Become a Nurse in Missouri: Requirements, Licensing, and Employment Outlook


Updated June 27, 2023

Do you want to become a nurse in Missouri? Here's everything you need to know about nursing programs in Missouri and how to kickstart your career.
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Job Outlook

Anyone who wants to become a registered nurse (RN) in Missouri should find plenty of employment opportunities waiting for them. According to Missouri's 2020 Workforce Report, over 100,000 RNs work in the state. Additional data projects that the number of RNs could grow by 16.2% from 2018-2028 — more than double the projected national growth rate.

This comprehensive guide addresses frequently asked questions about nursing programs in Missouri, how to become a nurse, where to find jobs, and what you can expect from an RN salary in Missouri.

How to Become a Nurse in Missouri

There are a few ways aspiring nurses in Missouri can begin their careers, and even more options for professional advancement and growth. However, all RNs need a college degree, a passing grade on the National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN), and a state license. Most nurses complete the following steps.

Apply to an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program
Both degrees provide the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the nursing field. Although you can earn your nursing license with a two-year ADN, about 52% of RNs in Missouri hold a BSN, which takes four years to complete.
Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam to Receive RN Licensure
The NCLEX-RN evaluates test-takers’ nursing knowledge. Prospective RNs must pass the exam before seeking licensure from Missouri’s nursing board.
Apply for Jobs at Local Hospitals
Look for hospitals in Missouri that hire recently licensed RNs. Learn more about Missouri hospitals.
Advance Your Career With a Graduate Degree or Certification
A graduate degree can lead to advanced nursing roles that confer greater responsibility and higher salaries. Certifications can also help nurses specialize in an area, such as neonatal or pediatric nursing.
Maintain and Renew Licensure and Certifications
RNs must renew their licenses every two years. Unlike many states, Missouri does not require nurses to complete continuing education courses for renewal.

Missouri Board of Nursing

The Missouri Board of Nursing is a valuable resource for licensing information. Part of the Missouri Division of Professional Registration, the board sets rules and guidelines for nurses in the state.

The board issues, renews, and revokes RN, licensed practical nurse, and advanced practice registered nurse credentials. Check out the board's website to find application forms, license renewal information, educational resources, workforce reports, and general information about RNs' scope of practice.

How to Get Your Nursing License in Missouri

Prospective RNs in Missouri can apply for licensure in two different ways. Recent graduates obtain licensure by examination. This involves earning an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN.

Nurses who are licensed in another state and want to practice in Missouri must apply for licensure by endorsement. These nurses must demonstrate that they meet Missouri's licensing requirements.

Licensure for New Nurses

First-time nurses must earn an approved degree, submit their transcripts, undergo a background check, and take the NCLEX-RN. However, Missouri does not charge an application fee for first-time exam-takers.

Recent grads may practice as graduate nurses for up to 90 days after completing their degree as they wait to take the NCLEX-RN.

RN Licensure Eligibility Requirements

  • ADN or BSN from an accredited or approved higher education institution
  • Final college transcripts
  • Passing NCLEX-RN score
  • Background check with fingerprinting
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful residence

Steps to Apply for RN Licensure

While the board's website features thorough instructions for applying for licensure, here is a condensed version of the process.

  1. After earning a nursing degree, fill out an application form. Make sure to sign the form and get it notarized.
  2. Submit proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the country.
  3. Request that your transcripts be sent to the Missouri Board of Nursing.
  4. Undergo a criminal background check with fingerprinting.
  5. Register to take the NCLEX-RN. The board recommends that you do so 3-4 weeks before graduation.
  6. You should receive your NCLEX-RN results in about three days.
  7. If you pass the exam, the board sends you a letter giving you permission to practice as an RN.

Licensure for Nurses From a Different State

Licensed nurses seeking Missouri licensure use a different application process. They can either verify their RN licensure in their original state, or simply begin practicing without any paperwork if they possess the proper multistate license.

Steps to Apply for RN Licensure

Missouri participates in the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). Nurses licensed in NLC states may practice freely in other participating states without applying for additional licensure, provided they hold a multistate license from their home state.

Nurses from non-NLC states can apply this way:

  1. Enroll in the Nursys e-Notify portal to receive a temporary permit through the system.
  2. Complete and sign the application form and get it notarized.
  3. Submit evidence of your U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful presence in the country.
  4. Undergo a criminal background check with fingerprinting.
  5. Request verification of your original state license from
  6. Request an official final transcript to be sent to the Missouri Board of Nursing.

How to Renew Your Nursing License in Missouri

In Missouri, RN licenses expire on April 30 of each odd-numbered year. Nurses can receive renewal reminders through The deadline to renew is three business days before the April 30 expiration date.

Missouri nurses do not need to complete continuing education or professional development courses to renew their licenses, and they can easily renew online through the Nursys system. RNs whose licenses have lapsed must provide a petition for relicensure and proof of U.S. citizenship or residency and submit to a background check.

The board charges an $85 renewal fee for inactive licenses and a $135 fee for lapsed licenses. Those who renew before the April 30 deadline do not pay a fee.

Salary and Employment for Nurses in Missouri

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average RN salary in Missouri is $65,900 — considerably lower than the national average of $80,010.

That said, Missouri's cost of living is relatively low, with U.S. News &World Report naming it the nation's eighth most affordable state. Missouri RNs also enjoy a higher average annual wage than the state's general mean wage of $50,140.

In addition, the employment outlook for RNs in Missouri far surpasses the national figure. According to Projections Central, the RN profession could grow by 7% on a national scale from 2018-2028 — compared to 16.2% over that same timeframe in Missouri.

The following table details RN salaries in Missouri by metropolitan area.

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for RNs
Metropolitan Area Median Annual Salary
Kansas City $69,680
St. Louis $66,250
Columbia $64,120
St. Joseph $63,520
Jefferson City $61,390
Source: BLS

Best Hospitals to Work at in Missouri

The following hospitals come from U.S. News & World Report's list of best hospitals in Missouri. The rankings weigh factors, such as patient outcomes and experiences, along with available specialty procedures and how well facilities treat common conditions. These hospitals all ranked in the top 10 and employ thousands in their respective communities.

  • Affiliated with the Washington University School of Medicine, this teaching hospital employs nearly 10,000 individuals and offers multiple specialty services, including lung care, transplant services, and orthopedics. The hospital has also pioneered certain medical procedures, restoring a patient's voice with an artificial larynx in 2003. The American Nurses Credentialing Center designated Barnes-Jewish Hospital a Magnet Hospital in 2008, 2013, and 2018.
  • This facility operates as part of Saint Luke's larger faith-based, nonprofit healthcare system in the Kansas City region. The hospital offers services in over 60 medical specialties, including dermatology, infusion therapies, and neurology.
  • MoBap's approximately 2,600 employees care for over 22,000 admissions each year. The medical center facilitates a variety of patient services and specializes in women's health, neonatal care, and neurosciences. MoBap also runs a cancer center, advancing treatment with research and clinical trials.
  • Boone Health is a full service hospital based in Columbia that cares for patients in 25 counties in mid-Missouri. Physicians and nurses treat patients at the center's 24-hour emergency center, and the hospital offers services in cardiology, neurology, oncology, and orthopedics, among other specialties.
  • The Sisters of Mercy founded this hospital in 1891, and the facility remains affiliated with the Catholic church. Mercy boasts nearly 900 beds and serves southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. The hospital also includes a Level 1 trauma and burn center, a children's hospital, and a cancer center. The hospital system employs nearly 5,000 individuals.

Resources for Nurses in Missouri

  • The Missouri Board of Nursing sets and enforces rules regarding nursing licensure in the state. Nurses apply for and renew their licenses through the board. The board's website also offers helpful information about renewal, educational requirements, and the state's nursing workforce.
  • Founded in 1906, the Missouri Nurses Association represents more than 90,000 RNs throughout the state. The association is a constituent member of the national American Nurses Association, and both groups offer educational programs and opportunities to connect with other nurses. The group also advocates for the nursing profession in state government through its political action committee.
  • This association offers a variety of resources for prospective nurse practitioners. Members can access a job board, attend an annual conference, and take advantage of continuing education opportunities, or get politically involved through the organization's committees and boards.
  • This state group is part of the larger National Nurses United, a professional association and union promoting progressive policies in the nursing field. Founded in 2009, NNU organizes campaigns on topics, such as racial and environmental justice, and offers scholarships for members across the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a nurse in Missouri?

Nurses in Missouri must complete an approved or accredited nursing program in Missouri, earn an ADN or BSN, and pass the NCLEX-RN. If you move to Missouri from out of state, you can practice with a multistate NLC license, or apply for licensure by endorsement electronically.

What is the number one nursing school in Missouri?

Many nursing programs in Missouri offer high quality education, including public schools like the University of Missouri and private institutions like Washington University in St. Louis. U.S. News & World Report ranks St. Louis University among its top 50 nursing schools, while the University of Missouri - Kansas City ranks 23rd in U.S. News & World Report's list of best online nursing schools.

How long does it take to become a RN in Missouri?

That depends on your chosen educational pathway. ADN programs traditionally last for two years, while it typically takes four years to earn a BSN. Part-time students often take longer to graduate. Many nurses start as licensed practical nurses and enroll in accelerated bridge programs that allow them to earn their degree more quickly.

How many clinical hours do you need for an RN in Missouri?

The number of clinical hours you complete before becoming an RN in Missouri varies based on your degree. Each nursing program in Missouri includes different supervised clinical experiences.

Top Nursing Programs in Missouri

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