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LVN Programs in San Diego: Online and On-Campus Training

LVN programs in San Diego provide a direct pathway to your California vocational nursing license. Be sure that the accredited curriculum prepares you for the NCLEX-PN exam. Here are the top LVN schools, along with their tuition and program requirements.

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You want to become a nurse in the thriving healthcare industry, but you’re afraid it’ll take years of schooling. One of the quickest, most direct ways to qualify to work in hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices is to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). You can complete LVN programs on a San Diego campus or online in as little as a year. This guide walks you through the heart of the LVN certificate programs and applicable degrees, including details on licensing, how hybrid (online/on-campus) LVN programs work, and how much you can earn as an LVN in San Diego after you graduate. To help you choose the right program, we’ve also created a list of the best LVN programs in San Diego.

College Spotlights: Best LVN Programs in San Diego


Whether you live in Carlsbad, Torrey Pines, or downtown, you’re digitally in reach of the best state-approved LVN programs in San Diego. We’ve chosen three accredited schools to spotlight below based on their affordability, accreditation, learning flexibility, and student support services. We also looked at tuition costs, degree requirements, and the estimated time to complete an online LVN program. Take a closer look at potential schools that will take you to the next step in your nursing career.

Southwestern Community College

Southwestern Community College’s Licensed Vocational Nurse program is among the cream of the crop of schools offering online LVN programs in San Diego. The program requires 42 credits and can be completed in three semesters or 18 months. Students who successfully complete the program are qualified to take the NCLEX-PN examination to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse. The focused curriculum includes coursework in Maternal-Child-Adult Health, Pharmacology for Nurses, Psychology, and Nurse Leadership. The program includes four supervised clinicals in local health care facilities. All LVN applicants are required to pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). The program is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians. In terms of costs, tuition is $46 per credit, which is a real plus for qualified students that want to waive their tuition.

Concorde Career College

The LVN program from Concorde Career College can be completed in just 13 months, and partially or mostly online. The program structure combines theoretical training with on-site clinical experiences; however, temporary Covid-19 restrictions may move the clinical experiences to an online format. Courses include preventive nursing care, therapeutic nursing care, rehabilitative nursing care, restorative nursing care, and nursing interventions. The program has been approved by the California State Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), and Concorde Career College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the Accrediting Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE). Tuition for the complete program is $38,437 for full-time students. Graduates of the program are prepared to pass the NCLEX-PN exam and become a Licensed Vocational Nurse.

FAQs About LVN Programs in San Diego

What skills do you learn in LVN programs in San Diego?

Colleges that offer LVN programs in San Diego focus their curriculum on real-world skills development to prepare graduates for licensing. So in addition to classroom learning, students should expect extensive clinical instruction. At Southwestern Community College, students learn skills in physical assessment, medication administration, documentation, data collection, therapeutic communication, critical thinking, management, leadership, and management. Skills covered in the LVN program at Concorde Career College build skills in preventive, rehabilitative, therapeutic, and nursing interventions. ZipRecruiter also reports that the main skills cited by LVN job-seekers include patient care, vital signs, medication, wound care, and rehabilitation.

How much do LVN programs cost in San Diego?

Considering the overall costs to complete LVN programs in San Diego, be sure to include tuition, books, uniforms, and background examinations. Tuition depends on the total credits required and whether you attend on a full- or part-time basis. You also need to consider whether you’re attending a public or private school. Make sure you don’t forget the cost of prerequisite courses you must complete to enter the program. Based on full-time student attendance, costs range from approximately $1,400 to $1,800 per academic term. Here are a few examples of what you can pay for an LVN program in San Diego:

Summit College

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

Total Credits: 1,586 hours (632 lecture hours and 751 clinical hours)

Total Cost: $18,510

Southwestern Community College

Vocational Nursing (VN)

Total Credits: 42

Cost per credit: $46

Can I get financial aid to help pay for my LVN program in San Diego?

Absolutely. If you need help paying your tuition, there are plenty of resources to help you cover costs. You can apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Here’s what’s available:

  • Student Loans: There are two types of student loans: federal public subsidized student loans and private student loans. Students need to repay them.
  • Repayment Options: The State of California also provides assistance through the Licensed Vocational Nurse Loan Repayment Program. Students may receive awards up to $6,000. You must commit to one year of practicing patient care full-time in California.
  • Grants: Undergraduates from low-income families and enrolled full-time in an LVN program can receive The Federal Pell Grant. The amount varies.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are available to nursing students based on financial needs and academic promise. The good news is you don’t have to pay them back. For more details, visit our LVN scholarships guide.

Check out our main financial aid guide to start your search for assistance.

How long do LVN programs in San Diego take to finish?

Generally speaking, you can complete your LVN programs in San Diego between 12 and 18 months. For example, at Southwestern Community College, the LVN program requires 42 units and takes three semesters to complete. The variables that affect your completion time include the number of required credits, full-time or part-time status, and on-site clinical experience. For instance, if you are completing an LVN program while working full-time, you may only be able to complete classes on a part-time basis, extending the time it takes to finish your training program.

Inside Look at Online LVN Programs in San Diego

There are approximately six schools that provide comprehensive online LVN programs in San Diego and prepare you for licensure. The benefits are optimal: you take courses at your convenience, you save on costs to commute to campus, and you are able to arrange your studies around family or work obligations.

Online LVN programs are hybrid in nature, meaning they’re divided between remote instruction and on-location clinical experiences. You may also be required to visit the campus for an orientation class and to complete in-person labs.

Common Questions About Online LVN Programs in San Diego

Will earning my credential from an online LVN program in San Diego impact my ability to get certified or licensed?

No, it will not. As long as you graduate from an approved LVN program and meet the other California LVN licensing requirements, you can become an LVN.

Will employers care if I took some of my LVN classes online?

It’s possible, but it’s not likely, and there are several reasons for this. First, your employer probably won’t know you took online classes. Second, most employers know that online learning is the future and it’s to be expected that post-secondary instruction, including nursing school, may contain some online learning components. Third, employers are primarily concerned with whether you graduated from an approved LVN program and that you have your California vocational nursing license.

Are online LVN programs more affordable than campus programs in San Diego?

There are a number of factors that go into tuition affordability. Because online LVN programs contain the same academic content as their on-campus equivalents, tuition tends to cost the same. On the plus side, online LVN schools may charge the same tuition for out-of-state-students, creating huge savings there. You’ll also save money by avoiding a costly commute to class multiple times a day.

Can I complete my LVN training in San Diego faster by taking classwork online?

It is possible to complete your training if you have self-paced or accelerated online course options. Additionally, depending on your other commitments, you can opt to take a course load that is heavier than the routine semester requirements. However, given the cohort learning format of many clinicals, even if you can complete the coursework requirements more quickly than your classmates, you may still need to wait to for them to catch up before you can do your clinical training alongside them.

LVN Licensing Information and Requirements in San Diego

To work as an LVN in San Diego, you must hold a current license from the State of California. There are no requirements for certifications or licensing issued by the city or county of San Diego. Here are steps for completing your California licensing:

Licenses must be renewed every other year and there is a 30-hour continuing education requirement. This continuing education requirement does not apply for your first renewal. You can find more details on California LVN license renewal process by going to their website.

How Much You Can Earn as an LVN in San Diego

Fortunately, LVNs can make a great living in San Diego. The BLS reports $61,830 in median annual earnings for LVNs in San Diego. The lowest San Diego LVN wages clock in at $46,210, while top earnings surpass $79,000. In terms of the California pay scale, San Diego is only second to San Francisco. The Bay Area median annual LVN wage is $67,520, with earnings of $52,600 at the bottom of the scale and $94,880 at the top. San Diego LVNs currently outpace the median annual wage of $60,240 in California. The wages also compare favorably to the national wage numbers, where LVNs earn a median annual income of $47,480 with $34,560 at the bottom of the scale and $63,360 for the top earners.

Annual Earnings for Licensed Vocational Nurses in San Diego

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $46,210 $61,830 $79,480
California $43,030 $59,210 $80,020
United States $34,560 $47,480 $63,360
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA $43,730 $58,830 $81,820
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $52,600 $67,520 $94,880
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $43,360 $57,690 $77,560
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA $40,590 $56,250 $83,150

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

Other California LVN Programs You May Be Interested In