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Illinois Nursing Schools and Programs

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Students considering enrolling in online nursing programs in Illinois can review this page to learn more about the opportunities available to them in the state. We explore how candidates can benefit from attending an online nursing program in Illinois, what courses they might encounter, how online programs are structured, and how they work.

This guide serves as a tool to help learners choose a nursing program that aligns with their career goals and personal interests. Read on to learn more about Illinois state nursing licensure, field-specific licensing requirements, salary and employment figures, and helpful resources for nurses in Illinois.

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.

Featured Online Programs

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Illinois?

Illinois ranks 17th in terms of affordable living in the U.S., making it a great place for degree-seekers to pursue a degree. In addition, many nursing students in Illinois take advantage of distance learning opportunities to continue working as they earn their degree. With the flexibility needed to work and study at the same time, learners can better afford tuition costs, making the price of a degree more manageable. Prospective students can also take advantage of scholarship opportunities specifically for nursing students in the state.

How to Become a Nurse in Illinois

The Illinois Center of Nursing provides a list of state-approved degrees, including online associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs and online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs in Illinois. Licensure costs and program requirements differ based on the type of degree you wish to pursue. For example, a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) requires more schooling than an associate degree. Once a candidate completes an on-campus or online nursing degree or diploma, they must take the nursing licensure examination. The state of Illinois requires nurses to be licensed before they can work in the field.

  • 1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    When evaluating prospective nursing programs, consider each program’s length and prerequisites. Nursing schools in Illinois set certain enrollment requirements, and admission prerequisites often vary considerably between programs. At minimum, candidates must hold a high school diploma or GED to enter RN programs in Illinois. While LPN programs do not require a college degree, graduates must pass entrance and licensure exams. Many nursing schools in Illinois also require SAT test scores. Degree candidates interested in teaching can pursue an MSN, while learners seeking a leadership position must earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.

  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    While nursing students can earn their degree on campus or online, some degrees take longer to complete than others. Along with core undergraduate science courses in chemistry, anatomy, and physiology, nursing schools in Illinois may also expect students to complete clinical components or internships before graduation. These requirements may impact the time it takes to graduate. BSN programs in Illinois usually last four years. An MSN typically requires two to three years to complete, while a DNP program could take up to six years.

  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    State law prohibits nurses at any level from practicing without a license. To become an LPN or RN in Illinois, applicants must pass the NCLEX licensure exam, which costs $200. Some nursing schools in Illinois prepare learners for the licensing exam. This exam does not include additional exams or fingerprint fees. Learners must complete an application with an educational program endorsement before taking the online exam. A license-pending RN may practice under supervision for three months.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Illinois

Nursing professionals can practice at different levels, from entry-level CNA roles or more advanced opportunities as nurse practitioners. All prospective nurses should earn a nursing degree, regardless of their professional goals. Most positions require nurses to hold an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, depending on the job and work setting.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Illinois?

Nursing programs and curricula may differ considerably between colleges and universities. Many programs allow learners to pursue concentration opportunities and tailor courses and program content depending on their area of interest. Degree level can also impact the courses offered in their program. Listed below are some common bachelor’s-level nursing courses.

Health Assessment for the Nursing Professional

Taking a holistic approach to health assessment, this course explores physical assessment methods and introduces cutting-edge techniques for collecting patients’ health histories.

Public Health Nursing

This class examines evidence-based research regarding population health nursing practice. Candidates learn to address common challenges in population and community health through hands-on activities.

Evidence-Based Nursing Practice

Focusing on evidence-based nursing through guided research, this course allows students to explore the responsibilities and roles of professional nurses in a variety of settings. Learners gain insight into the research process.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Candidates should determine what type of nursing practice they want to pursue before selecting a school and program that fits their lifestyle. Degree-seekers can explore a variety of online nursing programs in Illinois, from associate- and bachelor’s-level programs to master’s and doctoral degrees. Some colleges and universities offer programs entirely online, while others provide hybrid delivery options that combine on-campus and online components.

Many online programs are presented in an asynchronous format, allowing learners to complete coursework at any location, during any time of day.

Most nursing programs include a practicum or clinical components. Online learners can usually satisfy in-person requirements at an approved location close to them. Flexible online programs may prove especially beneficial to degree-seekers who want to continue working as they study. Many online programs are presented in an asynchronous format, allowing learners to complete coursework at any location, during any time of day.

While admissions requirements are usually the same for on-campus and online programs, students should check with an admissions advisor before applying.

Nursing Licensure in Illinois

Illinois nurses can pursue a variety of licensing opportunities. The Illinois Board of Nursing administers credentials for certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and nurse practitioners (NPs). Candidates for all license types must satisfy educational requirements, complete a defined number of clinical hours, and pass an exam. They must also complete continuing education hours to renew and maintain their license.

Nurse practitioners in Illinois experience reduced practice, with licensure and state practice laws reducing NPs’ ability to participate in at least one element of their practice. Illinois NPs must hold a career-long collaborative agreement with a healthcare provider to carry out patient care. Specific licensing requirements vary depending on the particular type of nursing, which readers can learn more about in the following section.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Readers can review the table below to learn more about the different nursing types and the specific requirements to each pathway in Illinois.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    Before individuals can practice as CNAs in Illinois, they must successfully complete a state- and board-approved CNA training program. In addition, all CNA candidates are required to pass a nursing arts course reviewing fundamental nursing concepts. RNs or LPNs with current, active licenses in good standing can work as CNAs without being on the registry. LPNs and RNs from other states cannot practice as CNAs in Illinois until they demonstrate that they have completed the appropriate training.

    Once candidates satisfy the training program requirement, they may sit for the written competency test. Professionals who fail the test three or more times must complete an additional training program before they can qualify for certification. During the certification process, CNA candidates must pass a background check. CNAs must renew their license every two years by re-applying. However, they do not need to meet any specific continuing education requirements.

    Illinois Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Board-approved CNA training program

    • Additional Clinical Hours: 40 hours of supervised clinical experience

    • Exams: Written competency test

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: N/A

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    The first step to becoming a licensed practical nurse in Illinois is completing a licensed practical nurse degree. LPNs can complete programs across the certificate, associate, or bachelor’s levels to meet the necessary educational criteria. Most LPN candidates complete training programs rather than traditional degree offerings. Training programs for LPNs often include about 40 credit hours of coursework.

    LPN programs usually feature one year of coursework combined with hands-on practice components. Once learners satisfy the educational requirements, they can obtain their CPR certification and pass the NCLEX-PN exam.

    After passing the national examination, professionals can officially apply to receive their LPN license. LPNs must maintain their licenses, satisfying 20 hours of continuing education requirements during each two-year renewal period. Professionals can satisfy continuing education requirements through colleges and universities, professional organizations and associations, and other training programs.

    Illinois Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Practical nursing degree

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-PN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years – odd numbered years

    • Continuing Education: 20 hours completed during the two-year renewal period

  • Registered Nurse

    Individuals interested in becoming a registered nurse can consider different pathways. Many individuals choose to earn a bachelor of science in nursing before obtaining RN licensure, although graduates who hold an associate degree in nursing can also qualify for RN licensure. After satisfying the educational criteria, individuals can complete the NCLEX-RN exam. Each state uses the same certification exam for RNs, allowing them to demonstrate their competencies of nursing across a comprehensive subject base.

    Once professionals meet the necessary criteria, they can apply to become a registered nurse. RNs must maintain their license, renewing every two years in even-numbered years by completing 20 hours of continuing education credits during the licensing period. RNs can explore continuing education opportunities across a variety of schools, organizations, and professional associations, allowing them to develop their skills and competencies while satisfying their renewal requirements.

    Illinois Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Associate or Bachelor of Science in Nursing

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-RN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years – even numbered years

    • Continuing Education: 20 hours within the licensing period (every two years)

  • Nurse Practitioner

    Prospective NPs in Illinois must earn a master of science in nursing. Master’s-level nursing students can often pursue a concentration specific to the NP discipline. Some colleges and universities allow learners to focus on a particular NP specialization, such as geriatrics or neonatology.

    Once candidates earn an advanced degree, they can pursue national certification in their chosen specialty area of nursing. National certification requirements typically include education, experience, and exam components, which vary by certification type.

    After earning their national certification, prospective NPs can apply for licensure. Applicants should submit a completed application, copies of their graduate transcripts, proof of RN licensure, and any associated application fees.

    Illinois Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Master’s degree in nursing, nurse practitioner concentration

    • Additional Clinical Hours: N/A

    • Exams: N/A – must obtain national certification in chosen area of specialty

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years in even-numbered years

    • Continuing Education: 50 hours during every two-year renewal period

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Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Illinois FAQ

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  • What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money?

    Nurses enjoy a variety of lucrative job opportunities. While annual mean salaries differ by state and region, nurse anesthetists hold the overall highest earning potential, drawing an annual mean wage of $167,950.

  • Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years?

    Students enrolled in online nursing programs in Illinois can consider different levels of nursing practice to pursue after graduation. Individuals interested in becoming a CNA or an RN at the associate level can become a nurse in about two years.

  • What Is a Good Specialty for Nursing?

    Many nursing programs feature opportunities to explore a nursing specialty. Learners should choose the specialty area that best aligns with their personal interests and career goals. Some options include pediatrics, geriatrics, and nurse midwifery.

  • How Should I Choose What Nursing Field to Go Into?

    The area of nursing a student pursues should depend on their personal interests, desired salary, room for career advancement, and what patient population they most enjoy working with.

  • Does an Online Nursing Degree Have the Same Value as an On-Campus Degree?

    Yes. Online nursing programs typically follow the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, and often feature the same instructors. Online graduates receive the same diploma as on-campus graduates, with no mention of their online format on their documentation.

Illinois Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

The following section provides information about nursing salary and employment trends in Illinois, the U.S., and surrounding states. Salary and job growth depends on a variety of factors, and readers should keep in mind that holding a certain degree does not necessarily guarantee them a specific salary or employment opportunity.

Compared to the nearby states of Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, Illinois frequently offers some of the highest salary opportunities for nurses. Nursing jobs are often abundant in Illinois, and the state entertains little risk of nursing shortages in the coming years. Professionals enjoy a variety of opportunities statewide, taking advantage of high employment levels and promising location quotients across many different nursing roles.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Illinois, by Type

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  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $28,810 5.4%
Licensed Practical Nurse $51,080 1.7%
Registered Nurse $73,890 15.4%
Nurse Practitioner $105,800 38.3%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

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  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Wisconsin $29,590 $45,290 $71,470 $106,790
Indiana $27,210 $44,310 $64,860 $103,200
Kentucky $26,800 $41,920 $63,100 $99,790
Missouri $25,930 $42,580 $65,130 $102,470
Iowa $29,120 $42,820 $59,130 $106,290

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


Compared to similar nurses in surrounding Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Iowa, CNAs based in Illinois experience the third-highest annual mean wages, earning approximately $28,810 each year. Kankakee, Illinois is home to the highest concentration of CNA jobs, employing around 1,000 individuals. CNAs experience the highest salary opportunities in the scientific research and development services industry, drawing an annual mean wage of $41,990.

Licensed Practical Nurse


Enjoying an annual mean wage higher than the U.S. average and in the surrounding states of Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Wisconsin, Illinois LPNs earn roughly $51,080 a year. The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area boasts the nation’s sixth-highest employment level for LPNs, with 12,970 nurses working in the region. LPNs employed in the junior colleges industry enjoy the highest salary opportunities, drawing an annual mean wage of $62,050.

Registered Nurse


Compared to similar professionals in nearby Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Indiana, Illinois RNs enjoy the highest salaries. At $73,890, statewide wages for RNs hover just below the national average of $75,510. These nurses can also look forward to an above-average projected job growth rate. Reporting the third-highest employment level for RNs in a metropolitan area, the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI boasts 98,790 RNs.

Nurse Practitioner


NPs in Illinois enjoy the highest salary opportunities out of their counterparts in nearby states. The $106,790 annual mean wage for NPs in the state falls just slightly beneath the national annual mean wage for NPs, who report yearly earnings of $110,030. The state’s projected job growth rates for NPS are also much faster than the U.S. average for all occupations, with an anticipated growth rate of 38.3%.

Nursing Resources for Illinois

  • Illinois Nurses Association The voice of registered nurses for more than 100 years, INA sponsors workshops and seminars to help members enhance their nursing and leadership skills.
  • Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing ISAPN promotes and advocates for advanced practice registered nurses across healthcare settings. The organization provides continuing education programs and hosts seminars and annual conferences.
  • Illinois Board of Nursing Prospective nurses can look to the Illinois Board of Nursing for licensing and certification information.
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses Illinois Chapter NAHN strives to enrich Hispanic nurses' lives by providing mentorship opportunities, professional development programs, and academic attainment. The association serves more than 200 active members.
  • Illinois State Council Emergency Nurses Association Serving more than 1,500 nurses, the Illinois State Council ENA remains committed to helping emergency nurses across settings by promoting public safety, continuing education, nursing research, and patient care efforts.

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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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