Become a Nurse in Connecticut: Requirements & Licensing
| Janice Monti
As the state's population demands more primary and preventive healthcare services and a third of its nurses retire each year, Connecticut faces a serious nursing shortage. Though the state shows a demonstrated need for nurses, the Connecticut League for Nursing reports that the state operates on a shortage of the nursing facilities and educators needed to meet the demand for trained nurses at all levels.
While nursing education across the country confronts similar challenges responding to the healthcare needs of the baby boomer population, nursing programs in Connecticut have reached their capacity. Connecticut's 18 pre-licensure registered nursing programs operate at 97% capacity. Reversing the shortage of registered nurses (RNs) and increasing graduation numbers requires expanding enrollment at all 18 RN programs.
The limited and competitive educational resources available in the state should not deter students from pursuing their nursing degree in Connecticut. Graduates in the state will enter a growing job market equipped with in-demand skills. Like other states, Connecticut’s strategies to improve patient care hinges on educating and credentialing sufficient numbers of nurses in quality nursing programs to meet the state's workforce needs.
How to Become a Nurse in Connecticut
The following sections describe the potential pathways to a nursing career in Connecticut, including educational requirements, licensure procedures, and information about online nursing programs.
Nursing aides or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can finish their training relatively quickly, entering the workforce sooner than RNs who must earn an associate or bachelor's degree. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) must complete at least a master of science in nursing.
The Connecticut 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
To become a nurse in Connecticut, individuals need a diploma, undergraduate degree, or graduate degree from an accredited nursing school. Students can earn a nursing diploma or associate degree in about two years, while an online nursing degree at the baccalaureate level typically takes four years. Advanced nurses with a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) can also teach college students or obtain leadership positions guiding other nurses.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Students can earn an online nursing degree by taking distance courses at nursing schools in Connecticut. Online students usually complete clinicals at sites local to them, like health clinics and hospitals. Applicants must have graduated high school and taken prerequisite nursing courses, such as biology, nutrition, anatomy, and statistics.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
After earning an online nursing degree, graduates must obtain employment in a healthcare setting, where they accrue the supervised experience hours necessary for licensure. Nursing candidates must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Connecticut nurses must also pay test and state application fees before they receive Connecticut nursing licensure.
How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?
Nurses need practical experience to receive licenses. Regardless of which nursing career type you plan to pursue, you must complete a minimum number of in-person clinical experience hours.
Outside of clinical experience, students must complete nursing courses. Online nursing programs in CT offer these programs either online or through a hybrid model of on-campus and online courses.
Working nurses pursuing a degree may not need additional clinical practice, depending on their current position and degree choice. For example, a current LPN can take the NCLEX-RN and complete required registered nursing courses online. Similarly, an RN can complete an online RN-to-BSN program to increase their pay rate and employment opportunities.
No matter how much experience a nurse has, Connecticut requires nurses to continue their education. Fortunately, Connecticut has no shortage of online programs for all four nursing types, and these online programs match the quality of on-campus nursing degrees, making it easy to meet continuing education requirements.
Nursing Licensure in Connecticut
Connecticut does not maintain membership in the nurse licensure compact (NLC), so CT sets its own standards for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), LPNs, RNs, and nurse practitioners (NPs). The Connecticut State Department of Public Health Board of Examiners for Nursing sets these licensure standards. The board also approves nursing programs in Connecticut for each nursing type.
The Connecticut nursing licensure and renewal process has a few notable differences from other states. For example, LPNs and RNs have no continuing education requirements. Also, NPs receive prescriptive authority, though the types of drugs they can prescribe depends on how long they have been licensed.
State Requirements by Nursing Type
Each nursing type requires different levels of education, experience, and certification. This table outlines and compares some of the basic requirements for each nursing type in Connecticut.
Connecticut also refers to CNAs as "nursing aides" and uses the terms interchangeably. An aspiring professional can pursue three main paths to becoming a nurse aide: completing a Connecticut program, completing an out-of-state program, and becoming a nurse aide while completing a nursing degree.
Nurse aide candidates must apply within 24 months of completing an approved nurse aide program. LPN or RN students who complete 100 hours of clinical practice must also apply within 24 months of earning the experience. Nurse aides must renew their licenses every two years and complete eight hours of paid practice at least once during this two-year period.
Finally, nurse aide applicants must pass the CNA exam, which consists of two parts: writing and practice. Applicants must complete the test in person and pay an exam fee.
Connecticut requires LPN applicants to complete at least 1,500 hours of theory over at least 10 months. These hours must occur through a practical nursing program, and half of them must take place in direct client care and observation.
All board-approved programs in Connecticut satisfy these requirements. If a practical nurse program does not satisfy the board's requirements, applicants may use professional experience or hours earned in another nursing program.
Nurses who complete Connecticut LPN programs become eligible for the NCLEX-PN. Professionals must earn a passing grade on the exam to earn practical nurse licensure. After passing the NCLEX-PN, applicants submit official transcripts to the nursing board. Connecticut only accepts online applications and renewals.
Connecticut does not require continuing education for practical nurses. Each nurse must renew their license annually on their birthday and pay a renewal fee.
RNs in Connecticut hold similar requirements to that of LPNs, with a few exceptions. RNs must complete at least an ADN, while LPNs need only to complete an approved LPN program. Completion of an approved program is the only route to licensure for new RNs, regardless of clinical experience.
RNs must apply for and pass the NCLEX-RN. Before taking the exam, aspiring RNs must become eligible for the exam. Board-approved RN programs in Connecticut satisfy this requirement.
During the RN application, each candidate must submit an official transcript and copy of their diploma or certificate and pay an application fee. RNs renew their licenses annually on their birthdays and pay a renewal fee. Nurses complete the application and renewal process online.
NPs in Connecticut earn advanced practice registered nurse licenses. To delineate the NP from other nursing types, applicants must also earn national certification as an NP in their field.
Connecticut accepts national certification from seven different credentialing bodies. Each applicant must also complete a graduate degree in their desired field of expertise.
Aspiring NPs must complete 30 hours of continuing education in pharmacology. Connecticut requires these credits because all NPs have prescriptive authority.
Nurses can complete some or all of these credits while earning their degrees, though applicants often complete them outside of their NP programs. The types of drugs or medications that NPs can prescribe depends on their experience.
When applying, each NP must submit their transcripts, proof of national certification, proof of pharmacology continuing education, and an application fee. NPs need to maintain RN licensure in Connecticut, which means renewing their RN license annually and their NP license every two years. At least five of the required 50 continuing education credits must be in pharmacotherapeutics.
Frequently Asked Questions
CNA and LPN programs offer the fastest routes to a nursing career. Depending on prerequisites, students can finish a nondegree CNA program in 4-12 weeks at a community college or vocational school. The licensed practical nurse diploma, offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and some hospitals, takes 7-24 months.
Students may enroll in either traditional or online nursing programs in Connecticut, choosing a specific degree level based on their personal interests and needs. While CNAs and LPNs start their careers with two years of training or less, a bachelor's or graduate degree enables nurses to enter the field as specialized RNs and ARPNs, earning higher salaries and more opportunities for career advancement.
Applicants for RN licensure must complete an accredited nursing program, submit official transcripts, and pay required fees. The Connecticut State Board of Nursing requires successful completion of the NCLEX-RN. It takes approximately four weeks to receive a Connecticut RN license after the nursing board has received all documentation.
Connecticut employs over 76,000 nurses at all practice levels in many healthcare environments, and the demand for nurses remains strong. In some communities, the healthcare needs of the residents exceed the number of nurses available to fill positions. State salary levels for RNs rank among the highest in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a Connecticut nurse holding an RN license earns a mean annual income of $88,440. Depending on the employer, RNs with in-demand specialties and work experience can earn an average salary of $111,520.
Among all nursing practice levels, specialized APRNs who have completed at least an MSN rank among the top paid nursing professionals. Among APRNs, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse specialists receive the highest salaries, earning well over six figures annually. The overall level of compensation depends on the candidate's degree level, type of employer, and work experience.
Connecticut Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends
Connecticut boasts a high rate of employment and competitive salaries for CNAs, LPNs, RNs, and APRNs, well above the national average for these careers. The demand for nurses in Connecticut stems in part from the unmet needs of people with disabilities and the growing reliance on long-term care and home healthcare professionals, reflecting state trends toward aging in place and community living.
For nurses, earning potential correlates with educational investment. BLS data for Connecticut nurses confirms that RNs and APRNs earn significantly higher salaries than CNAs and LPNs. The top earning nurses in Connecticut hold at least a bachelor's degree.
For example, RNs, who typically hold at least an associate or bachelor's degree, earn a mean salary of $83,440. Connecticut's nurse practitioners, as graduate-trained APRNs, earn a mean annual income of $115,140.
Nursing Resources for Florida
Connecticut Nurses Association
CNA advocates for nurses at the local, state, and national levels. CNA also offers professional development opportunities, including e-learning, access to industry data, and a career board.
Connecticut Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Society
CTAPRNS promotes collaboration and education for advanced practice nurses, including NPs. Membership benefits include continuing education opportunities and access to an annual convention.
Connecticut Board of Examiners for Nursing
The Connecticut Board of Examiners for Nursing licenses all types of nursing in Connecticut. Nurses complete applications and renewals through the online portal and pay fees directly to the board.
Association of School Nurses of Connecticut
ASNC offers school nurses newsletters and professional development opportunities. Members also receive access to a discussion board and networking opportunities.
Connecticut Nursing Collaborative Action Coalition
As part of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, CNC-AC advocates for building healthier communities for nurses and patients. Current objectives include facilitating nursing education and increasing diversity.
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