Become a Nurse in Virginia: Requirements, Licensing, and Salary Outlook


Updated November 29, 2022

Learn how to get a Virginia nursing license and about Virginia Board of Nursing services, including Virginia nursing license lookup.
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Virginia State Capitol
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Job Outlook

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.
The Complete Guide to How to Become a Registered Nurse

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.

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.

Licensure for New Nurses

Virginia's Board of Nursing requires each aspiring RN to complete a degree, pass the NCLEX-RN examination, and submit to a criminal background check, along with other conditions. Nurses who completed their nursing school in Virginia can skip certain steps.

RN Licensure Eligibility Requirements

  • Degree from an accredited/approved school of nursing. If the school was outside the United States, you must submit additional documentation.
  • A transcript or attestation from your school
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN examination
  • 500 direct care hours for RNs, 400 for LPNs
  • Fingerprint-based criminal background check
  • Pay a $190 fee for RNs, $170 for LPNs
  • Proof of residence in a compact state (upon request)

Steps to Apply for an RN License

  1. Have either a transcript or attestation emailed directly from your nursing school to the Virginia Board of Nursing, with the subject line "Applicant's Name: Official Transcript OR Attestation Letter."
  2. Make sure that the school documents clinical hours as part of the transcript or attestation if you did not attend school in Virginia.
  3. Complete a fingerprint-based criminal background check.
  4. Apply separately to take the NCLEX-RN examination.
  5. Fill out the application and submit a $190 payment.
  6. The process usually takes 30-45 business days to complete.
  7. Check progress online and quickly supply any incomplete items or additional material for the Virginia Board of Nursing.

Licensure for Nurses From a Different State

Licensed nurses from eNLC states can practice in Virginia. Nurses from non-compact states may apply to the Virginia Board of Nursing for licensure by endorsement.

Steps to Apply for RN License

  1. Send verification of your license to the Virginia Board of Nursing through Nursys or directly to the board. The Nursys fee is $30.
  2. Applicants who are licensed in the United States but completed their nursing education in another country will have to file additional documentation.
  3. Complete a fingerprint-based criminal background check.
  4. Fill out the application and submit a $190 payment.
  5. The process usually takes 30 business days to complete.
  6. Check progress online and quickly respond if any items are marked as incomplete or the Virginia Board of Nursing requests additional material.
Top Nursing Schools and Programs in Virginia

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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 Area Mean Annual Salary
Richmond $79,430
Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News $73,360
Winchester $73,220
Charlottesville $72,070
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.

  • The University of Virginia Medical Center, an academic medical center located in Charlottesville, Virginia, managed 631 beds and employed 2,562 nurses in 2020.
  • 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 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, in Falls Church, Virginia, has six different centers on its campus, including a children's 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.
  • This hospital maintains the area's only level I trauma center, along with a children's 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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