Inside Look at Online LVN Programs in California

Learn about CA-approved LVN programs with online classes and start your journey to becoming a licensed vocational nurse.

Last Updated: 10/30/2020
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Earning your LVN credential can be a great entry point into a rewarding nursing career. Licensed vocational nurse positions in California are on the rise with an estimated growth rate of 15 percent during the 2018-2028 decade, according to Projections Central, and 11,600 new jobs expected to come open.

To practice as an LVN in California you’ll need to complete your credential and pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN). One-year, partially-online LVN programs are designed to qualify students to take the national exam. While most LVN programs in California are campus-based, some do offer hybrid learning models, where you can take some of your coursework online. More and more, LVN programs are adopting hybrid-learning models because of coronavirus safety concerns and some may keep the online format permanently.

This guide is designed to help you learn more about online LVN programs in California and figure out if they’re the right choice for you. You’ll also find detailed information on accredited colleges that offer these programs, discover LVN pay rates across the state, learn about LVN licensing regulations in California, and much more.

How Do Online LVN Programs in California Work?

Most online LVN programs in California offer the same curriculum as their campus equivalents, plus one key advantage: You can pursue your LVN certificate or diploma at your own pace and location. Typically, you will participate in an entry interview to determine your ability to work online. The hybrid format combines online classroom learning with campus-based, hands-on nursing experiences. Some hybrid online LVN programs in California require a certain number of on-campus courses as well. You should carefully review the curriculum and schedules for all the schools you consider.

Online California LVN programs typically take a year to complete on a full-time basis, but some take longer. For example, Stanbridge University’s California program takes from 13-14 months for completion. Success in online LVN learning comes with a few key considerations. Do you have the discipline to commit to keeping up with the work even if it’s in a self-paced course? Are you able and willing to commute to campus for intensive hands-on clinicals? If the answer is no, you may want to consider a traditional campus-based LVN program.

Visit EduMed’s main online LVN & LPN program page for more information on how distance and hybrid LVN programs work.

California LVN Program Online Spotlights

Searching for and choosing an online LVN program in California can be challenging. You want to make sure the training program is affordable and has a flexible class structure while properly preparing you for the NCLEX-PN exam and state licensure. To help you get started on your program search, we’ve spotlighted two LVN programs in California that offer some of their coursework online and have been fully-approved by the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians. Learn more about each program below and see if they meet your criteria.

Stanbridge University

SU

Stanbridge University’s LVN training program is presented as an online learning program combined with advanced training at on-campus facilities. The program emphasizes comprehensive exam preparation for the NCLEX-PN that enables graduates to practice in California.  Students may receive one-on-one or group tutoring at no additional cost. Graduation requirements include completion of 105 quarter credit hours, including theory and clinical components. You can finish the program from 13 – 14 months if you attend on a full-time basis.

Registration for the program is completed online on an open enrollment basis. Applicants must have graduated from secondary school (or GRE). They must pass an Online Readiness Quiz, meet online with an admissions representative, and complete a program orientation. Applicants are requested to meet with a Financial Aid Representative to determine their eligibility for assistance.

According to the university, in 2019 more than 97% students in the LVN program completed their studies. The Stanbridge University Vocational Nursing Program is approved by the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT).

Unitek College

UC

The hybrid Vocational Nursing Program at Unitek College combines online learning with on-campus components. Students undertake more than 900 hours of education comprised of hands-on simulations, labs, and practical experience in healthcare facilities. The 12-month curriculum prepares graduates to sit for the NCLEX-PN. Due to Covid-19, Unitek has moved more classes to the online format.

In California, LVNs may administer prescribed medicines, assist with ventilator-dependent patients or administer intravenous fluids. The coursework covers these skills and responsibilities. Additional training helps LVN students complete a plan of care, to file insurance forms, and make referrals. Among the services available to Unitek College nursing students are employment assistance, career planning, and NCLEX passing assistance.

Prospective LVN students enroll entirely online. Admission requirements include proof of completing your secondary education, a career-panning interview, passing an entrance assessment test, and completion of the required application for Federal Student Aid. Financial aid can help cover the costs of tuition, books, computer equipment, and lab fees.

LVN Licensing Details and Requirements in California

Each state’s board of nursing establishes its own set of licensing requirements for LVNs. In California you cannot practice as an LVN without holding a current license. Licensing applicants must pass the national NCLEX PN examination. Keep this in mind as you undertake your training since items on the exam relate to LVN coursework. Keep reading for more details on how to become an LVN in California. You can also find the latest official licensing information at the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (CBVNPT).

3 Pathways to Become an LVN in California

1

Graduate from a California approved schools of vocational nursing

According to the CBVNPT, the school of nursing at your accredited California LVN program issues the required paperwork for licensing applications. The application attests to completion of the 1,530 total hours required for the license: 576 classroom hours (including pharmacology ) and 954 clinical hours. Course requirements include Anatomy & Physiology, Psychology, Pharmacology, Medical–Surgical Nursing, Normal Growth and Development, Communicable Diseases, Ethics and Unethical Conduct, Rehabilitation Nursing, Leadership, End–of–Life Care, and more. Find more information at CBVNPT.

2

Gain equivalent education and/or experience

Students can qualify for licensing in California by accruing 51 months of paid bedside experience, along with 54-credits in pharmacology theory. Applicable experience must be at an acute care facility. All application documents under this requirement option must be sent to the CBVNPT, along with verifying communication from employers. Practical experience should include 48 months of medical-surgical nursing, 5 weeks of pediatric nursing, and 5 weeks of genitourinary or maternity nursing.

3

Complete nursing service in the medical corps of any branch of the U.S. armed forces

Military veterans with pertinent experience and education may also qualify for licensing. The CBVNPT stipulates that applicants must have documented 12 months of active duty service in an armed forces medical corps that administers bedside patient care. Veterans must also document that they have completed a basic course in nursing in the service.  You may not combine military and nonmilitary experience to meet licensing requirements.

Additional Requirements for LVN Licensure in California

1

Pass the NCLEX-PN Exam

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX PN) is created annually by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The 100-question exam qualifies graduates to seek licensing in California and other states. Applications to take the exam and practice tests are available through Pearson VUE. Pearson provides registration, test dates and candidate scheduling. Proctored, online NCLEX PN virtual exams are offered via Pearson’s OnVUE proctoring.  For more information about the NCLEX-PN or to apply for the exam, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

2

Complete Continuing Education and Renew License

In California, licenses for Vocational Nurses (LVNs) are good for two years. On the first renewal after you get your license there are no continuing education requirements. Thereafter, two-year renewals are required and candidates must complete 30 hours of continuing education before their current license expires. Each licensee must certify whether they have committed crime prior to the request.  For a detailed view of renewal requirements visit the California Board of Registered Nursing, License/Certificate Renewal.

Job Outlook and Salary Details for LVNs in California

In the following sections, you’ll find answers to the most-common questions about California LVN job prospects and wages.

Are California LVNs in high demand?

The California Health Care Foundation reports that nursing is the single-largest health profession in the Golden State. Employment prospects for LVNs in California are better than those nationwide according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Growth projections vary by municipality, but the statewide LVN job growth rate for 2018-2028 is 15.1 percent. That’s greater than the nationwide projected growth rate of 10.7 percent. Moreover, the increase is much larger than the 5.2 percent growth of all occupations during the decade. Purdue University Global says the growth reflects the shift in vocational nursing to employment  in community outpatient services. The employment search site Indeed.com lists more than 5,000 LVN job openings in California (October 2020). The following chart breaks down new jobs in California compared with national LVN employment statistics:

Job Outlook for Licensed Vocational Nurses in California

Employment (2018) New Jobs
(2018-2028)
Job Growth Rate (2018-2028) Average Annual Openings (2018-2028)
California 76,600 11,600 15.1% 7,440
United States 728,900 78,100 10.7% 66,300

Source: Projections Central

How much do LVNs make in California?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California LVNs earn $60,240 on average  — some $12,000 per year greater than earnings on the national level. The annual wages for California LVNs may vary by location, reflecting the cost of living in each community. For example, an LVN in Bakersfield earns $54,660 per year, while an LVN earns $59,660 in San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles. The following chart compares salaries in select California cities along with state and national averages:

Annual Earnings for Licensed Vocational Nurses in California

Median Hourly Wage Mean Hourly Wage Annual Mean Wage
California $28.47 $28.96 $60,240
Los Angeles $27.74 $28.23 $58,710
Vallejo-Fairfield $32.17 $32.69 $67,990
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $32.46 $33.41 $69,490
United States $22.83 $23.32 $48,500

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

Online LVN California Resources and Scholarships

  • Allied Healthcare Scholarship ProgramThe State of California’s Allied Healthcare Scholarship awards up to $8,000 per year. Scholarship recipients are required to work for one year at a California facility with a demonstrated need for LVNs.
  • Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure by ExaminationThere are multiple qualifying options for LVN licensing in California, including completion of a degree or professional and military experience. Find the right option for you on this official page from the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.
  • California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric TechniciansThe board establishes the minimum requirements for taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) and subsequent licensure. Discover the licensing application process, fee schedule, and more at the website or call (916) 263-7800.
  • California Nursing Students AssociationThe CNSA is made up of more than 5,000 members who receive access to information about state boards, career development, and advocacy. During Covid-19, members attend a virtual annual convention.
  • Vocational Nurse Scholarship Program (VNSP)This scholarship is offered by the California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and can be awarded twice per student. The award is up to $4,000 and requires graduates to provide full-time patient care at a state-approved facility.