You’ve dreamed of being a nurse for as long as you can remember.
Now, after years of lectures, all-nighters, clinicals — and zero social life — that nursing degree is finally yours.
All you need is your license, and you’ll be on your way to the job of your dreams. But how long does it take to get a nursing license?
If you have questions about nursing license processing times, we have answers.
In this guide, we look at the current wait times for each step of the licensing process so you will know what to expect.
Table of Contents
- 4 Steps and Approximate Times Required for Getting a Nursing License
- What Is the Fastest Nursing License to Get?
- Nursing License Processing Times by Position
- How Does the Nurse Licensure Compact Affect Nursing License Processing Times?
- Factors That May Affect Nursing License Processing Times
- Nursing License Processing Times for Expired Licenses
- Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help With Licensing and Find You the Travel Nursing Position You’ve Been Dreaming of
4 Steps and Approximate Times Required for Getting a Nursing License
It is important to keep in mind that while the specifics may vary from state to state, the general steps remain the same.
Step #1: Apply for Licensure Through Your State’s Licensing Board
After you graduate from your nursing program, you must apply with the state board of nursing and submit your transcripts.
Depending on your state, the nursing license processing times could be as long as ten weeks. Make sure you ask the nursing board in your state about current wait times before submitting your paperwork.
Before applying for licensure, you should be aware of these two facts:
- After graduating, there is no time limit on how quickly you must apply for a license.
- Licenses are only valid in the state where they are issued, so you will have to acquire them in each state where you intend to work. In contrast, you can apply for a multistate license to practice in more than one place.
Step #2: Register for the NCLEX or Other Required Exam
State boards of nursing use the NCLEX exam, also known as the National Council Licensure Examination, to determine whether a candidate is ready to become an entry-level nurse.
You must meet specific requirements before registering for the NCLEX, including graduating from an accredited nursing school and passing a background check.
You will receive instructions from your state board on how to pay the fee and register to take the exam at a time and location that is convenient for you.
Step #3: Take and Pass the NCLEX
The NCLEX is available in two versions — one for registered nurses (RNs) and one for practitioners (PNs) — but both are similar as far as registration and exam content are concerned.
Across all 50 states, the exam and passing standard are the same.
The NCLEX is:
- Multiple choice
- Graded pass/fail; and
- Adapted for a computer
In about a month, you will receive the exam results in the mail. If you fail the test, you must wait 45 days before retaking it.
The exam can be taken as many times as you wish, but you will have to pay the registration fee each time you retake the test.
Step #4: Complete Additional State Requirements
Additional minor requirements may apply to licensure depending on the state.
Some states, for example, require fingerprint-based background checks, even for those who cleared background checks at the RN level. In addition, some states require that a prospective APRN complete a supervised or collaborative practice requirement.
You will need to check with your state board for any additional state requirements.
Did you know that at Trusted Nurse Staffing, we reimburse you for any licensure you get when you work with us? Contact us today, and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
What Is the Fastest Nursing License to Get?
Currently, LPNs receive their nursing licenses faster than other types of nurses.
Depending on your state, your wait time for an LPN license can be anywhere from four to six weeks.
Nursing License Processing Times by Position
State-by-state nursing license processing times vary, but the following information will give you a general overview.
How Long Does It Take to Get an RN License?
A registered nurse needs at least an associate’s degree in nursing, which usually takes two to three years to complete.
The role of a registered nurse encompasses many aspects of patient care. From administering medication and treatment to coordinating patient care, a registered nurse’s responsibilities can be extensive.
Since RNs can accomplish so much in their role, they must complete more formal education than an LPN or CNA.
Then, depending on the state, the wait for an RN license can be anywhere between two and eight weeks.
How Long Does It Take to Get an LPN License?
Since LPNs can only practice under the supervision of a senior medical professional, they only need an accredited practical nursing program. The program could be as short as one year.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) can perform many of the same tasks as a registered nurse, though they do so under the supervision of an RN.
These tasks can range from monitoring blood pressure to discussing healthcare plans with patients and reporting back to a registered nurse or physician. In addition, licensed practical nurses can help bridge gaps in health care.
Depending on the state, the wait for an LPN license can be anywhere between four and six weeks.
How Long Does It Take to Get an APRN License?
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are registered nurses with advanced clinical and educational qualifications. Expert knowledge and experience allow them to perform more advanced and complex duties than a general registered nurse.
The length of time it takes to become an APRN can vary depending on the:
- State you live in
- Graduate program you choose; and
- Specialty you choose
APRNs typically complete their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree within six years. APRNs may also choose to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, which generally takes an additional year.
In addition to completing your education, most graduate schools and certification boards require APRNs to complete one to two years of clinical experience as an RN.
An APRN license usually takes around four weeks to obtain, depending on the state.
How Long Does It Take to Get a CNA License?
The primary responder at the patient’s bedside is usually a certified nursing assistant, or CNA. CNAs must complete their responsibilities under the supervision of an LPN or an RN.
Because certified nursing assistants have a smaller range of duties and have greater oversight, they only need to complete an eight to sixteen week course to obtain certification.
Depending upon the state, the wait for a CNA license is anywhere from 10 to 120 days.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Temporary Nursing License?
In most states, you can either apply for a temporary license simultaneously as you apply for licensure by endorsement or before receiving your registered nursing license.
Depending on the state, the wait for a temporary nursing license can be anywhere between five days and two weeks.
How Does the Nurse Licensure Compact Affect Nursing License Processing Times?
Over the past few decades, it has become increasingly apparent that allowing geographical boundaries to limit health care professionals’ reach harms consumers and health care providers alike.
For nursing students awaiting the results of the NCLEX who wish to enter a nursing program, applying for an eNLC license may be a good idea.
Depending on the state, the wait for an eNLC license can be anywhere between five days and two weeks.
Factors That May Affect Nursing License Processing Times
It is essential to verify the licensing time frames with your state board, but many other factors can also affect it, including:
- Issues of communication between states
- A file that has been misplaced; or
- Incorrect or inadequate information provided by the nurse
Nursing License Processing Times for Expired Licenses
The lack of continuity in your nursing education and the expiration of your license can cause delays in your ability to practice as a nurse. Renewal of an expired license can be both financially problematic and time-consuming.
If your license expires and you do not renew your registration, you cannot legally practice nursing.
The consequences for working with an expired nursing license may be:
- Hefty fines
- Probation; or
Nursing licenses are generally valid for two years. However, if your license has expired or is inactive, you must contact the state nursing board to renew it.
Your state may require you to:
- Pay a renewal fee
- Take refresher courses; or
- Complete a board-approved reentry program
Reinstating a license can take anywhere from two to eight weeks, depending on your state.
Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help With Licensing and Find You the Travel Nursing Position You’ve Been Dreaming of
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, not only do we reimburse you for any licensure you get when you work with us, but you also receive a plethora of other benefits.
Trusted Nurse Staffing offers:
- Reimbursement for licensures
- Top pay rates
- Medical benefits for the entire family
- Dental and vision benefits
- 401(k) plans
- And much, much more
Additionally, when you join us, you get access to a dedicated support team who ensures an excellent working environment.
You will be able to:
- Travel the country
- Work with a variety of patient communities; and
- Learn new systems
You can work whenever and wherever you want — giving you more time to relax with friends and family.
Contact us today to begin your journey toward your dream job.