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Become Nurse in Florida: Requirements & Licensing

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Florida’s overall healthy economy makes it a desirable location for nursing professionals. The state’s growing population, popularity with retirees, and expanding demand for primary and preventive healthcare has made Florida one of the nation’s top five employers of both entry-level and advanced practice nurses (APRNs).

At the entry level, Florida offers moderate salaries balanced by steady job growth and an affordable cost of living. A certified nurse assistant (CNA) can expect an average annual salary of $27,790, while a licensed practical nurse (LPN) earns $45,580.

Advanced nursing careers generally offer competitive salaries well above the state average of $47,750 for all occupations. Registered nurses (RNs) make average yearly wages of $67,610. Nurse practitioners, who need at least a master’s degree to practice, earn a mean yearly income of $101,510.

U.S. News ranks Florida third overall for education and first for higher education. The state offers a variety of quality nursing education programs.

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How to Become a Nurse in Florida

This section looks at how to become a nurse in Florida, including information on nursing licensure and online nursing programs in Florida.

Your intended nursing career dictates the kind of program you should enter. Programs that train students for entry-level nursing are usually shorter than undergraduate and graduate degrees designed for RNs and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The Florida State Board of Nursing requires all LPNs, RNs, and APRNs to pass the NCLEX licensing exam for their practice level.

  • Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    Some nurses start as hospital aides and advance to RN positions through an internal diploma program. Others pursue an associate degree from nursing schools in Florida and enter the workforce quickly. However, individuals with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) enjoy more employment options.

    Entering an online RN-to-BSN program in Florida improves employment prospects. Online BSN programs in Florida allow students to take on advanced roles, such as nurse administrator or community health specialist. Online MSN programs prepare candidates for careers in advanced nursing, research, consulting, and teaching.

  • Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Many nursing schools in Florida offer affordable, flexible distance education programs at all degree levels. Students applying to an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a BSN program need a high school diploma and adequate ACT/SAT scores. They must also fulfill prerequisites.

    Most programs include practical experience components like internships, and all include clinical training. Diploma and associate programs take 1-3 years to complete, bachelor’s degrees usually require four years of study, and master’s programs typically last for two years. Doctoral programs vary considerably in length.

  • Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    To qualify for entry-level nursing credentials, you must pass the national council licensure examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). Candidates must hold an accredited nursing degree that reflects the knowledge and experience tested on the exam. Examinees have up to six hours to complete the test. You should start studying for the NCLEX-RN at least two months before the test date.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Some distance learning programs feature entirely online formats, while others use hybrid delivery systems that include both online and in-person coursework. Online nursing degrees typically follow the same program schedules as their on-campus counterparts. Many schools offer accelerated online programs that allow students to complete more credits each semester and graduate faster.

Online programs boast the same high-quality course content as traditional programs, allowing graduates to pursue the same career opportunities as their on-campus peers. Many online degrees feature asynchronous delivery, which provides additional flexibility for students to balance school with work or personal obligations.

Nursing Licensure in Florida

Licensing opportunities for Florida nurses depend on their practice level. All credentials require candidates to complete some type of training or educational program approved by the Florida State Board of Nursing or the Florida State Board of Medicine. Most require candidates to obtain licensure by examination, although candidates who are already licensed in another jurisdiction may seek endorsement.

NPs in Florida follow restricted practice formats, meaning that licensure laws limit NPs’ abilities in at least one practice area. Florida law requires nurses to maintain career-long supervision, management, or assistance from a licensed physician to ensure quality patient care.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Florida nursing professionals enjoy many career opportunities across the field. The following information describes each specific type of nursing in depth.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    A prospective CNA in Florida must follow a training pathway approved by the state’s nursing board. After completing an approved training program, candidates must complete and pass the skills and knowledge sections of the Prometric nurse aide exam. Test-takers can consider multiple formats for their examinations, including a written test comprising 60 competency-based, multiple-choice questions or an audio examination.

    Test-takers can complete their exams at their own facilities or at one of many regional testing locations throughout Florida. On examination day, test-takers receive their test results for both parts of the exam. The board then receives the results about a week after the test completion date.

    Before candidates can complete their exam requirements, they must clear a federal background check.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    Aspiring professionals can pursue LPN roles in Florida by completing a board-approved, accredited nursing degree. After satisfying the educational criteria, prospective LPNs must have their fingerprints taken and submit an application to the Florida Board of Nursing before passing the NCLEX-PN examination. The fingerprinting process is performed electronically through Livescan.

    All applicants must submit a licensing fee that covers both processing and initial licensure, along with an exam fee for the testing company. After passing the examination, professionals should expect to receive their licenses in 1-2 weeks after their exam completion date. Any applicants who do not pass their exam must reapply.

  • Registered Nurse

    Prospective RNs in Florida should enroll in a board-approved, accredited, professional nursing program. Candidates who satisfy the educational requirements must apply to the Florida Board of Nursing and complete an electronic fingerprinting process through Livescan before taking the NCLEX-RN. Applicants must pay an application fee, an examination fee, and a fingerprinting fee.

    RNs already licensed in another U.S. state or territory can apply for licensure by endorsement by submitting license verification from their current state and paying the associated fees. RNs must maintain licensure by meeting the renewal requirements every two years, satisfying specific continuing education credits in specific areas of study, and meeting the deadline for renewal applications.

  • Nurse Practitioner

    Students who want to become NPs in Florida must complete a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing from a board-approved, accredited program. All prospective NPs must hold one or more specialty certifications from a board. The Florida Board of Nursing recognizes fourteen national certifying bodies, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American College of Nurse Midwives, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

    All advanced practice registered nurses practicing in Florida must hold liability insurance and complete a mandatory two-hour course in medical error prevention. NP candidates can download their licensing applications online. Applicants who already hold RN licenses must pay a licensing fee, while those applying for both credentials pay a doubled fee.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Florida a nurse compact state?

    Florida joined the Nurse Licensure Compact in 2016, and in 2019, became part of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). The eNLC allows RNs and LPNs who hold licensure in one compact state to practice in any of the 27 compact states without obtaining additional licenses. Currently licensed Florida nurses may apply for multistate licenses, eliminating the need for multiple credentials to practice in different states.

  • What nursing field makes the most money?

    Factors like degree level, professional experience, and type of employer determine salary potential. Specialized APRNs who hold at least a master’s degree rank among the highest paid nurses. Certified registered nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners, especially those in psychiatric/mental health specialties, earn well over $100,000 annually.

  • How long does it take to get an RN license in Florida?

    The Florida State Board of Nursing requires proof of graduation from an accredited nursing program, fingerprints and criminal background screening, and a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination to practice in the state. The board does not provide a timeframe for approval, processing applications in the order received based on the amount of time needed to receive all required documents.

  • How should I choose what nursing field to go into?

    Students can choose from a variety of traditional and online nursing programs in Florida. While CNAs and LPNs can enter the workplace much faster than nurses earning a bachelor’s or graduate degree, RNs’ and APRNs’ in-demand specialties and advanced education lead to higher salaries and career advancement.

  • Does an online nursing degree have any value?

    Accredited online nursing degrees offer the same rigorous academic training as traditional programs, taught by qualified faculty and covering the same curriculum requirements. Online programs provide flexible and convenient options for aspiring nurses who want to earn their degree while maintaining family or work responsibilities.

Florida Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Entry-level nurses and APRNs in Florida earn competitive salaries and enjoy many lucrative employment opportunities. This favorable job growth stems from Florida’s diverse and expanding immigrant population requiring primary and preventive healthcare services. As one of the most desirable states for retirement, Florida’s aging baby boomers rely on nursing professionals to provide acute and long-term care in skilled nursing facilities and through home health services.

The demand for RNs tops all other nursing positions. As of May 2019, the state employs more than 180,000 RNs, followed by over 87,000 CNAs and almost 46,000 LPNs. APRNs make up the highest paid nursing professionals in the state, with nurse practitioners earning mean annual incomes in the six figures. The Miami, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach metropolitan region ranks among the top urban regions in the entire U.S. with the highest employment levels for each of these nursing careers.

Nursing Resources for Florida

  • Florida Nurses Association

    FNA is a nursing organization that represents all nursing specialties or practice areas in the state. The association partners with other organizations to create a unified nursing advocacy program.

  • Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners

    FLANP unites NPs and healthcare advocates to improve access to healthcare for citizens in Florida.

  • Florida Board of Nursing

    The Florida Board of Nursing monitors, licenses, educates, disciplines, and rehabilitates licensed nurses to ensure they provide quality, effective healthcare services for people across the Sunshine State.

  • Florida Center for Nursing

    This state workforce center established in Florida to provide solutions for nursing shortages aims to educate, inform, and update professionals on any nursing shortages that arise in the state.

  • Florida Nursing Students Association

    FNSA provides members with access to resources, community events, and conventions, allowing them to seek opportunities for professional development and networking.

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