The exact steps that students follow to earn registered nurse licensure vary by state, but most jurisdictions require candidates to earn at least an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited university. While both types of degrees meet registered nurse education requirements, the two levels offer different advantages. For example, while an associate degree takes only two years to complete, many employers prefer hiring candidates with bachelor’s degrees.
Once candidates satisfy the education portion of registered nurse requirements, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Listed below are the registered nurse education requirements and guidelines for each state.
The Alabama Board of Nursing makes up the largest group of professionals in the state and oversees LPN and RN licensure, endorsements, renewals, and reinstatements in Alabama. Registered nursing requirements include legal citizenship and a nursing degree from an accredited institution. To earn licensure by examination, candidates must pay $100 for the exam application, $50 for a temporary license, and $3.50 for a transaction fee.
RNs must renew their licenses on even-numbered years unless they earned their license between August 31 and December 31. Renewal costs just over $100, and candidates must clear any outstanding debt and complete 24 hours of continuing education credits.
RN candidates for initial licensure through examination must submit a notarized application, a completed fingerprint card, official transcripts, and nursing program verification forms when they apply to take the NCLEX through the Alaska Board of Nursing. Candidates should also send checks for the applicable fees, including $375 for the application, licensing, and fingerprinting; candidates who want temporary licenses pay an additional $100.
The board requires RNs to renew their licenses on November 30 of even-numbered years. Renewal candidates must submit proof of two of the following: 30 contact hours of continuing education, 60 hours of uncompensated professional activity, or 320 working hours in the previous two years.
The Arizona Board of Nursing (AZBN) requires candidates who seek initial licensure by examination to submit a diploma from a preapproved nursing program, fingerprints for a background check, and a passing NCLEX score. Candidates who completed a program in another state but don’t yet have a license must also submit transcripts from their nursing program. The application costs $350, including the fingerprinting.
Arizona licenses expire on different dates depending on several factors, but they can last up to four years. When it comes time for renewal, RNs must demonstrate that they have worked 960 hours, graduated from a nursing program, or took AZBN refresher courses in the past five years.
Candidates qualify to take the NCLEX in Arkansas if they pass a comprehensive background check, provide a valid United States Social Security number, and complete an approved nursing program. The Arkansas State Board of Nursing (ASBN) charges $100 for most licenses and renewals, but some additional fees may apply. Candidates must also submit full transcripts and graduation verification to the ASBN.
RN licenses in Arkansas expire every two years, on the last day of each nurse’s birth month. RNs born in an even-numbered year must renew their license each even-numbered year, and the converse is true for nurses born in odd-numbered years. To earn renewal, RNs must present proof of 20 contact hours of continuing education within the previous two years.
RN candidates should send their applications to the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) about 6-8 weeks before they graduate from an accredited nursing program. Before they can take the NCLEX, candidates must submit transcripts and fingerprints for a background check. Candidates can choose to apply online or through printed booklets.
The BRN requires nurses to renew their licenses every two years after their initial certification by the last day of their birthday month. To qualify for renewal, California RNs must complete 30 hours of continuing education.
Aspiring registered nurses in Colorado must pay $88 for the examination application or $43 for licensure by endorsement. Candidates must submit an affidavit of eligibility, fingerprints, consent for a background check, and transcripts that prove graduation from an accredited program. Colorado participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), meaning that nurses from other participating states can work in Colorado without applying for additional licensure.
RN licenses from the Colorado Board of Nursing expire on September 30 every two years.
The Connecticut State Department of Public Health oversees nurse licensure. Candidates do not need to complete a program within the state, but must earn a degree from an accredited school that meets Connecticut’s guidelines. Candidates must apply online, pay a $180 application fee, and submit transcripts and degree validation.
RN licenses expire each year on the first day of the nurse’s birthday month, and nurses receive notifications of their renewal date 60 and 30 days before the expiration date. RNs from other states can apply for endorsement by providing their nursing school transcripts and proof of existing licensure.
Delaware’s Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) manages all professional licenses in the state, including those for nurses. The DPR requires RN candidates to complete an accredited nursing degree and at least 400 clinical hours. Qualifying petitioners should submit a notarized application along with payment for the $124 fee and copy of their ID.
Because Delaware participates in the NLC, nurses from other states can practice in Delaware without reapplying for licensure. The DPR requires nurses to renew their licenses on either February 28, May 31, or September 30 of odd-numbered years, depending on when they earned their original credential.
RN candidates in Florida should first complete an approved nursing program and apply for the NCLEX through Pearson Vue. Next, they must send their fingerprints through the Livescan system and apply for licensure by examination through the Florida Board of Nursing. Upon approval, candidates take the NCLEX and can earn licenses within 10 days of passing the exam.
Every two years, RNs in Florida must renew their license and complete 18 continuing education hours, one hour in HIV/AIDS education, and two credits in each of the following areas: medical error prevention, Florida laws, impairment in the workplace, human trafficking, and domestic violence.
RN candidates in Georgia can apply to take the NCLEX online or through the mail after they obtain permission from Pearson Vue. They must also submit a $40 application fee and permission for a background check. Graduates from approved schools do not need to send transcripts. Georgia entered the NLC in 2017, giving nurses who earn this license freedom to work in other participating states and vice-versa.
RN licenses in Georgia expire on January 31 of either odd- or even-numbered years, depending on when nurses earned their credential. Renewal candidates must submit payment for the $65 fee and proof of continuing education credits.
The Hawaii Board of Nursing gives candidates three chances to pass the NCLEX in any state. Candidates who do not earn a passing score in those three tries must take remedial courses before trying again. When graduates apply to take the NCLEX in Hawaii, they must also send copies of their state IDs and Social Security cards. As of July 2017, the state also requires a criminal background check for all new nursing candidates.
RN licenses in Hawaii expire on June 30 of odd-numbered years. To apply for renewal, nurses must complete one continuing competency requirement every two years, which can include 30 hours of continuing education.
The Idaho Board of Nursing (IBN) participates in the NLC, so RNs from other NLC states can work in Idaho without applying for additional licensure. RNs who apply for initial licensure must submit fingerprints for a criminal background check and complete the rest of their application online through the Idaho Nurse Portal.
RN licenses from the IBN expire on August 31 of odd-numbered years. Up to three months before the expiration date, qualifying renewal candidates can log in to the nurse portal, upload continuing education verification, and pay the $90 application fee.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) oversees licensing for RNs, and candidates should graduate from IDFPR-approved schools. Candidates must provide transcripts, payment for the $91 fee, and fingerprints. However, practicing LPNs do not need an additional background check or fingerprinting.
Nurses renew their licenses during even-numbered years and must complete continuing education hours through courses approved by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the IDFPR.
The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA) manages all nursing licenses in the state. Candidates for initial RN licensure by examination must submit transcripts, a passport-style photograph, payment for the $50 application fee, and explanation for any criminal history. Candidates must also request that their nursing school send degree verification to the PLA.
RN licenses in Indiana expire on October 31 of odd-numbered years. As of July 2018, RNs must earn at least two hours of continuing education credits that address the opioid crisis and substance abuse prevention to qualify for renewal.
The Iowa Board of Nursing (IBON) requires RN candidates to earn a degree from a program that they preapprove or a similar program in another state. Students who attend school in another state must gain preapproval from that state’s board of nursing or similar governing body. Candidates must provide their Social Security number and proof of either high school graduation or a passing GED score.
The IBON issues each RN a wallet card that includes the expiration date of their license. Nurses must begin the renewal process through the IBON’s online portal at least 30 days before their expiration date.
TheKansas Board of Nursing recommends that candidates first apply for examination through Pearson Vue. Next, they should submit completed applications and payment of $75 to the board. Students who are near graduation from an approved school use the test before transcript form to apply for the test before they earn their diploma. The board issues licenses to those who complete graduation, pass the NCLEX, and pass a background check.
When it comes time to renew their licenses, RNs in Kansas must submit proof of 30 continuing credit hours that the board approves and can choose to renew by mail or online.
The Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) charges candidates $125 each time they apply to take the NCLEX. Candidates must also submit fingerprints for a background check that will be forwarded to the KBN. Students who attended an approved nursing program and meet these qualifications can take the NCLEX, while those who attended out-of-state programs must also submit transcripts to the KBN before taking the exam.
Nurses must renew their license each year, qualifying if they complete 14 hours of continuing education, earn a national nursing-related certification, complete nursing research, publish a nursing paper in a recognized journal, give a continuing education presentation, or act as a preceptor to student nurses.
The Louisiana State Board of Nursing welcomes first-time RN candidates to take the NCLEX if they complete an approved nursing program, provide their Social Security number, and submit their initial application within 60 days of graduation. Background checks must show the absence of investigations or holds from other medical regulatory boards, pending criminal or civil charges, and allegations of abuse. Candidates must earn licensure within four years of graduation from nursing programs and have four attempts to pass the NCLEX.
Nurses in Louisiana renew their licenses between October 31 and January 31 each year and must complete continuing education requirements.
First-time RN candidates must submit a printed application to the Maine State Board of Nursing along with payment of $75, a passport-style photo, transcripts that prove graduation from an approved nursing program, explanations of any problems that arise on Section II of the applications, and proof of primary residence in Maine. Candidates must also submit to a criminal background check and pay $52 for this service.
RN licenses in Maine expire every other year on the nurse’s birthday. Renewal candidates must submit proof of 75 continuing education credits and $75 for the renewal fee.
Candidates for RN licensure through the Maryland Board of Nursing (MBON) must submit either their federal tax identification or Social Security number. The board also verifies that candidates do not owe back payments for child support or have any unfavorable marks on their record that could impact their abilities to work as a nurse. The MBON accepts candidates who graduate from an approved local university or out-of-state college that meets the same standards. Candidates who graduate from other schools can complete additional clinical rotation hours to become eligible for licensure.
Maryland is a founding member of the NLC and continues to provide that flexibility to nurses in the state.
The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing accepts candidates who graduate from a board-approved school and demonstrate good moral character. Several laws determine what constitutes good moral character; for example, candidates with certain kinds of criminal histories can never gain board approval, while those with other types can prove that they have changed.
Graduates must pay $230 for the application, and RN licenses expire on each nurse’s birthday during even-numbered years. Between renewals, nurses must earn at least 15 continuing education hours and maintain good moral character as defined by law. The renewal fee is $120.
Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) administers nurse licenses and accepts successful nursing graduates from any accredited school in the United States or who have received certification from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. Due to the state’s proximity to the Canadian border, LARA allows some Canadian graduates to register the same way as their American peers. All first-time candidates must provide fingerprints and submit to a background check.
Licensed nurses in Michigan must renew their credentials every two years, which requires them to complete at least 25 hours of approved continuing education and keep the records for at least four years after each renewal.
The Minnesota Board of Nursing accepts transferring RNs from other NLC states without any paperwork. Initial RN candidates can apply to take the NCLEX either online or through a mailed packet. Between the criminal background check and other fees, candidates should submit payment of $138.25 with their application. They must also complete the fingerprinting process and send proof of graduation before registering with Pearson Vue. Candidates who graduated from nursing school five years or more before the date of their submission must also take refresher courses.
Nurses in Minnesota must renew their licenses every two years, for which they must complete 24 hours of continuing education credits.
The Mississippi Board of Nursing requires first-time RN candidates to submit their Social Security number and a $100 fee. Candidates cannot apply before graduation, and the board must receive official transcripts directly from schools. Mississippi participates in the NLC and accepts licensed nurses from many other states, but all new candidates must complete a criminal background check through the Mississippi system.
RNs must renew their licenses between September 1 and December 31 of every even-numbered year and complete at least 20 contact hours of continuing education every two years.
The Missouri Nursing Board accepts candidates who are either near graduation or recently completed a degree from a nursing school approved by the board. Candidates can begin the process as early as three months before commencement and should submit a passport-style photograph, consent to a background check, and fingerprinting through an approved facility. The background check costs just under $45, and the application costs $45. Missouri does not require RNs to earn continuing education credits for renewal, and nurses who earn licensure in Missouri can practice in any other NLC member state.
RN candidates in Montana must submit transcripts that verify their date of graduation to the Board of Nursing. They should also submit completed applications to both Pearson Vue and the board. Candidates must verify all professional licenses they hold in any state, send fingerprints, consent to background checks, and explain any negative activity on their records. The fee for the application is $100.
Montana RNs must renew their licenses before December 31 during even-numbered years. All renewal candidates need 24 contact hours of continuing education per cycle, even if they earned licensure in the past two years.
When RN candidates submit applications to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), they should include evidence of either citizenship or legal presence, a passport-style photograph, appropriate name change documents, and any applicable criminal case documents. Candidates should also have the proper organizations send transcripts, background check results, and verifications of previous licenses to the DHHS. Nebraska participates in the Enhanced NLC, so graduates from approved programs can apply for single-state or multistate licenses.
RN licenses in Nebraska need renewal by October 31 of even-numbered years, and nurses must earn 20 hours of continuing education contact hours every two years to remain eligible for renewal. The DHHS also sets employment requirements.
RN candidates must graduate with approved degrees, but they do not have to attend school in the state to earn licensure from the Nevada State Board of Nursing. Online nursing students can enroll in out-of-state programs as long as they meet or exceed Nebraska’s standards. Candidates should also submit their Social Security number and fingerprints. The RN application fee for initial licensure costs $100, and the background check brings additional charges. When graduates meet these standards, they can earn temporary permits that allow them to practice while they await NCLEX results.
Nurses must renew their licenses every two years, and renewal candidates must complete 30 hours of board-approved continuing education hours and pay the $100 application fee.
29. New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Board of Nursing (NHBON) allows only New Hampshire residents to apply for initial licensure but does accept RN candidates with licensure in other NLC states. In-state candidates must complete a proof of residency form, a criminal background check with fingerprinting, and preregistration with Pearson Vue. In addition, candidates must send copies of official transcripts and their driver’s license.
Nurses must renew their licenses every two years. Renewal candidates must have worked 400 hours as an RN within the past four years, taken one refresher program within the past two years, or passed the NCLEX within the previous two years.
30. New Jersey
The New Jersey Board of Nursing, a department within the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, accredits nursing programs in the state and awards licenses to nurses at all levels. The board approves only schools that achieve NCLEX passing rates of 75% or above.
The application for initial RN licensure in New Jersey includes many standard components, including a criminal background check and education verification. The state also ensures that candidates do not owe back payments of child support or suffer from medical conditions that would make nursing impossible. Nurses must earn 30 continuing education credits every two years to keep their licenses active.
31. New Mexico
RN candidates have only three chances to pass the NCLEX before the New Mexico Board of Nursing rejects their application. Candidates must also pass the exam within the first three years following graduation. The board accepts both in- and out-of-state residents, and all graduates must complete fingerprinting cards for $44 and pay the $110 application fee. Candidates should upload graduation verification to the board’s nursing portal and request official transcripts from their accredited institutions.
Registered nurses in New Mexico must renew their licenses every two years. Candidates must complete 30 continuing education units in each renewal period and pay the $93 fee.
32. New York
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) oversees nursing licensure. RN candidates must demonstrate good moral character, have graduated from an approved program, and submit a passing NCLEX score. Some recent nursing graduates may qualify for temporary licenses while they wait to take the exam and receive official scores. Candidates pay $143 for the application and $35 for the temporary permit.
Nurses in New York can gain two types of credentials: licenses and registrations. Licenses remain active unless NYSED revokes them, and registrations must be renewed every three years. Although New York is not an NLC state, professionals from other regions can apply for licensure by endorsement.
33. North Carolina
The North Carolina Board of Nursing requires candidates to submit their information online. Candidates should submit the $75 fee and their initial application about 4-6 weeks before they graduate, then submit transcripts and education verification closer to graduation. Students in North Carolina can send transcripts 30 days before graduation, but out-of-state candidates must submit finalized documents.
Nurses in North Carolina must pay a fee of $100 and meet continuing education requirements every two years to remain licensed. The state outlines various ways to achieve those goals including working for 640 hours and completing 15 contact continuing education hours during the renewal period.
34. North Dakota
Nursing school graduates in North Dakota can apply for RN licensure if they provide a Social Security number, send official copies of their final transcripts, and pay a $130 processing fee. Out-of-state students must complete an approved nursing program that includes a similar number of clinical hours as North Dakota-approved institutions.
RNs in North Dakota must renew their licenses every two years, and renewal candidates must demonstrate at least 400 hours of work in the preceding four years and 12 contact hours of continuing education in the past two years. The North Dakota Board of Nursing notes that continuing education credits do not roll over between renewal periods.
RN candidates in Ohio must graduate from a school approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing or the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. After graduation, school officials must send letters to the state board verifying each candidate’s degree. Candidates must also pass a criminal background check with fingerprinting through the state’s vendor, Webcheck. Finally, candidates must send payment of $75 with their applications.
In Ohio, RNs must renew their license every two years. During the first two years after licensure, nurses do not need to earn continuing education credit. However, nurses should earn 24 continuing education credits for each subsequent renewal period.
The Oklahoma Board of Nursing (OBN) participates in the NLC, which helps nurses bring their talents to different states. When graduates apply for initial licensure, they should send official and final transcripts. Candidates who attended nursing school outside the state must also send course descriptions. All first-time RN candidates must submit an $85 application fee, answers to questions about their fitness to serve, and fingerprints for a background check.
Nurses in Oklahoma must renew their license every two years. The OBN offers several ways to remain eligible for renewal, including earning 24 continuing education credits within the previous two years.
Recent nursing school graduates who seek licensure in Oregon must affix a passport-style photograph to the state’s LIC-103A form and then present this form to representatives from their nursing school. This document should be sent to the Oregon State Board of Nursing along with their application. An application should include consent for a background check and a payment of $160 to the state.
Nurses who want to retain active licensure in Oregon must complete 960 hours of nursing employment every five years in addition to seven hours of continuing education in pain management before their first renewal.
RN candidates use the new Pennsylvania Licensing System, managed by the Pennsylvania Department of State, to apply for initial licensure and renewal. Candidates must submit proof of graduation from a board-approved school, a $35 application processing fee, an additional $35 payment for a temporary license, and answers to questions about their criminal and personal history. Those who opt for a temporary permit can practice under the supervision of licensed nurses while they await official NCLEX results.
Nurses must renew their licenses every two years with 30 hours of continuing education, two of which must be in child abuse prevention.
39. Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Department of Health oversees nursing licensure in the state. First-time RN candidates fill out an online application and submit a $135 processing fee. They should also contact their nursing school to request that they send official transcripts and degree verification to the state health department. Nurses can also pay $30 for a frame-worthy copy of their licenses.
RN renewal cycles in Rhode Island last two years. During each period, nurses must earn 10 hours of continuing education credits that include two hours in substance abuse prevention topics. Nurses who suffer hardships during any given renewal cycle can apply for a six-month extension on these requirements.
40. South Carolina
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) manages nurse licensing. New RN candidates must submit a passport-style photograph with their application as well as a notarized affidavit declaring sound moral character and proof of either citizenship or legal immigration.
The LLR gives nurses in South Carolina several paths to keep their licenses active. For example, professionals can earn 30 contact hours of continuing education every two years, provide proof of certification from a nationally recognized nursing organization, or complete an additional nursing degree.
41. South Dakota
The South Dakota Board of Nursing requires first-time RN candidates to submit a completed application, a $100 processing fee, and the results of a criminal background check. Graduates of South Dakota nursing programs should send certification of nursing education documents from their school to the board, while candidates who attended out-of-state programs must submit official transcripts. Candidates who meet all of these requirements, register for the NCLEX, and pay an additional $25 can get a temporary permit.
Registered nurses in South Dakota must renew their licenses every two years. Candidates for renewal must submit a $115 processing fee and proof of adequate employment, which can be 140 hours in one year or 480 hours in six years.
RN candidates are required to declare Tennessee as their primary state of residency, submit to a criminal background check, attach a passport-style photograph to their application, and confirm their United States citizenship. Additionally, if a candidate has ever held a professional license of any kind, the Tennessee Board of Nursing needs a record of that credential.
The board recommends that nursing students start the criminal background check process about six weeks before graduation. All Tennessee candidates should register with Pearson Vue before submitting their application to the board. Nurses must renew their licenses every two years on the final day of their birthday month.
The Texas Board of Nursing approves only nursing programs within the state. Unlike many states, Texas does not make exceptions for this rule. However, students from programs in other NLC states can apply for licensure in their home region and then work in Texas. Candidates in Texas must submit to fingerprinting and an FBI-run background check.
Nurses must renew their Texas license every two years, which requires them to complete 20 contact hours of continuing education. Professionals may not renew their license if they default on their Texas Guaranteed Student Loans or fail to complete required background check updates.
Within the Utah Department of Commerce, the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) manages RN credentials. DOPL accepts graduates from any program approved by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or the Council on Accreditation. Candidates must submit official transcripts along with fingerprints for a background check.
RNs from other NLC states can practice in Utah for up to 90 days before applying for licensure by endorsement. Nurses must renew their licenses every two years, and they can prove either 400 working hours or 200 hours and 15 continuing education credits to qualify for renewal.
The Vermont Secretary of State oversees the state’s Board of Nursing and RN licenses. First-time candidates must pay an application fee of $60, submit their Social Security number, and ensure their school sends official and final transcripts to the state. Some candidates must send education verification forms as well.
Nurses in Vermont must renew their licenses every two years, and renewal candidates can apply online and verify the number of hours they worked since their last applications.
The Virginia Department of Health Professions welcomes first-time candidates who graduate from state-approved nursing programs. Candidates from other states may also apply if their nursing education includes at least 500 hours of supervised clinical care. Candidates who do not meet those requirements and those who earned degrees in other countries must contact the department before they apply. Anyone who applies for RN licensure in Virginia, including those who apply through endorsement, must submit to a criminal background check.
Nurses in Virginia renew their licenses every two years and qualify for renewal if they complete one of several continuing education requirements.
RN candidates in Washington must graduate from an approved in-state school on an extensive list or an out-of-state nursing program that has comparable standards for clinical hours. The Washington Nursing Commission charges candidates $88 for processing their paperwork, and candidates must register with Pearson Vue and send education verification to the commission to gain approval. When candidates earn approval, they receive their license and begin a Transition to Practice program where they work under a preceptor.
Nurses in Washington must renew their license every three years. For each renewal, they must attest to completing 531 hours of nursing practice and 45 continuing education hours over the preceding three years.
48. West Virginia
Nursing students in West Virginia typically begin the exam application process nearly two months before they graduate. At that time, candidates should submit their completed application and $70 for the processing fee. Candidates can also request a temporary permit, but the West Virginia RN Board accepts only some of these requests. Nurses who earn temporary credentials can practice for 90 days under such permits. Upon graduation, candidates must submit official transcripts to the board and register with Pearson Vue to take the NCLEX.
RN licenses in West Virginia expire on October 31 of each year, and candidates qualify for renewal only if they complete 12 hours of continuing education credit on an annual basis.
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services awards multistate RN licenses to qualifying candidates who either prove Wisconsin as their home state or indicate intentions of moving to the state. Candidates who graduate from a state-approved program can apply using an online system. Wisconsin approves in-state schools and also provides a list of out-of-state programs that the state accepts.
Nurses in Wisconsin must renew their licenses by the last day of February during even-numbered years. The state does not require continuing education for renewal, but candidates must reaffirm their residency statuses.
The Wyoming State Board of Nursing allows RN candidates to graduate from in-state programs on its approved list or similar institutions in other states. Candidates must pay the board $130 for processing the paperwork and an additional $60 for the required background check. Candidates can then request that their nursing school send official transcripts to the board for review. Once the board approves applications, they send fingerprint cards and allow candidates to register with Pearson Vue.
RN licenses in Wyoming expire every two years, and nurses can qualify for renewal through several paths including completing 500 work hours in two years.