Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs

by Maura Deering

Nursing schools in Illinois prepare graduates for entry-level positions and advanced practice careers. This guide offers the details on degree levels, licenses, and average salaries.

Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs
RN employment
RN Job Growth
Annual Salary for Illinois Nurses
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact State?

Illinois offers a relatively low cost of living and strong employment growth for registered nurses (RN) and nurse practitioners (NPs). The best nursing schools in Illinois can prepare you for a promising career.

Why Attend a Nursing Program in Illinois

The Illinois Nursing Workforce Center was established in 2007 to prioritize affordable and high-quality healthcare, particularly as the population ages. Current research shows that Illinois may experience regional shortages of nurses, in part because one-third of the state's RNs will likely retire in the next five years. Additionally, according to a federal report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Illinois should experience a shortage of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) by 2030, with 2,700 positions left unfilled.

These staffing shortfall projections indicate that opportunities will be available to graduates of nursing programs in Illinois. Another advantage for the state's nurses is union representation by the Illinois Nurses Association.

Nursing Program Requirements in Illinois

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) obtain their credentials from the Illinois Department of Public Health. CNAs can choose among several pathways toward becoming eligible for the Health Care Worker Registry, including completing a CNA training program and passing a written competency test administered by Southern Illinois University. LPNs, RNs, and NPs apply to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for their licenses.

Illinois has pending legislation to become a Nurse Licensure Compact state. If enacted, Illinois will join a group of U.S. states that recognizes multistate RN licenses. In the meantime, the license by endorsement process may permit nurses from out of state to practice in Illinois.

Certified Nurse Assistant

CNAs work under the direction of LPNs and RNs and assist patients with their daily needs, such as bathing, dressing, eating, personal hygiene, and changing their positioning in bed. They also record patient concerns and monitor vital signs. CNAs typically find employment in hospitals, residential care facilities, assisted living communities, and home healthcare.

CNA Program Requirements:

Illinois Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: State-approved CNA training program
  • Exams: Illinois Nurse Aide Test
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: None
Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs practice entry-level nursing, including basic first aid, monitoring patients' vital signs, helping patients with daily living tasks, and updating patients' health records. They work under the supervision of RNs, NPs, and physicians. Most LPNs work in nursing and residential care facilities, and the remainder work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and home healthcare services.

LPN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate; academic transcripts
  • How Long to Complete: One year
  • Accrediting Bodies: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Illinois Licensure Requirements:

Registered Nurse

Working on teams of healthcare professionals, RNs coordinate and provide patient care, educate patients and their families, and supervise other nurses. Common duties include patient assessment, diagnosis and treatment, administering medication, and formulating care plans. RNs find positions primarily in hospitals but also in outpatient care facilities, doctors' offices, and residential care centers.

RN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate; academic transcripts; prerequisite coursework in statistics, math, and biology
  • How Long to Complete: 2-4 years
  • Accrediting Bodies: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Illinois Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Nursing diploma, associate degree in nursing (ADN), or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)
  • Exams: National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN)
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: 20 hours
Nurse Practitioner

Illinois licenses NPs as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Other types of APRNs include clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, and certified registered nurse anesthetist. NPs provide primary patient care to a specific patient population, such as acute care, adult-gerontology, family health, oncology, and pediatrics, in which they specialize. As highly trained clinicians, NPs work in physicians' offices, specialized practice settings, hospitals, outpatient care, and community clinics.

NP Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: BSN; RN license; academic transcripts; 3.0 GPA; recommendation letters; personal essay; resume
  • How Long to Complete: 2-4 years
  • Accrediting Bodies: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

Illinois Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Master of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice
  • Exams: Varies by specialty, such as critical care or pediatrics
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: 50 hours

Featured Online Programs

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Illinois

As detailed by the Missouri Economic and Research Center, Illinois' cost of living index of 95 falls below the national average of 100, indicating that the state may be reasonably affordable for nursing students and practitioners. While the projected employment growth rates look strong for RNs and NPs, the job outlook for CNAs and LPNs does not appear as promising.

The tables below provide information on salaries and job growth for different levels of nurses, along with the top-paying cities in Illinois for RNs and NPs.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Illinois, by Type
Nursing Level Median Salary Projected Job Growth
Certified Nurse Assistant $30,190 -0.2%
Licensed Vocational Nurse $53,640 -1.0%
Registered Nurse $72,610 12.4%
Nurse Practitioner $110,890 31.1%
Sources: BLS and Projections Central

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Illinois

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Registered Nurses
Metropolitan Area Median Salary
Chicago - Naperville - Elgin $76,150
Kankakee $74,030
Danville $72,730
Rockford $71,470
Springfield $70,570
Source: BLS
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners
Metropolitan Area Median Salary
Bloomington $121,600
Rockford $118,060
Springfield $116,250
Decatur $115,370
Peoria $112,820
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions


How long does it take to become an RN in Illinois?

Graduates of nursing diploma, ADN, and BSN programs become eligible for RN licensing once they pass the NCLEX-RN. High school graduates entering nursing schools in Illinois should expect to spend 2-4 years earning their diploma or degree. Accelerated programs for those with transferable credits can shorten the timeline to a BSN.

How do I become an RN in Illinois?

First, you need to complete an accredited nurse training program leading to a diploma or an undergraduate degree. Then, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN. After receiving a passing score, you can apply to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for your RN license.

What is the best nursing college in Illinois?

Identifying the best nursing school in Illinois depends on your goals and priorities. When evaluating schools, look for high first-attempt NCLEX-RN pass rates. Prospective nurses should also explore master's-level specialization availability, postgraduation employment rates, and bridge programs to identify their top nursing school in Illinois. View more of the top-ranked nursing programs in Illinois by degree type.

How much is nursing school in Illinois?

Nursing schools in Illinois differ in tuition rates depending on such factors as enrollment numbers, whether it is public or private, online or on-campus instruction, and degree level. In general, students should expect to pay $10,000-$15,000 per year at public schools for in-state tuition and at least twice that at private universities.

Resources for Nurses in Illinois

  • A chapter of the American Nurses Association, ANA-Illinois offers membership to RNs and advocates for the nursing profession. The group works to ensure that the priorities of the nursing community become part of legal and regulatory decisions including safeguarding licensing and credentialing. Members can access online continuing education, discounted certification, and practice resources.
  • INA represents RNs and provides them with a voice in collective bargaining, contract negotiations, legislative advocacy, and ensuring management accountability. Member benefits include access to full-time advising staff, seminars and workshops, annual assemblies, and networking opportunities. Nearly all of the dues — 93% — is tax-deductible.
  • An affiliate of the American Organization of Nurse Leaders, IONL supports its members with free webinars, advocacy, mentorship, scholarships, and a career center. IONL hosts a national conference and regional meetings that offer educational and networking opportunities. Recent graduates and students can join at a lower annual cost.
  • NAHN-Illinois seeks to enrich the lives of Illinois Hispanic nurses through academic attainment, mentorship, professional development, and policy. Members can search job listings, network with other Hispanic healthcare professionals, attend national conferences, and serve on boards and committees. Students can apply for scholarships and community service opportunities.

Nursing in Surrounding States

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