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Vocational Nursing Schools in California: Prepare for a Career in Healthcare

California is a state in transition. Although it was hard hit by the 2008 recession, California's economy is still huge. If California were a separate nation, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world, with a gross state product well in excess of 1 trillion dollars. California's major industries include aerospace, agriculture, computers, construction, manufacturing, mining, motion picture production, oil and gas production, and tourism. Health care is also a major economic contributor and is growing rapidly while other economic segments such as construction and manufacturing are in decline. Health care growth is fueled by an aging population requiring more hospitalization, surgery, chronic disease treatment, long term care, and home care.

Vocational Nursing Careers

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are much in demand in the current health care climate. California licenses LVNs who have completed an accredited course of instruction from one of the many vocational nursing schools in California, and have passed the requisite tests and other requirements. The job of an LVN is to care for patients under the direction of physicians and registered nurses, providing such services as recording vital signs, giving injections, dressing wounds, feeding patients, and assisting with personal hygiene. LVNs may also supervise nursing assistants and aides.

Although most LVNs are generalists, some specialize in settings such as nursing homes or home health care. Many LVNs also assist physicians in their offices, performing both medical and non-medical duties. Home health care and nursing home care have grown dramatically in recent years due to the aging population. LVNs can also specialize in maternity, pediatric care, psychiatric nursing, and geriatric nursing. The top employment areas for LVNs in California are:

  • Employment services
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Home health care services
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Offices of physicians

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for LPNs and LVNs is projected to grow much faster than average, with a growth of 21 percent between 2008 and 2018. This growth is fueled in part by health care cost containment methods that have moved many procedures from a hospital setting to outpatient care centers and physician's offices.

BLS figures for May 2009 show that 62,300 LVNs were employed in California with a mean annual income of $49,940, compared with $49,550 for all California occupations. LVNs earned more in northern California metro areas ($57,050 in San Francisco, $53,730 in Sacramento) than in southern California metro areas ($48,650 in Los Angeles, $47,430 in San Diego). Income for LVNs in non-metropolitan areas fell into the $45,000 to $47,000 range.

Vocational Nursing Schools in California

There are currently more than 200 California state-approved vocational nursing schools in California. Vocational nursing programs are provided by technical and vocational schools, community and junior colleges, and some colleges and universities. Most vocational nursing programs take about a year to complete, and include both classroom instruction and clinical practice. Some of the courses required include:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Nutrition
  • Nursing Specialties: Maternity, Pediatric, Geriatric, Surgical, Mental Health

Clinical practice consists of working in a hospital setting with patients under supervision.


Once a student has successfully completed a course of study at one of the accredited vocational nursing schools in California, they must be licensed before working at their profession. Licensing is controlled by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT). The board is responsible for accreditation of vocational nursing schools in California as well as administering licensing testing and issuance of licenses. The board qualifies applicants to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Applicants must also have no criminal convictions and must be fingerprinted.

At this time, no distance learning programs have been approved or accredited by the BVNPT.

By attending one of the accredited vocational nursing schools in California and successfully passing the NCLEX, you could be in high demand as a new LVN. You can be justifiably proud of your accomplishment, and you will find the work rewarding in terms of job satisfaction, job security, and compensation. The BLS has noted that workers with college degrees or the equivalent (such as licensure or certification) benefit from generally higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. Certainly, given the projected growth in demand for LVNs and the increased demand for health care services, you have wisely chosen an excellent career path. In addition, many LVNs undertake the additional education to become registered nurses, with increased responsibilities and financial rewards.