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State of California Registered Nurse (RN) Jobs

In California civil service, one of the most in-demand jobs is that of Registered Nurse (RN). This article will examine the hiring process and how to get a job as an RN with the State of California. We will look at which departments are hiring, the salary and qualifications and how to make yourself a competitive candidate for these positions.

The Registered Nurse Hiring Process

RN Exam

Like all classifications with the State, the RN hiring process begins with an exam. You can complete the Registered Nurse exam online. After you take and pass the exam, you will have eligibility. Having eligibility means you are placed on a list with all other candidates that were successful in the assessment.

One of the more confusing parts of getting a Registered Nurse job with the State of California is that there are 3 separate sub-classifications. If you search for Registered Nurse positions on CalCareers, you will see results with 3 variations:

  • Registered Nurse (Correctional Facility): Class Code: 9275; Exam Code: 9RC21; Department of Corrections
  • Registered Nurse (Safety): class code: 8094; Exam Code: Varies by Hospital; Department of State Hospitals
  • Registered Nurse (MAND): Class Code: 8165; Exam Code: 9PB42; Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Developmental Services

All 3 are Registered Nurses with the same minimum qualifications, but they are with different departments within the State. The scope of the work may be slightly different, depending on the department. Thus, they are given unique class codes and separate exams.

If you are searching for an RN job with the State and don’t have a preference for which department you want to work for, take all 3 exams to increase your possibilities. While each State Hospital (RN-Safety) has an individual exam, they will likely accept the results of an exam given at a sister hospital. If you take the exam at Napa State Hospital, for example, you will have eligibility to apply for all State Hospitals.

For Registered Nurse (RN), as with all State of California assessments, online exams begin with a pre-exam qualifications check. This means that the first question you'll be asked when you try to take the exam online is about the status of your license. For a lot of classifications in State-service, the Minimum Qualifications can be complicated. For RN, however, they are straight forward.

Remember, to take a state exam online, you must have a CalCareer account. If you haven't already done so, creating a CalCareer account is the first step you should take. You must be logged into to take an assessment.

RN Minimum Qualifications

Before being allowed to take an exam, candidates must verify that they meet the minimum qualifications for a classification. The minimum qualifications (MQs) are the most basic requirements for a position. They are defined by the State Personnel Board and are written into California law. They are not negotiable and illegal to circumvent.

The MQs can be thought of as establishing the baseline of what work experience, education or license is needed to be able to succeed in a position. After this baseline is established, the exam determines who among the pool of qualified is the most competitive. Make sure to check the minimum qualifications before taking any exam.

For the Registered Nurse classification, the minimum qualifications are simple. Applicants need to be licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). The BRN sets license requirements for all RNs in the State, whether they work in the public or private sector. If you’re not yet licensed as an RN in California, check their website for the requirements. If you’re already licensed, you’re ready to take the exam.


Candidates are ranked by their exam score, with everyone in a given rank having obtained the same score. There can be an unlimited number of people in a rank.

After you have obtained eligibility, you can start to apply for open positions. It’s also possible that you will receive contact letters. Contact letters can be sent in the mail or electronically to your CalCareer account. They are the official notification that a position matching your Conditions of Employment has been posted.

Your Conditions of Employment are terms that you set as a candidate, and that a position must match for you to be willing to accept it. They include time-base and location, among others. If, for example, you’d only be willing to take a position in Riverside County, you would set your condition as such. But you wouldn’t be sent a contact letter for an open position in San Diego County.

You can change your conditions of employment at any time in your CalCareer account. And, you can still apply for any RN job you’d like, even if your conditions aren’t a perfect match. You would, however, need to change them before you’d be able to be appointed to a position. Keeping your employment conditions up to date is a good idea, and something that we recommend doing as early in your job search as possible.

Keep in mind that departments aren’t required to send contact letters to everyone on an eligible list. If you are actively looking for a job, you should be proactive. Don’t wait to receive a letter to apply for an open position. Check CalCareers every few days to see if new positions have been posted. You can also set up CalCareer account notifications to receive an alert each time a new position is advertised.

If you don’t pass the exam, or get a really low score, you’ll have to wait 9 months before you take the exam again. Take some time to read the exam bulletin before starting. The bulletin will give you information on how to complete it correctly, as well as a chance to preview the questions in advance.


Having eligibility for a classification means that you have achieved the basic requirement needed to apply for and eventually be appointed to a position. You meet the legal, minimum qualifications for a classification and have proved your competitiveness by passing an exam.

Here on the California Job Blog we’ve talked a lot about perfecting your State Application (STD 678). Taking the time to get your application in good shape is one of the most important things you can do to be successful in the hiring process. After it's ready to go, start applying for open positions.

A key point to remember when applying to Registered Nurse positions is to list accurate license information. On the second page of the STD 678 there is a section for you to enter your license number. The department receiving your application will verify this in the State's online registered nurse licensing database. It's also a good idea to scan your license, upload it to your CalCareer account and submit it along with your application.

From you can search for openings by searching for Registered Nurse in the search box on the front page. This will give you a list of positions that are currently being advertised.

Image of the job search box on CalCareers homepage

You can also click on Advanced Job Search, scroll down to the Classification search box and select Registered Nurse. Remember there are 3 separate RN classification in California State Service, and you'll have to select each one individually.

For a lot of jobs, the hiring department will require you to submit additional documents application documents. If additional documents are required, the job bulletin will provide instructions. Additional documents might include a statement of qualifications or a resume. Read the bulletin carefully. Failing to submit all required documents could result in your application being rejected.

Again, we recommend submitting a scan of your RN license even if the bulletin doesn't require you to do so. If it is required, it'll be impossible to submit your application electronically without it.

After You Apply

The selection process is the second part of the state's hiring process and begins after the examination/assessment phase when you submit your State Application.

In the selection process, hiring departments determine who the best candidate for the position is. It's possible they have multiple vacancies for the classification, and, in that case, they would determine who the best candidates to move forward in the hiring process are.

The additional documents you may have submitted along with your application will be used to determine who the best applicant(s) for the position are. In addition to your application and any additional documents, an interview is almost always part of the selection process.

Prepare for your interview by learning about the department. Also, read the duty statement for the position you are interviewing for. Duty statements are usually attached to the job bulletin from which you applied. If not, the hiring department should provide one to you before you appear to be interviewed. The duty statement will give you a better understanding of what the department is looking for in a candidate, and what kind of questions they may ask.

If you do well on the interview and are considered to be a strong candidate, the panel conducting your interview will move you forward in the selection process. Hiring departments might do a couple of things at this point, but the last step of the selection process is pre-employment clearances.

Pre-employment clearances can include several things. Reference checks are almost always a part of the process. But these might be done earlier on. If, for instance, there are two equally qualified candidates, reference checks might serve as a tie-breaker in the hiring decision. Some departments and agencies within the State of California take references very seriously, while for others it is just a formality. Either way, you'll want to make sure the former supervisors listed on your application are people that will speak highly of you.

Other pre-employment clearance that may be conducting by your hiring department are a physical and/or a criminal record background check. The department will let you know which, if any, of these clearances will need to be completed prior to appointment to a position.

Which Departments Hire Registered Nurses

The department that hires the greatest number of Registered Nurses is the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). At the time of this writing, there were 111 California State RN positions advertised on CalCareers. 93 of those 111 were with CDCR. CDCR is the largest employer within California State service and has facilities all over the state.

Veterans’ Preference for RN Positions

Veterans’ Preference does apply to Registered Nurse classifications. That means that qualified veterans (and in some cases their spouses) can move to the top of the eligibility list if they pass the exam. Read more about Veterans’ Preference on the California Job Blog.

Thanks for reading!

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