If you live in California and want to become a registered nurse (but aren’t yet ready to spend four years in college), earning an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can be a smart choice. ADN programs in California offer a quick and affordable path to your RN license. Plus, if you decide to continue your academic studies, you’ll be on track to earn a bachelor’s or master’s and move into the advanced practice and leadership roles that come with those degrees.
This guide provides information to help you locate a state-approved, accredited ADN program in your area that best matches your study preferences, career goals, and budget. You’ll also learn more about the advantages ADN programs have over similar options, and get answers to common questions from prospective nursing students just like you. Keep reading to find out how to get started on your RN nursing career by earning your degree through a great California ADN program.
Best 2-Year ADN Nursing Programs in California
To help you begin your nursing school search, we’ve spotlighted three of the best state-approved ADN programs in California. Our choices are based on important program elements, including affordability, study flexibility, curriculum comprehensiveness, NCLEX-RN pass rates, and access to student support services. Plus, all three programs are regionally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. And as with all ADN programs in California mentioned in this guide, graduates meet the academic requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which is required to be a California RN.
Two-year nursing programs in California are a mainstay of public community colleges, which provide students with the coursework and hands-on training to qualify for RN licensure. Among the best is the ADN program at Chaffey College. The program consists of four semesters of full-time coursework and clinical rotations. Students complete academic nursing classes and labs on Chaffey’s Rancho Cucamonga campus and clinical practice hours at program-affiliated hospitals and medical centers in Claremont, Colton, Fontana, Pomona, and Upland. Admission requirements include a high school diploma (or equivalent), completion of the TEAS 6 exam, and completion of several prerequisite general education and biology courses. Current LVNs may be admitted as advanced placement students.
The Associate Degree in Registered Nursing program at Long Beach City College (LBCC) is another top-quality, affordable two-year nursing program in California offered by a community college. Students complete 67.5 credit hours of nursing theory courses, labs, and clinical practice experiences over four semesters of full-time study. Classes are held weekdays on the school’s Long Beach campus. Clinical hours are scheduled during evenings and weekends at local hospitals and healthcare facilities. Students must complete 18 credits of coursework before starting the ADN course. Admission is selective (based on GPA) and limited to 40 students and 20 alternates each semester.
If you’re already an LVN, LBCC offers a three-semester LVN to RN Career Ladder program to obtain California RN licensure. LVNs can also choose a 30-unit certificate (nondegree) program that makes you eligible to take the NCLEX-RN.
Ventura College offers its Associate in Nursing Science program through the School of Nursing and Allied Health. The two-year program combines five to six hours each week of nursing theory coursework with 12-15 hours per week of supervised clinical experiences in a variety of nursing topics (pediatrics, obstetrics, emergency room, critical care, etc.). Admission requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, a GPA of 2.5 or higher on previously completed college coursework and in all science courses, and a successful score (currently 62%) on the TEAS exam. Applicants must have a current certified nursing assistant (CNA) credential. Applications are accepted twice each year (September for spring admissions and March for fall admissions). Students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in each course are eligible for membership in the Alpha Delta Nu Nursing Honor Society.
ADN Programs Approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing
The three program spotlights above provide a good idea of what you should expect from an ADN program in California, but they’re far from the only ones to consider. Below is the most recent complete list of state-approved ADN programs in California. As you’ll see, two-year nursing programs are available from both public and private schools throughout California, so you’re bound to find a great one near you.
Source: California Board of Registered Nursing (Approved Schools; NCLEX-RN Pass Rates); Latest data available as of February 2022
Why Go with an ADN Program in California?
There are several paths you can take to becoming a nurse. So why choose to become an RN by way of a two-year nursing program in California? Here are a few important advantages to consider:
- Less time and more affordable than 4-year nursing schools
Both ADN and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree programs qualify you to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which you must pass to obtain your California RN license. The two major advantages of opting for an ADN program in California over a BSN program are time and cost. Not including prerequisites, most ADN programs require two years of full-time study and therefore two years of tuition and related costs. Most BSN programs require four years of full-time study and therefore four years of tuition and related costs. In addition, community college tuition rates for two-year nursing programs in California are substantially lower than those for BSN programs.
- Higher pay vs. other entry-level nursing roles
A major consideration for anyone in their choice of career is earnings. As the figures in the chart below show, when it comes to earnings for entry-level nursing occupations, the hands-down winner is registered nurse.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020
- Strong demand for registered nurses in California
Another major consideration in choosing a career is job security, something California RNs don’t have to worry about. Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Projection Central website project job growth for California RNs to be 5.5% in the short-term (2020-2022) and 16.7% in the long-term (2018-2028). That’s significantly higher than the overall job growth projections for those time periods.
Ample opportunity to advance your nursing education and career in the future
Another major concern for anyone considering a career in nursing is the ability move up the career ladder. Two-year nursing programs in California leading to RN licensure not only offer a quick and affordable path to starting your nursing career, but they also provide a solid academic foundation for continuing your nursing education to earn a BSN or graduate nursing degree.
To find out more about advancing your nursing career by earning a BSN or graduate degree, be sure to check out EduMed’s Online RN to BSN Programs in California and Top RN to MSN Online Programs in 2022 guides.
Inside Look at Online ADN Programs in California
If you were hoping to complete your two-year nursing program in California entirely or primarily online, you are, unfortunately, out of luck for now. Becoming a licensed RN in California requires hands-on nursing skills, the kind you can only develop with in-person classroom and clinical practice settings. However, many programs offer some required nursing and prerequisite courses online. Examples include the ADN program at San Joaquin Delta College, which offers over a half-dozen of its ADN curriculum courses in a hybrid (part in-person/part online) format, and Mt. San Jacinto College’s AS in Nursing program, which has five prerequisite classes that can be completed entirely online. You’ll also find that almost all ADN programs in California feature some distance learning components, such as readings, written assignments, recorded lectures, and communication with instructors and fellow students.
FAQs About ADN Programs in California
What nursing knowledge and skills do you learn in ADN programs in California?
Two-year nursing programs in California are designed to prepare graduates for entry level RN employment in a range of practice settings. Students gain knowledge and skills founded on the core nursing concepts of professionalism, patient-centered care, safety, leadership, communication, and teamwork. The result is safe, competent patient treatment through evidence-based decision making. To achieve this, the curriculum for two-year nursing programs in California combines nursing-related theory coursework with hands-on labs and clinical practice covering nursing fundamentals such as anatomy, microbiology, medical/surgical nursing, and professional ethics. Coursework in related subjects such as psychology, sociology, mathematics, and communication is also typically part of a two-year California nursing program.
Check out these current curricula from Mendocino College and the College of San Mateo to get an idea of the subjects you’ll cover in your ADN program in California.
How much do ADN programs cost in California?
The costs of ADN programs in California vary from surprisingly affordable to surprisingly expensive, as shown by the tuition examples below. The two biggest factors influencing costs are whether the school is public or private and, in the case of a public school, whether the student is a California or out-of-state resident. Tuition rates for two-year nursing programs in California offered by schools in the California Community Colleges system are uniquely affordable, with a current per-unit rate of $46 for California residents. Rates for private programs (like the one at Pacific College) can be substantially higher.
It’s important to remember, also, that tuition makes up only a portion of the cost for a two-year nursing program. You’ll also pay for books, supplies, uniforms, parking fees, etc. As a result, community college ADN students in California should expect a total program price tag of approximately $4,000 to $5,000.
Can I get financial aid to help pay for my ADN program in California?
Regardless of your program’s price tag, you’re likely to need help paying for your ADN program in California. Fortunately lots of financial aid options are available, including scholarships, grants, employer tuition reimbursement, and, most common of all, student loans. Major financial aid sources for California nursing students include the federal government (including federal student loans and loan repayment opportunities from the Health Resources & Services Administration) and the California Board of Registered Nursing.
Contact the financial aid office for each school you’re considering to find out about specific funding opportunities. To learn more about paying for your nursing education, visit EduMed’s guides on nursing scholarships, financial aid, and graduating from nursing school debt-free.
How long do ADN programs in California take to complete?
All state-approved standard ADN programs in California require two years of full-time study. Most follow a four-semester structure with programs starting in the fall, spring, or both. Some programs include an additional summer session. Remember, though, that all of these two-year nursing programs in California require a number of prerequisite courses before admission, which may add a semester or more to your degree timeline.
Many ADN programs in California offer advanced placement options for current LVNs seeking their nursing associate degree. Typically these programs require about one year of full-time coursework. Examples of LVN-to-RN programs in California include the two-semester programs at Citrus College and the College of San Mateo, and the three-semester LVN to RN Career Ladder program at Long Beach City College.
Other Entry Level Nursing Programs in California Worth Considering