Experience as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), also known as licensed practical nurse (LPN) in some states, eases the transition to becoming a registered nurse (RN). Through an LPN-to-BSN program, students hone patient care skills while taking theoretical and practical courses in advanced nursing. The duties of LVNs and RNs are similar, but RNs hold more accountability, responsibility, and knowledge, which is reflected in their salaries.
The following guide ranks the best LPN-to-BSN programs in California. It also provides information on program types, licensure requirements, and salary outlook for nurses.
View ranking methodology here.
Requirements for RNs in California
California’s Board of Registered Nursing requires RN candidates to hold at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN). After completing a board-approved, AANP-accredited program at the ADN level or higher, candidates submit an application for licensure and fingerprints for a criminal background check.
Candidates apply for licensure online or through the mail and pay an application fee of $300 for in-state graduates, $350 for out-of-state graduates, or $750 for international graduates. Once the application is approved, students take the NCLEX-RN exam. Candidates can pay an additional $100 along with the regular application fee for an interim permit to use while awaiting NCLEX-RN results.
The NCLEX-RN exam costs $200 and consists of 75-265 questions delivered electronically; students must answer a minimum of 75 questions for licensure consideration. Out-of-state applicants who already passed the NCLEX-RN can apply for licensure through endorsement by completing an application and paying a $350 fee. Licenses expire two birthdays after issuance, by which time the licensee must have accumulated 30 hours in continuing education credit. License renewal costs $190. Licensees cannot renew their license to active status less than three months before its expiration.
Employment Outlook For RNs in California
California RNs enjoy strong employment and salary prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for RNs in California is $120,560, the highest in the nation. By comparison, the national mean annual salary for RNs is $73,300. Graduates from LVN-to-BSN programs in California may earn higher salaries, even at the entry level. California also employs the highest number of RNs of any state, at 307,060. Nurses may work in settings such as general medical and surgical hospitals, physicians’ offices, specialty hospitals, and home healthcare.
The following graph displays some of the highest paying and employing metropolitan areas for RNs in California. Most of the highest-earning areas for RNs concentrate around the Bay Area and Napa County. In the top-earning earning area of the state, Redwood City/South San Francisco, RNs make a mean annual salary of $139,700.
The Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for RNs in California
- San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division
Mean Annual Salary: $139,700
- Salinas, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $132,160
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $146,870
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
Mean Annual Salary: 149,200
- Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $124,470
- Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $142,140
- Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA Metropolitan Division
Mean Annual Salary: $116,660
- Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $134,350
- Napa, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $110,140
- Santa Rosa, CA
Mean Annual Salary: $124,840
Biggest Hospitals in California
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center: Located in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, UCSF Medical Center employs around 3,200 faculty and 2,400 staff. Employees enjoy benefits including comprehensive health and medical care and basic coverage for non-work-related disability.
- Community Regional Medical Center: Community Regional Medical Center serves Fresno and the surrounding area, seeing an average of 663 patients each day. Employees enjoy benefits such as life, long-term disability, and long-term care insurance.
- Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center employs 2,800 nurses in the heart of Los Angeles. Employees enjoy a comprehensive benefits package, including tuition reimbursement, a credit union, paid leave, insurance, and retirement benefits.
Additional Nursing Resources in California
- California Nurses Association: An associate of National Nurses United, Oakland-based CNA advocates for RNs statewide. The organization offers continuing education opportunities for RNs in California and surrounding states on topics such as patient advocacy and hospital economics.
- Association of California Nurse Leaders: ACNL promotes high standards for nurse leaders through seminaraas, webinars, and programs such as the Foundation for Leadership Excellence. The organization also offers several scholarships, including the Nurses’ Float scholarship.
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association California Chapter: APNA provides numerous continuing education resources for RNs with psychiatric nurse certification, including suicide prevention training, ATP certification, and an annual conference. The association also offers an online career center and numerous publications.
- California Nursing Students’ Association: CNSA advocates for nursing students in California through networking and mentoring opportunities. The organization’s many local chapters often host events, including membership meetings and events related to social justice.
- Association of Public Health Nurses: APHN promotes the professional development of RNs with public health nurse certification through resources such as continuing education webinars and events offered through the Million Hearts initiative.
- California Emergency Nurses Association: California ENA’s numerous chapters advocate for excellence in emergency nurse care statewide. The association hosts meetings, committees, and continuing education courses on topics such as trauma nursing and pediatric emergency nursing.
Explore the Best California LVN to BSN Programs and School Info
Based in California, APU offers more than 100 academic programs at its main location, six regional campuses, and online. As a Christian institution, APU blends spirituality and educational excellence. The school prepares learners for careers in business, nursing, ministry, education, behavioral and applied science, and the arts.
APU’s licensed vocational nurse (LVN) to bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) program allows practicing nurses to earn their degree in two years. Students can transfer up to 48 credit hours toward the 120-hour degree. Learners complete 72 credits within a cohort. Learners study nursing theory, practice, and policy. APU’s LVN to BSN curriculum also includes a 90-hour clinical residency.
Applicants to APU’s LVN to BSN program must submit a copy of their nursing license, a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, previous transcripts, and a resume.
APU holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The school of nursing maintains accreditation from the California Board of Registered Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
California State University East Bay
Located in Hayward, CSUEB offers undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 15,000 students. CSUEB’s 342-acre main campus, along with its Concord and Oakland facilities, offers learners access to the thriving urban resources of San Francisco while incorporating expansive green spaces.
CSUEB’s pre-licensure program in nursing includes an LVN to BSN for students with medical field experience. California students with a background in nursing can petition for course credit and complete the 120-credit hour degree in as few as five semesters.
CSUEB’s pre-licensure nursing program includes on-campus and hybrid nursing courses. Clinical residencies at local hospitals and community partners allow learners to gain practical experience prior to degree completion. Students apply to the pre-licensure program by submitting transcripts that demonstrate a GPA of 3.0 or above for prerequisite coursework. Applicants also complete a test of essential academic skills.
California State University Fullerton
Founded in 1957, CSUF provides 110 academic programs to students through its main campus in Fullerton, regional sites like the Irving Center, and online. CSUF’s LVN to BSN program includes two years of coursework that builds nursing competencies and leadership skills.
Students take five semesters with a cohort of fellow nurses. Learners must enroll in classes during one summer semester. Coursework includes lectures, labs, and clinical residencies in health assessment, public health nursing, and foundations of nursing. CSUF also offers a 30-credit hour LVN to RN program. Graduates of this program do not earn a BSN.
LVN to BSN program applicants must hold a valid LVN license in California for admission. This degree does not require students to complete any entrance exams or submit letters of recommendation. Prior to admission for the LVN to BSN degree, applicants must complete prerequisite coursework with a minimum 3.5 GPA or above.
California State University San Marcos
With a campus near some of California’s most scenic beaches, CSUSM offers more than 70 degree options and credentialing programs. Founded as the 20th school in the California State University system in 1989, CSUSM offers six nursing degrees, including an LVN to BSN program in California.
Designed for students who already hold a valid LVN license, CSUSM only admits four new students each fall. Learners enter and progress in a cohort alongside traditional BSN students, attending part-time for the first year. LVNs receive an exemption for up to 17 credit hours for past nursing experience.
Prior to admission, LVN to BSN students must complete the LVN skills assessment. Applicants should provide transcripts for previous nursing coursework, pass a background check and physical exam, and complete required immunizations. CSUSM’s nursing program holds accreditation through the CCNE.
Headquartered in La Jolla, NU provides academic programs through campuses throughout the state, in neighboring Nevada, and online. Founded in 1971 as a private, nonprofit institution, NU maintains its mission of opening up higher education opportunities to adult learners through more than 100 programs.
In addition to an LVN to RN program, NU offers an LVN to BSN that builds therapeutic and practical nursing competencies. NU’s LVN to BSN program includes coursework in information literacy and technology, social and behavioral science, and physical science, with core nursing classes in health assessments, professional nursing values, and nursing leadership. Learners complete 180 credit hours of lectures, labs, and clinical courses.
Application requirements for NU’s LVN to BSN program in California include a current LVN license, skills testing, a written essay, and a formal application. Learners also complete prerequisite coursework and attend program nursing forums prior to admission.
West Coast University
Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Ontario, CA
Along with campuses in Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Ontario, California, WCU also provides academic programs in Texas and Florida. The private for-profit institution, established in 1909, transitioned from an ophthalmology school to a university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing, dental hygiene, health administration, and occupational therapy.
WCU’s LVN to BSN program allows current LVNs to earn a degree in as few as 34 months. Open to LVNs in California and Texas alike, WCU’s program builds partnerships among learners, clinical facilities, and nursing professionals at more than 500 sites nationwide.
During the LVN to BSN program, students gain critical-thinking and leadership skills while exploring moral and ethical principles in nursing. Hands-on simulation and clinical experiences prepare learners to advance within their current position or continue on to further study.
Applicants must submit proof of licensure and transcript information from previous coursework, including documentation of any military training.