How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in California

California map

A career as a full-time licensed practical nurse (LPN) starts with a good training program.

These programs typically run for 12 months and can be taken at most community colleges, vocational schools, and some universities.

The program includes approximately 40 hours of course, which consists of a combination of clinical work and theory.

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) will typically provide assistance to doctors and registered nurses (RN).

5 Licensed Practical Nurse Schools in California

The following five schools offer an accredited program to become a licensed practical nurse in the state of California.

1. Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara City College Logo

The school is located in Santa Barbara and offers a full-time vocational nursing program with a summer break that runs over three semesters.

This is an open admission institution with a 100% acceptance rate.

Upon graduation from this course, students will receive a Certificate of Achievement in Vocational Nursing.

In addition, provided that all AS requirements are met, students may be awarded an Associate of Science Degree in Vocational Nursing.

The course prepares students for an entry-level position as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) with an emphasis on compassion, competency, and ethical behavior in the field.

The learning program is learner-centered and prepares students to sit for the National Licensing Exam (NCLEX PN).

The school charges a $46 enrollment fee and tuition for local high school graduates is free for the first two years.

Out-of-state students will have to pay the enrollment fee, in addition to a few other fees, and tuition of $307.00 per unit.

2. Gavilan College

Gavilan College Logo

Gavilan College is located in Gilroy, California.

The school has additional locations in Morgan Hill and Hollister.

The school offers a vocational nursing course which may be completed in 1.5 years or three semesters.

The course combines traditional and emerging learning techniques to help students master the Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) training program and comprehend the contents of the program.

In order to qualify for the course, students must pass a background and health screening as well as have all immunizations and booster shots completed.

In addition, students must pass a drug and alcohol screening.

Tuition at this school is waived for students that qualify for California Promise and locally graduated students:

  • $46 per unit Enrollment Fee
  • Additional $299 per unit for non-residents
  • $6 Student Activities Fee
  • $19 Health Fee
  • $1 per unit Campus Center Use Fee (maximum of $5 per semester)
  • $2 Student Representation Fee

3. Copper Mountain College

Copper Mountain College Logo

The school is located in Joshua Tree, California, and offers a vocational nursing program.

The program can be completed in three semesters.

The program starts each year in June and is completed the following year by May.

Upon completion, students are awarded a certificate in Vocational Nursing and students are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

The course consists of theory and lab work during each semester. The tuition is $4,837.00.

4. College of the Redwoods

College of the Redwoods Logo

The college is located in Eureka, California.

This school offers two three-semester LVN programs:

  • Certificate of Achievement, Licensed Vocational Nursing
  • Associate of Science, Licensed Vocational Nursing

The program is only offered every other year and acceptance is determined through a lottery process.

Upon completion, students are eligible to sit for the national examination.

The program focuses on:

  • Administration of medications
  • Basic nursing care
  • Carrying out therapeutic and rehabilitative measures

California residents pay $46 per unit, non-California residents pay  $379 per unit, and Oregon exchange students pay $136 per unit.

International students pay  $379 per unit and high school students pay nothing.

5. Allan Hancock College

Allan Hancock College Logo

The school is located in Santa Maria, California, and offers a 12-month LVN course.

The course is offered from January through December and upon completion, students are eligible to sit for the national exam.

The course does include a summer session.

California Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are eligible to apply for this course.

The course includes clinical practice, which will take place in:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical care facilities
  • The school’s lab

The total tuition, excluding variable costs, is $5,500.00.

Licensed Practical Nurse Schools in California – Summary Table

Top 5 Schools in California

School NameAddress
Santa Barbara City College721 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Gavilan College5055 Santa Teresa Blvd, Gilroy, CA 95020
Copper Mountain College6162 Rotary Way, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
College of the Redwoods7351 Tompkins Hill Rd, Eureka, CA 95501
Allan Hancock College800 S College Dr, Santa Maria, CA 93454


Annual Salary Range:

Average Salary of Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)s in California

City NameSalary
Los Angeles$57,236
San Diego$54,613
San Jose$63,512
San Francisco$63,259
Long Beach$56,427
Santa Ana$56,478
* Salary information last updated 2024

Regional Salary in California

RegionEmployedAvg. Annual SalaryAvg. Hourly PayTop 10% Annual SalaryBottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA1,230$65,650$31.56$76,720$50,380
Chico, CA420$64,720$31.12$75,740$52,430
El Centro, CA260$63,110$30.34$71,570$49,250
Fresno, CA1,800$65,080$31.29$78,310$50,250
Hanford-Corcoran, CA270$67,260$32.34$71,570$57,110
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA28,280$68,530$32.95$83,660$52,000
Madera, CA220$65,640$31.56$73,110$51,010
Merced, CA260$62,300$29.95$77,640$50,950
Modesto, CA950$66,300$31.87$82,980$50,590
Napa, CA310$76,370$36.72$95,530$57,110
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1,220$66,570$32$80,330$50,110
Redding, CA460$62,150$29.88$75,030$48,420
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA8,170$64,880$31.19$77,750$49,640
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA4,200$71,280$34.27$94,870$51,840
Salinas, CA680$69,710$33.51$80,350$53,330
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA6,150$67,750$32.57$82,170$51,840
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA8,730$80,470$38.69$103,170$62,700
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA3,020$80,590$38.75$101,330$63,260
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA480$69,120$33.23$81,880$58,400
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA300$70,550$33.92$92,780$52,040
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA600$68,390$32.88$80,990$52,030
Santa Rosa, CA890$76,710$36.88$103,180$61,880
Stockton-Lodi, CA1,270$68,440$32.9$86,210$51,130
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA850$76,240$36.66$104,110$60,770
Visalia-Porterville, CA740$61,190$29.42$76,670$49,720
Yuba City, CA250$66,260$31.86$82,930$51,700
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, OCC Code 29-2061, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a demand for Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) in California?


In the state of California, the demand for this position is predicted to grow at a much more accelerated rate than most other occupations.

Between the periods of 2018 and 2028, the industry predicts a 15.1% growth, or alternatively, 11,600 jobs new jobs in this category.

What is the average salary for a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVNs) in California?

In California, in 2021, the average salary for a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVNs) was $63,676 annually, or, alternatively, $30.62 hourly.

Must you be licensed in the state of California in order to practice as a vocational nurse?


It is a requirement that you take and pass the national examination in order to practice as a vocational nurse in this state.

You will need to be licensed by the California State Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technician.

How long does it take after the exam until I receive my license?

The processing time is approximately four to six weeks.

Is it a requirement that I take and pass an accredited course in order to take the exam?


You may also qualify for the exam with a certain amount of hands-on experience in the field.

But this is very specific and you must meet all the requirements in order to qualify for the exam.

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