Top Kentucky Nursing Schools and Programs

by NurseJournal Staff

Top Kentucky Nursing Schools, Colleges & Degree Programs. The nursing shortage in Kentucky is not as severe as it is in other parts of the country. However, unless the state addresses certain future trends, the shortage will become real. A...

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Nurses save lives every day, playing an essential role in the healthcare industry. However, states like Kentucky face a critical shortage of nurses as demand for qualified nursing professionals far outstrips the supply.

This resource outlines information about certified nurse assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and nurse practitioner (NP) educational programs. We also present a full list of accredited online nursing programs in Kentucky, along with salary and employment figures, what to expect from nursing education programs, and the requirements for different types of nursing licensure.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Kentucky?

Many students choose to attend an on-campus or online nursing program in Kentucky because they wish to pursue state licensure. While the state government ensures that nursing programs within Kentucky meet state standards, candidates who earn a nursing degree out of state must prove their educational qualifications match Kentucky's education requirements.

Kentucky also maintains the Nursing Incentive Scholarship Fund. Students who demonstrate financial need and attend an LPN program or enroll in an associate or bachelor's program in Kentucky may qualify for the scholarship. The fund offers students up to $1,500 each semester, or $3,000 per year.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Kentucky

All aspiring nurses in Kentucky must earn at least an associate degree in nursing and complete a specified number of clinical hours through a nursing college. While most nursing schools in Kentucky maintain similar degree requirements, you should check each school's specifications before applying. Those who want to earn their degree more quickly may pursue online accelerated nursing programs in Kentucky.

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

    The minimum requirement to become a nurse is an LPN certification. Candidates may complete an LPN certification course through a community college after earning a high school diploma or GED. Nurses must complete a two-year degree to become an RN, and those who have completed online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or master of science in nursing (MSN) programs in Kentucky take on more responsibility and care for patients with more complicated issues. Nurses who aspire to specialize or to teach nursing at the college level need a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    When choosing from online RN programs in Kentucky, consider whether you prefer to earn your nursing degree online or on-campus. An online program offers the flexibility to complete courses on your own time, often for a fraction of the cost of an on-campus degree. Make sure to research each program's prerequisites and degree requirements before applying. Every online nursing program maintains different requirements for internships, fellowships, and clinical hours. You should also consider degree completion time. Those who want to graduate more quickly may consider an accelerated program, while particularly busy students may prefer a part-time program.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Some students pursue their nursing license after graduating high school, while others undergo years of study in nursing schools in Kentucky. The process varies depending on the level of certification. LPNs may take the NCLEX licensing exam with only a high school diploma or GED, although some specialized training is recommended. Other examinations require more education and specialization. In most cases, an online nursing degree program offers sufficient preparation for the licensing examination. The cost to take licensing exams varies by state, but the average is $200. Earning a nursing license does not guarantee a job, but it does qualify you for nursing positions.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Kentucky

According to Kentucky state law, all nursing professionals must complete at least one nursing education program to practice in the state. Although this requirement can seem intimidating to those who must balance education with other responsibilities, online nursing programs in Kentucky offer a more flexible path to certification or licensure. This section looks at some of the benefits of web-based degrees for nurses.

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

Every school and nursing program features slightly different course offerings. However, many online nursing schools in Kentucky offer some similar foundational courses. Many online RN programs in Kentucky include one or more of the following courses.

Health assessment and promotion

This course examines factors like race, gender, and socioeconomic status that impact health differences and disparities. Students survey potential causes of healthcare inequalities, along with possible solutions.

Health disparities

This course examines factors like race, gender, and socioeconomic status that impact health differences and disparities. Students survey potential causes of healthcare inequalities, along with possible solutions.

Early childhood healthcare

In this course, students explore infant and child development. They study methods of caring for children who do not meet certain development milestones and learn to attend to children with special healthcare needs.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Online nursing programs in Kentucky allow learners to complete coursework and study from the comfort of their home. Students who enroll in an online nursing school in Kentucky do not need to drive to campus, making it easy for candidates to earn a degree as they work full time or care for their families. Learners listen to video lectures, participate in class discussions on forums, read digital materials, and turn in assignments online. Some schools also offer hybrid programs, which include both on-campus and online components.

Most online nursing programs in Kentucky operate similarly to on-campus programs. Students need to meet the exact same admissions criteria and complete the same number of credits. Like on-campus programs, web-based nursing programs require students to complete clinical hours in person at local healthcare facilities.

Nursing Licensure in Kentucky

Nursing professionals in Kentucky must hold state licensure to legally practice. The Kentucky Board of Nursing approves of license applications and renewals, and publishes resources regarding licensing online. Each type of nursing license includes different educational, examination, and renewal requirements. You can read more about those in the section below.

Each type of nursing license includes different educational, examination, and renewal requirements.

It may be helpful to consider a few points while considering Kentucky nursing licensure. Kentucky NPs hold prescriptive authority, which allows NPs to prescribe medications for patients. However, the state places some limitations on this authority. For example, NPs can only prescribe anxiety medications in limited doses. In addition, nurse assistants or aides do not technically receive licensure from the Board. Instead, they must apply to appear on the state registry.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Are you unsure of what type of nursing license to pursue? The table below easily lays out the requirements for each type of Kentucky nursing license.

Certified Nurse Assistant Although people in Kentucky colloquially refer to nurse aides as CNAs, the Board officially refers to the position as state registered nurse aide (SRNA). All SRNAs must complete a training program. Although Kentucky does not lay out specific requirements for training programs, federal law states that nursing aide education programs should consist of 75 hours. At least 16 of these hours should include clinical training. These programs are available at high schools, community colleges, and hospitals, and usually last for a few weeks. After SRNA candidates graduate, they must pass a state-approved competency exam. Once registered, SRNAs must renew their registration every two years. The nursing facility where they work should provide 12 hours of in-service education every year, or 24 hours during each renewal period. SRNAs must also provide evidence that they have worked for at least eight hours during the two-year period. Kentucky recognizes nursing aide certification from other states through reciprocity.

Kentucky Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Nurse assistant training program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Included in training program
  • Exams: State-approved competency test
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: 12 hours annually
Licensed Practical Nurse The path to become an LPN in Kentucky starts with a practical nursing program. Available at community and technical colleges, these programs focus on foundational concepts in science and nursing. Prospective LPNs also complete supervised clinical practice at long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other healthcare centers. Practical nursing programs typically consist of 40-46 credits and last one year. The Kentucky Board of Nursing publishes a list of 23 approved programs across the state on its website. After finishing the program, students must pass both the national NCLEX-PN exam, and the state jurisprudence exam. The latter evaluates candidates' knowledge about state law regarding nursing. Candidates then undergo a criminal background check and submit their applications. Within three years after obtaining licensure, LPNs need to complete three hours of continuing education covering domestic violence and 1.5 hours covering pediatric head abuse trauma. Additionally, they should complete 14 general continuing education credits in order to renew their license by the annual deadline.

Kentucky Licensure Requirements

  • Education: LPN training program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Included in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN; Kentucky Jurisprudence exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Annually
  • Continuing Education: 14 hours annually
Registered Nurse In Kentucky, RN candidates must pursue either an associate or bachelor's degree. An associate degree usually consists of 65-70 credits, while bachelor's degrees require around 120 credits. Both degrees cover topics in general education, science, and nursing. While both also include supervised clinical practice at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, a bachelor's degree curriculum typically features more advanced courses. Interested individuals can find a full list of state-approved programs on the Kentucky Board's website. Like LPN candidates, RN candidates must pass two exams to obtain licensure: the national NCLEX-RN and the state jurisprudence exam. RN license applicants must go through a background check and obtain a fingerprint card. Once their application is approved, RNs get three years to complete a few special continuing education requirements, including three educational hours covering domestic violence and 1.5 hours covering pediatric head abuse trauma. RNs also complete 14 continuing education hours every year before applying for renewal on October 31.

Kentucky Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Associate or bachelor of science in nursing
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Included in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN; Kentucky Jurisprudence exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Annually
  • Continuing Education: 14 hours annually
Nurse Practitioner Aspiring NPs must apply for an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license. However, they must first obtain an RN license. This means that prospective NPs should complete a bachelor's degree and take the required examinations before completing a graduate-level nursing program. These programs include advanced nursing courses within the candidate's chosen professional specialization. Students can find approved master's and doctoral programs on the Kentucky BON website. After fulfilling their education requirements, NPs may next obtain certification from a national certifying agency. They can choose a practice area such as family, neonatal, or gerontological care. The certification process involves passing an exam from the certifying agency. Finally, licensed NPs must keep up with renewal requirements. Nursing professionals must renew their APRN licenses along with their RN licenses each year. Applicants for renewal must complete the 14 continuing education hours required for RN licensure along with five continuing education credits in pharmacology. NPs must also fulfill any renewal requirements for their national certification.

Kentucky Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Master of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Included in degree program; may need extra clinical hours for national certification
  • Exams: Certification exam as required by national certification agency
  • Renewal Frequency: Annually
  • Continuing Education: 5 hours covering pharmacology

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Kentucky FAQ

What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money? NPs and other advanced practice nurses enjoy the highest salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for Kentucky NPs reaches nearly six figures, at $99,790.
Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years? Yes. Registered nurses can earn a license with an associate degree. Most associate-level programs last about two years for full-time students. In addition, LPNs can usually complete practical nursing programs in one year, and nursing assistant training programs last only a few weeks or months.
How Should I Choose What Nursing Field to Go Into? Consider multiple career factors, including the populations you hope to work with, such as infants, women, or the elderly. Do you know your salary goals? How many years can you afford to spend in school? All of these considerations can help you determine which nursing field is the right one for you.
Does an Online Nursing Degree Have the Same Value as an On-Campus Degree? If an accredited online nursing degree possesses approval from Kentucky's state government, then it holds the same value as an on-campus degree. Look for accreditation agencies like the Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing as you explore your program options.
Is Kentucky a Nurse Compact State? Yes, Kentucky is part of the Nursing Licensure Compact. The Compact allows RNs and LPNs to practice in Kentucky without reapplying for licensure. Advanced practice nurses like NPs, however, must still apply for licensure by endorsement.

Kentucky Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

In general, Kentucky nurses earn mean salaries below the national average. However, Kentucky ranks among the 15 most affordable states, with one of the nation's lowest costs of living. In addition, projections indicate a positive job outlook for all nursing professions in the state, as the following table demonstrates. Over the next decade, the state may also experience an LPN shortage, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, leading employers to actively search for candidates to fill available roles.

While the numbers below show average figures, many nursing professionals earn salaries both above and below those salaries. Additionally, these earnings hinge on several factors, like education and location, that can strongly impact earning potential. While a degree can qualify a candidate for licensure, it does not guarantee employment.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Kentucky, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $26,800 8.1%
Licensed Practical Nurse $41,920 7.6%
Registered Nurse $63,100 12.1%
Nurse Practitioner $99,790 32.8%

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

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Tennessee $26,400 $40,120 $61,320 $95,990
Missouri $25,930 $42,580 $65,130 $102,470
Illinois $28,810 $51,080 $73,890 $105,800
Indiana $27,210 $44,310 $64,860 $103,200
Ohio $27,570 $43,430 $66,820 $101,970
West Virginia $26,410 $36,770 $61,780 $100,690
Virginia $28,770 $44,850 $69,790 $105,170

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


BLS data indicates that Kentucky SRNAs earn a mean annual wage of $26,800, compared to the $29,580 mean annual wage for CNAs nationwide. CNAs in Kentucky's surrounding states earn comparable salaries. In Tennessee, for example, CNAs bring in $26,400 a year, while those in Missouri earn $25,930 annually. In West Virginia, the mean income equals about $26,410.

According to the U.S. Labor Department's initiative, Projections Central, the number of nursing assistants in Kentucky may increase by about 8% from 2016 to 2026. In contrast, national projections show the CNA profession growing by about 11.5%.

Licensed Practical Nurse


While the $41,920 mean annual wage for Kentucky LPNs falls below the national average of $47,050, Kentucky annual salaries are somewhat average among surrounding states. LPNs in states like West Virginia and those in Tennessee earn slightly less each year, while LPNs in Virginia and Indiana make a bit more.

Projections Central demonstrates a 7.6% projected job growth rate for LPNs in Kentucky between 2016 and 2026, while the national projection approaches 12.3%.

Registered Nurse


RNs in Kentucky earn an annual mean wage of about $63,100 -- considerably less than the $75,510 national average for RNs. Consistent with other nursing professions in the state, Kentucky RNs draw similar salaries to RNs in bordering states. For example, West Virginia RNs earn $61,780 each year, while those in Indiana bring in $64,860 annually.

According to Projections Central, the number of RNs should continue to grow between 2016 and 2026, increasing by about 12% in Kentucky. Nationally, this figure could reach around 14.8%.

Nurse Practitioner


At $99,790, the annual mean wage for Kentucky NPs falls under the $110,030 national mean for those in the same profession. In general, the NP profession shows especially optimistic job growth figures. Figures from Projection Central show a potential national job growth rate of 36%, while NP positions in Kentucky could increase by about 32%. The BLS attributes these rapid job growth rates to an aging baby boomer population demanding more healthcare services.

Nursing Resources for Kentucky

  • KNA has served as the state's premier professional organization for nurses since 1906. The association maintains a career center, hosts educational conferences and summits, and sponsors scholarships for nursing students.
  • This association connects APRNs throughout the state. Members can network at the group's annual conference and post their resumes online for potential employers to see. The group also offers resources pertaining to prescriptive authority.
  • The state board functions as Kentucky's regulatory agency for the nursing profession. The Board's website contains a wealth of useful information, including directions on applying for and renewing Kentucky nursing licensure.
  • KANS helps nursing students around the state complete their education and launch careers. Members can meet potential employers at conferences and participate in local chapters.
  • This organization serves nurses who work in primary and secondary schools. The group offers continuing education opportunities and grants the state's nurse of the year award.

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