If you are a new grad, it's a VERY BAD market: too many new grads, too few jobs. New grad residencies and positions get thousands of applicants for a handful of spots, so competition is fierce. 4.0s, networking, having connections, being an internal applicant...all of those help much less than you think because almost everyone has top grades, is networking, has a connection somewhere or is an internal applicant. BSNs and higher are preferred since a lot of places are Magnet or Magnet wanna-be.
To make things worse, the traditional "fallback" jobs for new grads--working in SNF, LTC/LTAC, ALF, rehab, etc.--are also demanding experience.
New grads hired right off the bat or with relative ease are the rare exception rather than the norm. Most of them are searching for 6-12 months or more...and yes, this includes the internal hires in my own hospital system that were told, "sorry, but you're not starting here" even though they've worked for our system for years.
If you have some nursing experience, it's a better market. Still tight but better.
As for what it will be like in 2-3 years...who knows? It may be better. It may be worse. It may not change one whit. Three years ago people were saying that it'd be better now...and guess what? Hasn't happened yet.
Don't go into nursing for money or job security, as neither is guaranteed either now or in the future.
But if nursing is what you truly want to do though, then by all means, pursue it! I do have some suggestions:
1. Go right for the BSN or MSN.
2. Do not take on astronomical amounts of debt for this degree.
3. Attend for-profit schools with caution. They may promise faster results, but at a steep price tag. Many of the classes will not be transferrable elsewhere should you pursue a higher degree. Depending on the school, you may not even be eligible for licensure in CA (Excelsior is the best example). Research them thoroughly before you sign onto one.
4. Work as a CNA/tech/aide while in school, to add meat to the resume, get you in a facility somewhere and help you network. Doesn't guarantee a thing as I've mentioned above, but it also can't hurt you. Do it more for the general healthcare experience than for any other reason.
5. Start saving up an emergency fund to help cover expenses while you job search after graduation.
6. Be open to the idea of gaining your first year or two of experience outside of CA...since that's what many new grads have to do.
7. Yes, not working right away can hinder your career...because you risk becoming an "old new grad." You're not eligible for a lot of new grad programs after a certain amount of time following graduation. Meanwhile, what you do remain eligible for, you will have to compete with new graduates whose knowledge and skills are still fresh, while yours may not be d/t not working.
I also moved this to the CA Nursing Forum to help you get better responses.
Best of luck whatever you decide!