Top Virginia Nursing Schools and Programs

September 29, 2021 · 6 Min Read

Virginia is one of the states with the greatest deficit in nurses. Indeed, for every 100,000 residents, there are just 624 nurses, compared to a national average of 746. Additionally, the situation is getting worse. When the U.S. Bureau of...

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Attending online nursing programs in Virginia allows graduates to enter a rewarding field that boasts strong employment opportunities across the state. On-campus programs provide many nursing foundation courses and offer advanced training and research opportunities. Online programs also admit licensed nurses looking to enhance their education with a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing.

This guide details Virginia nursing licensure requirements, salary and career expectations, and nursing resources in Virginia. Read on to learn more about licensing for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and nurse practitioners (NPs).

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Virginia?

Many areas of Virginia struggle to provide residents adequate access to healthcare services. The Virginia Health Care Foundation reports more than half the state's communities lack enough providers to care for residents. As a result, the Virginia Department of Health offers several scholarship opportunities for students pursuing a nursing degree.

While Virginia reports a higher cost of living than surrounding states, RNs earn an average salary higher than nurses in most surrounding states. The projected employment increase from 2016-26 presents a positive job outlook for nurses in Virginia. Individuals with military medical training may apply their training toward their Virginia nursing licensure, as well.

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How to Become a Nurse in Virginia

Since nursing is integral to the medical system and patient care, nurse licensing remains a crucial public health issue. The Virginia Board of Nursing oversees licensure for nursing professionals throughout the state. All nursing candidates follow similar application processes, but specific procedures vary by specialization and applicant background.

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

    Before pursuing licensure, RN candidates must complete accredited nursing programs in Virginia to earn at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Many prospective RNs complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in Virginia to increase employment prospects and earning potential. Specialized nursing roles require higher degrees, as midwives and nurse anesthetists need a master of science in nursing (MSN). The minimum requirement for NPs is an MSN, but many employers prefer candidates with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Nursing professionals who aspire to teach in nursing colleges in Virginia must hold a DNP and possess significant experience in the nursing field.
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Earning an online nursing degree proves a cost-efficient way to enter the nursing profession. ADN-seekers entering RN programs in Virginia must have a high school degree and ACT or SAT scores and typically need two years to earn the degree. Online BSN programs in Virginia have similar admission requirements and usually entail four years of full-time study, although students in accelerated nursing programs in Virginia may earn BSN degrees sooner. MSN degree candidates should hold a BSN, and DNP applicants need an MSN and significant nursing experience. Many online nursing degrees also require in-person clinicals, internships, and fellowships.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    For Virginia nursing licensure, nursing candidates must pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's licensing exam, the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This standardized test ensures that practicing RNs possess the necessary skills to provide safe nursing care. The exam, administered at Pearson Vue testing facilities, costs $200 and takes up to five hours to complete. Although nursing programs prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, most candidates devote several additional weeks to focused study. Although passing the NCLEX-RN is necessary to become an RN, licensure does not guarantee employment.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Virginia

Online RN programs in Virginia help nurses advance their careers, provide a higher level of patient care, and promote health and wellness to the community. Online programs allow nurses to continue their clinical work while attending school, providing a flexible alternative to on-campus programs.

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

A BSN prepares RNs for numerous nursing roles, including leadership or community health positions. While specific courses vary by school, online nursing programs in Virginia generally offer the courses below.

Health Assessment

This course helps nurses develop clinical reasoning and communication skills to care for patients across diverse populations and at all stages of life. Nurses learn the skills necessary to promote health and wellness and how to provide evidence-based holistic care. This course often includes clinical rotations.

Community and Public Health Nursing

Degree-seekers explore effective health promotion and marketing to impact health across populations. Students examine the relationship between environment and health with an emphasis on behavioral science and epidemiological research. The course may include clinical placements with a school nurse, occupational health provider, or community health organization.


Nurses use their knowledge of anatomy and human body systems to understand how disease manifests. The course includes a discussion of nursing interventions for various underlying illnesses and injuries. Some schools may combine this course with pharmacology, which examines how medication helps treat disease or symptoms.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Nursing students need experience working with patients to meet Virginia nursing licensure requirements. Many courses require hands-on learning opportunities, including work in simulated care labs or healthcare settings. More than 60 colleges and universities offer nursing programs in Virginia, and many schools provide online learning opportunities, especially for general education courses.

Nursing programs for LPNs or RNs require students to complete many of these foundational courses on campus under the supervision of experienced nurse faculty. While students may complete some courses online, in-person attendance remains a vital part of these training programs.

Nursing programs for LPNs or RNs require students to complete many of these foundational courses on campus under the supervision of experienced nurse faculty.

Nurses with clinical experience and a valid license benefit from the development of online nursing schools in Virginia. Students with active RN licenses can advance their education quickly and conveniently through accredited programs. Online programs meet the same rigorous standards as on-campus programs. However, learners should ensure their school holds proper accreditation.

Online nursing programs in Virginia may offer full-time or part-time enrollment. Some schools use a cohort where students advance through the curriculum together. Classes may follow an advanced format, where students take 1-2 courses every eight weeks or follow a traditional 15-week semester format.

Nursing Licensure in Virginia

The Virginia Board of Nursing administers the state's laws and regulations for the practice of nursing. The board ensures all nurses possess the training and expertise to provide safe patient care. The board also approves nursing programs to ensure education requirements meet state licensing requirements. These requirements include making sure prospective nurses gain first-hand experience in caring for patients, making assessments, and developing good nursing judgment.

Virginia offers licensing opportunities for CNAs through NPs. The amount of education and training varies depending on the level of practice. CNAs, for example, may take patient vital signs, administer medication, and assist with activities of daily living. They work under the direction and supervision of an LPN or RN.

NPs in some states can provide many of the same functions as a physician and can establish an independent practice.

NPs offer advanced nursing services within a medical specialty. NPs in some states can provide many of the same functions as a physician and can establish an independent practice. However, under Virginia law, NPs must work in collaboration with a licensed physician if they plan to write prescriptions. The following section details each type of license in Virginia, including educational requirements and application process.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Virginia nursing licensure requirements include specified educational and clinical training requirements. The state also sets exam requirements to test applicants of essential nursing skills and knowledge. The chart below explains the requirements for four nursing licenses.

Certified Nurse Assistant Becoming a CNA in Virginia requires completing an approved nursing aide program and passing the written exam and skills assessment. The 120-hour educational program must include instruction in nursing skills, personal care, therapeutic services, and patient rights. CNAs also learn to recognize mental health and social service needs. The nursing board charges $30 for the CNA application fee. Pearson administers the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program, which meets the state's exam requirement. Learners must pay $120 for the written exam and skills evaluation. Once certified, nurse aides must renew their license every two years and pay the $30 annual renewal fee. Virginia does not mandate continuing education (CE) but requires proof the nurse aide worked in a nursing capacity within the last two years. After three years of work experience, CNAs may apply for advanced certification. This certification requires a 120-hour advanced training course, the recommendation of a licensed nurse, and no disciplinary actions reported.

Virginia Licensure Requirements

  • Education: 120-hour course with at least 40 hours of clinical experience
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in course
  • Exams: Virginia Nurse Aide Competency Test
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: None
Licensed Practical Nurse LPNs must complete an approved nursing preparation program that incorporates simulated and direct patient care. Students need at least 400 hours of clinical experience, with 300 hours of patient care, to apply for an LPN license. Virginia charges $170 for the LPN application. Applicants must also pay the $35.95 fee for the background check and the $200 registration fee for the NCLEX-PN exam. The NCLEX requires permission to register from the state. The five-hour exam includes 75-265 questions administered on an adaptive, computer-based program. The questions cover areas of safe and effective care environments, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. The license remains valid for two years, with the expiration determined by the LPN's birth year. Individuals born in an even-numbered year renew their license by the last day of the month of their birthday every even-numbered year. The state charges $70 for the renewal. CE requirements include 30 hours of approved workshops, courses, or seminars. LPNs also earn continuing competency credit for college-level nursing courses and other educational and professional development activities.

Virginia Licensure Requirements

  • Education: 12-month course
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in course
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years, determined by birth date
  • Continuing Education: 30 hours every two years
Registered Nurse RNs must complete a two-year or four-year program approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing. Schools must ensure all students complete at least 500 hours of supervised client care in a healthcare facility. After graduating from an approved program, prospective nurses must complete a criminal background check and an online RN application, with a $190 fee. The background check costs $35.95. The state issues permission to register for the NCLEX-RN exam, with applicants paying the $200 fee. The multiple-choice exam requires about six hours to complete and covers the care environment, health promotion, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity. Virginia participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact, which provides standard requirements for nursing licensure across most states. This license allows nurses to work in Virginia or other member states. An RN license remains valid for two years based on the nurse's birthdate. Nurses born in odd-numbered years renew their license by the last day of their birthday month in odd-numbered years. Virginia requires RNs complete CE, such as a specialty certification; three credit hours of college-level instruction; or 30 hours of workshops, seminars, conferences. Virginia charges $140 to renew a license.

Virginia Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Two-year or four-year degree
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in course
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years, determined by birth date
  • Continuing Education: 30 hours every two years
Nurse Practitioner NPs in Virginia must complete a graduate-level nursing program in a medical specialty. The state recognizes 10 NP specializations, including family, pediatric primary care, and women's health. The Committee of the Joint Boards of Nursing and Medicine may accept other specializations if the group determines the category meets state-law requirements. NPs need a valid RN license or a multistate license through the nursing compact. After completing their educational program at an approved school, they must seek professional certification from a recognized agency, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Virginia charges a $125 application fee. Also, applicants must pay any costs for certification or professional credentials required by the certifying agency. NPs renew their license every two years when they renew their RN license. Virginia requires continuing certification by the national board and 40 CE hours. An NP license does not allow NPs to prescribe medication. The state requires a separate license for prescriptive authority, with education and training in pharmacology and a practice agreement with a physician.

Virginia Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Graduate degree in nursing specialty
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in course
  • Exams: National certification exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years when renewing RN license
  • Continuing Education: 40 hours every two years

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Virginia FAQ

What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money? NPs enjoy the most earning potential in Virginia, with an average salary of $105,170. However, these nurses require advanced education and training. The pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry offers the highest wages for RNs.
Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years? Yes, many RN programs require only two years to complete. Learners should ensure the program holds approval from the Virginia Board of Nursing.
Does an Online Nursing Degree Have the Same Value as an On-Campus Degree? Online nursing degrees must meet the same rigorous educational standards as on-campus programs. These standards include ensuring students receive appropriate clinical training and gain skills needed to pass licensing exams.
Is Virginia a Good State For Nurses? The BLS projects high employment growth in all nursing professions in Virginia. Nationally, the BLS projects 12% growth in RN employment, while Virginia projects 14.4% growth and more than 4,400 jobs each year.
Is Virginia a Nurse Compact State? Virginia participates in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which provides uniform licensing guidelines among the 32 participating states.

Virginia Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Virginia offers nurses at all licensing levels employment opportunities with projected job growth that exceeds national estimates. The chart below summarizes employment growth projections and average salaries for various nursing professions. However, wages and job growth depend on many factors. While online nursing programs in Virginia prepare individuals to seek licensure, no school or program guarantees a job or specified salary.

A 2009 study found the demand for RNs in Virginia would increase by about 30,000 positions through 2028, fueled by an aging nursing workforce and an aging population. The aging population also feeds the need for more LPNs and nurse assistants to staff skilled nursing facilities. RNs, LPNs, and CNAs lead Virginia's list of high-growth occupations, with opportunities available for graduates of four-year, two-year, and certificate programs.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Virginia, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $28,770 20.6%
Licensed Practical Nurse $44,850 17.5%
Registered Nurse $69,790 14.4%
Nurse Practitioner $105,170 43.7%

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
North Carolina $25,570 $44,610 $64,850 $104,100
Tennessee $26,400 $40,120 $61,320 $95,990
Kentucky $26,800 $41,920 $63,100 $99,790
West Virginia $26,410 $36,770 $61,780 $100,690
Maryland $31,310 $63,650 $76,820 $115,060

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant

CNAs enjoy a short training period and stable employment opportunities in Virginia. The BLS projects about 5,400 openings each year. Top employers for CNAs include nursing care facilities, hospitals, continuing care retirement communities or assisted living facilities, and home healthcare services. Virginia CNAs earn a mean wage of $28,770 each year, which is higher than most neighboring states, except Maryland. However, CNAs in the Arlington metropolitan region earn a mean salary of $31,620.

Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs play a vital role in healthcare in Virginia, with more than 21,000 LPNs licensed in the state. Virginia projects jobs for LPNs to grow 17.5% from 2016-26, with about 2,000 job openings each year. Many job openings occur as LPNs advance their education and become RNs. However, the BLS projects more jobs in nursing facilities and home healthcare services to serve an aging population. Virginia offers wages competitive to neighboring states, with the Arlington region offering a mean salary of $54,260.

Registered Nurse

Virginia projects faster growth in RN employment from 2016-26 than the U.S. average, with 14.4% growth. BLS projects about 4,430 job openings each year as employers create new positions and RNs retire. More than 64,000 RNs work in the state. Overall top industries for RNs include hospitals, physician offices, and home health services. Pharmaceutical companies offer the highest mean wage for RNs at $95,400. The Arlington metropolitan region outside Washington, DC, remains among the top metro areas for RN jobs, boasting an average salary of $81,470.

Nurse Practitioner

Virginia reports the fourth-highest projected employment increase for NPs, coming in behind Arizona at 57.7%, Colorado at 45.6%, Florida at 44.7%, and Texas at 43.8%. This demand for more advanced practitioners helps Virginia NPs earn a higher salary than NPs in most neighboring states. Physician offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers employ the most NPs, while personal care services represent the top-paying industry for NPs. The metropolitan area of Arlington and Washington, D.C. remains one of the top metro areas for NP employment, with 2,840 NPs working in the region.

Nursing Resources for Virginia

  • VNA serves all levels of nurses with legislative advocacy, networking, and educational opportunities. Members gain access to state and national newsletters, discounts on professional insurance products, and an online job board.
  • Formed in 2012, VCNP serves advanced practice nurses with CE, political activism, and community awareness. The members-only website includes job postings, a membership directory, and resources related to NP laws and regulations.
  • The board of nursing includes 14 individuals tasked with developing regulations and implementing state laws regarding nursing preparation and practice. The board administers nursing licensure and prescriptive authority for NPs.
  • Students from 75 nursing programs collaborate through VNSA. The annual conference offers opportunities to participate in professional presentations and research, provide legislative input, and promote community service. Members may also compete for scholarships and awards.
  • VASN allows school nurses to collaborate with their peers across the state through summer institutes, conferences, and an online discussion board. The association provides legislative advocacy and updates to members. VASN also helps connect school nurses to resources to improve students' health and well-being.

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