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Online Nursing Programs in California

By Jordan Beliles | Updated 10/25/2022

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. The State of California also offers two alternatives to obtaining a degree in order to become a registered nurse: the Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) 30 Unit option, which is not recognized by most other states, and the Military Corpsmen to RN option through which military personnel can earn an RN license if they have completed RN-level education and have clinical experience.

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Comprehensive List of Online Nursing Schools in California

School Annual Tuition NCLEX Pass Rate Locations
# Azusa Pacific University $40,220 Not Reported Azusa
# California Baptist University $34,882 85.0% Riverside
# California Southern University Not Provided 97.24% Irvine
# California State University - Chico $19,686 97.33% Chico
# California State University - Dominguez Hills $18,826 78.95% Carson
# California State University - Fullerton $18,804 96.55% Fullerton
# California State University - Northridge $18,857 100.0% Northridge
# California State University - Stanislaus $19,422 98.21% Turlock
# California State University-Bakersfield $19,299 97.92% Bakersfield
# California State University-Channel Islands $18,682 98.28% Camarillo
# California State University-Fresno $18,469 100.0% Fresno
# California State University-Sacramento $19,248 97.39% Sacramento
# California State University-San Marcos $19,597 97.66% San Marcos
# Chamberlain College of Nursing $19,638 88.32% Multiple Locations
# Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online $21,934 Not Reported Multiple Locations
# Loma Linda University $30,380 91.56% Loma Linda
# Mount Saint Mary's University - CA $42,792 64.04% Los Angeles
# National University $13,320 88.85% La Jolla
# Pacific College $26,900 95.18% Costa Mesa
# Pacific College of Oriental Medicine $8,699 Not Reported Multiple Locations
# Pima Medical Institute $11,506 76.83% Multiple Locations
# Point Loma Nazarene University $36,950 82.5% San Diego
# Samuel Merritt University $51,885 86.42% Oakland
# San Diego State University $19,390 97.39% San Diego
# San Jose State University $19,732 86.79% San Jose
# Simpson University $31,910 Not Reported Redding
# Sonoma State University $19,760 Not Reported Rohnert Park
# Stanbridge University $32,173 98.72% Alhambra (and 2 others)
# Touro University California $30,540 Not Reported Vallejo
# United States University $6,480 68.42% National City
# Unitek College $35,284 89.57% Fremont
# University of Antelope Valley $11,100 Not Reported Lancaster
# University of California-Irvine $43,481 Not Reported Irvine
# University of California-San Diego $44,169 Not Reported La Jolla
# University of Massachusetts Global $12,440 Not Reported Multiple Locations
# University of Phoenix $9,552 90.0% Nationwide
# University of San Francisco $50,282 89.86% San Francisco
# University of Southern California $58,195 Not Reported Los Angeles
# Vanguard University $35,100 Not Reported Costa Mesa
# West Coast University $27,488 90.55% Multiple Locations
# World Mission University $6,440 Not Reported Los Angeles

Becoming a Nurse in California

As an important liaison between patients and doctors, nurses work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, physician's offices, schools, and even people's private homes. There are many paths to becoming a nurse. For online nursing programs in California there are several types of nurses you can aim for, including a certified nursing assistant (CNA), licensed vocational nurse (LVN), registered nurse (RN), and advanced practice nurse (APN).

With almost half a million registered nurses currently licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing, this state leads the country in individuals holding an active nursing license.

Salary might be an important consideration before choosing to attend a California online nursing program. In fact, California leads as the top-paying state in this field, with RNs earning an average mean salary of $124,000, while LPNs earn an average of $65,140.

OnlineU's list of the best online nursing programs in California includes all the information needed for student's to pursue a professional career in the field of nursing.

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

Licensure for Nursing Programs

It can be difficult to navigate the many steps to become a nurse in California. On top of applying to college and searching for financial aid in the form of scholarships and student loans, students have a lot more to consider.

When it comes to online schools — especially accredited online nursing schools in California — it's important to identify a specific career path before applying. This is because there are different requirements based on each individual position and different programs best suited for different roles. This includes online pre-licensure nursing programs in California and online registered nurse programs California. The positions with more complex responsibilities will require a higher level of education and work experience in addition to the state's certifications. Below is a breakdown of California's requirements as they relate to the different levels of nursing.

How To Get CNA Certification in California

A CNA works under the supervision of an RN or LPN to assist patients with daily activities or other health needs. Commonly referred to as a nursing assistant, CNAs perform a wide range of duties, such as bathing patients, turning or repositioning patients, preparing rooms for admission, and much more.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) oversees the rules and regulations regarding CNA certifications. To obtain a California CNA certificate, applicants must first submit an application form for enrollment in an approved CDPH training program. With their application, they also need to submit a copy of the Request for Live Scan Service form (for fingerprinting and background checking) to the CDPH.

The training program consists of at least 60 hours of classroom instruction and 100 hours of supervised training. Students can complete it at a local Red Cross or other approved location. The minimum required age is 16.

Afterward, you must pass an examination to test your knowledge and skills of basic patient care services. This CNA certification exam is known as the 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. Individuals must complete 48 hours of In-Service Training/Continuing Education Units (CEUs) within the two-year certification period to renew their certificate. They must complete a minimum of 12 hours — out of the 48 hours — each year of the two-year certification period. They may only obtain a maximum of 24 hours 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). 

LVNs are overseen by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT). An LVN is involved in providing basic patient care — such as dressing, bathing, and feeding — as well as performing other duties, from taking and recording vital signs to administering certain medications. They can also perform more complex duties under the supervision of an RN or physician. 

The process of getting a California LVN license begins by completing an accredited vocational nursing certificate program. This program typically takes 12-14 months to complete (when attending full-time), and it's offered at many community colleges. In addition to taking courses in biology, pharmacology, and nursing, students will also receive hands-on experience in a clinical setting.

Once students graduate from their vocational nursing program that has been approved by the state, they will receive their certificate in practical nursing. According to the requirements laid out by the BVNPT in California, the applicants must meet the following in order to obtain a license: 

  • Be at least 17 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or its equivalent
  • Complete and sign the "Application for Vocational Nurse Licensure" form
  • Complete and sign the "Record of Conviction" form
  • Complete the required fingerprint background check
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for practical, or vocational, nursing or the National League for Nursing Test Pool Practical Nursing Examination (NLN)

LPN License Renewal

It takes approximately four to six weeks to process an LPN license. 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

An RN provides a wide range of patient services, from hands-on critical care to educating patients on the management of their condition and providing emotional support. 

Being licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is a requirement to practice as an RN in the state.

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.

According to the BRN, these are the steps for receiving a California nursing license:


Apply online or obtain an application packet and detailed instructions from the BRN online 


Forward school transcripts to the BRN


Complete a fingerprint background check


Take and pass the NCLEX

Applications are processed in order of date received. The average processing time to receive a permanent license is 10-12 weeks. Applying for an interim permit is possible for those who wish to work while awaiting the results of their examination. An interim permit will be issued within 24-48 hours after an individual's exam application has been approved.

RN License Renewal

An RN license is valid for two years. To renew a license, an individual must complete 30 hours of continuing education through a continuing education provider recognized by the BRN.

How To Get an APN License in California

As the title implies, an APN is an RN who has completed advanced clinical and educational requirements. Individuals may also choose to specialize in a certain area of medicine. The state of California recognizes six different classifications of an APN: (1) nurse practitioner, (2) certified nurse-midwife, (3) clinical nurse specialist, (4) psychiatric/mental health nurse, (5) public health nurse, and (6) certified registered nurse anesthetist.

APNs serve many roles in a healthcare setting and work closely with physicians to order diagnostic tests, determine certain types of treatment plans, prescribe medication, provide patient education, and manage preventive care. Training can be achieved, in part, through any number of accredited online nursing programs in California.

The BRN certifies APNs. According to the BRN, to receive a California APN license, an individual must also be licensed as an RN. The first step is earning a masters degree (at minimum) in an APN specialty from an accredited school that's approved by the BRN.

Individuals should also earn national certification in one of the six different classifications of APN, which is listed above. 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 for their specific field. There are different certification application packets for each specialty. Application forms are available for download from the BRN website. 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, healthcare management, and medical assistant.

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