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2023 Best Online Nursing Programs in California

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 10/6/2023

Our list of the best online nursing programs in California for 2023 will help you find and compare the top nursing degrees which also meet the growing demand for flexible and convenient education. Students who plan to practice nursing in-state can benefit by studying at a California-based school, as two alternatives to obtaining a degree are also often available: the Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) option and the Military Corpsmen to RN option. If tuition costs are a concern, you can review the most affordable nursing degrees for additional options.

The list for 2023 includes California colleges that offer online nursing programs and have NCLEX data available, so you can determine which programs offer the best pass rates.

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Online Nursing Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Online Nursing Programs in California

School NCLEX Pass Rate Online Enrollment
Holy Names University 100.0% N/A
California State University - Bakersfield 98.08% 6,038
California State University - Stanislaus 97.83% 4,673
California State University - Northridge 97.44% 28,617
California State University - Fullerton 96.97% 6,814
California State University - San Marcos 96.13% 5,539
California State University - Chico 96.1% 3,334
California State University-Channel Islands 91.14% 1,245
Stanbridge University 95.95% 13
Simpson University 92.31% 129
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Becoming a Nurse in California

There are many types of nurse programs offered online, but how certifications and degrees are recognized can vary by state. In California, you can pursue a career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed vocational nurse (LVN), registered nurse (RN), or advanced practice nurse (APN).

The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) approves all pre-licensure RN programs. They may also approve RN and APN programs, verifying that such programs conform to the board's standard. APN program specializations recognized by the BRN include nurse-midwifery and nurse anesthesia.

Nursing is a popular career choice in California. There are more than half a million registered nurses currently licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing, more than any other state in the country. California also leads the way in nursing wages, with RNs earning an average mean salary of $133,340 and LVNs earning an average of $69,930.

Continue reading to find out what's required for each type of California nursing license.

To learn about online nursing programs and requirements in other states, explore our list of accredited nursing degrees by state below:

Nursing Degrees by State

How To Get CNA Certification in California

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) oversees CNA certifications in California. To obtain a certificate, applicants must submit an application for enrollment in an approved CDPH training program, along with a copy of the Request for Live Scan Service form (for fingerprinting and background checking), to the CDPH. 

Approved training programs consist of 60 or more hours of classroom instruction and 100 hours of supervised training. Training can be completed at an approved school or local Red Cross. Students must be 16 or older.

After completing their program, applicants must demonstrate their skills and knowledge of basic patient care services by passing a Competency Evaluation Examination. Candidates are expected to pass the examination within two years of completing the training program.

CNA Certification Renewal

CNA certification in California is valid for two years. Renewal requires 48 hours of In-Service Training/Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each two-year certification period. CNAs must complete at least 12 hours each year, and up to 24 hours for each renewal period can be completed through a CDPH-approved online computer training program.

How To Get an LPN/LVN License in California

In California, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). 

The Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT) oversees LVNs. Applicants for a California LVN license must first complete an accredited vocational nursing certificate program. These programs can be found at many community colleges and usually take 12-14 months to complete with a full-time schedule. Students take courses in biology, pharmacology, and nursing, and also receive hands-on experience in a clinical setting.

According to BVNPT requirements, students must complete an approved program, fill out an application, provide background check information, and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) or National League for Nursing Test Pool Practical Nursing Examination (NLN) to be eligible for licensure.

LPN License Renewal

LPNs are required to renew their license every two years. They must complete 30 hours of continuing education within the two years prior to their renewal date.

How To Get an RN License in California

California RN licenses are issued by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). To qualify, applicants must first earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or an Entry-Level Master's in Nursing (ELM).

To apply, license applicants must forward their school transcripts to the BRN, submit an application and fingerprint background check, and pass the NCLEX-RN. California-based nursing programs approved by the BRN will automatically submit transcripts to the board when a program is completed.

RN License Renewal

RN licenses are valid for two years. To qualify for license renewal, RNs must complete 30 hours of continuing education through a provider recognized by the BRN.

How To Get an APN License in California

In California, APNs are certified by the BRN. Individuals seeking certification must first be licensed as an RN. The next step is to earn a masters degree (at minimum) in an APN specialty from an accredited, BRN-approved school. Recognized specialties include:

  1. nurse practitioner
  2. certified nurse-midwife
  3. clinical nurse specialist
  4. nurse anesthetist 

Individuals should also earn national certification for their chosen specialty. These independent national certification agencies set their own education, experience, and examination requirements for certification.

To receive an APN certificate from the state of California, individuals must submit an application form for their specialty. All applicants for APN certification must also submit fingerprints (done through LiveScan) for a background check.

APN License Renewal

APNs are not required to do additional continuing education hours beyond the 30 hours required for renewal of their RN license.

Interested in exploring other options outside of nursing? Check out the best online bachelor's degrees in healthcare administration or our list of healthcare management degrees for more options in the field.  

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