Massachusetts Nursing License Requirements

NurseJournal Staff
Updated November 23, 2022
    Interested in becoming an MA nurse? This guide walks you through the steps of how to become a registered nurse in Massachusetts.
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    Degree Required

    Degree RequiredADN or BSN

    License Required

    License RequiredRegistered Nurse License


    FeesLicense: $230 by exam; $275 by reciprocity
    Renewal: $120

    Job Outlook

    Job Outlook8.2% growth from 2018-2028

    Massachusetts offers a great home for professional and aspiring nurses alike. About 84,000 registered nurses (RNs) work in Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Bay State also ranks among the highest-paying states for RNs, ranking third in highest mean salary.

    If you are interested in becoming an MA nurse, you can find many nursing programs in Massachusetts and employment opportunities at major hospitals. Read on to learn more about how to become a registered nurse in Massachusetts.

    How to Become a Nurse in Massachusetts

    Becoming a nurse in Massachusetts requires candidates to complete education requirements, supervised experiences, and exams. Nurses often supplement their credentials with continuing education credits or certification, and they must renew their licenses regularly. The steps below outline how to become a registered nurse in Massachusetts.

    Apply to an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program.

    RN programs in MA, such as a two-year ADN or four-year BSN, teach the necessary knowledge to become a professional nurse. Students practice their skills in practical environments through labs and clinical experiences.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam to Receive RN Licensure.

    The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) evaluates whether nursing candidates are ready to work as professional nurses. Individuals who receive passing scores on their exams can then apply for RN licensure through the state’s Board of Registration in Nursing.

    Apply for Jobs at Local Hospitals.

    Many hospitals in Massachusetts hire recently licensed nurses. Aspiring nurses can connect with their colleges or professional associations to help make their applications as strong as possible. Learn more about hospitals in Massachusetts.

    Advance Your Career With a Graduate Degree or Certification.

    Adding extra credentials, such as a graduate degree or specialty certification, can open up job opportunities with more responsibilities and higher pay.

    Maintain and Renew Licensure and Certifications.

    Massachusetts’ nursing board requires each nurse to complete 15 contact hours of continuing education to renew their license. Professional certifications also usually require that nurses meet certain work and continuing education hours, although these vary for each credential.

    Massachusetts Board of Nursing

    The Massachusetts Board of Nursing operates as the regulatory organization for nurses in the state. This is the department in charge of issuing and renewing licenses for professional nurses at every level. Nurses cannot legally practice in the state without board-issued licensure.

    The board also provides resources for aspiring and professional nurses. Individuals can find application forms online, check their licenses and print license verification, and learn about renewal requirements. Accreditation information and updates on the state’s licensure compact status can be found on the site. Nurses can visit the board’s website about their professional scope of practice too.

    How to Get Your Nursing License in Massachusetts

    New nurses can apply by examination, which involves taking the NCLEX-RN soon after earning their nursing degrees. Nurses who move from other states but want to practice in Massachusetts can apply by reciprocity.

    Massachusetts is not a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which means that nurses who apply by reciprocity must fulfill requirements stipulated by the state.

    How to Renew Your Nursing License in Massachusetts

    RNs need to renew their licenses every two years. In Massachusetts, nurse licensure expires on individuals’ birthdays every even-numbered year. RNs should apply to renew their credentials through the Massachusetts Board of Nursing.

    To renew their licenses, each RN needs to complete 15 contact hours of continuing education. They can fulfill these requirements through lectures or workshops, often hosted by professional associations or their employers. They can also enroll in college courses or participate in supervised clinical experiences. Some nurses may prefer independent study through home courses or online programs.

    Additionally, RNs need to maintain standing with good moral character, as defined by Massachusetts law. Renewing RN licensure in Massachusetts costs $120.

    Salary and Employment for Nurses in Massachusetts

    Massachusetts ranks as the third-highest state for mean RN salaries in the country. BLS data also indicates that RNs in the state take home a mean salary of $96,250.

    In the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua area, RNs earn a mean salary of $99,410. In the next four highest-paying metro areas — Worcester, Leominster-Gardner, Barnstable Town, and New Bedford — RNs earn mean salaries of over $80,000.

    The employment outlook for RNs in Massachusetts remains optimistic as well, with the BLS projecting a 8.2% increase in RN employment from 2018-2028.

    Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for RNs

    Metropolitan AreaMean Annual Salary
    Boston — Cambridge — Nashua$99,410
    Leominster — Gardner$89,360
    Barnstable Town$88,210
    New Bedford$83,020
    Source: BLS

    Best Hospitals to Work as a Nurse in Massachusetts

    The following hospitals, which each employ at least 1,500 nurses, come from U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals in Massachusetts list, which calculates factors like patient outcomes and quality of care to determine its rankings.

    • Massachusetts General Hospital

      Based in Boston, Mass General operates as both a medical and surgical facility. The teaching hospital, established in 1811, maintains an affiliation with Harvard University. Mass General also carries out medical research, with at least 1,200 clinical trials occurring at the hospital.
    • Brigham and Womens Hospital

      BWH is also a Harvard teaching hospital located in Boston. Along with a womens health center, the hospital also offers healthcare services in primary care, emergency care, oncology, and surgery. Approximately 3,500 nurses work in clinical and leadership roles at the Brigham. BWH has achieved Magnet recognition.
    • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

      Operating as a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, BIDMC joins the Brigham as a Boston-based Harvard teaching hospital. The medical center comprises several departments, including emergency services with a level I trauma center. About 3,000 nurses work at BIDMC, and 92% of them possess bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees. The medical center also delivers about $130,000 in scholarship awards each year for nurses academic advancement.
    • Lahey Hospital and Medical Center

      As a nonprofit teaching hospital for Tufts University, Laheys Burlington location serves about 3,000 patients each day through inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care. Approximately 1,500 nurses, nursing assistants, and medical assistants work at Lahey.
    • UMass Memorial Medical Center

      This Worcester-based hospital maintains an affiliation with the University of Massachusetts. In addition to carrying out research and operating as a teaching hospital, the medical center offers services through its level I trauma center and level III neonatal intensive care unit. The medical center employs approximately 2,500 nurses.

    Resources for Nurses in Massachusetts

    • Massachusetts Board of Nursing

      As a part of the state government, the regulatory board determines who can legally practice as a nurse. Nursing candidates apply for licensure through the board. Individuals can find information about education, experience, and exam requirements on the boards website. Working nurses can also renew their licenses through the board.
    • Massachusetts Nurses Association

      With 23,000 members, the MNA operates as both a professional organization and a nursing union. Members can attend informative talks and access continuing education materials. Nurses can also participate in collective action, promoting the interests of the profession in the state legislature.
    • American Nurses Association Massachusetts

      ANAMass offers several resources, such as a career center, journal subscriptions, and continuing education webinars. Members can also join the advocacy arm of ANAMass to influence legislative and policy agendas for nursing and healthcare in the state.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long does it take to get a nursing license in Massachusetts?

    Students who enroll in associate degree programs can obtain their nursing licenses in two years, while bachelor’s degree enrollees typically take four years. Many individuals enroll in school part time, which can add an extra year or two to their nursing licensure timeline.

    How much does a Massachusetts nursing license cost?

    Massachusetts’ nursing board sets different RN license fees, depending on how you apply for your nursing license. Candidates who apply by taking the NCLEX-RN exam must pay an application fee of $230. An out-of-state nurse applying by reciprocity pays a $275 fee.

    Is MA a nursing compact state?

    Massachusetts does not participate in the NLC. Nurses moving to Massachusetts from out of state must apply through reciprocity. Each out-of-state nurse must have graduated from a board-approved nursing program, passed the NCLEX, and possess licensure from another state. They must also stand in “good moral character” as defined by the Massachusetts Board of Nursing.

    How do I apply for the NCLEX in MA?

    You can apply to take the NCLEX exam in Massachusetts through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. First, you must apply for licensure through the Massachusetts nursing board, and then you can register for the NCLEX with Pearson Vue, either online or through a telephone call.

    Top Nursing Programs in Massachusetts

    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.