Nursing License Requirements

Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in the medical field, and it only stands to reason that there are strict rules governing its practice. There are both nationwide nursing license requirements that must be met to qualify and work as a nurse, and some state-by-state requirements too.

nursing license requirements


The initial requirement for nursing licensure focuses on the primary education that all nurses must achieve. This includes studies on the subjects of human growth and development, pathology, medications, treatments, and the psychosocial aspects of nursing care. 

This basic instruction prepares the soon-to-be nurses for entry-level tasks. Also included in the educational portion of the nursing licensure is hands-on experience with direct patient care. Nurses are placed into real treatment locations and given a chance to see what will be expected of them once they obtain licensure. This also gives them an excellent opportunity for networking. 

The educational aspect of nursing licensure is monitored by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This organization includes members from boards for each state and ensures that appropriate education is required in all states, in order to provide a similar standard of nursing care across the country. The council monitors which schools are appropriately educating their students and preparing them for the field.


Upon completion of the educational components, the next step is taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This is an exam to ensure that those who enter the field are well prepared for whatever may come. This includes a variety of nursing specialties, such as pediatrics, mental health, and surgery. The exam is not simply a test of basic knowledge - it focuses on problem-solving and real-world application of clinical skills.


Once the above nursing license requirements have been met, each state has their own differing requirements. Many include forwarding transcripts, sending in NCLEX-RN scores, and paying a small fee. After all of the appropriate local steps have been taken and time has been allowed for processing, in most states a hard copy license will arrive. However, nurses should be prepared: more and more states are beginning to offer a paper-free option. 

Either way, you will be provided with a license number which can be used by employers to verify valid licensure, see any potential negligence cases recorded against that license, and in some cases prove employment.

Beyond Nursing License Requirements: Continuing Education

Achieving nursing licensure is one thing, maintaining it is another. In order to maintain a high quality of nursing care, continuing education is required for all nurses. This includes updating knowledge on the prevention of medical errors, diagnosis-specific education, and up-to-date treatment techniques. The amount of continuing education required will vary by state.

Although there may be many continuing education options that are cheap and easy, it is important to pursue high-quality courses in order to ensure the highest level of care for patients. The best continuing education courses are both interesting to the nurse and applicable in the treatment setting the nurse works in. 

Some may be applicable to all treatment environments, and others may be more targeted. Whichever courses are chosen, continuing education serves as yet another guarantee for patients that they will receive the best care.

Learn about nursing license renewal and nursing licensure competencies.

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