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Nursing in Virginia: Requirements, Licensing, and Salary Outlook

NurseJournal Staff
Updated September 27, 2023
    Learn how to get a Virginia nursing license and about Virginia Board of Nursing services, including Virginia nursing license lookup.
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    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Virginia State CapitolCredit: usefacegravity

    Degree Required

    Degree RequiredADN or BSN

    License Required

    License RequiredRegistered Nursing License


    FeesLicense: $190
    Renewal: $140

    Job Outlook

    Job Outlook11.7% growth from 2018-2028

    According to a 2020 Virginia Department of Healthcare Professions survey, more than 90% of registered nurses (RNs) in Virginia report satisfaction with their jobs. More than half of these RNs possess bachelor’s degrees or higher, only 41% have any educational debt, and only 1% were involuntarily unemployed.

    If these sound like ideal work conditions, read on for more information on how to get or renew a Virginia nursing license, along with salary data for nursing jobs in Virginia.

    How to Become a Nurse in Virginia

    To earn a Virginia nursing license, each aspiring nurse must earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, pass the licensing exam, and apply for a license.

    Is Virginia a compact state? Yes — licensed nurses from states that participate in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) and earn multi-state licenses can practice in Virginia. Nurses from other states must apply to the Virginia Board of Nursing for a Virginia nursing license.

    Apply to an ADN or BSN Program

    An ADN takes two years, while a BSN typically requires four years. Most employers require or strongly prefer candidates with BSNs, especially for higher-level positions.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam to Receive RN Licensure.

    The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) is the national licensing examination for nurses. The Virginia Board of Nursing provides links to the latest information about the exam.

    Apply for Jobs at Local Hospitals.

    Alumni associations, professional association memberships, and professional networks offer valuable assets in finding openings and applying. Learn more about hospitals in Virginia.

    Advance Your Career With a Graduate Degree or Certification.

    Master of science in nursing programs prepare nurses to become nurse practitioners. Individuals can also pursue certification programs to specialize their work. Many employers will help pay for certification, particularly in understaffed fields.

    Maintain and Renew Licensure and Certifications.

    The Virginia Board of Nursing requires continuing professional education through traditional coursework, conference sessions, teaching, or research. Most RNs can renew their licenses online.

    Virginia Board of Nursing

    The Virginia Board of Nursing regulates nursing at all levels and provides resources for nurses, including license applications and renewals, links to education providers, current laws and regulations, guidance documents, and information about the eNLC.

    The board also oversees the Health Practitioners Monitoring Program, an alternative to discipline for healthcare workers with substance abuse, physical, or mental challenges. Its official site provides complaint investigations and Virginia nursing license lookups, along with information and a career roadmap for careers in healthcare.

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    How to Get Your Nursing License in Virginia

    Licensed RNs in compact states may apply for multi-state licenses to practice in all compact states, while nurses from non-compact states may apply for license by endorsement. These nurses must pass criminal background checks and provide verification of their licenses and residency in participating states. An RN must pay a $190 fee, while aspiring licensed practical nurses (LPNs) pay $170.

    Aspiring nurses should also review a summary of the laws and regulations governing nursing in Virginia. New nurses must submit verification of their education and clinical hours and pass the NCLEX-RN examination to receive licensure by examination.

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    How to Renew Your Nursing License in Virginia

    Each RN must renew their license every two years and participate in at least 30 hours of continuing professional nursing education or the equivalent, such as 15 hours of education and 640 practice hours or 30 hours of teaching experience. Continuing education must be approved or provided by specified organizations, such as accredited colleges or universities. Education to meet disciplinary requirements does not qualify.

    The Virginia Nursing Board allows nurses to renew their licenses online. Approximately 60 days before expiration, the Virginia Department of Health Practitioners sends a renewal notice and PIN. Nurses must have either a username and password or PIN to renew online for $140.

    Salary and Employment for Nurses in Virginia

    According to the BLS, in May 2020, the mean annual salary for nurses was $74,380 — slightly lower than the national median of $75,330. BLS data also indicates a projected employment growth rate of 11.7% from 2018-2028, outpacing the national projected growth of 7.0% from 2019-2029.

    Richmond, Virginia, has the highest mean salary in the state for RNs, at $79,430. Richmond’s cost of living index is 95.1, lower than the national figure of 100. However, Charlottesville has a 104.5 cost of living index and a lower mean salary.

    Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for RNs
    Metropolitan AreaMean Annual Salary
    Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News$73,360
    Staunton – Waynesboro$69,240
    Source: BLS

    Best Hospitals to Work as Nurse in Virginia

    U.S. News & World Report annually publishes lists of the best-ranked hospitals based on outcomes reports, and benchmarks such as nurse-patient ratio, patient experience, and expert opinions. The ranking includes general scores and rankings for treating specific conditions.

    • University of Virginia Medical Center

      The University of Virginia Medical Center, an academic medical center located in Charlottesville, Virginia, managed 631 beds and employed 2,562 nurses in 2020.
    • VCU Medical Center

      The Richmond-based VCU Medical Center operates as an academic medical center with Virginia Commonwealth University. It employs more than 12,000 staff members and performed more than 20,000 surgeries in 2020 amid the pandemic.
    • Centra Lynchburg General Hospital

      Centra Lynchburg General Hospital is part of the Centra Health System. The 358-bed hospital serves more than 85,000 ER patients each year and maintains a level II trauma center.
    • Inova Fairfax Hospital

      Inova Fairfax Hospital, in Falls Church, Virginia, has six different centers on its campus, including a childrens hospital, cancer institute, and neuroscience institute. It is also the only level I trauma center in Northern Virginia. The hospital employs 5,742 nurses, and almost 85% have a BSN or higher.
    • Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital

      This hospital maintains the areas only level I trauma center, along with a childrens hospital, neonatal intensive care unit, and 703 beds. It offers a nurse residency program for graduates and nurses with less than one year of experience.

    Resources for Nurses in Virginia

    • Virginia Nurses Association

      VNA conducts advocacy at the state level, issues a newsletter, and offers professional development opportunities. The association also conducts two annual conferences. Joining also provides membership in the American Nurses Association.
    • Central Virginia Association of Nursing Professional Development

      CVANPD, as an affiliate of the Association of Nursing Professional Development, offers professional and leadership development opportunities, including networking, online courses, and an annual conference. This association also offers a career center.
    • Virginia Association of School Nurses

      VASN conducts advocacy for school nurses, promotes school nursing in the state, and provides professional development opportunities. The association, an affiliate of the National Association of School Nurses, provides links to resources for school nurses, including materials on disease control and prevention.
    • The Central Virginia Black Nurses Association

      CVBNA works to reduce health disparities in collaboration with the National Black Nurses Association. Nurses who work within a 100-mile radius of Richmond may apply. It offers professional development activities, networking, and a career center.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I become a registered nurse in Virginia?

    To get a Virginia nursing license, each aspiring nurse must have an ADN or BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, apply for a Virginia license through the Virginia Board of Nursing, and pass a criminal background check. Is Virginia a compact state? Yes. If you have an eNLC multi-state nursing license, you can practice in Virginia.

    How long does it take to get a VA RN license?

    It can take 30-45 work days to get a Virginia nursing license, depending on whether you already have an RN license. You can check the status of your application with the Virginia nursing license lookup.

    How many hours can a nurse work in Virginia?

    Nurses can work no more than 16 hours in a row, but most employers try to limit shifts to 12 consecutive hours. Mandatory overtime for nurses is legal in Virginia, but most nurses qualify for overtime pay. In 2020, 623 nurses (1% of survey respondents) reported working 80 or more hours per week.

    Who issues nursing licenses in Virginia?

    The Virginia Board of Nursing issues nursing licenses in Virginia. Each prospective nurse must possess an ADN or BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, complete a criminal background check, and submit an application.

    Top Nursing Programs in Virginia

    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.