How to Get Licensed as an RN

How you go about getting an RN license will differ slightly depending on your state of residence or intended employment. There are, however, some elements that apply to every state, as these are set at the federal government level or by medical regulators.

Firstly, the qualifications you attained to qualify as a Registered Nurse must be approved by the relevant state nursing board. To achieve this, they must meet and maintain a minimum set of educational standards which are partly set by the state, and partly by various medical regulation and governance bodies. You may study for an associate’s degree or bachelor's degree in nursing, or pursue a nursing diploma.

The next step is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). Only when you have fulfilled these two steps will you be permitted to begin the licensing process.

Currently, twenty-five states issue nursing licenses that only apply in that one state. The other twenty-five states take part in what is called "The Nurse Licensure Compact" which allows you to practice in multiple states.

You should always check state regulations for any further requirements before applying.

Read our RN License Transfer & NLC Guide

Looking to transfer your nursing license to a new state, or find out more about which states participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) for multi-state licensure? Find out everything you need to know in our handy guide.

RN License Transfer Guide

What You Need to Know About the NCLEX-RN Exam

Only when students have successfully completed an accredited nursing degree program will they be allowed to apply for the NCLEX examination (also known as NCLEX-RN). This is a vital step on the road to becoming a registered nurse – you will not be able to legally practice without passing it. The NCLEX-RN is a computerized test consisting of between 75 and 265 questions encompassing different aspects of nursing theory and practice, and test-takers will have up to six hours to complete the exam.

More details about the NCLEX-RN exam are available here.

Registered Nursing License Renewals

In most states, your RN license will last two years. However, you should always check the relevant state licensing information, as some states require annual licensing while others have three or four-year terms.

You will need the official renewal form available online from the state's licensing body. Typically, you will need your current license and your unique number along with any certificates. The form will also ask for employment details, as the license requires that you have a minimum number of practice hours and evidence of continuing education courses.

If you have been out of practice for several years and now wish to re-enter the industry as a registered nurse, the process may be slightly different. Depending on state requirements, you may need to complete a continuing education program and/or pass an exam.

State-by-State RN Licensure Information

Below is our state-by-state guide to the Registered Nurse licensing process and what you need to be eligible in each state. In all cases, we're presuming you are newly qualified.

RELATED: RN License Transfer and NLC Guide

Alabama RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate with a regionally accredited nursing program or one which substantially meets state requirements if from elsewhere – submit transcripts
  • Application fee and forms
  • Social Security Number and citizenship / legal presence document
  • Submit fingerprints

Link: Alabama Board of Nursing (Alabama permits single and multistate compact)

Alaska RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a regionally accredited nursing degree or other program
  • Send application fee with the forms at time of application
  • Provide your SSN and fingerprint details
  • Register with the Pearson testing company to take the RN exam (if licensing by exam)

Link: Alaska Board of Nursing Licensure

Arizona RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful graduate of an accredited educational program in nursing.
  • Forms and application fee
  • Provide SSN and proof of legal residence
  • English proficiency exam for non-native speakers and English as a second language
  • Submitted fingerprints to state and Federal checks

Link: Arizona State Board of Nursing

Arkansas RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful completion of accredited nursing study program
  • Send the application fee along with the form
  • Provide SSN and proof of Arkansas as a primary residence
  • Submit fingerprints and other security information for the purpose of legal checks

Link: Arkansas Department of Health

California RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate from a relevant and accredited study program – provide transcripts
  • Register for a BreEZe account to apply and take the exam
  • Obtain criminal record clearance and submit fingerprints
  • Pass communication courses; non-native English speakers will need to prove formal competency
  • Pay application fee at the time of filling out the form

Link: California Board of Registered Nursing

Colorado RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a state-approved RN program
  • Declaration of primary residence in Colorado
  • Submit fingerprints and details for background checks
  • Two routes – by endorsement, and by examination

Link: Department of Regulatory Agencies

Connecticut RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful completion of a board-approved study program (a bachelor's or associate degree, or an LPN to RN)
  • Send transcripts and application fee
  • Out-of-state graduates will be considered individually; international students to complete CGFNS
  • Register with Pearson Vue (for examination pathway)
  • Legal checks, including fingerprints

Link: Connecticut State Department of Public Health

Delaware RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduation from a state-accredited study program
  • A State and Federal criminal background check
  • Transcripts along with application fee
  • Copies of driver's license or DMV identification
  • CGFNS CES for international students

Link: Delaware Division of Professional Regulation

Florida RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful completion of a state-endorsed education program – degree, military, certificates and other relevant pathways
  • Submit to electronic fingerprinting
  • Criminal background check and health history check
  • Application form and fee submission

Link: Florida Board of Nursing

Georgia RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate from a program endorsed by the state and submit transcripts
  • Submit all required documents along with the fees
  • Register with Pearson Vue for the exam
  • Submit to all state-required background checks

Link: Georgia Board of Nursing

Hawaii RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduation from a state-authorized education program – a degree, diploma, certificate
  • Send copies of transcripts
  • Submit copies of government-issued forms and Social Security card
  • Submit to criminal history check and fingerprint checking (you will pay the cost)

Link: Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional & Vocational Licensing

Idaho RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a state-approved nursing study program
  • Criminal records check and fingerprints (applicant pays)
  • Application form and fee (applicant pays)
  • Register with Pearson Vue for the examination

Link: Idaho Board of Nursing

Illinois RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a valid nursing program authorized by the state
  • Send fees, application form, and submit to security checks
  • Examination and endorsement options available

Link: Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

Indiana RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a state-approved education and training program – transcripts required
  • Pass the state exam to qualify as an RN
  • Application form along with fees – multiple fees which may apply at different times
  • Provide copies of state ID

Link: Indiana State Board of Nursing

Iowa RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successfully graduate from a regionally accredited study program
  • Pass the licensing exam
  • Submit to fingerprinting and criminal background checks as stated on the IBN website

Link: Iowa Board of Nursing

Kansas RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduated from a state Board of Nursing education program (or internationally recognized equivalent)
  • State background check including fingerprints
  • No felony convictions or pending
  • Is not participating in another program (multi-state license)

Link: Kansas State Board of Nursing

Kentucky RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completed a Kentucky-approved educational program – bachelor's or associate’s degree, typically
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN through Pearson Vue before application
  • Background checks including criminal records and fingerprints
  • Pay all fees by each subsequent deadline

Link: Kentucky Board of Nursing

Louisiana RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successfully complete a training and education program as approved by the state of Louisiana
  • Send transcripts and application fee with each subsequent stage
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Submit to all background checks and fingerprinting

Link: Louisiana State Board of Nursing

Maine RN Licensing Requirements

  • Application system is now fully online – internet access required
  • Graduate from a nursing program through an accredited school
  • Criminal background checking plus fingerprint submission
  • Take and pass the state exam (for those applying by license by exam pathway)

Link: Maine State Board of Nursing

Maryland RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful graduation from a state-approved education program
  • International students will need to send transcripts for evaluation
  • Complete oral English test (TOEFL) for non-native and English as a foreign language applicant
  • Fingerprinting and background checks
  • Application form and passport-sized photo along with fees

Link: Maryland Board of Nursing

Massachusetts RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful completion of an accredited nursing program
  • Send the application form along with all required fees to each deadline
  • Evidence of mandatory Continuing Education for nurses
  • Background checks, including criminal records (to include fingerprint checking)
  • International applicants to send transcripts; non-native English speakers provide evidence of proficiency

Link: Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing

Michigan RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduation from a Michigan state-approved training program
  • Non-native speakers are required to provide evidence of English proficiency
  • Foreign nationals will also be required to provide a report from CGFNS
  • Provide your SSN
  • Submit to a criminal background check
  • Fill out a questionnaire of moral character

Link: Michigan Bureau of Professional Licensing – Board of Nursing

Minnesota RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete an approved nursing degree or other education program
  • Send fees along with application form
  • Submit to a fingerprint check for the purpose of criminal records and safety check
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN before licensing is permitted
  • A competency evaluation exam

Link: Minnesota Board of Nursing

Mississippi RN Licensing Requirements

  • Valid nursing qualification such as a bachelor's degree or associate’s degree
  • Provide fees with the application
  • Supply valid SSN
  • A discipline survey followed by criminal background checks including fingerprints

Link: Mississippi Board of Nursing

Missouri RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completed and notarized form (no fee for first-time applicants)
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship or right to live in the U.S. (send copies, not originals)
  • Transcript proving right to work as a Registered Nurse
  • Submit to criminal background checks plus fingerprint

Link: Missouri Board of Nursing

Montana RN Licensing Requirements

  • Enroll and complete a fully accredited or equivalent state-approved nursing study program
  • Submit application form and fees
  • Register with Pearson VUE to take the NCLEX-RN
  • Fingerprint checks and other security protocols to ensure no criminal history or pending convictions

Link: Montana Board of Nursing

Nebraska RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a relevant education program and pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Submit the relevant application form along with fees (vary)
  • SSN and proof of state residence
  • Submit to all required security checks including fingerprints
  • International applicants should use an official organization to convert their qualification for U.S. relevance

Link: Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

Nevada RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate a Nevada-approved nursing program permitting practice as an RN
  • Submit to security checks, including fingerprints
  • Mandatory cultural competency continuing education
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Submit the application form and fees to each required deadline
  • International applicants should translate their qualifications for the US for consideration

Link: Nevada State Board of Nursing

New Hampshire RN Licensing Requirements

  • An approved qualification enabling you to work as an RN, plus transcripts
  • Pre-register with Pearson Vue for NCLEX exam
  • Provide a copy of your state-issued driver's license
  • Submit to security and criminal background checks

Link: New Hampshire Board of Nursing

New Jersey RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduated from a New Jersey nursing board-approved education program (international students eligible)
  • Pass NCLEX-RN
  • English proficiency examination proof for international students where English is not the first language
  • Unencumbered license
  • Criminal checks, fingerprint submission
  • Valid Social Security Number

Link: New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs

New Mexico RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completion of a New Mexico board-approved program
  • The application form and all fees (multiple fees apply at various stages of the process)
  • Take and pass the licensing exam
  • Criminal background checks and mandatory fingerprint checks
  • TOEFL, IELTS, and TOEIC for international applicants for whom English is not the first language

Link: New Mexico Board of Nursing

New York RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduated from a nursing education program acceptable to the board
  • Complete NY state infection control program
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN or similar (subject to board approval)
  • Background checks will be carried out to include fingerprints
  • Application form and fees, which are spread out throughout the process

Link: New York State Education Department

North Carolina RN Licensing Requirements

  • Qualified with a state-approved program to practice as an RN
  • Transcripts will be required for out-of-state applicants; international students will need to convert their qualifications
  • Application form and relevant fees to each required deadline
  • Criminal background checking which includes fingerprints

Link: North Carolina Board of Nursing

North Dakota RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completed an authorized study program as listed by the state board
  • International students may apply but should convert their qualifications and provide transcripts
  • A Social Security Number
  • Application and fees
  • Complete a CHRC (Criminal History Record Check)
  • Take and pass the state’s CNA competency evaluation

Link: North Dakota Board of Nursing

Ohio RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completion of a state-authorized education program
  • International students are eligible but must use a formal service to convert their qualifications for consideration
  • Social security number, government ID, and address in the state
  • Check the website for disqualifying offenses
  • Application form(s) and all relevant fees
  • Criminal records check (which will include fingerprints)

Link: Ohio Board of Nursing

Oklahoma RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completion of a state board-approved nursing program
  • Application and fees to be sent on time
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Submit to a criminal records check

Link: Oklahoma Board of Nursing

Oregon RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a state-authorized program no longer ago than two years prior to application
  • Provide verification of qualifications – transcripts for example
  • State any endorsements or convictions – actual and pending
  • Submit to security investigation which will include fingerprints

Link: Oregon State Board of Nursing

Pennsylvania RN Licensing Requirements

  • The completion of a state-approved nursing program
  • A passing grade on the NCLEX-RN
  • Three hours of continuing education (provide proof)
  • License fee
  • State security checks which also include fingerprints

Link: Pennsylvania Department of State

Rhode Island RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completed state-approved education – a degree or diploma with significant experience
  • Evidence of continuing education and training
  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Security checks which will include criminal records check for pending convictions and current convictions
  • International students may apply but will need to "convert" grades

Link: State of Rhode Island Department of Health

South Carolina RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate from a state-approved education program – either in the state or another state (must be approved)
  • Proof of ongoing competency
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Criminal records check – including fingerprints
  • International students may apply but must translate grades and other eligibility requirements

Link: State Board of Nursing for South Carolina

South Dakota RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful completion of a relevant education program suitable for working as an RN in SD according to the Board of Nursing
  • Application fee and form (check the website for current costs)
  • Criminal background checks – fingerprints mandatory
  • Register with Pearson Vue for the NCLEX exam (if not already passed)

Link: South Dakota Department of Health Board of Nursing

Tennessee RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a study program enabling you to work as an RN including transcripts
  • Application form, fee, and a signed passport photograph
  • Declaration and proof of citizenship
  • Register with Pearson Vue for the NCLEX exam
  • Criminal records check – past felonies will require a letter of explanation and court documents

Link: Tennessee Department of Health Board of Nursing

Texas RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduation from a Texas state-authorized education program (Associate’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, or other pathways)
  • Criminal background checks through the Department of Public Safety – fingerprints required
  • Nursing jurisprudence exam
  • Register with Pearson Vue 30 days before graduation to take the NCLEX-RN
  • Application and fees required
  • If your qualifying program was not taught in English, you will be required to provide proof of English proficiency

Link: Texas Board of Nursing

Utah RN Licensing Requirements

  • Successful completion of an approved program permitting practice as a registered nurse
  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Non-native English speakers are required to complete a CGFNS and CES report
  • All forms and fees by the respective deadlines
  • Criminal records check including fingerprints

Link: Utah Department of Commerce Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing

Vermont RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduation from a relevant and authorized training and education program
  • Application form and fees
  • Criminal background checks are now mandatory for all – fingerprints required
  • Take and pass the NCLEX
  • Non-native English speakers must provide official proof of English proficiency

Link: Vermont Secretary of State – Nursing

Virginia RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduation from a state-approved nursing education program
  • Criminal background check along with fingerprints
  • NCLEX testing, register with Pearson Vue
  • Completed application form and relevant fees with each deadline

Link: Virginia Board of Nursing

Washington RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate from an education program approved by Washington state
  • Register for the state government registration service – you will need your SSN and other personal details
  • Fees apply
  • Criminal background checks, including submission of fingerprints
  • Register for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam

Link: Washington State Department of Health

Washington DC RN Licensing Requirements

  • Completion of a fully accredited degree or another relevant program
  • Submit your SSN and other personal details
  • Application form and fees apply
  • International nurses need to convert their qualifications to the US system for consideration and prove English proficiency
  • Criminal background checks including fingerprint checking

Link: DC Health Board of Nursing

West Virginia RN Licensing Requirements

  • Graduate from a state-approved education program such as a nursing degree
  • All transcripts in support of your qualifications
  • Completed application form and fees (multiple with varying deadlines)
  • Citizenship declaration and proof of right to be in the US
  • Evidence of English proficiency for non-native speakers

Link: West Virginia RN Board

Wisconsin RN Licensing Requirements

  • Complete a fully accredited nursing program as approved by the state nursing board
  • Send copies of transcripts to support your qualifications
  • Application form and all relevant fees
  • Proof of citizenship/right to remain and work in the US
  • If English is not your first language or you studied your program in a language other than English, you will need to provide certification of proficiency

Link: Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

Wyoming RN Licensing Requirements

  • A completed state-approved education program such as a degree in nursing
  • Transcript copies to support your application – along with the form and fees
  • Proof of US citizenship or right to live and work in the US, along with Social Security Number
  • Submit details for a security screening, including fingerprints
  • English proficiency certification for those who do not speak English as a first language

Link: Wyoming State Board of Nursing

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