The Best LVN to BSN Programs in California

Are you a practicing LVN in California who wants to take the next step in your career? Find out more about the top LVN-to-BSN programs, so you can become an...
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Updated on November 30, 2023
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Are you a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) practicing in California who is ready to become a registered nurse (RN)? An LVN-to-BSN program lets you transfer credits from your LVN program so that you can become a BSN-prepared RN in 2-3 years instead of four.

Find out about the top LVN-to-BSN programs in California, the factors to consider when you choose one, and how you can become an RN.

How to Choose an LVN-to-BSN Program in California

When choosing a LVN-to-BSN program in California, make sure the program has:

  • Accreditation and approval from the California Board of Nursing (BRN)
  • A high NCLEX-RN pass rate
  • Flexible scheduling and enrollment options
  • Admission requirements you can meet
  • Costs you can afford

As a practicing LVN, look at the number of transfer credits the program accepts and the grade requirements. This way, you can decrease the time and money you spend on your program. Many schools require a B or 3.0 GPA in the classes you transfer.

Make sure the NCLEX-RN pass rate and graduation rate are both high. If the graduation rate is high but the pass rate is much lower, this may indicate that the program will not prepare you well to take NCLEX. If the pass rate is higher, but the graduation rate is much lower, this may indicate that many students dropped out because the program was too hard or they did not receive enough support.

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Career Outlook for Nurses in California

California pays RNs the highest median salary in the country – over $51,000 higher than the national median for all RNs. However, California has the second highest cost of living in the country.

RN Employment and Salaries
Location Employment Median Annual Salary
California 325,620 $132,660
United States 3,072,700 $81,220
Source: BLS

Salaries for Nurses in California

California offers nurses the highest salaries, but these metro areas offer higher salaries than the state average. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara offer many employment opportunities and the highest average salaries for RNs. These areas combined employ about 20% of the state’s nurses.

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurses in California
Metropolitan Areas Employment Annual Average Salary
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 41,970 $164,760
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 20,150 $160,020
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 3,790 $158,340
Santa Rosa, CA 3,490 $151,150
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 1,500 $149,750
Source: BLS

How to Become a Registered Nurse in California

To become a registered nurse in California, you’ll complete the same steps as other aspiring nurses across the country:

  1. Earn your BSN from an approved and accredited LVN-to-BSN program
  2. Send your transcripts to the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN)
  3. Complete an application packet
  4. Pay the application fee
  5. Pass the NCLEX-RN
  6. Complete a background check

The BRN recommends sending your application packet 6-8 weeks before graduation and taking the NCLEX-RN soon after graduation for better memory retention.

If you complete your accredited LVN-to-BSN program in California, the school sends your transcripts directly to the BRN. Students who earned their degree somewhere other than California must complete extra steps to get their transcripts to the BRN. Your application fee will also cost $100-$500 less if you graduate from an LVN-to-BSN program in California.

The Best Nursing Schools in California

Graduating from an accredited and approved LVN-to-BSN program is essential for the BRN to issue you an RN license, so this list only includes accredited and approved schools and programs. Learn more about the best LVN-to-BSN programs in California.

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#1 The Best LVN to BSN Programs in California

Azusa Pacific University

  • Azusa, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Azusa Pacific University offers an LVN to BSN program for licensed nurses who want to expand their practical and theoretical knowledge in a Christian setting. This degree requires prerequisite courses, including human anatomy, chemistry, human physiology, and general microbiology. Students also take courses in nursing research and applied pharmacology. Candidates must submit an application, official transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a resume, a writing sample, two letters of recommendation, and a one-page professional goals statement. 

Program Snapshot

  • Cost per Credit: $825 
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120
  • On-Campus Requirement: Yes
  • School Status: Private 
  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 80.16% (2021/2022)
  • Program Accreditation:  Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN)
  • School Accreditation:  WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$40,830
Out-of-state
$40,830
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,571
Out-of-state
$16,571
Retention Rate
76%
Acceptance Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
9,006
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 The Best LVN to BSN Programs in California

National University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

National University's LVN to BSN program provides licensed vocational nurses in California the opportunity to attend classes in four-week spans, allowing for year-round start times and faster completion. Core courses including psychological nursing, community healthcare, and professional issues in nursing to teach students quality of care and intended outcomes. Candidates must submit a school and nursing program application, attend an information session, and complete a proctored essay. 

Program Snapshot

  • Cost per Credit: $370 
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 180 quarter units 
  • On-Campus Requirement: Yes
  • School Status: Private 
  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 79.92% (2021/2022)
  • Program Accreditation:  Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • School Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$13,320
Out-of-state
$13,320
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$15,480
Out-of-state
$15,480
Retention Rate
45%
Acceptance Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
18,070
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#3 The Best LVN to BSN Programs in California

California State University-San Marcos

  • San Marcos, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California State University-San Marcos offers a full-time, fall-start LVN to BSN program. Students with a valid California LVN license can apply to this program, which includes daytime courses and clinical placements within Riverside and San Diego counties. 

Candidates must submit an online application with a $70 fee. They must also demonstrate a minimum overall GPA of 2.0, with at least a 2.75 GPA in pre-nursing core courses, including oral communication, written communication, and critical thinking. 

Program Snapshot

  • Cost: $3,867 per semester 
  • Program Length: Three years 
  • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 56 
  • On-Campus Requirement: Yes
  • School Status: Public 
  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.87% (2021/2022)
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$16,680
Retention Rate
84%
Acceptance Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
16,367
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#4 The Best LVN to BSN Programs in California

California State University-East Bay

  • Hayward, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California State University-East Bay offers a full-time LVN to BSN program with daytime courses that include in-person or hybrid lectures. Clinical experiences take place in person at community hospitals or agencies. Candidates must submit two online applications: one to the university if entering as a transfer student and one to the nursing program. Applicants also need official transcripts, a GPA of at least 3.0, and a personal statement. 

Program Snapshot

  • Cost: $3,227 per semester
  • Program Length: 2.5 years
  • On-Campus Requirement: Yes
  • School Status: Public
  • NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 80.62% (2021/2022)
  • Program Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • School Accreditation:  Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$16,680
Retention Rate
78%
Acceptance Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
16,253
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Everything Else You Need to Know About Nursing in California

How long does it take to get from LVN to BSN?

You’ll spend 2-3 years completing your LVN-to-BSN program. How long it takes depends on your number of transfer credits. How many credits you can transfer varies based on the program requirements and policies and sometimes how long ago you earned your LVN certificate.

Do employers prefer BSN over ADN?

Employers prefer registered nurses with bachelor's degrees in nursing. If you get a BSN, you can pursue more career advancement opportunities, higher salaries, and the potential for faster employment after graduation.

How much do registered nurses make in California?

Registered nurses in California make an average of $64 an hour. This adds up to an average salary of $133,340 per year for RNs in California.

Is an LVN-to-BSN degree worth it in California?

Earning your LVN-to-BSN degree in California can be worth it because it opens you up to more career opportunities and higher average salaries. California employs over 250,000 more registered nurses than licensed vocational nurses. RNs also make an average of about $30 more per hour than LVNs.

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