sequoias, also in Visalia, is a 2 year community college. They offer an LVN to RN program. The cost for that program, including tuition, books, and "fees", is $3,954. 2 prerequisite courses are required before prospective students can apply to the program. Spots are assigned based on an "as available" basis. So, a spot may open after just 1 semester, or it may take 4 semesters.