Degree Required ADN or BSN
ADN or BSN
License Required Registered Nursing License
Registered Nursing License
Fees License: ($300)
Job Outlook 16.7% growth from 2019-2029
16.7% growth from 2019-2029
Registered nurses (RNs) in California can look forward to bright professional futures. California has the highest number of employed RNs and the highest average salaries in the U.S. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the job growth for RNs in the state to reach 7% between 2019-2029, faster than the national average.
However, in order to legally work as an RN in California, you need to earn registered nursing licensure from the state. The licensure process ensures candidates meet the proper education, supervised experience, and examination requirements. This guide clearly outlines the steps needed to earn a California nursing license.
How to Become a Nurse in California
The path to pursuing nursing in California starts with education. Aspiring RNs need to earn an accredited degree to qualify for licensure, as accreditation ensures that academic programs provide students with a quality education. The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) only considers candidates with accredited degrees.
A nursing degree can take anywhere from 2-4 years to complete, possibly longer for part-time students. Upon graduating, candidates must sit for the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX). After passing this exam, candidates can apply for BRN licensure.
Apply to an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) program.
The path to becoming an RN begins with earning a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Although both allow graduates to apply for RN licensure, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) encourages students to earn a BSN, as these graduates enter the workforce better equipped to handle the challenges of nursing.
Pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive RN licensure.
After earning an ADN or BSN, RN candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN, which tests a candidate’s knowledge of nursing. Candidates take the exam on a computer, usually at a testing center. The BRN recommends that test-takers schedule the exam shortly after they graduate, instead of waiting a few months.
Apply for jobs at local hospitals.
When deciding where to apply, nurses should consider their desired role, salary, and benefits. Learn more about hospitals in California.
Advance your career with a graduate degree or certification.
The best way to advance a nursing career professionally or financially is by earning an advanced degree or becoming certified in a specialty. Either of these options will provide additional opportunities within the nursing field.
Maintain and renew licensure and certifications.
In order to maintain an active license in California, nurses must complete 30 hours of continuing education, which is required starting in their third year of nursing. Nurses must also pass a full background check; details regarding the process can be found on the BRN website.
The Complete Guide to How to Become a Registered Nurse
Featured Online RN to BSN Programs
California Board of Nursing
The BRN is the state body that licenses and regulates nurses. It is their responsibility to protect the health and safety of patients by ensuring the quality of the state's nurses. The board also has the authority to investigate any grievances and take disciplinary action if appropriate.
Furthermore, the BRN aids nurses who have suffered due to substance abuse or mental illness by providing support. The BRN is also responsible for providing appropriate resources for new and out-of-state nurses to become licensed within California through examination or endorsement. The board provides a pathway for nurses to renew their license so they can continue to practice in the state.
How to Get Your Nursing License in California
There are two licensing options for nurses who wish to work in California: licensure by examination and licensure by endorsement. Licensure by examination requires nursing applicants to pass the NCLEX-RN. Those who want to practice in California need to pass the exam, even if they have been employed in other states, as not all states require nurses to take the exam. In order to earn licensure by endorsement, applicants must have an active license from another state and pass the NCLEX-RN.
California also requires educational prerequisites including six semester or nine quarter hours of courses that develop communication skills (e.g., oral, written, and/or group). Applicants must also have at least 16 semester or 24 quarter hours related to the natural sciences (e.g., anatomy, physiology, microbiology, behavioral sciences, and/or social sciences).
Licensure for New Nurses
New nurses in California must fulfill various eligibility requirements prior to applying for a license. Once they are eligible, applicants can complete the steps needed to become a licensed nurse in California.
RN Licensure Eligibility Requirements
Prior to applying for a license to practice in the state, the BRN requires prospective nurses to meet several eligibility requirements:
- Associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in nursing from an accredited academic institution
- Academic prerequisites:
- Communication: oral, written, and/or group communication
- Natural Sciences: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, behavioral sciences, and/or social sciences
- Pass the NCLEX-RN ($300 fee for CA graduates; $350 for non-CA graduates; $750 for international graduates)
- Complete a fingerprint background check ($49)
- Apply for an interim permit to work in a supervised setting while awaiting NCLEX-RN results (application fee: $100); this is optional
Steps to Apply for an RN License
Once a nurse meets the eligibility requirements as laid out by the BRN, the next step would be to apply for an RN license:
- Complete the application for licensure by exam.
- Provide SSN, fingerprint card, passport-style photograph, and transcripts.
- If applicable, provide a request for accommodation of disabilities form and documents explaining previous disciplinary actions.
- International applicants need to provide the same materials as U.S. applicants with the inclusion of a license or diploma that allows them to practice nursing in their country.
Initial evaluation of the application can take 10-12 weeks; NCLEX-RN results take 2-3 weeks.
- Licensure by Exam: Online Application
- NCLEX-RN Information: Offers resources in connection to the NCLEX exam
- "NCLEX Using CAT" Video: Provides explanation of changes with regard to the NCLEX exam
- Pearson VUE: Information regarding the administration of the NCLEX exam
Licensure for Nurses From a Different State
In order to qualify for licensure by endorsement, the applicant must hold an active license from another state and meet certain academic prerequisites required by the BRN. Once those requirements are met, applicants can then apply for their California license.
Steps to Apply for an RN License
Listed below are the various steps applicants need to follow in order to earn their license by endorsement to practice in California.
- Complete the application for licensure by endorsement (application fee: $350).
- Provide SSN, fingerprint card, 2" x 2" passport-type photograph, and transcripts.
- Complete the verification of license form (expires 90 days from request date).
- Provide documents explaining previous disciplinary actions if applicable.
- Request temporary license to practice while awaiting approval of permanent license (optional).
Initial evaluation must be completed within 90 days of receiving the application
- Licensure by Endorsement: Online Application
Top Nursing Programs in California
How to Renew Your Nursing License in California
Nurses are required to renew their license and complete additional requirements to continue practicing every two years; upon renewal, applicants pay a $10 fee that goes toward the RN Education Fund. Licenses can be renewed electronically through BreEZe Online Services.
- Continuing Education: In California, RNs are required to complete at least 30 hours of continuing education prior to each renewal except within their first two licensed years. The educational provider must be approved by the BRN.
- Fingerprints: Renewal applicants must submit a full set of fingerprints to the DOJ and FBI.
- Discipline/Convictions: At the time of renewal, the applicant must disclose any discipline issues or if they have been convicted of a crime.
The cost of a license renewal varies depending upon nursing specializations. To renew as an RN, the fee is $190. However, fees for specializations can cost upwards of $750 if paid on time, whereas delinquent fees can range from $187-$1,125.
Salary and Employment Outlook for Nurses in California
According to BLS data, California employs over 300,000 registered nurses, making it the state with the highest employment of RNs in the country. Additionally, California ranks as the top-paying state for registered nurses. BLS data shows that RNs in the state make an annual mean wage of $120,560 — much higher than the national mean wage of $80,010.
In fact, the top 10 highest-paying metro areas for RNs in the U.S. are located in California. San Jose ranked as the best paying city with registered nurses earning a mean pay of about $155,980.
|Metropolitan Area||Mean Annual Salary|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara||$155,980|
Best Hospitals to Work as Nurse in California
The following hospitals come from U.S. News & World Report's list of the best hospitals in California. When calculating these rankings, the publication considers factors including patient outcomes, patient experience, expert opinions, and other care-related indicators like nurse staffing and patient volume.
Cedars-Sinai Medical CenterNearly 2,400 nurses work at the Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The hospital has 886 hospital beds and admits over 50,000 patients per year. Cedars-Sinai treats patients for diseases and illnesses within departments such as oncology, women's health, pediatrics, and orthopaedics.
University of California, San Francisco Medical CenterThe 2,500 nurses who work at UCSF Health help the 30,000 patients admitted to the hospital and 750,000 patients who visit each year. In fact, UCSF Health holds the well-respected Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The medical center operates from several specialty clinics and two children's hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland.
Scripps La Jolla HospitalsWith locations in San Diego and La Jolla, this hospital network operates as a $2.9 billion nonprofit medical center. Scripps offers services at 60 medical and surgical specialties, four emergency rooms, three urgent care centers, and a same-day walk-in express center. About 15,000 employees work at these many locations.
University of California Davis Medical CenterLocated in Sacramento, the UC Davis Medical Center serves 33 counties and six million residents in the state. This teaching hospital sees one million visits and 30,000 patient admissions each year. About 1,800 nurses and nurse practitioners work at UC Davis Health. According to the medical center's 2019 nurse report, about 9% of employed nurses held an ADN, 71% a BSN, and 18% an MSN. Additionally, about 57% of nurses hold a specialty certification.
MemorialCare Long Beach Medical CenterWith locations in Long Beach, Laguna Hills, and Fountain Valley, MemorialCare offers services in joint replacement, weight loss surgery, imaging and radiology. About 4,000 RNs work at this medical center, and about half of them hold BSNs.
Resources for Nurses in California
California Nurses Association (CNA)As the largest professional association of registered nurses, the CNA advocates for increased health care rights and works toward negotiating collective bargaining agreements for RNs.
United Nurses Association of California (UNAC)The UNAC fights for universal health coverage in order to provide immediate care for those who are suffering yet cannot afford medical care. Members of the UNAC volunteer their time to aid those who are susceptible to diseases in an attempt to improve community health outside of hospitals.
California Nursing Students' Association (CNSA)As a part of the National Student Nursing Association, the CNSA provides assistance to those who are searching for additional educational opportunities in order to develop their professional growth in various healthcare settings. The CNSA provides membership meetings and an annual convention in order to help those looking for additional professional growth.
Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL)The ACNL comprises leaders within the nursing community such as managers, directors, chief officers, and educators. The association provides continuing educational development as well as scholarship opportunities through their philanthropic program Circles of Giving.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a nurse in California?
The length of time it takes to become a licensed nurse in California can vary depending on where an individual is in the process. Initially, it takes 2-3 years to earn an associate degree and 4 years to earn a bachelor's degree. For those who have earned their bachelor's and want to complete a master's program, it takes an additional 1-2 years. After earning a degree and becoming eligible to apply for a license in California, it typically takes 10-12 weeks to process the application.
What is the fastest way to become a nurse in California?
Those interested in becoming a nurse in California in the shortest amount of time should pursue an associate degree in nursing, as this can be completed within a two-year timeframe. Upon completion of the program, passing the NCLEX-RN and applying for a license can take an additional 10-12 weeks.
Can a nurse live comfortably in California?
Despite the cost of living in California being rather high, the BLS identifies the mean wage for an RN in the state to be approximately $120,560. However, in choosing to live away from pricier areas such as San Francisco or Los Angeles, nurses can live comfortably in a state that offers one of the highest average salaries within the profession.
Are nurses in demand in California?
According to Projections Central, which analyzes state employment projections, registered nursing positions in California are predicted to increase by 16.7% between 2019-2029. This projected demand places California as one of the top states for nursing employment.
Top Nursing Programs in California
California Nursing Schools and Programs Best Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in California Top California RN-to-MSN Programs Best California DNP Programs Best San Diego Registered Nurse RN Options Best LVN to BSN Programs in California
What is the fastest way to become a nurse in California? ›
Those interested in becoming a nurse in California in the shortest amount of time should pursue an associate degree in nursing, as this can be completed within a two-year timeframe. Upon completion of the program, passing the NCLEX-RN and applying for a license can take an additional 10-12 weeks.What are the requirements to become a nurse in California? ›
If you are looking to become a nurse in California, you can begin by earning an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in practical nursing. With either of these credentials, you can pass the NCLEX-PN exam, earn your license, and work as a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse.What is the fastest program to become an RN? ›
An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) are the two most common fast track options. With each of these ways to receive nursing instruction, they require passing the NCLEX licensure examination.Can you become a nurse online in California? ›
California offers several accredited online nursing programs. California State University - Dominguez Hills offers both an online RN to BSN and an online MSN program and is one of the most affordable colleges for nursing.How long does Cali RN license take? ›
How Long Does it Take to Get? The California Board of Registered Nursing cites a 10-12 week average turnaround for permanent nursing licenses, or 8-10 weeks for temporary licenses, once all documentation is received.What is the easiest nurse to become? ›
The easiest role you can have as a nurse is that of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). LPNs and LVNs work under registered nurses (RNs), providing basic nursing care.How much are RN paid in California? ›
RNs in California make the top salaries in the nation, earning 49.8% higher than the national average. California RNs earn an average yearly salary of $124,000 and an average hourly pay rate close to $60.What is a nurse salary in California? ›
California is one of the highest paying states for registered nurses. The registered nurse salary in California is $113.240 per year. This means that nurses in California earn an average of $54.44 per hour.What disqualifies you from being a nurse in California? ›
Additionally, the Board of Nursing may disqualify people from becoming nurses if they have a criminal conviction from any time for either: a crime for which the applicant has to register as a Tier II or Tier III sex offender, or. a serious felony, as defined in Section 1192.7 of the Penal Code.What state is the easiest to become a nurse? ›
- Maine: 1-2 weeks.
- Maryland: 2-3 days.
- Missouri: 2 weeks.
- Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
- North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
- North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
- Texas: 2 weeks.
- Vermont: 3-5 business days.
What is the shortest program to become a nurse? ›
If you are aiming towards becoming a registered nurse, an associate degree in nursing (ADN) is one of the fastest paths to get there. This undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement for becoming a registered nurse and usually takes two to three years depending on the credits.Can you take the Nclex without going to nursing school in California? ›
Requirements for Taking the NCLEX
As mentioned, prospective candidates can sit for this exam with either an ADN or BSN. To become a practical or vocational nurse, nursing school or an undergraduate degree is not required.
What is the easiest nursing school to get into in California? California State University—Bakersfield has an acceptance rate of 78%, which is higher than other schools in the state.Are online nursing schools legit? ›
The short answer is an emphatic yes! It is possible to get a nursing degree online. You can earn a variety of nursing degrees online from Ohio State, ranging from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to a Doctor of Nursing Practice.How many times can you take the NCLEX in California? ›
California: Every 45 days as many times as you want. Florida: 3 attempts then you have to go back to school. Pennsylvania: Unlimited attempts.How many hours do registered nurses work in California? ›
California Nurse Work Schedules
Therefore, RNs usually have to work some nights, weekends, and holidays. Typical shifts are 12 hours long and nurses work 3 - 4 days a week. For those seeking 9-to-5 type hours, RNs who work for medical offices, schools, and daytime clinics offer more traditional work hours.
- School Nurse. ...
- Labor and Delivery Nurse. ...
- Case Management Nurse. ...
- Nurse Educator. ...
- Parish Nurse. ...
- Travel Nurse.
The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients. Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing.What type of nurse is most needed? ›
Registered nurse (RN)
BSN-prepared nurses are the most sought-after RNs in the job market and can advance to leadership and management roles more quickly than the ASN nurse.
San Jose, CA and the surrounding area has average RN salaries of $155,230. This makes San Jose the highest-paying city for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the BLS).
What state has highest RN salary? ›
California tops our list of the highest-paying states, where registered nurses make $124,000 per year on average. Following it is Hawaii, at $106,530, and Oregon at $98,6300.What type of nurses get paid the most in California? ›
General Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioner salaries in the top 10th percentile can reach as high as $163,000. Some of the highest paying cities for Nurse Practitioners include: San Jose, CA (Average Salary: $197,870) Napa, CA (Average Salary: $184,700)
How much does a Registered Nurse (RN), Level 1 make in California? The average Registered Nurse (RN), Level 1 salary in California is $74,390 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $66,730 and $85,040.Why do California nurses make so much? ›
High demand, the high cost of living and union power underlie the higher salaries of California's registered nurses. Burger said the nurse's union has also played a role in assuring that nurses have access to pension plans and that they retire with health benefits.How much do beginning nurses make in California? ›
How much does a New Graduate Registered Nurse make in California? The average New Graduate Registered Nurse salary in California is $74,747 as of October 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $67,054 and $85,451.What is not allowed in nursing? ›
Nurses cannot make prescriptions of medications. Nurses cannot conduct surgeries and other invasive procedures. Nurses cannot certify death legally. Nurses cannot provide medical diagnosis.What can stop you from being a nurse? ›
- Major misdemeanor conviction for crimes involving weapons, violence, embezzlement, dishonesty, misappropriation, fraud or sex crimes.
- Any felony conviction.
- More than one drunk driving or related conviction in the past three years.
- Registered sex offender.
- Sex offender match.
These states have various requirements and are neither a compact nor a walkthrough state: Alabama. Alaska. California.How hard is the RN exam? ›
NCLEX Pass Rates
The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.
#1: Duke University
The National League for Nursing has designated the Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) a Center of Excellence on six separate occasions. The school consistently ranks among the best in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's top MSN and DNP programs.
Is Passing nursing school Hard? ›
Nursing requires more dedication than many other careers. However, it's one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. Nursing school is notoriously difficult—and it's not for everyone. Graduate school is challenging as well.Which state is the hardest to become a nurse? ›
5 States that Take Longest to Get an RN License In
- Ohio (4-6 months) ...
- 2. California (3-6 months) ...
- Maryland (10 weeks) ...
- Maine (8-10 weeks) ...
- Alaska (8 weeks)
- Minnesota (Quality of life ranking #2, Hospital rating by nurses 86%)
- Wisconsin (Quality of life ranking #3, Hospital rating by nurses 88%)
- Oregon (Quality of life ranking #18, Hospital rating by nurses inconclusive)
California has the worst nursing shortage in the United States. It's predicted that by 2030, California will be in need of over 44,000 nurses. Other states with major hospital staff shortages include New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Arizona.How long does it take to become a nurse in California? ›
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Takes 4 years. Also referred to as Baccalaureate degree. Offered at many California State Universities and some private colleges. Prepares you to provide registered nursing care in numerous settings and to move to administrative and leadership positions.
The One Year Higher Certificate in Nursing (R169) is a one year programme. The objective of this programme is to prepare a nurse practitioner who will be able to demonstrate basic nursing care in all Health Care settings.How much does nursing school cost in California? ›
|School Name||NCLEX Pass Rate||Total Annual Cost|
|Victor Valley College||95%||$5,549|
|Golden West College||92%||$5,577|
|San Joaquin Delta College||92%||$5,517|
After you graduate and find out you passed NCLEX-RN, you are free to begin work as a registered nurse. While you can apply for jobs and go to work without any other training, some new nurses enjoy the benefits of a Nurse Residency Program.Is nursing school harder than NCLEX? ›
Unlike nursing school exams, which test for knowledge, the NCLEX tests your ability to apply and analyze situations using the nursing knowledge you gained in school. Logic and critical thinking, rather than rote memorization, are emphasized in this test—making it much more difficult and comprehensive.What state is the easiest to take NCLEX? ›
- #1 Connecticut. ...
- #2 Montana. ...
- #3 New York. ...
- #4 Northern Mariana Islands. ...
- #5 South Dakota.
Is 48 too old to become a nurse? ›
Even if you have the disposition and drive to enter a new career in the nursing field, you might be asking yourself, “Am I too old to become a nurse?” The answer to this question is no. Nurses come from all walks of life and all age groups.What is the hardest nursing prerequisite? ›
Here are the prerequisite courses in which students tend to struggle:
- Anatomy and Physiology (1 & 2)
- Probability and Statistics.
- Organic (or regular) Chemistry.
To obtain a California RN license, an applicant must earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or an Entry-Level Master's in Nursing (ELM) from one of the many RN online programs in California. Applications are processed in order of date received.Is nursing school online hard? ›
Proper time management is important in all areas of life but when it comes to online nursing school – especially online or hybrid nursing programs – poor time management (or lack thereof) can make nursing school a lot more difficult than it already is.How do I get into nursing without qualifications? ›
If you have GCSEs at grade C or above, you can take the Access to HE Diploma route, which will allow you to get into university without A Levels. The Access to HE Diploma (nursing) includes; Three modules on Study Skills. 16 modules on notions of biology, physiology, anatomy, social care and health.What is the shortest nursing program? ›
A CNA program is a fast-paced program that only takes a couple of months to fully complete. After graduation, students can enter the field right away, assisting nurses with patient work in a wide variety of settings.How long does it take to become a school nurse in California? ›
California: Must possess a current credential in school nursing, which requires 26 credits beyond the bachelor's degree in nursing. New Mexico: School nurses must possess an RN license and a bachelor's degree, whereas a school nurse supervisor must also possess a master's degree.Where is it easiest to become a nurse? ›
- Maine: 1-2 weeks.
- Maryland: 2-3 days.
- Missouri: 2 weeks.
- Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
- North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
- North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
- Texas: 2 weeks.
- Vermont: 3-5 business days.
|School||# of Nursing Students||BSN NCLEX 1st Time Pass Rate|
|Herzing University – Madison||248||53%|
|The University of Texas at El Paso||445||98%|
From January 2021, some universities are offering adult nursing courses where the theoretical content is mainly delivered online, making it easier to fit studies around home life. You can search for the courses, sometimes called 'blended' courses on our course finder.
Do you have to be an RN to be a school nurse in California? ›
Requirements for the Clear Credential
Verify possession of a valid Registered Nurse License issued by the State of California. Complete two years of successful experience as a school nurse (If the Preliminary School Nurse Credential was issued on or before July 1, 1981, this experience is not required).
Nursing requires more dedication than many other careers. However, it's one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. Nursing school is notoriously difficult—and it's not for everyone. Graduate school is challenging as well.Does a school nurse have to be an RN? ›
You can apply to become a school nurse if you're a registered nurse or midwife. Any branch of nursing is acceptable. You'll usually complete a course in Specialist Community Public Health Nursing - School Nursing, approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council. Courses can last between 1 and 2 years.