How to Get an RN License

Choose an educational path, find an approved RN program, complete the RN program, pass the NCLEX-RN licensing examination, and apply for an RN license in your state.
How to Get an RN License

Aspiring registered nurses (RNs) must obtain an RN license to practice in any state. While the licensing process may appear daunting, it's more manageable than you might think. By understanding the steps involved, you can navigate the process with greater ease.

Choosing Your Educational Path

To qualify for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam, you must complete an accredited nursing education program. Two primary options exist:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): This two-year program offers a quicker path to becoming an RN.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This four-year program provides a more comprehensive education and is increasingly preferred by employers.

If you aspire to specialize or pursue advanced degrees, earning a BSN is the recommended route.

Finding an Accredited Training Program

Once you've chosen between an ADN or BSN program, select an accredited program. Ideally, the program should be accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or both. Moreover, ensure the program is specifically approved by your state's board of nursing. Otherwise, you may not be eligible to sit for the licensing exam.

Consider programs with an online component for convenience and flexibility. Look for asynchronous training, allowing you to complete coursework on your own schedule.

Completing Your Training

Your RN training is crucial for career development. Both ADN and BSN programs are designed to prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exam. Upon completion, you should be well-equipped to take and pass the exam.

Both programs are rigorous, so commitment and dedication are essential. Your training will include classroom lectures, labs, and clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities. In addition to preparing you for the exam, your training will provide insights into the day-to-day work of an RN. You'll have opportunities to identify your preferred areas of nursing and prepare for employment.

Taking and Passing the NCLEX-RN Exam

While still in training, register with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Depending on your program, you may be able to register for the NCLEX-RN before graduating. Otherwise, you must register directly with the NCSBN. Upon completing your training program, you'll receive an Authorization to Test notification.

The NCLEX-RN has a national pass rate of 70-75%. You'll have six hours to complete the exam, which typically consists of around 120 questions. If you don't pass the first time, you must wait 45 days before retaking it. To increase your chances of passing on the first attempt, study diligently with fellow students in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Obtaining Your RN License

The process of obtaining your RN license is straightforward. Your exam results are automatically sent to your state's board of nursing. Upon passing the NCLEX-RN, your license should be approved and mailed to you within a few weeks. In some cases, it may be available online sooner. Some states also require a criminal background check for licensure.

To ensure a smooth process, contact your state's board of nursing beforehand. Inquire about the processing time for RN licenses after passing the NCLEX-RN and any additional steps required for licensure.

Remember, while obtaining an RN license may seem daunting at first, following these steps and dedicating yourself to your studies can bring you closer to achieving your nursing career aspirations.

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