Welcome to Nursing License Map

Learn more about nursing licensure requirements in your state with our guides below:

Most Popular States for Nurses

We’ve determined the below based on two factors - states with the highest employment of nurses and states with the highest median salary, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

States with the Highest Employment and Highest Pay for Nurses

States with the Highest Employment and Highest Pay for Nurses
Nursing Career States Highest Pay States Highest Annual Mean Wage
Licensed Practical/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)
  • - Texas
  • - California
  • - Florida
  • - New York
Rhode Island $59,130
Registered Nurse (RN)
  • - California
  • - Texas
  • - New York
  • - Florida
  • - Pennsylvania
California $106,950
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • - New York
  • - California
  • - Texas
  • - Florida
  • - Ohio
California $133,780
Nurse Midwife
  • - California
  • - New York
  • - Georgia
  • - Florida
  • - Pennsylvania
California $139,990
Nurse Anesthetist
  • - Texas
  • - North Carolina
  • - Ohio
  • - Michigan
  • - Tennessee
Montana $246,370

Information on the states with the highest employment for nurses and states with the highest pay for nurses was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), as of February 2020:

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Nursing Licensure and Certifications

Each state has its own set of nursing certifications that nurses can apply for after they have completed the right amount of nursing education and have passed the correct nursing certification exam.

Our list of states above may help you understand the requirements for each level of your future nursing career. However, no matter what state you pursue nursing licensure in, both licensed practical/licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses (RN) must maintain their license in order to practice. For advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), the typical prerequisite is an active RN license before application.

Nursing Licensure Compact

Although each state has its own licensure process, it is getting easier for nurses to transfer active licenses to other states through the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). As of February 11, 2020, 34 states are participating in the Nursing Licensure Compact. Learn more about the nursing licensure compact.

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Nursing Career Paths

Whether you are just out of high school and want to assist patients as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) or are looking to get a master’s degree in order to become a nurse practitioner, there are careers in nursing for people of all ages and experience levels.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

  • Education: An approved training program.
  • Main Duties: Assist patients with basic care including bathing, transporting, and dressing patients as well as checking vital signs and recording health concerns.
  • Autonomy: CNAs are supervised by LPN/LVNs or RNs.
  • Average Salary: $28,550

Information on CNA career was retrieved from BLS - Nursing Assistants and Orderlies in February 2020.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/Licensed Vocational Nurse

  • Education: A high school diploma is required and a typically a one-year certificate program must be completed. Prospective LPNs must also take the NCLEX-PN exam.
  • Clinical Hours: Supervised clinical experience is included in the one-year certificate program.
  • Main Duties: Basic patient care such as bandage changing, keeping patient health records, and discussing care with patients. Some states allow properly trained LPNs to insert intravenous (IV) drips, but others do not.
  • Autonomy: LPNs are often supervised by RNs, though in some states they may be supervised by more experienced LPNs.
  • Average Salary: $46,240

Information on LPN/LVN career was retrieved from BLS Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses in February 2020.

Registered Nurse (RN)

  • Education: A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program is required. A passing score on the NCLEX-RN is also required.
  • Clinical Hours: Programs will have a clinical component, though the amount of clinical hours will vary.
  • Main Duties: Record patient health, treat, medicate, and test patients, create care plans, instruct patients and families on how to care for illness or injury, and consult with doctors. Many RNs work within a specific population, such as in neonatal care or addiction settings.
  • Autonomy: RNs work with physicians, and may have autonomy in overseeing other RNs, LPNs, and CNAs.
  • Average Salary: $71,730

Information on RN career was retrieved from BLS - Registered Nurses in February 2020.

Nurse Practitioner

  • Education: A master’s degree in a nursing specialty and RN experience are required. Passing an exam in a specialty is also required.
  • Clinical Hours: Varies by specialty, but clinical experience hours are required.
  • Main Duties: Provide primary care, promote preventive health, and treat patient illness and injury.
  • Autonomy: In many states, nurse practitioners can open their own practices, prescribe medications, and order lab tests. Sometimes nurse practitioners may work collaboratively with physicians.
  • Average Salary: $107,030

Information on nurse practitioner career was retrieved from BLS - Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners in February 2020.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

  • Education: A master’s degree and at least one year of RN experience are required. Passing a specialty exam is also required for certification.
  • Clinical Hours: 500 or more clinical hours are required in a CNS master’s program. These hours must be specific to the nurse’s desired specialty. Some specialties require more hours.
  • Main Duties: Caring for patients in a specific population, working with other nurses to improve the way care is delivered within a setting, leading and educating other nurses, research, and advocacy.
  • Autonomy: CNSs often serve as leaders, directing and educating other nurses, and are integral in developing change in their organizations. A CNS can write prescriptions in some states.
  • Average Salary: N/A

Information on RN career was retrieved from BLS - Registered Nurses in February 2020.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

  • Education: A master’s degree and RN experience are required. Passing an exam is also required.
  • Clinical Hours: Although the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) doesn’t outline specific hours, there is an expected clinical experience component to the master’s degree.
  • Main Duties: Family planning, gynecological care, delivering babies, and providing primary care.
  • Autonomy: CNMs may have their own private practice in some states and may also be able to write prescriptions and order tests.
  • Average Salary: $103,770

Information on certified nurse midwife career was retrieved from BLS - Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners in February 2020.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

  • Education: A master’s degree and RN experience are required. Passing an exam is also required.
  • Clinical Hours: 2,000 hour minimum and 600 case experiences in the administration of anesthetics are required, according to the Council on Accreditation (COA) - Development of COA Standards FAQ.
  • Main Duties: Administer anesthesia and provide care before, during and after procedures. CRNAs also provide pain management and some emergency services.
  • Autonomy: CRNAs work with a team of people who are caring for their patients. Some states allow them to administer anesthesia without physician supervision, but this varies from state to state.
  • Average Salary: $167,950

Information on certified registered nurse anesthetist career was retrieved from BLS - Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners in February 2020.

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The Nursing Shortage and the Growing Demand for Nurses

Employment for healthcare occupations is projected to increase 14 percent between 2018 and 2028, adding about 1.9 million jobs. Attribution of this growth is due to an aging population which leads to a higher demand for healthcare services. Registered nurses jobs, alone, are expected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS - Registered Nurses, adding over 300,000 jobs. In those same years, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners employment is projected to increase 26%, five times the overall growth of all jobs.

The BLS projects that personal care aides, registered nurses, home health aids, and nursing assistants are among the top growing occupations through 2028.

An increase in age and chronic disease among Americans means there is a need for nurses of all kinds. Here is a look into some of the reasons why there is such a high need for nurses and why it’s a great time to become a nurse.

An Aging Population

By 2030, all boomers will be at least 65 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Census Bureau shares that the 2020 Census will illustrate the impact of baby boomers on America’s age structure -- with the baby boom generation accounting for about 73 million people.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) reports the following a{health conditions for the Baby Boomer generation}:

  • More than six of every 10 will be managing more than one chronic condition
  • More than one of every three will be considered obese
  • One of every four will be living with diabetes
  • One of every two will be living with arthritis

The size of this generation along with improvements in life expectancy means that soon, a much larger portion of Americans will be older than 65 than ever before. With age comes increased medical needs and heightened rates of chronic disease. The National Council on Aging reports that about 80 percent of older adults have a chronic condition.

An Aging Nursing Workforce

Some of those aging Americans are nurses themselves, in fact half a million of the current 2.75 million will no longer be nurses by 2022, due to retirement or other reasons. The Nursing Management journal expresses the catch-22 with employment of aging nurses: they are invaluable for their experience but they may physically, emotionally, and mentally experience challenges.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)

More than 20 million people have gained access to health coverage after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The CBPP also examined that half of that increase was a gain in private coverage, as a result of ACA policies like subsidies for individual market coverage. The other half was a result of Medicaid expansion to low-income adults.

During its first 10 years, the ACA helped to see a 17 percent decrease in problems paying medical bills, 27 percent drop in unfilled prescriptions, and a decrease by 19 percent in not visiting a provider when needing care.

Naturally, just having coverage isn’t enough to get people the health care they need, there also needs to be enough healthcare employees to provide all of this newly insured care. With the increase in patients comes an increase in demand for health care professionals of all kinds, which includes nursing assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and every other nurse there is. However, it should also be noted that most of the newly insured are younger people without the health problems of aging generations.

HPSAs - The Primary Care Shortage and Growing Autonomy

Nurses aren’t just needed to ease the nursing shortage, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are also needed to aid in the shortage of primary care doctors. Since there are many health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) in the United States, there is a struggle to ensure that there is accessible primary care for everyone.

With a growing shortage for primary care doctors, paired with the amount of time and training it takes to get new doctors into the workforce, there is a probable need for primary care, and nurse practitioners can help fill that void. In many states, nurse practitioners can have their own private practice and prescribe medicine, allowing them to provide patients with many of the same services that primary care doctors provide.

As of February 2020, 23 states permit nurse practitioners to have full practice responsibilities, including evaluating and diagnosing patients, the ordering and interpretation of diagnostic tests, initiation and management of treatments, and prescription of medications and controlled substances. Sixteen states grant nurse practitioners reduced practice responsibilities -- providing care under a collaborative agreement with another health provider.

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Nursing Education and Testing

In order to start a career in nursing at any level, some form of training must be completed in order to prepare for the role. Additionally, many roles within nursing require the passing of an examination in order to become certified and/or licensed by your state.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Education

In the majority of states, nursing assistants are unlicensed professionals. There are a couple of states however, that have a special license for CNAs that must be renewed. Nursing assistant education consists of a training program at a high school, college, or hospital. There is no degree involved, but the program prepares students to take a competency exam so that they can be entered into the state registry. After the passing of this exam, there is some on the job training, after which the CNA is fully trained.

Learn more on how to become a certified nursing assistant.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Education

Licensed practical nurses are required to complete a one year non-degree education program. at a high school, college, or hospital. These programs may have a clinical experience component in addition to classroom learning. LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN examination in order to obtain licensure. LPNs can also gain expertise and earn certificates in specific areas of nursing.

Learn more on how to become a licensed practical nurse.

Registered Nurse (RN) Education

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing is required for becoming a registered nurse, though many employers may only seek candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree. No matter which path is chosen, there is a clinical component to education. Nursing students must pass the NCLEX-RN in order to become certified as registered nurses. It is also important to note that RNs with bachelor’s degrees have more ability to be leaders and researchers.

Learn more on how to become a registered nurse.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Education

All nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists must be registered nurses with some nursing experience before applying to a master’s program, which is required for all advanced nursing degrees. There are many programs for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree, as well as programs for nurses with an associate’s degree that combine a bachelor’s and master’s program into one. Upon the completion of a program, students must take a test related to the advanced specialty they wish to practice in order to become certified.

Learn more on how to become an advanced practice registered nurse.

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Additional Nursing Information