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Wisconsin Nursing Schools and Programs

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Students considering enrolling in online nursing programs in Wisconsin can review this guide to learn more about available opportunities in the state and determine which elements to consider when searching for their ideal programs. Readers can look to this guide to learn more about online nursing programs in Wisconsin, common coursework, licensing information in Wisconsin, nurse salary information and employment trends, and resources for nurses working in the state.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Wisconsin?

Students enjoy many benefits when attending online nursing programs in Wisconsin, including affordable tuition. Wisconsin boasts the 19th-lowest tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students enrolled at public universities in the U.S. Additionally, Wisconsin has the 16th-lowest cost of living in the nation.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Wisconsin

To become a nurse in Wisconsin, students must undergo a process similar to that of nurses nationwide. Wisconsin requires unique licensing exam fees, maintains distinct prerequisites for certifications, and holds state-specific renewal requirements. The Board of Nursing, a division of the state's Department of Safety and Professional Services, awards licensure for nurses and nurse specialists in Wisconsin.

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

    Students can find online nursing degrees at every level of study and for every career ambition. Learners who do not want an RN credential may pursue licensed practical nurse (LPN) programs, qualifying them for low-level nursing jobs. Students must complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for RNs. The BSN is the most popular path. Nurses aspiring to a specialty field as advanced practice nurse practitioners must earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or higher from a nursing school in Wisconsin before pursuing national certification in their area of specialty. Research and scholarly positions, including college nursing professors, typically require a doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP).
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Wisconsin offers many online and accelerated nursing programs for working students or those looking to take nontraditional paths to careers in nursing. While requirements vary, most online nursing schools in Wisconsin allow students to complete clinicals, internships, and fellowships at a convenient location near their residences while completing the remainder of the coursework online. Depending on the level of degree you pursue, nursing schools in Wisconsin typically require prerequisite nursing courses and a prior degree for admission and may take 1-4 years to complete.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Though study habits and routines vary from student to student, you should plan to prepare for the NCLEX exam for at least two months before the test. Many external tutoring services offer NCLEX preparation programs for aspiring nurses, and most online nursing degrees in LPN and RN tracks prepare students for the NCLEX as well. The exam takes five hours to complete. The NCLEX exam requires a testing fee, with additional fees for earning the "initial credential" and for optional pre-registration or temporary permit. Passing the exam does not guarantee employment in the industry, but it will ensure that you meet state criteria for nursing jobs in your area.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Wisconsin

The nursing field has many different job opportunities across levels of practice and specialties. To pursue careers in the field, individuals must first earn nursing degrees. Schools offer nursing degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, including online program options.

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

Students pursuing online nursing degrees in Wisconsin can explore different degree levels and specialization opportunities. Course topics vary, with bachelor's students focusing on introductory courses, master's students pursuing advanced concepts, and doctoral students exploring the most specialized, advanced concepts in the field. However, a few common courses are explained below.

Paradigms in Nursing

Students focus on theory-based nursing research and practice, along with reviewing conceptual models for nursing practice. The course emphasizes applied practice and research across settings.

Transcultural Healing Practices

Degree-seekers review the historical and cultural contexts of nursing along with the paradigms of healing in therapies, including music therapy, homeopathy, and movement therapies.

Trends and Issues in Nursing

This course allows students to focus on professional, economic, political, and social issues and trends related to nursing, emphasizing the current responsibilities of professional nurses.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Students pursuing online nursing degrees in Wisconsin encounter different program elements, depending on the college or university. Some institutions offer nursing degrees entirely online, while others feature hybrid formats that combine on-campus and online components.

Online structures often follow asynchronous formats, allowing degree-seekers to work at a time and place most convenient for them. Other programs might require synchronous work with specific times for students to log in. Online students sometimes participate in cohort formats as well, beginning and ending their programs with the same group of students.

Online structures often follow asynchronous formats, allowing degree-seekers to work at a time and place most convenient for them.

An online nursing degree typically has all of the same requirements as its on-campus counterpart, with the only difference being the delivery method. Due to these similarities, online students typically have similar graduation times, although some colleges and universities offer accelerated online programs that allow students to complete more credits per semester and graduate sooner.

Nursing Licensure in Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers many licensing and certification opportunities for nurses across disciplines and levels. In terms of nursing practice, the state follows reduced practice parameters, with license and state practice laws reducing the ability of nurse practitioners (NPs) to participate in at least one sector of their professional practice compared to other states. Laws in the state require nurses to follow regulated, career-long, collaborative agreements with other healthcare providers to continue providing patient care.

Reduced practice can also restrict or limit the setting of one or more areas of practice for NPs in Wisconsin. Licensing requirements in the state vary depending on the type of nursing. For students interested in understanding the differences in requirements, the following section explores the specifics of each type of licensure.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

The data below demonstrates the requirements for the different types of nursing certification and licensure opportunities, including educational criteria, clinical requirements, exam components, and renewal frequency.

Certified Nurse Assistant Certified nurse assistants (CNAs) in Wisconsin must complete board-approved training programs before becoming eligible for certification. After completing their programs, each individual must pass the NNAAP exam. A certification candidate who holds a nursing degree from a state-approved nursing program but has not taken the exam for registered nurses (RNs) or LPNs must submit proof of their relevant training to DHS along with a request to complete the NNAAP exam. Nurses who fail the RN or PN exams must pass the NNAAP exam to become CNAs in Wisconsin. Candidates who earned RN or LPN credentials in another country can submit proof of their credentials to the Wisconsin Board of Nursing. CNAs from other states have several options to become certified in Wisconsin as long as they have completed 120 hours of CNA training and 32 hours of clinical training.

Wisconsin Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Board-approved educational/training program that includes 120 hours of coursework and 32 clinical hours
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled during degree program
  • Exams: National nurse aide assessment program (NNAAP)
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: N/A
Licensed Practical Nurse To become an LPN in Wisconsin, each interested individual must first complete a state-approved nursing program. After satisfying the educational criteria, LPN candidates must complete and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. LPN coursework prepares candidates to demonstrate their competencies in the discipline during their exam. In addition to meeting specific educational criteria, each candidate for licensure must submit their official transcripts providing proof of their education, along with proof of a passing score on their licensing exam, digitally submitted fingerprints, and authorization for release of information for the FBI to perform a criminal history and federal background check. Even though Wisconsin belongs to the nurse licensure compact (NLC), which allows licensed nurses in the state to work in other compact states without additional licensure, LPNs in the state must register Wisconsin as their primary state of residence in order to practice. LPNs can also pursue licensure by endorsement by providing proof of their current licensure and passing the NCLEX-PN examination.

Wisconsin Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Practical nursing degree, including one year of coursework and practical experience, along with CPR certification
  • Additional Clinical Hours: N/A
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every year
  • Continuing Education: N/A
Registered Nurse Individuals considering pursuing RN licensure in Wisconsin must earn ADNs or BSNs from accredited, board-approved programs. Each student should submit their licensing application and pay a fee before they complete the NCLEX-RN exam. Applicants should submit their applications six weeks prior to graduating so they can complete their exams immediately after graduating and become licensed shortly thereafter. Candidates should register with the testing company as soon as they can, typically before submitting their applications. Once applicants graduate, they can request the appropriate forms from their schools to be sent directly to the nursing board. Individuals can obtain temporary permits (valid for 90 days), which allow them to work as graduate nurses while completing RN licensure requirements. Individuals who do not pass the NCLEX-RN exam can retake it by submitting a retake application, along with an application fee.

Wisconsin Licensure Requirements

  • Education: ADN or BSN
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every year
  • Continuing Education: N/A
Nurse Practitioner Aspiring NPs in Wisconsin should start by earning a graduate degree in nursing or a related health field from a regionally accredited college or university approved by the Wisconsin Board of Nursing. The board requires candidates to complete coursework in advanced pharmacology, pathophysiology, and physical evaluation/assessment. Once NP candidates complete their education requirements, they must obtain national certification in their chosen area of specialty. Wisconsin recognizes the following specialties: NP, certified nurse midwife, certified nurse anesthetist, and clinical nurse specialist. The state approves seven national certification bodies, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. After applicants satisfy the educational criteria and complete requirements for national certification, they can submit their application for licensure along with detailed forms and a licensing fee. All Wisconsin nursing licensure candidates must pass a state jurisprudence exam and renew their licenses every two years.

Wisconsin Licensure Requirements

  • Education: MSN from a college or university accredited by the Board of Education
  • Additional Clinical Hours: N/A
  • Exams: State jurisprudence exam; candidates must also earn national certification in their chosen nursing specialty
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years in even-numbered years
  • Continuing Education: A minimum of eight contact hours every year in clinical pharmacology/therapeutics in their area of nursing specialty

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Wisconsin FAQ

How Should I Choose What Field of Nursing to Go Into? Students have several nursing fields to consider after graduation. During their bachelor's programs, many nursing students explore the different patient populations and types of nursing, helping them to determine their professional interests as they move into master's programs, where they specialize.
How Long Does it Take to Get an RN License in Wisconsin? RN licensing requirements include earning an ADN or BSN. Depending on what degree students pursue, earning an RN license can take 2-4 years. The only thing individuals need to do after graduating is complete and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain WIsconsin nursing licensure.
Is Wisconsin a Nurse Compact State? As a member of the NLC, Wisconsin allows each professional who holds a license in Wisconsin to practice in other compact states without needing to obtain additional licensure in those states.
Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years? Students who pursue ADNs can apply for their RN licenses after passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Following the ADN route allows learners to become a nurse in two years or less at the RN level.
What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money? Nurse anesthetists experience the highest salary opportunities across the nursing field, reporting annual median wages of $167,950. The outpatient care center industry offers the highest salaries for professionals in the field.

Wisconsin Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Students interested in pursuing nursing careers can review the following section to understand employment trends and salary information across nursing careers. It includes data specific to Wisconsin, the United States as a whole, and nearby states. Readers should keep in mind that salary and job growth information depends on several factors, and holding a certain degree or educational background does not guarantee a specific wage amount or employment opportunity.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment opportunities for nurses to remain consistent in Wisconsin, with 20% or more of the population projected to be over the age of 60 by 2030, which means a higher demand for geratric nurses.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Wisconsin, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $29,590 3.7%
Licensed Practical Nurse $45,290 0.1%
Registered Nurse $71,470 8.3%
Nurse Practitioner $106,790 26.6%

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
Michigan $30,130 $49,040 $71,330 $106,880
Illinois $28,810 $51,080 $73,890 $105,800
Iowa $29,120 $42,820 $59,130 $106,290
Minnesota $33,710 $47,020 $78,920 $119,160

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


CNAs in the United States earned an annual mean wage of $29,580 in 2018, while CNAs working in Wisconsin took home an annual mean wage slightly higher in the same time period at $29,590. Compared to the nearby states of Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, CNAs working in Wisconsin enjoy the third-highest salary opportunities for the occupation. The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area boasts the third-highest employment levels for CNAs in metropolitan areas in the U.S. with 39,770 CNAs in the state.

Licensed Practical Nurse


LPNs in Wisconsin earned an annual mean wage in 2018 of $45,290 -- just under the national mean wage figure for the occupation ($47,050). In terms of nearby states, such as Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota, Wisconsin has the fourth-highest salary opportunities for LPNs. The metropolitan area in the United States with the sixth-highest employment levels for LPNs is the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI area, with 12,970 LPNs employed in the state.

Registered Nurse


RNs working in Wisconsin took home an annual mean wage of $71,470 in 2018, falling just under the U.S. annual mean wage for the occupation of $75,510. The BLS projects a job growth rate of 8% from 2016-2026 for RNs in the state, which is faster than the average job growth for all occupations in the nation. RNs in Wisconsin experience the third-highest salary opportunities compared to the nearby states of Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI metropolitan area has the third-highest employment levels for RNs among metropolitan areas in the United States, with 98,790 RNs in the state.

Nurse Practitioner


In the United States, NPs earned a mean annual wage of $110,030 in 2018, and NPs working in Wisconsin took home mean annual wages slightly beneath the national figures ($106,790). NPs working in Wisconsin have projected job growth rates of 27% -- much faster than the average job growth for all occupations in the country. Compared to the nearby states of Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois, NPs in Wisconsin enjoy the third-highest salary opportunities.

Nursing Resources for Wisconsin

  • Serving as the voice for the nursing profession in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Nurses Association aims to unify nurses of all specialties and levels of practice to promote and advance the profession in Wisconsin.
  • The Wisconsin Chapter of IAFN aims to promote the practice of forensic nursing by developing information on an international scale.
  • Committed to regulating the standards of nursing practice in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Board of Nursing regulates and manages licensing and certification opportunities across nursing specialties.
  • Dedicated to advancing and supporting the practice of school nurses in Wisconsin, WASN aims to improve the educational success, health, and safety of students in the state.
  • The Wisconsin Student Nurses' Association oversees professional development opportunities for future RNs, guiding them on their career paths through educational resources and networking support.

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