How to Become a Nurse in California

A nurse works on a computer in the hospital

Pursuing a career in nursing can help you make a difference in the lives of countless people. Nurses serve as an integral aspect of society and make up a significant number of the workforce.

Why Become a Nurse in California?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently over 3 million jobs for registered nurses across the country. California alone has 458,717 registered nurses, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing. Many nurses find California to be a rewarding place to work as registered nurses in California make a higher annual salary than registered nurses in any other state.

By entering or advancing within the nursing field, you can pursue a career with job security that positively impacts patients, while also bringing you fulfillment.

Working as a nurse can be a rewarding career in many ways if you have a passion for health and helping people. If you are looking to become a nurse in California, you can begin by earning an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in practical nursing. With either of these credentials, you can pass the NCLEX-PN exam, earn your license, and work as a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse.

If you earn an ADN and choose to work in one of these nursing careers as an LPN or LVN, you can always go back to school and either earn your BSN or pursue an ADN to MSN program. 

If you want to advance your LPN career or enter the nursing field as a registered nurse, you should consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. You can become a registered nurse with an ADN, but most employers and medical facilities are starting to require their registered nurses to have a BSN.

The Institute of Medicine introduced the 80% BSN by 2020 Initiative, recommending that 80% of registered nurses working in health care facilities should have their BSN by the end of the year. 

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A Bachelor of Science in Nursing can be a more appealing option for registered nurses and their employers alike, as it provides nurses with more knowledge and skill-based competencies. With more required credit hours and clinicals, nursing students not only learn theoretical knowledge about their field but also gain hands-on experience.

BSN programs also help nursing students prepare to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Without passing the exam and earning the necessary licensure, nursing students cannot become registered nurses and work in California.

Salary and Job Outlook of Registered Nurses

If you are pursuing a career as a registered nurse in California, you have a rewarding career ahead of you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses across the U.S. earn an annual salary of $81, 220, while registered nurses in California earn an annual salary of $133,340. Of course, registered nurses care more about improving the lives of their patients than earning a high salary, but the income is an appealing bonus. 

The job outlook for registered nurses is projected to grow 12% from now until 2028, which is much faster than the growth of average careers. As a shortage of healthcare workers expands across the U.S., the Health Resources and Services Administration predicts in the Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce report a shortage of nurses across the country.

The projections also predict the largest shortage of nurses to take place in California. Due to this, registered nurses are in higher demand now more than ever before. 

New Grad Nursing Jobs

You can pursue a rewarding job as a registered nurse in a variety of locations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes how 60% of registered nurses work in state, local, and private hospitals. At this time, most hospitals are looking to hire registered nurses with a BSN, as it qualifies them for accreditation and certification.

Hospitals need certain accreditation in order to remain open and desire additional certification to demonstrate that they offer the highest quality of patient care. For instance, the American Nurses Credentialing Center awards health care organizations with Magnet status when their nurses have certain qualifications and demonstrate a commitment to excellence. 

After you graduate with a BSN, you can also pursue a job as a registered nurse in ambulatory health care services, clinics, physician offices, or outpatient facilities. About 7% of registered nurses work in nursing facilities or residential care facilities. You can also earn additional certification and specialize in certain areas of nursing, allowing you to work in skilled nursing facilities or work directly with patients in their homes. 

Career Advancement Through a BSN to MSN Pathway

Working as a registered nurse yields multiple opportunities to advance your career. With a predicted shortage of doctors and physicians as the population ages, advanced practice registered nurses have the opportunity to step into roles with more responsibility. In many situations, nurse practitioners can serve as primary care providers for patients. While registered nurses make up the largest percentage of nurses in California at this time, there are also 27,601 nurse practitioners.

Working as a registered nurse yields multiple benefits as nurses have the opportunity to advance their careers.

If you are working as an LPN, LVN, or registered nurse and want to become a nurse practitioner, you can find an ADN to MSN program or a BSN to MSN program. These types of programs help you build upon your foundation in nursing, and allow you to advance your career in the field. With an advanced degree in the field, you not only gain a competitive edge during the hiring process but can also earn a higher salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners across the U.S. earn an annual salary of $115,800 and nurse practitioners in California earn an annual salary of $138,660.  

Career Advancement Through a BSN to DNP Pathway

Once you have obtained your BSN and are looking to further your nursing career while gaining more autonomy as a professional you can enroll in a DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) track. With the help of this program, you can become qualified to step into some of the most advanced positions that nursing has to offer. From having the qualifications to step into high-level healthcare administration roles to having the power to enrich the lives of the patients you serve by providing primary care, this program can broaden your horizons with a plethora of career options. 

Find a Nursing Program in California

Whether you want to work as a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner, you can begin by earning a degree in the field. If you want to start by earning an ADN, you can gain practical experience working as an LPN or LVN. If you are looking for job security, you may want to consider earning a bachelor’s degree, as more facilities are looking to hire registered nurses with a BSN.

If you are already working in the field but want to further your education and expand your career horizons, you can find an ADN to MSN program or BSN to MSN program in California. By taking classes in the state you will be working in, you have a deeper understanding of relevant issues and develop a network with other nurses and medical professionals. 

PLNU's School of Nursing provides students an academic journey shaped by two important factors: mentorship from seasoned faculty, and practical experience through clinical hours and volunteering in the community. Check out what a snapshot of your nursing experience might look like at PLNU.

Pursue a Nursing Career in San Diego, California

Earning your BSN, ADN to MSN, or BSN to MSN in California can prepare you to find a nursing job in the highest-paying state in the country. A nursing program in San Diego, such as Point Loma Nazarene University’s School of Nursing, can prepare you for your nursing career in California, as you take classes with experts in the field, gain practical experience with patients, and use cutting-edge technology.

If you would like more information about how you become a nurse and devote your career to caring for patients, you can contact PLNU

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About the Author

McKenna Themm earned her Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Writing and is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She works as a freelance writer and lives in San Diego, California.