If you live in California and want to become a registered nurse, earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can be a smart choice. Yes, getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will help you become a registered nurse, but the ADN has the advantage of taking just two years to complete instead of four. Another advantage of the ADN program is that if you decide to continue your academic studies, you’ll still 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.
The purpose of this guide is to provide 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 other nursing degree programs and get answers to common questions you might have. Keep reading to find out how to get started on your RN nursing career by earning your degree through a great California ADN program.
||Students w/Institutional Aid
||Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry
||Cerritos CollegeNorwalk, CA
Cerritos College's AA of Nursing program is designed for people who desire a traditional college experience with the option of some online classes. The nursing program has a set schedule of classes to be completed in order in 4 semesters. Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam to become a licensed RN. Students are also eligible to apply and transfer credits to a four-year BSN program at a partner school.
Associate of Arts in Nursing
- Credits: 47
- Length: 4 semesters
- Cost: $366/credit
- Mode: Partially online
- Accreditation: ACEN
||Compton CollegeCompton, CA
Compton College offers an associate degree in Nursing with several courses offered in a hybrid format. The main goal of the program is to provide students with the skills they need to perform well as entry-level nurses. Students who apply and are accepted into the program must pass a background check and drug screen. After graduation, students are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which will allow them to become RNs and practice in the state of California.
Associate in Science in Nursing
- Credits: 98 units
- Length: 2 years
- Cost: $320/credit
- Mode: Partially online
- Accreditation: ACCJC
Popular 2-Year ADN Nursing Programs in California
We’ve spotlighted three of the most popular state-approved ADN programs in California to help give you a better idea of what students just like you look for in a school. All three programs are regionally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and fully prepare graduates to meet the academic requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN, which is required to be an RN in California.
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. This allows them to reduce the number of credits needed for their ADN degree.
The Associate Degree in Registered Nursing program at Long Beach City College (LBCC) is another high-quality and affordable nursing program. Offered by a community college, the ADN curriculum consists of 67.5 credit hours of nursing theory courses, labs, and clinical practice experiences. Full-time students can expect to complete the four semesters of study in about two years. 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 also offers a three-semester LVN to RN Career Ladder program to obtain California RN licensure. LVNs can choose a 30-unit certificate (non-degree) program that makes them 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 to 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 are just the beginning in terms of the ADN programs available in California. 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 and at a price you can afford.
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 with a two-year nursing program in California instead of, say, a BSN program? 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. All aspiring registered nurses must pass this exam to obtain a 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. This means paying for just two years of tuition and related costs. Most BSN programs require four years of full-time study and, therefore, often require twice the amount of money or more to complete. 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 2021
- 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 10.8% in the long term (2020-2030).
Ability to advance your nursing education and career in the future
Another major concern for anyone considering a career in nursing is the ability to 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, whether you’re interested in earning 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 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. Given the inherently hands-on nature of the nursing profession, the education necessary will include extensive experiential learning requirements. 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. Then, there’s 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?
It might only take two years to complete, but two-year nursing programs in California 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 critical thinking, professionalism, patient-centered care, leadership, safety, 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, medical/surgical nursing, microbiology, 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 can vary a lot. Community colleges offer most of the ADN programs and are surprisingly affordable. For example, two-year nursing programs offered by schools in the California Community Colleges system have a current per-unit rate of $46 for California residents. Rates for private programs (like the one at Pacific College) can be substantially higher.
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.
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?
Of course! Regardless of your program’s price tag, you’re likely to need help paying for your ADN program in California. Luckily, there are many financial aid options 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.
To learn exactly what you’re eligible for and what’s available at a nursing school you’re interested in, you should contact the financial aid office for each school you’re thinking about applying to. 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, which include a four-semester structure. Most programs start in the fall and/or spring, although 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, depending on what you’ve already taken in high school or another college.
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