How To Become a Nurse in California: Nursing License Requirements

California nursing license refers to the qualifications, education, exams, and other criteria you must meet to obtain a license to practice as a nurse in California.

Nursing license requirements in California are governed by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). The requirements include:

  • Completing a state-approved nursing program.
  • Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
  • Meeting specific educational and clinical practice requirements.

Additionally, applicants must undergo a criminal background check and submit their fingerprints to the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Meeting these requirements and obtaining a nursing license in California is necessary for future nurses to practice their duties legally.



A nursing license is like a superhero’s cape, which gives them the power to save people in need. Just like a superhero’s cape symbolizes their commitment to helping others, a nursing license represents a nurse’s dedication to providing the best possible care for their patients. A nurse must complete extensive education and training to earn a nursing license, just as a superhero must undergo rigorous training to use their powers properly. 

Why Become an RN in California?

Becoming an RN in California offers numerous benefits and opportunities. California is home to some of the top healthcare facilities in the country, providing RNs with the chance to work in various healthcare settings. RNs in California also have higher salaries than other states, with an average annual salary of over $133,340

In addition, California offers a diverse population and culture, allowing RNs to work with a wide range of patients and learn about different healthcare practices. 

How to Become a Registered Nurse in California


Whether you are just starting your educational journey or looking to change careers, there are several pathways to becoming an RN. With options ranging from associate degrees to entry-level master’s programs and alternative routes for LVNs and military corpsmen, the nursing field offers a variety of opportunities for individuals with different backgrounds and experiences. However, the journey continues after completing your degree. Read on to learn more about what it takes to enroll in California BSN Programs

Earn a degree

California has three types of pre-licensure nursing programs:

In addition, there are two alternative routes to becoming an RN: 

  • LVN 30 Unit Option takes 18-24 months and is designed for LVNs in California, and
  • Military Corpsmen, which allows military corpsmen to take the national exam for RN licensure.

Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

After completing a nursing program, the next step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This exam tests your knowledge and competency in nursing and is required to obtain a license to practice as an RN in California.

Gain experience

Once you have passed the NCLEX-RN exam, it’s time to gain experience as an RN. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities in California require at least one year of experience for RN positions, so it’s essential to seek out opportunities to gain hands-on experience. Some RNs work in various settings to achieve a broad range of experience, while others may specialize in a specific area of nursing.

Getting Your Nursing License in California

Getting a nursing license allows you to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others while also having a rewarding and fulfilling career. As a nurse, you’ll be able to provide essential care and comfort to patients and their families and make a real difference in your community. 

Renew Your Nursing License in California


In California, the initial RN license is valid for two birthdays. After the initial license, subsequent licenses will expire every two years as long as they are renewed on time. 

The license number assigned at the initial issuance will remain the same throughout the career, regardless of whether the license is active, inactive, or delinquent. 

To renew your license, you must complete 30 contact hours of continuing education from a recognized provider. However, if you’re in the first two years after your initial licensure, you may be exempt from this requirement, except for Implicit Bias.

If you’re renewing your license to an ACTIVE status, you’ll need to submit a complete set of fingerprints to the Department of Justice for both levels of service (DOJ and FBI). If you fail, you may face disciplinary action by the Board. 

Lastly, when renewing your license, you must disclose any disciplinary actions or convictions since your last renewal.

What Is the California Board of Nursing?

The BRN is a governmental agency responsible for regulating the practice of registered nurses to protect the public. The BRN is responsible for setting educational standards, approving nursing programs, evaluating licensure applications, issuing and renewing licenses, issuing certificates, taking disciplinary action, managing an intervention program, and operating an online license verification system. The BRN’s primary focus is to protect the public by ensuring that nurses meet all licensure requirements and take disciplinary action against nurses violating the Nursing Practice Act.

How Long Does It Take To Become an RN in California?

To become an RN in California, you must complete a state-approved nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. The time required to become an RN in California varies depending on the educational path one chooses. Typically, it takes 2 to 4 years to complete the necessary education and training to become an RN in California.

Salary and Job Outlook for RNs in California

RNs in California generally have a higher salary and a strong job outlook compared to many other states in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for RNs in California is $133,340, higher than the national average of $77,600. However, the salary can vary based on experience, location, and industry.

The job outlook for RNs is also positive, with an expected employment growth rate of 6% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS.


In conclusion, obtaining a nursing license in California is necessary for those who aspire to become licensed nurses in the state. Aspiring nurses must complete a state-approved nursing program and pass the NCLEX exam before applying for a license. In addition, applicants must meet various requirements such as background checks, fingerprinting, and continuing education requirements to maintain their license. A nursing career in California can be rewarding and fulfilling despite the rigorous requirements. So, don’t let the requirements intimidate you!

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