Vocational Nursing Schools in California with Program Options

There are more than 100 schools in California that have vocational nursing programs. Read an overview of 10 of the largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Essential Information

Programs for LVNs - also known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) - include classroom coursework, lab studies and clinical education, and many programs require a total of three semesters of study. They may culminate in an undergraduate certificate. One school in California also offers an associate's degree in vocational nursing.

Students in vocational nursing programs generally have to meet specific admission requirements; some requirements need to be met prior to admission and some prior to starting clinical rotations. Although schools may vary, typical requirements include a high school diploma, assessment test, completion of prerequisite courses, physical examination, drug screening and criminal background check clearance. Candidates may also be required to show proof of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification, current immunizations (including Hepatitis B), and health/liability insurance.


Chaffey College

The vocational nursing program at Chaffey College in Cucamonga is offered in the fall and spring semesters. Approved by the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT), this program can be completed in 18 months. Students learn through lectures, lab instruction and clinical experiences in real work environments. Topics of study include maternal and child health nursing, leadership for the vocational nurse, growth and development, fundamentals of nursing and medical/surgical nursing. To be successful in this program, students must complete the required prerequisite courses, as well as the major-related courses.

City College of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco in San Francisco offers a three-semester vocational nursing program that requires completion of 44.5 units. The program is open to high school graduates (or equivalent) who are in good health and meet admission requirements. Each applicant must attend a program orientation and must have completed prerequisite courses in the last five years. Students take courses in child growth and development, nutrition and pharmacology, and learn about various areas of nursing, such as mental health, pediatric, maternity and medical/surgical. Upon completion, students can take the NCLEX.

Long Beach City College

Long Beach City College in Long Beach offers a vocational nursing program that can be completed in less than three semesters. At the start of the week, students choose a patient, a medical diagnosis, medication and research, and focus their studies on that all week, learning through lectures, clinical experiences and laboratory studies. Prior to starting clinicals, students must show proof of criminal background check, health examinations, current immunizations and American Health Association CPR certification. Students who are CNAs (certified nursing assistants) have already met one of the program prerequisites.

Pasadena City College

The three-semester vocational nursing program at Pasadena City College in Pasadena can be completed in one year. The program begins each fall and requires students to take classes over the summer. Core courses cover nursing skills laboratory work, medication administration and patient care. The curriculum includes theory, lab studies and clinical practice. Each theory course is taken concurrently with a seminar and lab course. In addition to completing prerequisite courses, the applicant must hold current American Heart Association CPR certification. The college also has a career ladder option for current LVNs interested in becoming RNs (registered nurses).

Rio Hondo College

The vocational nursing program at Rio Hondo College in Whittier can be completed in two semesters once students have completed prerequisite courses. The program prepares students to work in various medical settings, including medical offices, hospitals and surgical centers. Courses include medical/surgical nursing, cardiovascular and respiratory problems, maternal and pediatric nursing, cancer nursing problems and pharmacology. Students must complete prerequisite courses, satisfy health and immunization requirements and have CPR certification. Criminal background checks and drug screenings are required before the student can start the clinical part of the program. Once the student has completed the program, he or she will receive a career certificate and can take the NCLEX to obtain licensure as a LVN.

Riverside City College

Located in Riverside, this public school offers a full-time vocational nursing certificate program that can be completed in one year. The school admits from 40-60 students into the program each fall semester; individuals not admitted can reapply the following year. Applicants must complete prerequisite courses and meet all admission requirements prior to applying to this program. Prerequisite courses include anatomy and physiology, psychology and nursing. Beginning in 2014, all LVN applicants will be required to be CNAs. When the student has completed all training, he or she receives a certificate and can take the licensing exam. LVNs interested in becoming RNs can pursue associate degrees in nursing by completing certificate requirements, as well as general education and elective courses to meet the 60-unit degree requirement.

Sacramento City College

Sacramento City College in Sacramento has a vocational nursing program that prepares students to take the NCLEX and work as licensed vocational nurses, providing basic nursing care in hospitals, clinics and other medical settings. The career certificate program can be completed more quickly than a degree program, and it includes courses in intravenous therapy, medicine administration and implementing care plans. Students interested in earning the Associate in Science in Vocational Nursing program must also complete general education requirements and sufficient electives to meet a 60-unit credit minimum for the degree. To be eligible for this program, applicants must complete the following prerequisite courses: anatomy and physiology, English, human development: a life span, nutrition and medical language for health-care providers. Nursing courses must be taken in sequence.

Santa Rosa Junior College

Since its start in 1955, the vocational nursing program at Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa has helped more than 1,000 students reach their goals of becoming nurses. The three-semester program provides students with a curriculum of didactic (classroom/lab) and clinical practice. Students can expect to complete around 665 hours of theory and 1,101 hours of clinical/lab classes. Although students attend class during the day (typically four days a week), clinical rotations may be during the day, in the evenings or on weekends. The college also offers a ladder option for LVNs interested in becoming RNs.

Southwestern College

Chula Vista-based Southwestern College offers enrollment into its vocational nursing program every year and a half. Selection into the program is based on completion of requirements. The LVN program takes three semesters to complete. Students must take nursing courses in sequence and complete clinical education. Required general education courses may be taken prior to starting the program or during the first semester. When all program requirements are met, the student can take the NCLEX to earn the LVN credential.

Career Requirements

An individual interested in becoming a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) in California must complete a state-approved training program and pass a licensing examination. To be state-approved, the program must meet the state's curriculum requirements of at least 1,530 hours of training. Of this amount, at least 576 must be theory, and 954 should be clinical practice. Once the student completes an LVN or LPN program, he or she needs to pass the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination for Practical/Vocational Nurses) through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Outlined below are 10 California schools that offer approved vocational nursing programs that prepare students to take the licensing examination.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Vocational Nursing Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)
Chaffey College Two-year, public; large suburb Vocational Nursing Program $1,153 in-state; $6,217 out-of-state*
City College of San Francisco Two-year, public; large city Vocational Nursing Certificate $1,598 in-state; $7,554 out-of-state*
Long Beach City College Two-year, public; large city Vocational Nursing Program $1,182 in-state; $7,398 out-of-state*
Pasadena City College Two-year, public; midsize city Vocational Nursing Certificate $1,152 in-state; $6,180 out-of-state*
Rio Hondo College Two-year, public; large suburb Vocational Nursing Program $1,360 in-state; $6,960 out-of-state*
Riverside City College Two-year, public; large city Vocational Nursing Program $1,426 in-state; $7,366 out-of-state*
Sacramento City College Two-year, public; large city Vocational Nursing Certificate,
Associate in Science in Vocational Nursing
$1,104 in-state; $7,440 out-of-state*
Santa Rosa Junior College Two-year, public; midsize city Vocational Nursing Program $1,318 in-state; $6,637 out-of-state*
Southwestern College Two-year, public; large suburb Vocational Nursing Program $1,336 in-state; $5,452 out-of-state*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

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