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North Carolina Nursing License Requirements: Become a Nurse in NC

The North Carolina Board of Nursing, also known as NCBON, regulates the state’s nurses (http://www.ncbon.com).

North Carolina is a member of the nurse licensure compact. LPNs and RNs who have residency and licensing in other compact states can practice under a multistate license issued by their own board. Notably, all states bordering North Carolina (Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina) are members.

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The two routes to licensure are endorsement and examination. First time licensees must pass the NCLEX. Graduates of North Carolina registered nursing programs had a NCLEX pass rate of 95% during the most recent reporting period (April 2012 through March 2013). Graduates of practical nursing programs had an 89% pass rate during the same time period.

Nursing Scholarships & Loans in NC

The Nurse Education Scholarship Loan Program funds some of North Carolina’s nursing students (http://www.ncseaa.edu/NESLP.htm). There is additional scholarship money available through the NC Foundation for Nursing (http://www.ncnurses.org/foundation).

North Carolina currently has 119,442 RNs and 21,658 LPNs, according to the National Nursing Database. The North Carolina Board provides additional licensing information by county, including how many people hold licenses and how many are currently working in the field (http://www.ncbon.com/LicensureStats/LicStat-CNTSTWEB.asp).

LPN Requirements in North Carolina

Education for LPNs

A prospective LPN should enroll in an approved practical nursing program. The North Carolina Board notes that these programs are typically three semesters. The Board site includes a list of programs approved within North Carolina (http://www.ncbon.com/). Read "Choosing an LPN Program in North Carolina" to gain a better understanding of the LPN program education requirements and process.

If a student chooses to attend school in another state, the candidate should make sure the program is approved in that state. North Carolina does not accept military training for license by examination unless it was done as part of an approved nursing program. NCBON notes that there is currently just one approved military program (US Army Practical Nursing Program 91WM6).

Application Process

North Carolina does not issue temporary permits to candidates going through the examination process, so grads should begin the process early. A description of the process, as well as important links and required forms, can be found on the new graduate section of the board’s website. The application itself can be completed online (https://www.ncbon.com/sysdown.asp) but the candidate will need to go out to have fingerprints done. In North Carolina, the fingerprinting is done electronically via Live Scan centers.

The graduate will also need to register with the company that administers the NCLEX-PN exam (www.pearsonvue.com/nclex).

The candidate will need to pay $75 for the application, $38 for the Live Scan criminal background check, and $200 for the licensing exam (http://www.ncbon.com/content.aspx).

Once the candidate receives the authorization to test, the candidate can schedule at the Pearson testing center that’s most convenient. It will be necessary to bring an ID to the testing center. In North Carolina, the exam is given in Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem. It is also possible to schedule the exam at a testing center in another state.

The successful candidate shouldn’t look for the license to arrive in the mail – North Carolina issues licenses electronically.

There are email addresses on the new graduates section that candidates can use to direct their questions.

The North Carolina LPN Association is an additional professional resource for the state’s practical nurses (http://www.nflpn.org/stateEvent.php). Affiliation with this organization is not tied to licensure.

LPN by Endorsement

LPNs who have taken approved nursing programs and been licensed in other states may apply by endorsement. (Those who were licensed on the basis of non-approved military training should contact the NC Board of Nursing.)

The endorsement application can be completed online. The candidate will need to have a lot of information at hand – from the current license number to the mother’s maiden name. There’s a checklist of required information on the site.

The fee to apply for license by endorsement is $150.

An endorsement candidate may be eligible for a temporary license. This can make employment ready within about two weeks. The candidate will need to verify that the temporary license has been issued by doing an online check.

RN License Requirements in North Carolina

RN Education Requirements

A prospective RN must complete a professional nursing program that has been approved by the North Carolina Board or by the board in another state. If the coursework is done online, that’s alright, so long as the program is approved or accredited in the state where it is located.

There are approved in-state programs at the associate, diploma, and baccalaureate levels (http://www.ncbon.com). Candidates who already have college degrees may be accepted for admission to a master’s program; they can earn their basic RN license en route to specialized study and advanced practice. "Choosing an RN Program in North Carolina" offers several additional resources to learn about selecting an appropriate professional nursing program.

RN Application Process

The candidate will eventually need to pass a background check and a licensing exam – these things are done at a much later stage. There is an online application for the background check (https://portal.ncbon.com/LiveScan/Person.aspx). In-state candidates will have their prints done through Live Scan. Application for licensure (another online process) will cost $75.

The candidate can also apply online for the licensing exam and pay the $200 testing fee electronically. The candidate may opt for regular mail, though, if the candidate prefers. The candidate will wait for authorization (via email or mail) before scheduling the computer adapted exam.

Passing the exam is typically the last step in the process, but the candidate will still need to wait for the license to be issued. This is done electronically; the candidate can go online and verify the credential.

Registered nurses may want to join the North Carolina Nurses Association (http://www.ncnurses.org/). This is not a licensing requirement, but there are many resources available, including a mentorship program for novice RNs.

RN by Endorsement

The fee for an RN license by endorsement is $150. A temporary license may be issued to an RN who is currently licensed in another state; this allows the RN to begin work while paperwork is being processed. The candidate will need a notarized copy of the license. Official verification will eventually be required.

Internationally Educated Nurses

International candidates will need to have their education evaluated by one of two approved organizations: the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools or Josef Silny & Associates (http://www.ncbon.com/content.aspx?id=214).

International candidates will also need to take an English proficiency exam unless their education was in one of the following nations or territories: Australia, Canada, Guam, Ireland, the Mariana Islands, New Zealand, Samoa, the UK, or the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rican nurses do need to demonstrate English proficiency as do those educated in the Canadian providence of Quebec. There are two accepted exams: the IELTS and the TOEFL.

International nurses must meet the education and English proficiency requirements before they can be authorized by North Carolina to take the NCLEX. They will need to complete a criminal background check and provide a social security number before they can be licensed; however, this does not necessarily have to be done before NCLEX approval.

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