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Become Nurse in Georgia: Requirements & Licensing

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Georgia offers diverse employment opportunities for nurses at all education and experience levels. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Atlanta ranks among the cities in the U.S. with the highest employment levels of licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs).

Some 9,980 LPNs and LVNs work in Georgia’s metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Sandy Springs, and Roswell. Atlanta also boasts being in the top 10 cities with the highest employment of nurse practitioners (NPs).

After earning licensure through endorsement or by taking the NCLEX, nurses wanting to kick-start careers in the Peach State can earn lucrative salaries. The BLS shows that Georgia NPs make a mean annual salary of $105,670. LPNs and LVNs earn a mean wage of $42,570 per year in Georgia, which U.S. News & World Report ranks as the 9th best state for fiscal stability and the 11th strongest economy in the nation.

This guide provides details about becoming a registered nurse in Georgia, including the state’s online nursing programs and licensure requirements.

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How to Become a Nurse in Georgia

Aspiring nursing professionals can take advantage of multiple entry points to become a registered nurse in Georgia. Nurses might enter the workforce after high school or pursue an advanced degree at an online nursing school.

The educational requirements necessary to obtain a Georgia nursing license depend on the specific career an individual chooses. Below, we have outlined the various paths that lead to nursing jobs, such as positions as an RN or LPN.

  • Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    The minimum requirement for an RN in Georgia is an associate degree in nursing (ADN), but practical nurses can qualify with an LPN degree. LPN programs are often certificate programs that offer shorter paths to a career, but their graduates have fewer opportunities for advancement.

    Graduates of an associate program may work as RNs, school nurses, and travel nurses. However, if you’re seeking an advanced position with higher pay and more career options, you should consider earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

  • Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Earning a nursing degree at a college or university usually requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, with prerequisites like English, mathematics, and science. Schools may also require ACT or SAT scores for admission.

    Depending on which degree you pursue, your education can last anywhere from 2-11 years. You can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor’s in four years, a master’s in six years, and a doctorate in 9-11 years. Most nursing degrees include onsite clinical training in their curricula.

  • Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    After earning your degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN before you can work as an RN or LPN in Georgia. Students should spend at least two months studying for the exam, reviewing written materials, and completing practice questions. The NCLEX-RN takes six hours to complete, while the NCLEX-PN takes five hours.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Students with jobs, family obligations, or other commitments, along with those who don’t live near nursing schools, should consider online RN programs in Georgia. Distance learning can offer more flexible and affordable options than the traditional, on-campus experience.

Some online nursing schools follow a set schedule, where students log in at specific times, while others allow enrollees to access lectures at any time. Hybrid delivery models include a mix of online and classroom learning, and some programs offer accelerated options.

Georgia schools offer online nursing programs at all levels. Distance learners typically complete their coursework online but must also log clinical hours in person at local hospitals or medical facilities to graduate.

Certified nursing assistant (CNA) certification programs can take as little as 6-8 weeks to complete. An associate degree requires 1-2 years, and a bachelor’s degree generally takes students four years of full-time enrollment. A master’s degree typically requires 2-4 years, and a doctorate can last 3-4 years or more to complete. Admission requirements for online nursing programs generally mirror those of traditional programs.

Nursing Licensure in Georgia

The state board of nursing grants Georgia nursing licensure for RNs, LPNs, and NPs. CNAs should apply for certification from the Georgia Department of Community Health after completing a state-approved nurse aide program. The Nurse Practice Act governs the profession in Georgia.

Licensure requirements and scopes of practice vary by type of license. For example, Georgia imposes strict practice and prescriptive authority regulations on NPs, who must work under a protocol agreement with a supervising physician and cannot prescribe certain medications. The section below details the requirements for each nursing license available in Georgia.

Georgia nurses can take advantage of assistance programs, such as a mentoring program for public health nurses, and the Georgia Nurses Association Peer Assistance Program, which helps nurses keep their licenses while undergoing treatment for substance abuse disorders.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Below, you can find information about the Georgia nursing licensure requirements for each license type, including required education and training, work experience, examinations, renewal, and continuing education credits for license maintenance.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    Students can obtain state-approved CNA training in acute care facilities, high schools, home care agencies, nursing homes, postsecondary schools, and technical schools. As part of these programs, each student must log 16 hours in topics like communication and interpersonal skills, infection control, safety, and law and ethics. Students also learn basic nursing skills, such as taking and recording vital signs, recognizing abnormal changes, and providing restorative care.

    Candidates must pass the NNAAP exam within one year of completing their training to become certified as a nurse aide and be added to the Georgia nurse aide registry. Exam costs vary depending on the testing site, and the exam itself consists of written and skills portions.

    Biennial renewal requires documentation of working as a paid CNA for a minimum of eight hours each renewal period. If a CNA falls short of eight hours, they must retake the NNAAP exam. Georgia does not impose renewal fees.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    After completing a qualifying nursing program, LPN candidates register for the NCLEX-PN exam, pay a fee, and submit their fingerprints to the state board for a background check. They must also provide proof of graduation from a nursing program in the form of transcripts. The NCLEX-PN tests entry-level nursing competency and takes six hours to complete.

    Out-of-state LPNs can apply for Georgia licensure by endorsement. They must submit a fee, transcripts, verification of licensure from their licensing state(s), and documentation of graduation from nursing school. They are also required to document 500 hours of experience as a practicing LPN within the previous four years — or, if it’s been longer than four years, they can apply for re-entry.

    For maintaining licensure, acceptable continuing education providers include national credentialing organizations, the Georgia Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association, and Area Health Education Centers. Examples of non-acceptable continuing education courses include those of less than 30 minutes in duration, workplace orientations, or on-the-job training concerning new equipment, policies, or procedures.

  • Registered Nurse

    RNs must earn an ADN or higher degree. They must apply to the nursing board online and submit their fingerprints along with a fee. Each online program graduate must also provide transcripts and apply with a paper form.

    The NCLEX-RN, which RNs must take, also has an associated fee. This six-hour exam tests nursing competency. RNs must also complete a 30-minute special research section, which does not count toward their score but informs future exam content.

    Active RNs from other states can apply for licensure by endorsement with a paper application, academic transcripts, and a fee. To renew their licenses, each RN must complete 30 credits of continuing education from approved providers, such as those listed in the LPN section above. Alternatively, they may provide one of the following:

    • Verification of current certification from a national organization;
    • Coursework at an accredited academic program in respiratory therapy, informatics, or healthcare or business administration;
    • Proof of competency and 500 documented hours of active practice; or
    • Proof of completion of a board-approved re-entry or nursing education program.

  • Nurse Practitioner

    NPs must first become licensed RNs, as outlined above, then earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). NPs must apply to the nursing board to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

    They must also submit a Georgia RN license, official transcripts, verification of NP-level national certification in their specialty area, and a fee. Approved organizations for national certification include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

    Out-of-state NPs undergo the same process, but must hold a Georgia RN license when they apply. Georgia NPs must enter into a collaborative agreement with a physician to practice.

    Those who want to prescribe medication must also submit an Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Protocol form to the Georgia medical board and apply for registration with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The same license renewal process applies to RNs and NPs in Georgia.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What nursing field makes the most money?

    NPs and other APRNs, such as nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives, make among the highest salaries in nursing. While APRNs make the most money, they also require the highest level of education. NPs must hold a master’s degree, an RN license, and certification. After the investment in time, NPs earn significantly more than CNAs, LPNs, and RNs.

  • Can someone become a nurse in two years?

    Yes. In two years someone can earn an associate degree and become an RN or LPN. In 12 weeks or less, high school graduates can become CNAs. Nurses can advance in the field with an associate degree, but obtaining a four-year bachelor’s degree provides access to more opportunities in the field. RNs can take advantage of bridge programs to advance their careers.

  • Does an online nursing degree have the same value as an on-campus degree?

    Yes. Online degrees hold the same value as traditional degrees, as they operate by the same curriculum standards. Earning an online nursing degree also builds additional time management skills and independence.

  • How hard is it to get into nursing school in Georgia?

    Admission standards vary by school and nursing degree level. Online nursing programs in Georgia use competitive admissions processes that require a minimum GPA of 2.75-3.0. Applicants must also complete prerequisite courses, such as psychology, biology, and chemistry.

  • Is Georgia a nurse compact state?

    Yes. Nurses can apply for multi-state licenses in Georgia. Georgia is a member of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact along with 18 other states. Nurses who want to work in other states can, under the compact, work with their Georgia RN license in member states.

Georgia Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Nursing wages correlate to education, experience, and credentials, such as licenses and certifications. Nursing professionals can earn a range of wages depending on experience, from modest incomes to six-figure salaries.

Georgia CNAs, according to the BLS, earn an annual median wage of $29,640, while the 90th percentile of CNAs take home $36,500 per year. NPs earn an annual median salary of $104,110 in Georgia, with the 90th percentile of earners making $140,620 per year.

On trend with national projections, Georgia can expect to experience a slight workforce shortage of RNs and LPNs, translating into a need for nursing professionals. While the RN shortfall in Georgia (a 2% difference between the supply and demand) pales in comparison to national shortages, it is projected to reach 10,500 positions by 2030.

Nursing Resources for Georgia

  • Georgia Nurses Association

    As a chapter of the American Nurses Association, GNA supports the state's RNs with educational and networking events, job postings, professional development webinars, and political advocacy. The association also provides discounted continuing education opportunities.

  • Georgia Coalition of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

    This coalition represents more than 20 APRN associations across the state and advocates for Georgia's estimated 8,000 licensed APRNs, lobbying for legislation that removes barriers to advanced nursing practice.

  • Georgia Board of Nursing

    The state nursing board licenses LPNs, RNs, and APRNs. The board also provides information on board-approved education, examinations, certifications, and continuing education providers, along with laws, rules, and policies applicable to the nursing profession.

  • United Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Georgia

    A member of CAPRN, this organization works to improve Georgians' access to healthcare while supporting and advocating for APRNs. Members can also access a career center, conference information, event listings, and news briefs.

  • Georgia Nursing Leadership Coalition

    This coalition seeks to implement the Institute of Medicine's recommendations for the future of the nursing profession through leadership and collaboration with partners in healthcare, government, education, and consumer groups.

Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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