Nursing in California

Published on
January 14, 2023

Is a compact state

Requires its own license

Requires CEUs?

Continued education is not required

Continued education is required (see below)

Average Salary

$124,000 per year

Ever thought about being a nurse in California? The state of California has a lot to offer its healthcare professionals! From nature hikes, scenic oceans, thriving city life, and year-round temperate weather. California is most notably known for its lucrative salaries and strong unions within the nursing realm. Like what you're reading so far? Continue on to find out more!

California Nursing Salary Breakdown

A registered nurse working in California makes on average $124,000 per year ($59.62 per hour). That is a whopping 49% higher than the national average for registered nurses! While California nurses have a higher-than-average wage, the cost of living in California is also higher than in any other state. California's typical living cost is around $112,318 a year. Depending on where exactly you are residing, there are ways to lower living costs. May be worthwhile to shop around for the highest-paying gig!

This chart gives a great breakdown of what you can expect to pay living here across a number of categories. Before taking a new job or nursing contract, be sure you've factored in the cost of living into your decision to avoid unexpected bills!

It is also important to note this salary is not equal across all cities in California and what you get paid as a registered nurse can vary from $78,070 all the way up to $165,620 per year depending on what city you live, what hospital you work at, and your role at the hospital.

We've put together a salary breakdown by city to provide a bit more clarity on what you can expect to take home where you end up working:

Best Hospitals for Nurses in California

With nearly 200 hospitals across the state it can be difficult to choose the best employer for you and your family, but we've done exactly that. Each hospital listed below is highly rated by nurses based on working conditions, nursing opportunities, and patient care standards.

UCSF Medical Center

San Francisco, CA

$105,076 per year

Level I
Glassdoor logo

UC Davis Health

Sacramento, CA

$101,600 per year

Level I
Glassdoor logo

Sharp Healthcare

San Diego, CA

$103,483 per year

Level II
Glassdoor logo

Standford Health Care

Stanford, CA

$111,994 per year

Level I
Glassdoor logo

Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center

Los Angeles, CA

$115,273 per year

Level I
Glassdoor logo

Continuing Education for California Nurses

To maintain a nursing license in California, registered nurses are required to have 30 hours of CEUs for two years. As long as you meet these requirements you're able to renew licensure.

Registered Nurse requirements:

30 hours of CEUs completed prior to license expiration date!

Licensed Practical Nurse requirements:

30 hours of completed CEUs prior to license expirations. LPN renew their license every two years. To renew your California license, go through the DCA BreEZe Online Portal.

(Note that these are requirements only listed on the California Board of Nursing. Your hospital may have more requirements and it is best to ask upon being hired!)

Nurse Practitioner Nurse Requirements:

Nurse Practitioners must complete 30 hours of CEUs every two years to renew their license. Licensure is renewed at the end of their birth month every two years.

California Nursing License

Below will be step by step instructions for nursing students on how to apply for your California nursing license specifically. If you currently do not hold a nursing license and want to learn how to obtain one then keep reading!

How to get your California Nursing License

After you have made it through nursing school, earned your degree (associate's degree or bachelor's degree), and passed the NCLEX exam ($200 fee), the final steps to get your nursing license is quite simple! There's only a few things you need to do in order to start working in California.

Step 1 - Apply

The state of California has an online licensing portal where you need to create an account. From there, you must input your information. The board of nursing will verify your social security number and accept your application. After these steps are completed you must complete 30 hours of CEU requirements. These modules will take you a some time to finish, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time. There is also an additional $100-150 fee to apply for licensure (depending if you are in state or out of state).

Step 2 - Submit your nursing school transcripts

Whenever you finish and graduate from an accredited nursing program your transcripts can be sent specifically to one state. Graduating from a school in California, your school will automatically send your transcripts electronically to the California board of nursing unless you specify otherwise. If you need additional transcripts sent, follow up with your school and their process. Typically, there is additional fees for sending more than one transcript.

Step 3 - Submit your Background Check

Final step in the licensing process! After your application is submitted there are a couple ways to complete your background check. Your fingerprint card will need to be completed in a Live Scan building. You can request a Live Scan appointment under fingerprint requests on the State Board of Nursing website. From there fill out your information and you can go into Live Scan. Any fees will paid on site once your fingerprint card is done.

After the fingerprints are completed and sent into the database a more thorough background check will be performed. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get these done and sent in, the sooner the better since the process can take a few weeks.

RN License by Endorsement application online

This process is for a registered nurse who already has their license. California charges a $350 fee to apply. Be sure to go to BreEZe and create an account as well! There is also an option to apply for a temporary license for a $100 fee.

Step 1 - Send Transcripts

First step in the application process is sending your official transcript to the California state board of nursing. Request your nursing school to send your transcripts via electronically ( or mail (mailing address below). The sooner this is done the faster you will be licensed to practice. California accepts bachelor's or associate programs degree nurses.

California State Board of Nursing
1747 N Market Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95834

Step 2 - Final step!

There are 30 hours of CEUs required by California to gain RN licensure. Once those are completed you can pay the fees

When completing your fingerprint card to apply, there is a $100 fee for people out of state(fee can vary based on what state you live in). Fingerprint cards must be sent to the DOJ and FBI and the fee must be paid to be verified. There are many ways to get fingerprints and most facilities will send the print card for you. The money must be payable to the "California Board of Registered Nursing". Certifix is specifically a fingerprinting lab for California nurses. Just register online or they do accept walk ins as well.

How to Renew your California License

California requires 30 hours of CEUs every two years to renew a registered nursing license. CEUs must be completed through a continuing education provider recognized by the California Board of Nursing. Be sure to complete CEUs during your renewal period (over the course of two years). If your nurse license lapses or expires, continue reading on what to do next.

Step 1 - Be aware of Important Deadlines

Be aware of when your California nursing license will expire. To check activity status on an RN license or CEP number, California uses the BreEZe License Verification. Note: the initial two years of having your California license might not be a full two years. Once your California is accepted it will be valid for two birthdays. After your second birthday has passed (having a CA license) it will expire at the end of your birthday month. After you renew, then it will expire every two full years. Also use BreEZe to sign up for license renewal reminders. You will be mailed a renewal reminder three months prior to the license expiration.

Step 2 - Complete CEUs (Half Way There!)

30 hours of CEUs are required for RNs every two years. A lot of certified CEU providers can be found online! Either through the California Board of Nursing website, Incredible Health, Nurse Blake's Nurse Con, etc! Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete all CEUs. CEUs can sometimes be a time consuming process.

Step 3 - Pay Fees

To renew your California nursing license there is a $190 fee. If you miss the deadline to renew there is an extra charge for delinquent fee, which goes up to $280. At your 8th year of renewing your RN license, the state of California no longer charges a renewal fee, yay!

License Fees for First Time Nurses

There are a number of fees due when applying for a brand new nursing license. RN programs are good about telling new graduates prior to graduation so you have plenty of time to save up. The RN license requirements include a $300 fee to apply. If you are an out of state graduate and want to apply for a California license it is then a $350(this includes application fee and NCLEX fee). Fingerprints are around $49 to get as well.

License Fees when Moving to California

When you are moving to California from an outside state there is a fee of $350 to apply for licensure. Fingerprints will also be need to be done as well, which is around a $100 fee. Official transcripts will need to be sent from your nursing program (all schools and all transcripts!) which vary per school. All fees can be paid through the Breeze portal.

California Nursing FAQs

Is there a Nursing Shortage in California?

Absolutely, yes! The nursing shortage can be felt in hospitals clear across the US. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the shortage issues and this includes the state of California. While most of the data for the staffing issues are anecdotal evidence, there are a few numbers to back up this claim. In 2020 11% of nurses claimed to be looking into different career opportunities and had strong feelings to leave bedside nursing altogether. In 2021 a whopping 30% of nurses said to have strong feelings to leave the bedside. Read more about the nursing shortage crisis in our article Nursing Shortage Across America.

What Kind of Nurses get Paid the Most?

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist get paid the most compared to any other kind of nursing field. With an average salary of $232,540 per year or $111.80 per hour. That is around 14% higher than the national average for their career.

What City in California Pays Nurses the Most?

San Jose, CA pays registered the nurses the most compared to any other city in the state. San Jose RN average salary is around $155,230 per year. That is 87% higher than the national average for RN salary in the United States.

What is the Average Salary for Nurses in California?

A registered nurse working in California makes on average $124,000 per year. That is 49% higher than the national average for registered nurses and comes out to around $59.62 per hour. While California nurses have a higher-than-average wage, the cost of living in California is also higher than in most states. The typical cost of living in California comes out to around $112,318 a year.

How much does a new RN make in California?

A new graduate RN can make around $67,459 to $85,971 per year once graduated from a nursing program. Take into account location, living costs, type of specialty, and the level of education you have as a new graduate.

Do California Nurses need to complete continuing education?

California nurses do need to complete continuing education. Full time RN's renewing their license have to complete 30 hours of CEUs required by the board of nursing. The California Board of Nursing recognizes many CE providers that offer free CEUs every year.

How many continuing education hours do nurses need in California?

California nurses need to complete a minimum of 30 hours of CEUs every two years prior to licensure renewal.

How do I renew my Nursing license in California?

A couple months prior to your renewal date the state board of nursing will send you an email. The email will have all of the details and requirements needed to renew your RN license. You will need to complete 30 hours of CEU's required for every nurse in the state of California. There is also a $190 fee to renew your license.

Additional Resources for California Nurses

California Board of Nursing

The California Board of Nursing is in charge of creating and enforcing rules regarding nursing licensure in the state. The board's website also offers helpful information about renewal, educational requirements, and the state's nursing workforce.

California Nursing License BreEZe System

Get automatic alerts for your California Nursing License such as renewal reminders and discipline alerts.

California Nurses Association

The California Nurses Association represents more than 100,000 RNs throughout the state. The group also advocates for the nursing profession in state government through its political action committee.

National Nurses United (California)

This state group is part of the larger National Nurses United, a professional association and union promoting progressive policies in the nursing field.

Nurse Practitioners of California

This association offers a variety of resources for prospective nurse practitioners. Members can access a job board, attend an annual conference, and take advantage of continuing education opportunities.

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