The LPN Licensing Process
LPNs are licensed in all U.S. jurisdiction. In most states, they are licensed by the board of nursing (often abbreviated as BON). A few states have separate licensing agencies, or boards, for registered and practical nurses.
The first step toward licensure is typically completed more than a year in advance: The candidate applies to a Board of Nursing approved nursing program. While some states license LPNs who have had alternate training (for example, through the military), the majority require completion of an approved nursing program. A list of in-state programs is usually available on the board site.
As the practical nursing or vocational nursing program winds down, the future nurse will take additional steps toward licensure.
Application and Examination
A prospective LPN will need to get permission from the licensing board in their state to take the NCLEX-PN. This typically means turning in a licensing application and providing some kind of documentation of having met academic requirements. In some states, a student can take these steps before they actually graduate; the student’s nursing program will need to certify that the student is on track to graduate.
Before the student can be issued a license, the candidate will need to confirm that they have completed their program. Depending on the state, this may mean sending transcripts or having the nursing school provide certification of completion.
In some states, it’s necessary to complete all steps – including the exam – before starting work. In other states, a nurse can be issued a temporary work permit while waiting to take the exam. A nurse who begins work under a temporary permit will lose the privilege if they do not pass the NCLEX-PN on the first attempt.
Exam retakes are allowed, but there is a mandatory wait period before attempts. Some states impose additional restrictions. They may set a limit on total retakes or mandate that the candidate take a review course.
Background Checks and Character References
In some states, a nurse will need character references and/ or a notary seal on the application.
All states take into account character and legal background. A majority perform a fingerprint-based criminal background check (CBC). Procedures vary a good deal. The prints may be captured electronically or inked; the procedure may be done before or after submission of the application. It may take a month or more for the CBC to be processed.
A candidate will not always be disqualified because of a past arrest or conviction though the circumstances will require careful review.
LPN License Renewal
Once the exam results and background check are in, the nurse will receive a permanent license. Although it’s referred to as a permanent license, it will need to be renewed periodically. This typically involves paying a small fee and verifying that out-of-state licenses are in good standing. Continuing education is frequently required.
Transferring an LPN License
It is usually not difficult for an LPN who has completed an approved nursing program in one state to be licensed in another. If LPN is already licensed in a U.S. jurisdiction, the process is called endorsement.
If the nurse lives, and holds licensing, in a state that is a member of the nurse licensure compact, the nurse can practice in another compact state on their home state license. If the neighboring state (or other jurisdiction where she wishes to work) is not part of the compact, the nurse will need an endorsement license before beginning employment.
Verification will be required from at least one state. In many cases, this is accomplished electronically. The nurse will typically need to have a new CBC.
If the nurse did their education through an alternate pathway that the other state does not recognize, the nurse may be ineligible for licensure there. However, some states will still grant an experienced nurse an endorsement license.
Select a State for Practical Nursing License Information
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Learn about becoming a Registered Nurse, LPN or LVN in your state:
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