Nursing License Renewal Information for RNs and PNs
If you’re a nurse, then you know that you have to have a license. But do you know how to renew your nursing license? Do you know how much it costs or what the continuing education requirements are? What if you move or want to work as a travel nurse and practice in other states? We’ll discuss the answers to these questions and more so that you can meet the renewal requirements and keep your license current!
Why Do Nurses Need a License?
When a nurse passes the NCLEX®, they become licensed to practice as a professional nurse. Nursing licenses are regulated by the state Boards of Nursing (BON), which follow the Nurse Practice Act (NPA) in each state. If a nurse violates their state’s NPA, their license may be sanctioned by their board and their license become encumbered. Sanctions can vary from remedial education all the way to complete revocation of the license, eliminating the nurse’s privilege to practice.
How to Renew a Nursing License
The first step in completing the nursing license renewal process is to check your state’s BON website. Since you’re already a practicing nurse, you will automatically have a profile established for the state’s online registry. Each state has slightly different requirements when applying for nursing license renewal. Oftentimes, a state’s BON requires Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) along with a fee for renewal. CNE can be obtained online or by attending accredited nursing conferences and workshops. Many hospitals offer programs that provide CNE, so you may have received CNE credits already. You can always find CNE courses offered online through professional nursing associations such as SIGMA or the American Nurses Association. Although CNE requirements currently vary by state, they typically require 20-30 CNE per renewal cycle.
When you complete the application to renew your nursing license (usually online), you will be asked to verify that you have completed the required CNE and to disclose any criminal history. Once the application is submitted, the BON automatically performs a criminal background check before issuing your renewal.
How Much Does It Cost to Renew Your Nursing License?
The cost of renewing your nursing license varies by state. It ranges from $60 to nearly $200. You will also be charged a late fee if you fail to renew your license on time. This is one of many reasons why it is critical to review and become familiar with your state’s BON – you want to be prepared and on time to renew your nursing license. A good rule of thumb is to think of your BON like your driver’s license. Did you move? Contact your BON. Did your name change? Contact your BON.
How Often Do You Renew Your Nursing License?
Most commonly, you will be required to renew your nursing license every two years; however, it can be as frequent as every year (like in Connecticut) or as long as every four years (like in Arizona).
Some states, like Texas, automatically set your licensure renewal cycle around your date of birth on either odd-or-even-numbered years. Your license will always expire on the last day of your birth month. For instance, if you were born on June 25, 1996, your license will always expire on June 30 of each even-numbered year. With this kind of renewal cycle, newly licensed nurses need to be aware that their first renewal can be anywhere from 6-29 months. Why? Assume you passed your NCLEX and became a Registered Nurse in September of 2019, an odd-numbered year. That means your first renewal date will be the following June of 2020 (only 9 months later). After that first renewal, the cycle is set to every two years moving forward.
Other states, like Arizona, set up your renewal cycle around a specific monthly time frame. According to the Arizona BON, nurses are required to renew their nursing license every four years before April 1st.
What Happens When a Nurse Fails to Renew Their License?
There are options for nurses who fail to complete the nursing license renewal process on time. If your state allows a grace period after the official renewal date and your license has not officially expired, you can still renew your license. You will need to show proof that you have completed the required CNE, pay the initial renewal fee, plus pay an additional late fee to renew the license. Most states do usually allow a few months between the due date and the official expiration date. For example, Arizona licenses are considered late if not renewed by the due date of April 1st in the year of renewal. They officially expire if not renewed, with the late fee penalty, by August 1st. If your license has already expired and you are not eligible for the “lapsed” option, you will need to contact your BON for next steps. To reactivate an expired nursing license, a substantial renewal application must be completed, along with possible additional CNE credits, work requirements, and fees.
Nurses who have retired from practice or who have chosen to leave with an unencumbered license may elect to apply for inactive status. Most nurses who elect inactive status are not planning to work (usually for a period of a few years). When the nurse is ready to return to practice, they must obtain an active license by submitting an application to their state’s BON for review and reinstatement.
Is Your Nursing License Valid in Other States or Territories?
Many states, recognizing the need for nurses to work in multiple states without having to obtain multiple licenses, have joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). If you are licensed in a state that’s part of the NLC, then your license is listed as a multistate license and allows you to practice in other states that are also part of the NLC. To practice in another NLC state, you will need to request a transfer on Nursys (the national database for nursing licensure) to confirm in which new NLC state you will be practicing.
To practice in another state that is not part of the NLC, you must contact that state’s BON to apply for a new license or to transfer your license to that state’s BON. The exact process differs by state but can involve an application, fees, and potential exams that are state-specific. Because this is all reviewed by the state’s BON, the length of time to transfer or obtain a new nursing license can vary.
Nurse License Renewal Requirements By State
Remember, it’s key to familiarize yourself with your state’s BON requirements for nursing license renewal! While the same principles are followed, each state will vary slightly in terms of timelines, fees, and procedures. Keeping your license current and in good standing is the foundation of a successful nursing career.
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Arkansas Department of Health. ASBN-Fees. https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/arsbn-fees
California Board of Registered Nursing. (n.d.). License/Certificate Renewal.
Georgia Secretary of State. How to Guide: Registered Nurse.
Texas Board of Nursing. Education - Continuing Competency Requirements.
Connecticut State Department of Public Health. Health Care Practitioner Renewal Information.
Arizona State Board of Nursing. Notice to Nurses and Employers - Licensure Renewal.
Oklahoma Board of Nursing. The BOard of Nursing FAQ. https://pay.apps.ok.gov/nursing/renewal/faq.php#lapsed
Arizona State Board of Nursing. Renew Your License.
Missouri Division of Professional Registration. Board of Nursing. https://pr.mo.gov/nursing-license-status-explanations.asp
NCSBN. Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). https://www.ncsbn.org/nurse-licensure-compact.htm
Gaines, K. (2022, April 19). Compact Nursing States List 2022. Nurse.Org.
Things to Know as an LPN or RN If You Move to Another State. (2021, April 1). Clipboard Health.