The Easiest States to Get Nursing License In the USA

Doctors and nurses walking down the hospital corridor

Hi guys, it’s Cristel. You may know from my previous post that I’ve decided to switch from retailing to something more human-oriented, such as nursing. However, getting a nursing license can vary widely depending on which state you’re in. It’s like a whole new ball game everywhere you go! Although I currently live in Philadelphia, I’m interested in travel nursing, and I’ve been researching which states are the easiest to get licensed in. If you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse just like me, it’s definitely worth checking out which states have the most relaxed nursing license requirements.

What’s Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing is a pretty sweet gig if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s like when you get to bounce around the country and work as a nurse in different locations. As a travel nurse, you’ll work in different locations for a few months at a time, which means you’ll have the opportunity to explore new cities and meet new people. Thus, traveling nursing is perfect if you’re like me and love to explore and try new things. But here’s the thing: getting a nursing license for each state can be a total pain in the neck.

According to estimates from travel nursing employment agencies, there are between 50,000 and 100,000 open travel nurse positions available in healthcare facilities across the USA.

Source –

That’s why I’ve been doing my research on which states are the easiest to get licensed in. So, if you want to become a nurse and try out travel nursing, you should definitely check it out. But even if you’re not interested in travel nursing, it’s still important to choose the right state for your nursing career. Some states offer more opportunities for nurses than others, including higher nurse salaries and better working conditions. So if you want to become a nurse, let’s delve deeper into this topic and explore the differences in obtaining a nursing license in different states.

Nursing Licensing in Pennsylvania

I want to focus more on Pennsylvania because it’s the state where I want to get a nursing license.

After that, you can apply for nursing licensure through the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. Sounds like a piece of cake, doesn’t it? Getting a nursing license in Pennsylvania can benefit you in many ways, so let me tell you why I have chosen this state in more detail.

It’s actually not that complicated since you only need to complete an accredited nursing program and to pass the NCLEX exam.

State nursing programs

If you are interested in becoming a nurse in Pennsylvania like me, you’ll be happy to know that the state offers a number of great nursing programs. Whether you’re interested in pursuing a traditional nursing degree or a more specialized program like a nurse practitioner degree, you’re sure to find a great program in Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, there are plenty of programs top in the field like, for instance, the nurse practitioner programs at some of the top nursing schools in the state, such as the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. While studying you will have to deal with writing many academic papers, the help of a nursing essay writer in this matter will be very useful.

You might want to consider an RN to BSN program or an RN to MSN program if you’re already a registered nurse that wants to know how to go from RN to MSN and are looking to level up in nursing. If you want to proceed with your nursing education, the state offers opportunities to advance to DNP. However, great educational opportunities are currently the only benefit that makes Pennsylvania stand out.

Nurse licensure compact and its benefits

Pennsylvania has the potential to become a great state for travel nurses, which is particularly important to me. If the state reconsiders becoming a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), you will be able to practice in any other state that’s also a member of the NLC without needing to obtain a separate license. This is really beneficial because 38 states are currently compact, and your license will be available in them. Due to this, traveling nurses do not need to put mad work into gaining a new license in every state they work in.

It’s a good way to add more flexibility and new experiences to your professional life. The nursing exchange between states aims to improve and balance the quality of public health protection. This approach also secures the whole society of emergency cases. If some natural disasters or epidemics happen, nurses have more flexibility to serve where they are needed the most.

If you wonder how to get nursing license in a compact state and preserve your current license, here is the answer. You can keep your license from a non-compact state, it will still be valid if you move to another state to obtain a compact license. But what is the easiest state to become a nurse with a compact licensure? Actually, it doesn’t matter as long as you choose any state out of the ones that enacted NLC:

Map of the implementation of the NLC across the US states

Credit for the picture: Nurse Licensure Compact

Things to remember about a Pennsylvania nursing license

Now that you know how to obtain a nursing license in Pennsylvania and the benefits it offers, you should keep a few more things in mind.

  • First, Pennsylvania does not offer a temporary license, so if you are from another state which does and desire to work in this one, you must obtain licensure by endorsement.
  • Next, a nurse must renew their license every two years, which requires 30 hours of continuing education.
  • Finally, Pennsylvania requires a criminal background check as part of the licensure process. I hope this information will be helpful for those who want to get a degree in nursing in Pennsylvania.

More Articles about Nursing:

Top 10 Easiest States to Get Nursing License

Before I go ahead and recommend you a list of the top 10 easiest states to get a nursing license in, there are a few facts about licensing I’d like to break down for you. I’ve already told you about NLC and its benefits, so now I’d like to focus on walk-through states and states where BON offers a temporary license and explain how it works. Walk-through states allow RNs to obtain a temporary license within one hour to one day’s time. However, many non-walk-through states also offer temporary licenses valid for up to one year.

Generally, states that offer temporary licenses are considered easier to get licenses in because you practice.

I suggest you pay close attention to all the factors discussed when analyzing the top 10 states:

StateNLC memberWalk-throughTemporary license offered by the BONTime frame for obtaining a permanent licensureBackground check
AlabamaYesNoYes2-4 weeksNo
ArizonaYesYesYes2-4 weeksYes
LouisianaYesYesYes4-6 weeksYes
North DakotaYesNoYes2-4 weeksYes
MissouriYesYesYes2 weeksYes

South Carolina

YesYesYes2 weeksYes





2 weeks






10-15 days


New Hampshire




2 weeks


HawaiiNoYesYes2-15 days


While the table can help you compare these states, I still want to provide you with some facts about getting nursing licenses there.

  • Alabama is the only state on the list in which you can get a nursing license while your background check is in process. It’s not a walk-through state, but the processing time for obtaining your temporary license. Furthermore, you don’t need the official verification of your current license, only a notarized copy of your current license, which makes Alabama one of the easiest states to get a nursing license.
  • Arizona offers temporary licenses on a walk-through basis, so you can get your license really quickly. However, you must have a job offer letter with a start date within 7 days in order to work in this state. Additionally, you must have a completed fingerprint card.
  • Louisiana. This state also makes it quite easy for nurses from other states to work there. Unfortunately, this state suggests compact licensing only for registered nurses or practical nurses.
  • North Dakota does not offer licenses on a walk-through basis, but you can get your temporary license in 3-5 days which is not too long. To practice in this state, you’ll need to verify your license, but you can get your temporary license before the verification.
  • Missouri. This state offers licenses on a walk-through basis, and you can receive yours even before your current license is verified or your fingerprints are done.
  • South Carolina makes it even easier for nurses to obtain their licenses because you don’t even need to verify your current license. All you need to obtain a temporary license in this state is to have a notarized copy of your current license.
  • Kentucky does not offer temporary licenses, unlike previous states on the list. Still, you can submit your application get submitted easily and quickly to get a permanent license.
  • Georgia deserved its place on the list thanks to its quick turnaround times for permanent nursing licensure. Furthermore, BON offers a temporary license in this state, making it even easier to practice in.
  • New Hampshire does not offer temporary licenses, but its licensing requirements are relatively simple and straightforward. Additionally, you can receive your permanent license within 2 weeks, which is quite quick.
  • Hawaii is the only state on the list that is not compact. Despite that, I just had to add it because it is a really quick state to obtain your permanent license in (if not the quickest!) Moreover, it is one of the states that offer licenses on a walk-through basis, so you can overlook the fact Hawaii is not compact!

How to Get a Nursing License

If you are looking to become a nurse like me, you must be wondering how to get a license. I want you to keep in mind that the states from my list are not necessarily the best states to study as a nurse. For instance, it’s easy to get your license in Hawaii if you are already a nurse, but this state’s license does not give you many opportunities to work in other states.

Nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with nearly 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 84.1% are employed in nursing.

Source – AACN

Choose a program

So, if you don’t know where to start, I suggest you check out the top direct-entry nursing programs in your and neighboring states. Pay close attention to the requirements and regulations in those states. It’s always a good idea to check with the board of nursing or potential employers to determine the specific education and RN license requirements. If you are at the beginning of your path, you should pay attention to top nursing schools in your state. Then, choose the programs best for the chosen career goals!

The quickest way to get a nursing license is to obtain an associate degree to become a registered nurse.

State RN programs are often seen as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree or as a way to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for a nursing career. However, not all programs require students to have RN licenses. You will typically need a high school diploma to enter the desired BSN program. After completing it, you can view the MNS program top in your state.

If you are already an RN, you should consider programs top RN to MSN. An MSN degree opens up all jobs in nursing for you, offering a wide range of programs, including NP programs and others. A Master’s degree will give you the opportunity to choose from a wide range of nursing jobs, including care nurse, pediatric nurse, neonatal nurse, nurse anesthetist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner, with some of them being among the highest-paying jobs. So you know what to do, view all state nursing programs and choose what is the most suitable for you!

Get nursing licenses in different states

You may wonder how to become a licensed nurse. After finishing your program, you must take the NCLEX exam and pass it to obtain your license. However, you already know that getting a license in one state doesn’t necessarily mean you can work in another state. For instance, a Colorado nursing license allows you to work as a nurse in South Dakota since both are compact states, but not in New York. Since these states are not compact, New York and Alaska nursing licenses only allow you to practice in their respective states.

How to get an RN license? After you pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), there are a few more steps to becoming a registered nurse. It may be easier to get a compact license from the start and get it done with the paperwork at once.

If you already have a nursing license but want to get it in another state, you can get a nursing license by endorsement. Remember that endorsement nursing requirements by state can vary a lot, so make sure to do your research. Typically, you must submit an application online on the state’s official nurse portal to get your license. And finally, if you are a traveling nurse or want to become one like me, consider the top 10 easiest states to get nursing licenses in. This list can help you choose which state to travel to next.

Get a compact nursing license: Requirements

All the information and ULR requirements are collected on the official Nurse Licensure Compact website. But how to get nursing license in another state, in a nutshell? Basically, the most important criteria are:

  • Living in a compact state (the one that supports compact nursing license permissions)
  • Meeting the licensure requirements in the home state
  • Having a completed board-approved education program or an international education program
  • Passing an NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN Examination or predecessor exam
  • English proficiency test (if English is not your native language)

All other requirements are rather technical in most cases. For instance, you have to pass federal fingerprint checks to prove there is no criminal background behind you. One more thing you must know is that you must contact your board of nursing (BON) to start the application process. To get more information, address either your state’s board of nursing or check the website of NCSBN: National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Remember to choose the right state for your nursing career, and good luck on your nursing journey!

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Cristel Roberts
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Cristel works in retail but is eager to switch to something that’s more human-related. As the mother of an amazing boy, she believes in the importance of permissive parenting. Recently, Cristel moved from Delaware to Philadelphia because of the love of her life, and though her personal life didn’t work out, she still finds great pleasure in exploring the history of this city.