California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses in California

May also be called: Licensed Practical Nurses; Licensed Attendants; Nursing Technicians; Home Health Nurses; and Home Health Care Providers

What Would I Do?

Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) provide basic, bedside nursing care for sick, injured, convalescing, elderly, and physically or mentally disabled persons. They typically work in a health care team under the direction and supervision of a physician or registered nurse and develop their skills in medical-surgical, maternity, and pediatric nursing. Licensed Vocational Nurses observe patients, perform basic assessments, and report and document changes in a patient’s condition. They also measure vital signs, perform medical treatments, and administer prescribed medications. Licensed Vocational Nurses may collect samples and perform routine laboratory tests, feed patients, and record food and fluid intake and output. Some help deliver, care for, and feed newborn babies. Some LVNs perform intravenous therapy or blood withdrawal. Licensed Vocational Nurses can also supervise certified nursing assistants and aides.

Additional duties can vary greatly depending on where the LVN works. Licensed Vocational Nurses who work in nursing care facilities help to evaluate residents’ needs and develop care plans. In doctors’ offices and clinics, they may make appointments for patients, keep records, and perform other clerical duties. Those who work in the patient’s home may prepare meals, keep rooms orderly, see that patients are comfortable and in good spirits, and teach family members simple nursing tasks.

Licensed Vocational Nurses may operate medical machinery such as cardiac output and glucose monitors. They use hypodermic needles, nebulizers, or extremity restraints. They also use computer software for calendar and scheduling and to enter medical records electronically.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Administer prescribed medications or start intravenous fluids, and note times and amounts on patients' charts.Medicine and Dentistry
Help patients with bathing, dressing, maintaining personal hygiene, moving in bed, or standing and walking.Customer and Personal Service
Answer patients' calls and determine how to assist them.Active Listening
Record food and fluid intake and output.Writing
Provide basic patient care and treatments, such as taking temperatures or blood pressures, dressing wounds, treating bedsores, giving enemas or douches, rubbing with alcohol, massaging, or performing catheterizations.Time Management
Measure and record patients' vital signs, such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration.Problem Sensitivity
Evaluate nursing intervention outcomes, conferring with other health care team members as necessary.Oral Expression
Observe patients, charting and reporting changes in patients' conditions, such as adverse reactions to medication or treatment, and taking any necessary action.Monitoring
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Licensed Vocational Nurses work in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing and long-term care facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, emergency medical centers, private homes, and group homes. They work a variety of shifts and since most patients need round-the-clock care, some LVNs work nights; weekends; and holidays. Some hospitals have 16-hour (double) shifts, and overtime wages may be paid after the first eight hours. Licensed Vocational Nurses may deal with stressful, heavy workloads.

The job of an LVN often involves prolonged standing, a lot of walking, some lifting, bending, stooping, and reaching. They are subject to back injuries when helping patients move in bed, stand, or walk. Dangers from infectious agents are also part of the work environment. Consequently, LVNs may face hazards from caustic chemicals, radiation, and infectious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, and AIDS. In addition, the patients they care for may be confused, agitated, or uncooperative.

Licensed Vocational Nurses can join the California Licensed Vocational Nurses’ Association (CLVNA) or the Licensed Vocational Nurses League of California (LVNL). They may also join the Health Care Workers division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Licensed Vocational Nurse will appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve assisting others. This occupation satisfies those with social interests. Social occupations involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people as well as helping or providing service to others.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Licensed Vocational Nurses in California was $63,676 annually, or $30.62 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits usually include vacation, sick leave, medical and dental insurance, and retirement plans.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 495 employers in California, almost all provide medical insurance and dental insurance, and most provide vacation and sick leave and vision insurance benefits to Licensed Vocational Nurses who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance92%24%
Dental Insurance86%25%
Sick Leave71%22%
Vision Insurance70%21%
Life Insurance59%18%
Retirement Plan56%23%
Disability Insurance29%11%
Paid Time Off Bank29%14%
No benefits2%37%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 464 employers surveyed who responded in California, who provides medical benefits, most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Licensed Vocational Nurses.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
Half or more55%57%
Less than Half21%27%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

Growth in the employment of LVNs is in response to the long-term care needs of a rapidly growing elderly population and the general growth of healthcare. Replacement needs will be a major source of job openings as workers leave the occupation. Nursing homes will offer the most new jobs for LVNs as the number of aged and disabled people who need long-term care rises. Hospitals are continually under pressure to lower costs and are progressively using more LVNs in place of registered nurses. Increasingly, LVNs will also find jobs outside the traditional hospital setting as healthcare delivery changes.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Licensed Vocational Nurses is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Licensed Vocational Nurses are expected to increase by 15.1 percent, or 11,600 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Licensed Vocational Nurses
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Licensed Vocational Nurses must be at least 17 years of age; possess a high school diploma, or the equivalent; and complete a vocational, or practical, nursing program approved by the Bureau of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT). In addition, they must complete an application for Vocational Nurse Licensure and pay the required fees to the BVNPT, successfully pass a fingerprint background check by the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, complete a record of conviction form, and pass the licensing examination, known as the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical (Vocational) Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

There are two other methods by which an applicant can apply for licensure as a Vocational Nurse in California. One method requires that the applicant complete at least 51 months of paid bedside nursing experience in a general acute care facility. In addition to this experience, applicants must also complete a pharmacology course with 54 hours of theory and a verification of skill proficiency. Another method permits U.S. military corpsmen to take the NCLEX-PN if they have completed 12 months of active duty rendering direct bedside patient care, have completed a basic course in nursing in a branch of the armed forces, and have received an honorable discharge from the military.


Programs for LVNs are one year or longer and include classroom study (theory), supervised clinical practice (patient care), and pharmacology. Classroom study covers basic nursing concepts and patient care-related subjects including anatomy, physiology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics, the administration of drugs, and nutrition. Clinical practice usually is in a hospital, but sometimes includes other settings.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation courses in English, mathematics (including algebra and geometry), science (including biology and chemistry), physics, computer science, social studies, and foreign language are recommended.

Work Study Programs

California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for LVNs. One such program is titled ROP-Health Career Classes, Anatomy/Physiology. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Licensed Vocational Nurses in the State of California are required by law to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years, in addition to paying a renewal fee, to maintain an active license. Courses must be taken through a continuing education provider recognized by the BVNPT.

Licensing and Certification

This occupation is licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT). Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Licensed Vocational Nurses must obtain certification by the Bureau of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT) to perform intravenous therapy and blood withdrawal. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Licensed Vocational Nurses are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Nursing Care Facilities30.0%
Home Health Care Services16.6%
Outpatient Care Centers11.9%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals10.7%
Community Care Facility for the Elderly5.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 495 employers in California which employ 8,449 Licensed Vocational Nurses. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and most employ part-time Licensed Vocational Nurses.

About Work Experience:  Of the 495 employers surveyed in California, most require new hires to have prior work experience as Licensed Vocational Nurses. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 3%
25 to 60 months 7%
13 to 24 months 35%
1 to 12 months 61%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 495 employers surveyed in California, most indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while some indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Licensed Vocational Nurses.

About Hiring:  Of the 495 employers surveyed in California, most expect the number of Licensed Vocational Nurses they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 18%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 78%
Expect Employment to Decline 4%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 495 employers surveyed in California, 72 percent hired Licensed Vocational Nurses during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 93 percent filled existing vacancies, 19 percent filled newly created positions, and 8 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Licensed Vocational Nurses can also register with their school placement center for job leads. The California Licensed Vocational Nurses’ Association advertises job opportunities as well. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet offer additional sources for job listings.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Licensed Vocational Nurses.

  • Healthcare
  • Hospitals
  • Medical Clinics
  • Nurse Registries
  • Nursing and Convalescent Homes
  • Physicians and Surgeons

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Experienced LVNs may be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions. In some employment settings, such as nursing homes, they can advance to become charge nurses who oversee the work of other LVNs or nursing aides. With additional education and a passing score on the national licensure examination, LVNs can become registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Licensed Vocational Nurses with links to more information.

Dental HygienistsGuide
Physical Therapist AssistantsGuide
Physician AssistantsGuide
Psychiatric AidesProfile
Registered Nurses*Profile
Respiratory TherapistsGuide

Other Sources

  • Bureau of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians
  • California Licensed Vocational Nurses Association
  • The Licensed Vocational Nurses League of California
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • Service Employees International Union

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2061
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses29-2061.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SRC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse Training.513901
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Licensed Vocational Nursing123020