How to Obtain a California Nursing License
With a population of nearly 40 million, California is the most populated state. However, it is among the lowest in terms of nurses per capita. This is why California has a high-demand for qualified travel nurses. If this is something you’re interested in, you’ll likely find a position in the Golden State.
Travel Nursing in California – What You Need to Know
Before we dive into the specifics surrounding your California nursing license, it’s important that we discuss some of the main areas of concern. For starters, when you are nursing in a new place, it’s important that you understand the main hospital systems.
Although there are a number of noteworthy organizations, including Dignity Health, Sutter Medical Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente, it is less important that you understand these main hospital systems and focus more on the larger hospital systems as a whole. It is also important to note that various regions tend to pay higher rates for travel nurses compared to other areas.
For example, travel nurses tend to be paid higher rates in Northern California, compared to Southern California, based on higher bill rates. However, pay will vary on a case-to-case basis. Keep these variables in mind as you continue to conduct your research, prepare your application, and make travel plans.
How to Obtain Your Nursing License in California
To get started, you will need to first obtain your license. Only then will you be considered to work in California. To do so, please follow the steps and guidelines below.
Please note: The licensing processing itself can take time. As stated by Marian University, since 2013, the state has been processing endorsement applications at a slower rate. This is also why it is beneficial to obtain the assistance of a travel nursing company, as they will help you through this process.
Taking the “short” vs the “long” path
To obtain your California RN license, you can take one of two paths:
- Path one (the “short” path) can take as little as 24 hours — however, 3 to 6 weeks is a much more probable timeline.
- Path two (the “long” path) takes around 12-14 weeks, so you’ll need to plan ahead!
Why the difference in processing times, you ask?
Well, the main difference between these two avenues is based on the fingerprinting process. In the state of California, to work as a registered nurse, you need to obtain your fingerprints from a federal Department of Justice. When opting for the quicker path, which will result in a lot less time and stress, you can provide your fingerprints to the state via LiveScan. You will find the required form here.
Read electronically, the results come back quickly. In contrast, if you request a fingerprint card from the state, send the card in the mail, and then wait for a response, you may be looking at anywhere from 4-8 weeks until the state receives your completed package.
Currently, if you opt for the faster processing approach, you can get a California RN license by endorsement in approximately 4-6 weeks.
What else is required?
Regardless of the fingerprinting path you choose above, all prospective California nurses will need to collect and complete the following:
- A completed endorsement application, which you can print directly from the California Board of Registered Nursing website.
- A recent 2×2 passport-style photo.
- A verification of license, which can often be accomplished on Nursys, an online license verification system. Since certain states, such as Alabama, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Pennsylvania do not participate in this online system, if you are licensed in one of these states, you’ll need to contact your state’s board of nursing (BON). When using Nursys, although you can access this verification immediately, it will only be valid for 90 days. That is why you should not request a verification of license until you are ready to submit your application in full.
- Transcripts from all of the nursing schools you attended. You can request that these be sent to the California Board of Registered Nursing (CBRN). This typically takes around two weeks. However, it is possible that delays will occur. The only time you do not require this step is when you are applying for a temporary license.