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Licensed Practical Nurse Programs in Southern California

The Southern California area has more than 20 colleges that offer practical nursing programs. Learn about the degree programs, admission info and program requirements for three of these schools to make an informed education decision.

Southern California LPN Schools

Students interested in becoming licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in California must graduate from state-approved nursing programs that meet the state's curriculum requirements of at least 1,530 hours of training and which qualify graduates for the national nursing exam. The Southern California region has quite a few schools that meet the state's requirements. This article profiles three of these, each in a different city within the region, and includes a table providing important statistics about them.

  • Riverside City College features a full-time vocational nursing certificate or associate's degree program.
  • The School of Nursing at Santa Barbara City College offers both a vocational nursing certificate program and a vocational nursing associate degree program.
  • Offering the lowest tuition rate of the three schools, Southwestern College, found in Chula Vista, has a vocational nursing certificate program.

Comparison of Schools

The statistics below for all three schools reveal similarities in type of school, enrollment, and tuition, but other factors, such as different regional settings and community sizes may be an important factor in a student's choice of school.

Riverside City College Santa Barbara City College Southwestern College
School Type Two-year, public Two-year, public Two-year, public
Total Enrollment (2017)* 20,863 16,385 18,413
Campus Setting Large city Small city Large suburb
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2017-2018)* $1,420 in-state
$8,440 out-of-state
$1,374 in-state
$8,326 out-of-state
$1,338 in-state
$6,602 out-of-state
% of First-Year Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016)* 76% 40% 80%
Acceptance Rate (2017)* Open admissions Open admissions Open admissions
Retention Rate (2016-2017)* 71% of full-time, 52% of part-time students 60% of full-time, 51% of part-time students 74% of full-time, 45% of part-time students
Graduation Rate (For students starting in 2014)* 28% (12% transfer-out rate) 35% (15% transfer-out rate) 22% (8% transfer-out rate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

Riverside City College

Riverside City College provides educational options to more than 19,000 students each semester, according to the school's website in 2018. It offers pre-college courses, career-technical courses and transferable courses that can culminate into certificate and degree programs. The nursing programs are available through the School of Nursing.

Vocational Nursing Certificate

Riverside City College's vocational nursing certificate program is a full-time, 12-month course of study, and the curriculum includes lectures, lab studies and clinical education. To be accepted into the program, applicants must be high school graduates or equivalent, at least 17 years old and must have GPAs of 2.0 in any college courses taken. Prerequisite courses include anatomy and physiology and the vocational nursing foundations.

Students need CNA certification to apply to this program. Candidates in this program must have CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for Healthcare Provider certification and pass drug screenings, fingerprinting and criminal background checks. They must also show proof of citizenship and a completed health examination. While some requirements may not need to be completed to be admitted into this program, they must be completed prior to starting clinical experiences.

Students who wish to earn the associate's degree will complete the certificate program, in addition to this school's degree requirements, to earn at least 60 credits.

Santa Barbara City College

Serving the southern part of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) offers career technical and degree programs, including several nursing programs through the School of Nursing. Students entering the nursing programs must attend mandatory orientation sessions.

Vocational Nursing Certificate of Achievement

The vocational nursing program is a 3-semester program that requires completion of prerequisites courses and nursing courses. To be eligible for this program, applicants must be high school graduates or at least 18 years old and must submit official transcripts. Assessment tests must show eligibility to take required math and English courses. Prerequisite courses in human anatomy and human physiology (or equivalent) must have been completed within the last five years. Proof of certified nurse aide (CNA) certification and malpractice insurance is required. Once applicants are accepted into the program, they must provide proof of completed physical examinations, current immunizations and CPR certification. In addition to lecture and lab courses, students must complete clinical experiences.

Associate in Science in Vocational Nursing

Students earn the vocational nursing certificate and then complete 18 credits of general education courses to earn the associate in science degree. Didactic studies are on campus and clinical education is completed at local hospitals over 18 months. Course topics include pharmacology, nursing and allied health math, maternal and child nursing, cardio and respiratory problems, mobility problems and medical-surgical nursing.

Southwestern College

Southwestern College offers academic programs in many areas of study, including certified nursing, operating room nursing and vocational nursing. The School of Technology and Human Services offers various nursing and health-related programs.

Vocational Nursing Certificate

This program is a limited enrollment program; new students are enrolled every year and a half, with 30 applicants admitted. Students complete three semesters, which include classroom assignments and supervised clinical rotations. Nursing courses, which must be taken in sequence, include pharmacology, introduction to vocational nursing, general psychology and nursing care in specialty areas. To enroll in this program, applicants must complete the following prerequisite courses: anatomy and physiology, principles of child development, fundamentals of nutrition, and college-level reading and math. Applicants must also meet the following requirements: pass the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills), hold a high school diploma, complete drug screening and criminal background checks, have current immunizations and CPR certification.

Other School Options

In addition to the licensed practical nurse programs listed above, there are several other schools offering programs throughout Southern California. Pasadena City College and Long Beach City College both offer licensed vocational nursing programs. Bakersfield College has a vocational nursing certificate program for those in the northern part of the region.


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