The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of job openings for registered nurses will increase by 15% from 2016 to 2026. California is the state with the most RNs, who also earn the highest annual mean wage in the country. This is likely due to its large population and the presence of several very large hospital systems. Many students are enrolling in nursing schools in California to take advantage of this.
Students have several options for pursuing an online nursing degree. Nursing schools in California offer associate degrees in nursing (ADN), bachelor’s of science degrees in nursing (BSN), RN to bachelor’s of science in nursing degrees (RN to BSN), master’s of science in nursing degrees (MSN), and doctor of nursing practice degrees (DNP). Each degree level qualifies graduates for more senior and lucrative careers. For example, a student who has graduated from one of many BSN programs in California and has been granted licensure as an RN can apply for a position as a nurse anesthetist, but not as a nurse practitioner, as this requires an MSN degree.
The following guide helps students learn about factors to consider as they evaluate nursing schools in California.
How to Become a Nurse in California
Graduates from nursing schools in California can pursue a variety of different positions in the field. While different trajectories have much in common regarding subjects covered in their curricula, the paths diverge regarding licensing requirements, procedures, and costs. The type of online nursing degree a student chooses affects the positions they are qualified for upon graduation. Graduates from a BSN program and an ADN program may both meet the requirements to sit for the RN licensing exam, but many employers prefer RNs with bachelor’s degrees.
Choose the Right Path for you
Choose the Right Path for You
Different nursing positions require different types of degrees. All nursing careers require at least an ADN. Students should decide whether they want to become an advanced nurse or eventually teach nursing to college students, as these roles require further education. To become a nurse anesthetist, psychiatric nurse, flight nurse, or neonatal intensive care nurse, a candidate must have earned their BSN. If a nursing student wishes to become a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or clinical nurse specialist, they must earn a master’s in nursing degree. Preference for some higher-level positions may be given to applicants with their doctor of nursing practice degree.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Students considering applying to nursing programs in California need to decide whether they want to earn their degree online or in a traditional, campus-based format. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, and holds a particular appeal for various types of students. When comparing California nursing schools, students should learn about prerequisites each program lists for entry. Some programs require students to complete clinicals, fellowships, or internships as part of their degree completion. Lastly, programs may have different durations. Students should verify they are willing and able to undertake the time commitment necessary to earn their degree.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
There are several licensing exams in the field for graduates who have earned their online nursing degree. Prospective RNs must take the NCLEX-RN, while the NCLEX-PN is required for prospective practical/vocational nurses. The NCLEX-RN takes six hours and costs $200. The NCLEX-PN takes five hours and also costs $200. Students with their online nursing degree who want to become nurse aides must pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program, which costs $100 and is made up of a two-hour written portion — or oral, if reading in English is difficult — and a 25-minute skills demonstration.
An online nursing degree provides candidates with much of the necessary information to pass the licensing exams, but they should still plan on spending 2-3 months reviewing the material and preparing. Once licensed, nurses are not guaranteed jobs but are qualified for employment in a variety of fields.
Nursing Licensure in California
There are multiple paths to licensure for nursing students in California. Graduates from nursing schools in California may become RNs, nurse practitioners, travel nurses, nurse anesthetists, school nurses, psychiatric nurses, nurse educators, flight nurses, clinical nurse specialists, or neonatal intensive care nurses. Each has its own requirements including education and certification or licensing procedures.
In order to become an RN in California, you must pass the National Counseling Licensing Examination (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX-RN is a six-hour computerized exam that assesses a candidate’s ability to apply the knowledge learned in their nursing program to real-life scenarios they might experience once they begin practicing as an entry-level nurse. The NCLEX-RN is meant for those who have completed their ADN, BSN, or Entry Level Master’s Program in Nursing degrees.
Nurses who have earned an online nursing degree from RN programs in California and have been granted their license can practice elsewhere if that state honors California licensure, as this varies by state. Students seeking to learn more about getting their license as an RN in California should visit the California Board of Registered Nursing.
Nursing Licensing Costs in California
App Fee $150
NCLEX Fee $200
Fingerprint Card $49
Interim Permit $50
Total $449 and up
Career Outlook for Nurses in California
Graduates from online nursing programs in California can pursue a variety of careers. Graduates from online RN programs in California can become RNs, while students from online BSN programs in California or online RN to BSN programs in California are eligible for higher-level careers, such as nurse anesthetist or nurse educator. Graduates from online MSN programs in California are qualified for even higher-level jobs, such as nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist.
Being an RN is a popular career in California, which employs more RNs and pays them a higher annual mean wage than any other state. High employment and lucrative salaries are compelling reasons to attend one of many nursing schools in California and pursue a career as an RN.
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Biggest Hospitals in California
California has several large hospitals that employ thousands of medical professionals. Graduates with an online nursing degree may apply to one of these facilities in hopes of securing rewarding and well-compensated employment. Current students in nursing schools in California who are still working to complete their online nursing degree can look to these institutions for fellowship or internship opportunities, which may be required by their programs.
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center: This is a short-term, acute care, nonprofit hospital located in San Francisco. It has been rated the best hospital in California by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. It has 782 beds, 8,000 employees, and was ranked 52nd of the top 500 employers in the U.S. by Forbes.
- Community Regional Medical Center: Located in Fresno, Community Regional Medical Center has a staff of more than 8,400 and 909 licensed beds. It is a teaching hospital and has one of the largest emergency rooms in the state. Employees are eligible to participate immediately upon hire in a tax-sheltered annuity plan and receive medical, dental, vision, and life insurance coverage.
- Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: Cedars-Sinai is a nonprofit teaching hospital located in Los Angeles. It is also a research hospital with more than 1,500 research projects in progress. Employees are eligible for tuition reimbursement for classes designed to enhance their expertise and certifications. Cedars-Sinai serves more than a million patients each year with over 10,000 employees.
Additional Nursing Resources in California
California Nurses Association
CNA is a labor union of RNs, which sponsors legislation to protect caregivers and provide increased funding for education at nursing schools in California. They negotiate agreements on behalf of their members and advocate for safe and fair labor practices for working nurses.
Association of California Nurse Leaders
The ACNL is open to nursing executives or RNs who work in leadership roles. They provide their members with opportunities for continuing education, online resources such as job boards and educational materials. Members are able to network with each other and share best practices and the benefits of their experiences.
American Psychiatric Nurses Association California Chapter
The APNA provides continuing education resources for mental health nursing and advocates in favor of legislation improving standards and educational opportunities for nurses in the mental health field. They also seek to improve mental healthcare delivery across the state.
California Nursing Students' Association
The CNSA works to aid students in the transition from nursing educational programs into the field or career of their choice. They offer scholarships, career advice, and networking opportunities. Members may benefit from CNSA’s advocacy efforts, mentorship, and activism. Students are afforded the opportunity to enhance their education by participating in breakout sessions that supplement the curriculum in nursing programs.
Association of Public Health Nurses
The APHN advocates for the education and professional development of nurses working in the field of public health. They provide continuing education webinars, career counseling, and job listings. APHN prides itself on facilitating networking and the exchange of ideas among public health nurses.
California Emergency Nurses Association
The CENA advocates on issues affecting the practice of emergency nursing care. They provide continuing education opportunities and promote the ENA code of ethics for emergency nurses. The offer scholarships to students pursuing a specialty in emergency nursing and work to generate interest in education in emergency nursing and related fields.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in California