To become a nurse anywhere in the United States, you have to pass the standardized NCLEX-RN test before being awarded a nursing license. In order to take the test, most states require you to have a minimum of an associates degree in nursing, or a diploma from a hospital nursing school. In California, licensed vocational nurses can take a special 30-credit program and "challenge" the test, or take it without the usual required education, to become an RN.

Alternate route to RN

Find an "LVN 30-Unit Option" program at an accredited California school. Many community and technical colleges offer this program. Check for any prerequisite classes that you did not take during the LVN program, such as chemistry or anatomy and physiology. Take these classes before applying to the program.

Apply to the program of your choice. The LVN 30-Unit Option program typically lasts one year. According to the state board of nursing, the classes in the program must include both theory and clinical practice, encompassing advanced medical-surgical, mental health, psychiatric and geriatric nursing, physiology and microbiology.

After completing the program, you are eligible to apply to take the NCLEX-RN in California at the time and place of your choice. The exam is offered year-round. If you apply for an interim permit when you apply to take the test, you can work for a short time as a nurse, under the direct supervision of a fully licensed registered nurse, until your results are in.

Once you pass the test, you may not change your status as a 30-Unit Option RN after you get your license, but you can practice anywhere in the state of California as a registered nurse without any limitations.