25 Best LVN Programs in California 2021

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LVN stands for licensed vocational nurse. Although the job title resembles a registered nurse (RN), LVNs perform more basic medical tasks, such as ensuring patients’ comfort and cleanliness. Other typical job duties include maintaining records and communicating with patients and their families.

LVNs need strong communication and time management skills. Individuals interested in entering this field can do so by earning a certificate or associate degree. An educational program’s courses and required clinical experience qualify graduates for a state-issued license. Full-time learners can become an LVN in just one year.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for LVNs will grow 9% between 2019 and 2029. Keep reading to learn more about the top LVN programs in California, including typical courses and scholarship opportunities.

Top 10 LVN Programs in California

Rank School Location
1 Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa, CA
2 Los Medanos College Pittsburg, CA
3 Napa Valley College Napa, CA
4 City College of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
5 Pasadena City College Pasadena, CA
6 College of the Redwoods Eureka, CA
7 MiraCosta College Oceanside, CA
8 Butte College Oroville, CA
9 Allan Hancock College Santa Maria, CA
10 Gavilan College Gilroy, CA

FAQ


  • What degree do I need to become an LVN?

    Professionals need a certificate or associate degree to become a licensed professional nurse. LVN programs in California qualify graduates to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam, which the state requires for licensure.


  • How does nursing school work?

    Licensed vocational nursing programs in California require a mix of in-person coursework and clinical rotations. Other requirements can include a capstone course, an academic portfolio, or a comprehensive exam.


  • How long does it take to earn an LVN?

    Although full-time students can earn an LVN in just one year, many schools offer part-time programs that allow working students to take longer to complete their certificate or degree.


  • How does an LVN program compare to an LPN program?

    LVN and LPN programs prepare learners for the same career. California and Texas use the term LVN, while all other states use LPN.


25 Best LVN Programs in California 2021

The following ranking introduces the best LVN programs in California for 2021. Each listing includes information regarding the program’s academic and admission requirements, student support services, and financial aid opportunities. Please use the embedded links to learn more about each program and how it can train aspiring LVNs for a fulfilling career.

  1. Santa Rosa Junior College
    Location

    Santa Rosa, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    SRJC's licensed vocational nurse (LVN) program takes three semesters to complete and features multiple clinical rotations. The 68-credit curriculum emphasizes coursework in the fundamentals of vocational nursing, maternal-child health, and an advanced skills lab. Degree-seekers remain in good academic standing by earning a minimum C grade in all courses.

    SRJC's online Career Hub (CH) offers the Jobspeaker job board, on-campus work-study opportunities, and career seminars. Seminar topics include workplace diversity and how to optimize a LinkedIn profile. CH also offers these and other services on its Santa Rosa and Petaluma campuses.

    With the LVN program undergoing review, SRJC should provide application information in late 2020 or early 2021. Out-of-state students spend significantly more on tuition than in-state learners. The school awards hundreds of institutional scholarships, and the application window opens each January.

  2. Los Medanos College
    Location

    Pittsburg, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    LMC's licensed vocational nurse (LVN) program helps students living in and around Pittsburg prepare for a career in the healthcare field. The three-semester curriculum features coursework in clinical pharmacology, the fundamentals of vocational nursing, and medical-surgical nursing practice. Students complete 17-30 credits of prerequisites before receiving admission.

    Career Services (CS) advisors provide one-on-one appointments, a private job and internship board, and career preparation workshops on multiple topics. They also offer free career assessments and links to outside resources that describe the latest job trends in the healthcare field.

    One of the best LVN programs in California, LMC application requirements include a background check, drug screen, and high school or GED transcripts. Institutional scholarship opportunities require a separate application.

  3. Napa Valley College
    Location

    Napa, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    NVC trains the next generation of licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in California by offering a three-course certificate program. Learners can also complete prerequisites in English, mathematics, and anatomy and physiology, if necessary. NVC does not allow learners to progress through the program if they do not earn a minimum C grade in every prerequisite and major course.

    The NVC Career Center (CC) hosts multiple events each week covering resumes, career mentoring, and career transitions. Other core CC services include career advising, resume assistance, and career-ready success workshops. NVC posts job opportunities on the LVN website.

    Admission requirements include becoming a certified nurse's aide, submitting high school or GED transcripts, and completing a blood test. The Napa Valley College Foundation funds NVC's numerous institutional scholarships. Students can apply for all awards by submitting FAFSA results.

  4. City College of San Francisco
    Location

    San Francisco, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    CCSF first offered its licensed vocational nursing (LVN) program in 1948. The university's 40-credit certificate of achievement requires courses in basic medical/surgical nursing, mental health nursing, and maternity nursing. The program concludes with an advanced medical/surgical skills lab wherein learners can prove mastery of in-demand knowledge and skills.

    Aspiring LVNs can turn to the Career Services Office (CSO) to receive job placement support, conduct job searches, and craft a resume. Online CSO resources include the latest information on job trends and a guide detailing how to create a professional portfolio.

    The application process involves submitting high school or GED transcripts, completing six undergraduate prerequisites, and attending a mandatory two-hour orientation. Learners pay a small per-semester student health fee in addition to tuition.

  5. Pasadena City College
    Location

    Pasadena, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    PCC's 53-acre campus hosts a top licensed vocational nursing program that emphasizes basic nursing knowledge and skills. The 37-credit, 12-month program qualifies learners to take the NCLEX-PN exam. The program is accredited by the California Board of Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians.

    Career Center (CC) professionals help students and alumni write a resume and research careers and internships. They also actively network with employers throughout southern California to bring learners the best job opportunities. Students can attend workshops covering job-hunting best practices and networking strategies.

    Prospective students need an active California nursing assistant license. The college prefers prospective students who earned a minimum C grade in prerequisite coursework. PCC posts estimated tuition and fees online, and students can reduce their tuition burden by applying for PCC Sponsored Scholarships.

  6. College of the Redwoods
    Location

    Eureka, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    CR's licensed vocational nursing program allows students to choose between an associate degree and a certificate in licensed vocational nursing. Both options take approximately three semesters to complete, and the curriculum emphasizes basic nursing care and rehabilitative measures. Learners follow a set curriculum that does not include electives.

    New learners can take one of CR's employment preparation classes to gain job-hunting skills and learn more about what Career Planning (CP) can offer them. The CP website features links to numerous job and internship websites, and advisors reach out to local employers to provide CR students and alumni with career opportunities.

    CR does not ask for recommendation letters or standardized test scores. New students can explore different financial aid opportunities. The college's institutional scholarships require learners to create an online account and apply for each award separately.

  7. MiraCosta College
    Location

    Oceanside, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    MiraCosta designed its licensed vocational nursing program for working students. On-campus courses occur in the evenings and on weekends. Learners attain over 1,500 hours of classroom and clinical experience. The degree requires prerequisites in nursing and pharmacology, and 94% of alumni pass the NCLEX-PN on the first try.

    Student resources on MiraCosta's Career Center (CC) website include information on career workshops, articles on modern job skills, and an interview preparation guide. CC also helps students and alumni by curating some of the best outside resources, such as My Next Move and the California Career Zone.

    Application materials include high school or GED transcripts. MiraCosta considers transfer credit. Prospective students with any criminal convictions from the prior seven years cannot apply. MiraCosta awards institutional scholarships to learners who excel academically and can prove financial need.

  8. Butte College
    Location

    Oroville, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The College trains licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in a three-semester program on its Oroville campus. Curriculum highlights include coursework in nursing theory and clinical experience at different clinical sites. Learners who want to improve their knowledge and skills before entering the job market can enroll in The College's LVN-to-RN program.

    Career counselors who work at The College's Career and Employment Services (CES) department help learners by offering career assessments, career exploration strategies, and education plans. Some advisors specialize in job placement. CES also assists students who want to transfer to a four-year college or university.

    Prospective students can apply for the fall or spring semester. Application requirements include a high school or GED diploma and prerequisites in human anatomy and physiology. Applicants and incoming students should contact the school's financial aid office to learn more about how institutional and federal aid can lower their tuition bill.

  9. Allan Hancock College
    Location

    Santa Maria, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    AHC's licensed vocational nursing program prepares 96% of learners to pass the NCLEX-PN on the first try. In the 12-month program, students build upon what they learned in their certified nursing assistant (CNA) program. Clinical experiences occur at different locations in and around AHC's Santa Maria campus.

    Students nearing graduation can visit AHC's Career Center (CC) to receive advice and resources concerning resume preparation, career assessments, and potential careers. Learners without the financial resources to buy professional clothes can access CC's Career Closet, an extensive collection of free clothing that helps job-seekers make a positive impression during interviews.

    In addition to a CNA certificate, applicants must complete prerequisites in English, mathematics, psychology, and biology with a minimum C grade. California residents pay the lowest per-credit tuition rate. AHC's financial aid department posts the latest private scholarship opportunities online.

  10. Gavilan College
    Location

    Gilroy, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Gavilan's licensed vocational nursing (LVN) program uses a 37.5-credit curriculum that students can complete in three semesters. Learners take courses in a set sequence. The program does not allow certificate-seekers to choose electives or customize their academic experience in any way. Students progress throughout the program as long as they earn a minimum C grade in each course.

    Gavilan's Gilroy campus hosts the college's Career/Transfer Center (CTC), a resource that provides students and alumni with student success workshops, career fairs, and on-campus employment opportunities. CTC recommends that new learners create an account on Eureka to take self-assessments and learn more about transferring to an LVN-to-RN program.

    Admission requirements include multiple prerequisites in human development, biology, psychology, and English. Gavilan's scholarships website features institutional aid, and students with financial need can also apply for federal grants and loans.

Career and Salary Outlook for Nursing



The BLS compiles salary and growth data on nearly all professions in the United States. The BLS projects jobs for LVNs to grow 9% between 2019 and 2029, which is nearly double the median projected growth rate for all careers. This projection indicates that graduates in the next few years should enter a strong job market.

The following table features the salary range for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. Many factors influence salary, such as geographical location, professional experience, and employer. Professionals who work in a large city earn more than those in suburban and rural areas. However, suburban and rural areas’ lower cost of living may result in a better quality of life. LVNs can learn more about these and other factors by clicking on the link below.

Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
$34,560 $47,480 $63,360

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Nursing Programs



The best licensed vocational nursing programs in California possess regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The U.S. Department of Education chartered the WASC to evaluate the state’s postsecondary institutions to ensure that they meet specific standards. Programs that meet these standards receive regional accreditation.

On-campus programs may offer some online coursework. If so, check whether the school earned national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC accreditation signifies that the school’s online programs uphold students to the same high academic requirements as its on-campus programs.

LVN programs in California may possess programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Both organizations specialize in nursing education and grant accreditation to top programs.

Nursing Licensing in California

Just like RNs, LVNs need a state-issued license to practice in California. The best LVN programs in California help students meet the requirements set by the state’s board. In California, the Board of Vocational Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT) enforces licensure requirements.

The BVNPT offers multiple licensure pathways, and candidates in an approved degree or certificate program complete specific steps. In addition to earning a degree or certificate, candidates must pass the NCLEX-PN examination. Other steps include submitting to a criminal background check and paying a fee. The BVNPT takes approximately 4-6 weeks to process an application.

LVNs and LPNs who possess a license in another state can practice in California if they meet certain requirements. Application materials include proof of passing the NCLEX or SBTPE, a photograph, and two fingerprint cards. Additionally, the BVNPT advises that California LVNs who want to practice across state lines should refer to the Directory of State Boards of Nursing to learn more about reciprocity agreements.

Aspiring California LVNs can improve their employability and salary potential by supplementing their license with a certification, such as IV therapy or wound care. Private organizations, not state governments, issue certifications to qualified individuals. Like with a license, certifications require renewal.

Courses in a Nursing Program



Courses vary in LVN programs in California. However, all courses emphasize the knowledge and skills learners need to work in clinics, long-term care facilities, or other health centers. Coursework can emphasize surgical, maternity, and pediatric nursing, and many programs require labs so that students can apply new skills in a real-world setting.

See below for five common courses in some of the best LVN programs in California. Keep in mind that even if two schools offer courses with similar or identical titles, graduation requirements likely vary. Please contact a school to learn more about its LVN program’s academic experience.

General Nutrition
Students training to work as LVNs in California take this course to learn how foods’ different components impact metabolism and overall health. Course topics also include how nutritional imbalances can lead to medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes. The course does not require any prerequisites or corequisites.
General Psychology
This course covers the field’s history and subfields. Coursework includes studying social psychology, research methodology, and psychotherapy. Students use what they learn in this course in a more advanced psychology course or electives in the social sciences. General psychology also helps graduates on the job, as they can work with people from different backgrounds more effectively.
Vocational Nursing Lab
LVN programs in California require multiple labs so that students can meet state licensure requirements. These labs also allow students to apply new knowledge and skills in a typical work environment. Labs require working in one or more clinical settings under an LVN’s guidance and supervision. Additionally, students interact with patients and receive feedback from professors and supervisors.
Introduction to Pharmacology
Pharmacology concerns the drugs physicians prescribe to treat disease. Aspiring LVNs learn how to calculate doses, convert different units and measurements, and read drug orders and labels accurately. LVNs in California must master this course’s topics, as medication mistakes can affect patients negatively.
Maternal-Child-Adult Health
This course prepares students to work with families with newborns or young children. Course topics include typical complications relating to conception, pregnancy, and childbirth, along with how normal development should progress. LVNs use the knowledge and skills this course emphasizes to work with families and recognize potential issues.

Scholarships for Nursing

Although an LVN degree or certificate might cost less than an RN, aspiring LVNs still must make a significant financial investment. Learners can avoid debt by researching and applying for scholarships that specialize in nursing. Please consider the following five examples before performing additional research. Additionally, many schools offer merit-based institutional scholarships to qualified students.

A Nurse I Am Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full- and part-time LVN, LPN, and RN students can apply. The application window opens Feb. 1, and applicants can reside in any state. Scholarship recipients cannot reapply.
Amount: $2,000

Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Daughters of the American Revolution awards this scholarship to three nursing students each year. Application materials include proof of financial need and confirmation of acceptance to or enrollment in a nursing program.
Amount: $2,500

Jane Delano Student Nurse Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Nursing students who volunteer with the American Red Cross can apply for this competitive scholarship. The organization uses a May application deadline, and candidates submit a two-part essay.
Amount: $3,000

Student Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Coursey Enterprises awards this scholarship to LVN and RN students. Application requirements include a 200-word essay on what the candidate hopes to achieve in the nursing profession.
Amount: $250

Vocational Nurse Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development awards this scholarship to students training for an LVN career. Application requirements include taking at least six credits each semester and maintaining a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA.
Amount: Up to $4,000

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