Become an RN in Florida: Requirements, Licensing, & Employment Outlook

Nalea Ko
Updated October 10, 2023
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    Learn how to become a nurse in Florida, how to acquire a state license, and what career opportunities you can pursue in entry-level and advanced practice nursing roles.
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    West Palm Beach, FloridaCredit: Walter Bibikow / Stone / Getty Images

    Boasting one of the highest employment levels of registered nurses (RNs) nationwide, Florida offers RNs a bright future. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the Sunshine State employed 181,670 RNs as of 2019. Only California and Texas were home to more RNs than Florida.

    Nationwide employment for RNs should surpass other occupations, growing by 7% through 2029, with employers adding 221,900 positions. A growing demand in the state for nurses offers further job opportunities for graduates.

    Read on to learn how to become an RN in Florida and find out which cities offer the highest salaries.

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    How to Become an RN in Florida

    Individuals seeking a Florida nursing license must earn a two-year associate degree in nursing (ASN) or a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Program duration depends on the degree and a student’s previous academic experience.

    Candidates can protect their investment by enrolling in programs with accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Graduates of accredited programs can apply for licensure by endorsement or exam.

    Education Requirements in Florida

    RNs come from many educational pathways, including military nursing programs. At minimum, candidates seeking a Florida nursing license must hold an associate degree from an accredited program.

    However, many employers and professional nursing organizations recommend a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing explains that RNs with a BSN can better meet the occupation’s demands. A bachelor’s program trains future RNs in case management, practical clinical skills, and analytical abilities needed to perform their job.

    Each pathway requires a different time commitment. Licensed practical nurses need only complete a one-year certificate program before taking the NCLEX-PN. Becoming a registered nurse can take about two years if you earn an associate degree in nursing, while a BSN program lasts about four years. There are also accelerated and RN-BSN bridge programs that are less than 4 years, if the applicant has a bachelor’s degree in another field, or is already a practicing registered nurse.

    Learn more about the best online nursing degrees in Florida by visiting this page.

    Licensure Requirements in Florida

    RNs can earn a Florida nursing license by exam or endorsement. The application process for RNs can take 5-7 days or up to 30 days. Candidates applying for licensure by endorsement must hold a valid RN license from another state.

    Other applicants obtain licensure by taking the NCLEX-RN. This process includes paying fees, taking a background check, and undergoing fingerprinting. Candidates who pass the exam receive a license within 7-10 days.

    The NCLEX-RN takes up to six hours and features 75-265 questions pertaining to healthcare management. This differs from the NCLEX-PN, a five-hour test for future licensed practical nurses. This exam includes 85-205 questions focused on nursing care delivery. Both exams are computer adapted tests, which mean that the number and difficulty of the questions will change as you answer questions, in order to determine whether the person will pass or fail the exam.

    Salary and Employment for Registered Nurses in Florida

    With 181,670 RNs in Florida, the state has the third highest employment level in the nation. Although nurse salaries in Florida vary by region and experience, RNs in the state make an annual mean wage of $67,610.

    Florida’s metropolitan areas also rank in the top 10 cities with the highest employment levels. The cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm beach are home to about 54,020 RNs, who enjoy a mean annual wage of $69,920. California RNs still earn the most, with those in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara making a mean annual salary of $140,740.

    BLS data also reveals that salaries for Florida RNs vary by industry and educational level. Nationwide, those in the lowest 10th percentile make a median annual wage of $52,080, while the top 90th percentile of RNs earn an annual median wage of $111,220.

    Working as an RN in Florida

    The demand for RNs in Florida continues to grow as coronavirus cases place added pressure on the state’s healthcare system. Even before the pandemic in 2019, Florida faced a shortage of RNs and LPNs.

    The nursing workforce has seen losses due to many factors, including a failure to renew licenses, null and voided licenses, and retirement increases. About 28,679 RNs were not eligible to practice in 2016-2017, and some 1,392 RNs retired in 2019. To help with the Covid-19 surges, Gov. Ron DeSantis put out a call for retired nurses to don their scrubs again.

    The FCN also found that the growth of RN programs has slowed, with BSN graduation rates falling below goals.

    Best Hospitals to Work at in Florida

    Nursing students on the hunt for a job can make use of the US News’ best hospitals in Florida rankings. To compile the rankings, the US News evaluated patient outcomes and the processes of care and resources such as patient experience, nurse staffing, and clinical services. Below find the top five hospitals in Florida:

    • UF Health Shands Hospital

      Founded in 1958, this private teaching hospital is located in Gainesville. About 10,324 employees work throughout the UF Health Shands Hospital system, which features more than 100 specialty areas, including one of Florida’s five regional burn centers. This hospital also serves as one of 14 “safety-net” hospitals, which treats patients even if they cannot pay.

    • Mayo Clinic-Jacksonville

      One of four major campuses in the country, the Mayo Clinic-Jacksonville offers in- and outpatient healthcare. The hospital retains both research and healthcare professionals. Patients take advantage of 35 adult specialties, including cardiovascular care, endocrinology, infectious diseases, neurology, pain medicine, orthopedic surgery and radiology.

    • AdventHealth Orlando

      This faith-based hospital was founded in 1973 by Seventh-day Adventist medical professionals. Today, the hospital system employs 80,000 healthcare professionals, including those who work in nursing facilities. AdventHealth Orlando, part of the AdventHealth Central Florida Division, with some 20 hospitals and ERs, also has more than 500 clinical trials underway.

    • Tampa General Hospital

      Tampa Bay’s only hospital, Tampa General Hospital has operated as a teaching hospital affiliated with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine since the early 1970s. With more than 1,006 beds and 8,000 employees, Tampa General Hospital features a top organ transplant center and a well-recognized stroke center.

    • Baptist Hospital of Miami

      Serving 1.5 million patients annually, the Baptist Hospital of Miami maintains 23,000 employees across its 11 hospitals and 100 outpatient facilities. With a mission to serve the less fortunate and a Judeo-Christian ethic, Baptist Health spent $390 million in charity care in 2019.

    Frequently Asked Questions About RN Programs in Florida

    How many RNs are there in Florida?

    As of May 2019, Florida employed 181,670 RNs, giving it the third highest employment rate for RNs after California and Texas. The state also employed 12,310 nurse practitioners. Employment across the nation should increase by 7% through 2029 to serve an aging population and growing demands at outpatient care centers.

    How long does it take to be a RN in Florida?

    The path to a Florida nursing license depends on the degree a student seeks. Future nurses can earn an ASN degree in two years or BSN in four years. Both programs incorporate clinical work experience. Students can take the NCLEX exam in the last two months of their nursing program.

    Is there a nursing shortage in Florida?

    Yes. Florida’s nursing shortage is growing due to the pandemic, which has put an even greater demand on the healthcare industry. The state’s demand for more RNs and LPNs is expected to grow over the next decade.

    How much is a RN license in FL?

    Applicants applying for an RN license by examination or endorsement must pay $110 in application and licensing fees. RN candidates applying by examination must also pay a $200 fee to Pearson VUE, which administers the NCLEX exam.

    How many clinical hours are needed for RN in Florida?

    While prospective Florida RNs must complete clinical hours, Florida is one of 43 states that does not set a minimum number of clinical hours. As a result, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing sets clinical hours requirements for RN and ASN programs.

    Find Out More About RN Programs in Florida

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