Becoming an RN: Steps to Getting Your Nursing License

On average, registered nurses earn about $80,000 a year. Of course, this does depend on your credentials, experience, education, and a number of other factors.

Even so, if you’re thinking of getting your own RN license, know that a decent income is a definite possibility. And although the journey in the nursing profession to becoming a nurse isn’t the same for everyone, there are a few things that anyone can do to get the most out of their learning experiences.

Steps to Becoming an RN

Do read our carefully outlined steps to getting your license below for more insight.

1. Studying the Requirements Specific to Your State

The very first thing you ought to do is look up the requirements specific to your state. Although requirements for licensure vary among different states, in terms of nursing degree, most jurisdictions require candidates to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing* or an associate degree in nursing from an accredited university. Some states are a part of the nurse licensure compact which enables you to practice across multiple states with the same license.

Additionally, be on the lookout for other necessary requirements in the form of education, background checks, and more. Once you’re familiar with the rules within your state, you can then move on to getting the education you need.

* You will also need a BSN if you have plans or aspirations to work in advanced nursing practice roles like a nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist.

2. Complete an Accredited Program

Find an accredited nursing program that’s approved by your State’s board of nursing. Since you want to pursue an RN license, you have to take a course that caters to that kind of training.

Make sure that whatever course you take is accredited and recognized. Your education will ultimately determine your job opportunities and salary to a large extent. When an institution is accredited it means that it meets that bare minimum standard set by the state board.

Find good nursing schools with a good track record, reviews, and credentials. Also, be on the lookout for scholarships or financial aid if you need it.

In addition to the usual nursing programs getting other nursing certifications are a great way to boost your employability and resume.

For nursing assistants who are looking to become registered nurses quickly, the best option for you is to enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant to Registered Nurse (CNA-to-RN) bridge program. Opting for this route lets you earn an ADN or Associate Degree in Nursing in a year at the latest; as opposed to two years on average if you tried earning an ADN traditionally.

3. Get Experience Working Under an RN

During your course, you will have the opportunity to intern or work under an RN. Do take it to earn experience in your field and get on-field, practical knowledge about your job.

Supervised clinical experience is how everyone starts their careers, and it’s an important stepping stone to getting your own license to practice.

4. Apply for an RN License

You can apply for your license during the final months of your course, or after your course. Pro tip for nursing students: If you want to expedite the process, apply towards the end, before your graduation.

Most states will allow you to access the application online. You may be asked to provide transcripts and pay a standard application fee. Once again, do note that the exact requirements will vary from one state to another.

Depending on your state policy, you may even be able to get a temporary license to practice.

5. Pass the NCLEX

Every one of the United States has the same licensing exam. This is the NCLEX. If you’re applying for an RN license, you’ll need to take the NCLEX-RN which might cost you approximately $200.

Your application is usually reviewed, and if accepted you’ll get around ninety days to schedule a test. Now, you can only take these tests once a year, so be sure to study and practice with the assistance of practice tests and other available material.

You can find good practice tests at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. These computerized tests are designed to mimic what the real NCLEX is like. Once you’ve taken these, you’ll definitely feel more confident about taking the NCLEX.

Of course, this is not mandatory, but it does help if you’re someone who experiences test anxiety and would like to feel more prepared.

You have around 6 hours to complete your test, which follows computerized adaptive testing. This form of testing is one that adapts to the user during the test. If it senses that you are knowledgeable and well versed with your material, it may progress to more challenging questions.

The test stops when the algorithm determines your results with certainty or if you run out of time or questions. Depending on what state you’re in you will have to wait a few days until you get your final results. This usually takes around six to eight weeks.

6. Make Sure You Meet All Other Additional Requirements

Once you’ve cleared your exam, you have clear additional requirements required by your state. This could range from criminal background checks or an examination of professional and legal past. While having some sort of criminal history by itself should not automatically invalidate your license, withholding information could have different consequences.

It is advisable to be upfront and honest at the very beginning, rather than get found out later on and have your license suspended. You may also be required to sign waivers or other documents that give access to personal background information.

7. Getting a License in Another State

It isn’t necessary for you to go through this entire process again if you want to practice in another state. You will need to get your license verified by the state you used to practice in, and in some cases, you might have to take a refresher course.

However, as far as education or taking the NCLEX goes, you can skip them for the new state license.

Follow These Steps to Getting Your License

By following the above steps to getting your license, you should be an RN in no time. You can then explore various opportunities like working with a clinic or finding travel nursing assignments that work for you.

Once you get your license, be sure to check our website for the best travel nursing jobs available to you. We bring you the best assignments with the best pay rate around!

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