Nursing License Requirements in Wisconsin: Become a Nurse in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Board of Nursing issues licenses to Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses. There are currently 89,180 RNs in the state and 13,829 LPNs.

Wisconsin is a member of the nurse licensure compact. A nurse who is licensed in another compact state will need to get a Wisconsin license within 30 days if Wisconsin becomes the primary residence. As long as the primary residence is in the other compact state, though, the candidate may practice in Wisconsin indefinitely. There is one border state in the compact: Iowa.

A nurse licensed in a non-compact state is allowed to practice in Wisconsin for just 72 consecutive hours without a license. This exemption exists so that patients can have nursing care while they are traveling, or being transported, through the state. If the nurse will be doing more than a quick pass through the state, the candidate must apply for license by endorsement.

Nursing school graduates who have not yet been licensed in any jurisdiction apply for license by examination. They must pass the NCLEX exam at the appropriate level. The Board publishes NCLEX pass rates by school. Most LPN programs are well above the national average of 84%.

Select the type of Nursing License you are seeking:

Nursing Scholarships in Wisconsin

Scholarships are available through the Wisconsin League for Nursing ( and the Nurses Foundation of Wisconsin (

The state has a workforce center, the Wisconsin Center for Nursing.

LPN Requirements in Wisconsin

LPN Education

There are several factors to consider prior to selecting a practical nursing program. The article, LPN programs in Wisconsin, will help you better understand these factors during your LPN program selection process.

A practical nurse should enroll in a state approved program. A list of Wisconsin LPN programs is available on the Board site (
Wisconsin does not require LPNs to have a high school diploma but does require two years of high school or equivalency.

Applying for Licensure as an LPN

The Wisconsin Board suggests that candidates turn in their application six to eight weeks before program completion so as to expedite the process. Forms can be downloaded from the Board site ( The candidate must send $90 (plus an extra $10 if the candidate wishes to begin work under a temporary permit).

Candidates should also register with the testing company and pay the $200 fee (

After the Board receives notification from the nursing school that program requirements have been met, they will notify the testing company that the candidate is eligible; this will not happen immediately, but about 15 or 20 days after receipt. If the candidate has requested a temporary permit, it will be issued at this time. The nurse will be able to verify its issuance online before the hard copy arrives in the mail.

The candidate will receive an ATT that will allow the candidate to schedule the exam. The NCLEX-PN is computer adapted and scheduled on an ongoing basis.

An unsuccessful candidate will be sent retake information. The candidate will need to pay $15 to the Wisconsin Board with the retake application. The candidate will also need to reregister with Pearson.

Practical nurses may wish to join the Wisconsin LPN Association ( Membership is not connected to licensure.

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Out of State LPNs

A nurse with a current active license in another U.S. or Canadian jurisdiction can apply by endorsement if the candidate meets all requirements (including not having been terminated from a position for negligence). Accepted exams include the NCLEX and the SBTPE.

The candidate will need to verify active and inactive licenses. If the state uses the NURSYS verification system, license verification can be done online. Otherwise, the nurse will need to mail a form to the licensing agency. An endorsement candidate who wishes to begin working under a temporary permit will need a photocopy of the license. The fee for license by endorsement is $82; the temporary permit, if required, is an extra $10.

An applicant who has not worked as a nurse during the preceding five years will need to get a limited license to complete a refresher course.

An international LPN should take the TOEFL and have nursing education evaluated by CGFNS.

RN License Requirements in Wisconsin

Education for RNs

A prospective RN should enroll in a board approved program. A list of in-state programs appears on the site of the Wisconsin Center for Nursing ( Most programs are at the associate or baccalaureate level. It is possible for a candidate who already holds a degree to begin a master’s nursing program and take the licensing exam after finishing the generalist coursework. The Board notes that this route (pre-MSN registered nursing program) will not necessarily make a candidate license eligible in all states.

Read the “RN Programs in Wisconsin” article to learn about factors to consider when choosing a Registered Nursing program.

Applying for RN Licensure

Students are advised to turn in their applications ( at least six weeks in advance so as to avoid what the Board calls “graduate crunch”. Once the application is entered into the system, it will be given an ID, and a checklist will be generated. Documents that come later will be entered in, and the applicant will receive email updates. The application/ licensing fee is $90. If the graduate desires a temporary permit, the candidate should remit an additional $10.

The candidate should also register with the testing company promptly ( It’s best if this is done before the application is entered. If the applicant does not complete the step until later, though, the candidate may send an email to the Board advising them that the candidate has done it.

After graduation, the candidate must have the school send the appropriate form to the Board. The same form is used whether the program was approved by the Wisconsin Board or by the licensing agency in another U.S. jurisdiction.

If the candidate has requested a temporary permit, it will be issued at the same time as the ATT. Candidates should be aware that it may take 15 to 20 days for the temporary permit to be issued. They can check their application status online.

While working under a temporary permit, the nurse is a G.N., or graduate nurse. The temporary permit is issued for only 90 days. During this time, the candidate must pass the NCLEX-RN.

A candidate who is unsuccessful on the NCLEX may retake it. The candidate will submit a short retake application to the Wisconsin Board along with a $15 fee. (This application requires only a minimal amount of information, for example, whether the candidate has had legal proceedings during the interim period.)

Exam failure invalidates the temporary permit. A nursing graduate is allowed to work as a nurse tech for up to six months regardless of whether the candidate has failed an attempt – this is a separate, lower status.

Candidates should be aware that there is a mandatory 45 day wait period between NCLEX attempts.

An internationally educated RN will need to go through the CGFNS certification process before the candidate can be licensed by examination in Wisconsin. There is one exception: Canadian nursing school graduates who did their education in English.

RNs may wish to join the state’s professional organization, the Wisconsin Nurses Association (

RN by Endorsement

The Wisconsin Board requires applicants to provide license verification from each state where they have held licensing. A copy of a current license may qualify the applicant for a temporary (90 day) permit provided other required materials are included with the application.

An RN who holds a current license in a U.S. jurisdiction or Canadian province, and who passed the NCLEX or SBTPE, may be endorsed into Wisconsin. If the nurse did not graduate from an approved school, the candidate must also demonstrate two years of recent practice. (An internationally educated candidate would be considered to have graduated from a non-approved school if the school was not accredited by an agency recognized by the Board.)

An RN who has not practiced nursing during the preceding five year period will need to do a refresher course.

Internationally educated candidates should include a copy of their equivalency report even if they have since been licensed in the U.S. or Canada.

Professional and Student Nursing Associations in Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Board of Nursing

Wisconsin Center for Nursing

Wisconsin Nursing Career

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