Arkansas Nursing License Requirements
The Arkansas State Board of Nursing is responsible for assuring the qualifications of practicing nurses in the state and the eligibility of nursing schools to provide nursing programs to prospective nurses. The Arkansas State Board of Nursing issues and recognizes many different levels of licensure for nurses. The three major categories are licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, and advanced nurse practitioner. Learn more about the education and licensing requirements in Arkansas for each of these classes of licensure by choosing the appropriate category below.
» How to become a licensed practical nurse (requires completion of a training program)
» How to become a registered nurse (requires completion of a training program)
» How to become a nurse practitioner (requires a master’s degree)
4 Steps to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Arkansas
1. Complete a State-Approved Practical Nursing Program.
To become eligible for licensure as a practical nurse in Arkansas, candidates must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and a diploma or certificate from a practical nurse preparation program approved by the state.1 However, applicants who have completed a substantially equivalent program in another state may still be eligible for licensure if the Arkansas State Board of Nursing finds that the applicant is qualified, for example by having completed an equivalent program in another state.1 Nursing programs should be approved by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and hold accreditation from a recognized accrediting body.2
2. Complete the Online Application for Licensure/Certification.
Candidates for practical nurse licensure must apply to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing for initial licensure and permission to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) prior to taking for the exam.2 The initial application may be submitted up to two months prior to graduation from a nursing program.3 Except for internationally educated licensed practical nurse candidates, applications are completed online through the Arkansas State Board of Nursing web portal.3
3. Complete a Criminal Background Check.
All first-time applicants to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing must complete a criminal background check at the state and federal levels.3 The criminal background check is begun through the state’s online application process for licensed practical nurses.3 Should the application process extend over more than twelve months, note that the criminal background check may need to be repeated as the Arkansas State Board of Nursing must have a background check dated within twelve months to issue a nursing license.3
Upon receipt of the initial application for licensure the Arkansas State Board of Nursing will send the applicant a fingerprint card, which should be completed and forwarded to the Arkansas State Police.4 New graduates may also receive an approved fingerprint card from their nursing program.4 Note that after submitting payment to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing for applicable licensure fees applicants will receive an identification number, called the INA Search ID, on their payment receipt.3 This number must be printed on the area on the fingerprint card marked “FBI Leave Blank” before forwarding the completed card to the Arkansas State Police.3 It is important to be aware that failure to do so may result in the fingerprints not being processed.3
4. Register for and Take the NCLEX with Pearson VUE.
Pearson VUE is the company that administers the NCLEX exam on behalf of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. Applicants must register with Pearson VUE as potential examinees prior to receiving the permission of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to take the exam, but may not schedule an examination before such permission is granted.3 In other words, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing will not process applications until the candidate is registered with both the State Board and Pearson VUE.3 Registration with Pearson VUE is completed through the Pearson VUE website.5
No candidate will be considered eligible for the examination until state and federal criminal background checks as well as official school transcripts have been received and his or her application has been reviewed.2 Applicants who are not successful in the first attempt at the NCLEX may reattempt the exam once every 45 days.3 Passing the NCLEX is the final step to earning a nursing license in Arkansas.
5 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Arkansas
1. Complete a Professional Nursing Education Program.
A post-secondary education program for preparation in registered nursing is the first step to becoming a licensed registered nurse.1 This program should be approved by the state of Arkansas or, if the program is out of state, be similar in content and scope to programs that are approved by the state.1 In addition, the program completed should hold accreditation from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and a body recognized by the US Secretary of Education.2
2. Submit the Online Application for Nurse Licensure.
Arkansas uses an online application process for registered nurses, which is completed through the Arkansas State Board of Nursing website.3 The online application must be submitted prior to attempting the NCLEX.3 However, permission to take the NCLEX will not be granted until the applicant has submitted the application for licensure and completed the initial registration for NCLEX testing with Pearson VUE, the company which administers the NCLEX exam.3
3. Complete the Required State and Federal Background Checks.
State and federal background checks are mandatory prior to licensure as a registered nurse.3 Prospective registered nurses will complete the required background checks by submitting a fingerprint card to the Arkansas State Police.3 This card can be requested during the initial online application or may be provided to the applicant by the registered nursing education program.4 In either case, applicants must complete the online application process to complete the background check as a unique identification number known as the “INA Search ID” must be written in the “FBI Leave Blank” section of the fingerprint card to assure processing, and this number is obtained by paying the application fees following the initial application for licensure.3 Fingerprint cards submitted without the INA Search ID may not be processed.3
Applicants should be aware that the background check is only valid for twelve months following the date that the Arkansas State Board of Nursing receives the results; this may necessitate a second background check should the applicant take more than twelve months to satisfy all pre-requisites for licensure.4
4. Take the NCLEX-RN.
The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) must be passed in order to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse in Arkansas.3 The Arkansas State Board of Nursing uses a testing company, Pearson VUE, to administer the exam.3 To become eligible to take the exam, applicants must complete the online application process with the Arkansas State Board of Nursing and complete an initial registration process with Pearson VUE. Initial registration with Pearson VUE is completed through Pearson VUE’s website.5 Note that both the state application and the testing site registration must be completed before applicants can become licensed; the Arkansas State Board of Nursing must also have received the required completed criminal background checks.3
Should an applicant not pass the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing allows prospective registered nurses to re-take the NCLEX-RN not more than once every 45 days.3
5. Become Certified as a Diabetes Self-Management Educator (Optional).
If desired, registered nurses may obtain certification from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing as Diabetes Self-Management Educators and specialize in providing education to those with diabetes. To obtain certification, registered nurses should either become certified as a Certified Diabetic Educator by the American Diabetes Association or complete a diabetes educational program that the Arkansas State Board of Nursing has approved.6 After meeting these prerequisites candidates may submit an Initial Certification for Diabetes Self-Management Educator Application, which must be notarized and include notarized proof of completion for the education program or American Diabetes Association certification, whichever is applicable.6
6 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Arkansas
1. Obtain Licensure as a Registered Nurse.
Future nurse practitioners in Arkansas must first obtain licensure as registered nurses. This requires that candidates complete an education appropriate to becoming a registered nurse and pass the NCLEX-RN, along with the other requirements held out by the state.7 A registered nurse license may be held in Arkansas or in another state that is compact to the licensure requirements in Arkansas.7 Note that temporary registered nurse permits are not deemed to meet this requirement.7
2. Earn a Graduate or Post-Graduate Degree in Nursing.
Prospective nurse practitioners must first earn a graduate or post-graduate degree in nursing to become eligible for Arkansas licensure. The program must specifically prepare candidates for an advanced practice role in nursing.2 Such a program must be accredited by the US Secretary of Education and/he Council for Higher Education Accreditation.2 The program completed must also prepare the prospective nurse practitioner in one or more focus populations as outlined in the Arkansas State Board of Nursing Rules and include at least 500 supervised hours of direct clinical practice for each population focus.2 Current potential focus populations approved by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing are listed on the Arkansas State Board of Nursing Instructions for Completion of Advanced Practice Nurse Licensure Application.7
3. Obtain Certification from a National Organization.
Nurse practitioners must obtain certification as a nurse practitioner from a nationally recognized certifying body before becoming eligible for a license in Arkansas.1 The certifying body must hold a level of national accreditation acceptable to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing and perform a documented credential review as part of the application process.2 An examination must also form part of the basis on which certification is granted by the certifying organization.2 A full list of approved credentialing bodies can be reviewed in the Arkansas State Board of Nursing Instructions for Completion of Advanced Practice Nurse Licensure Application.7
4. Submit the Application for Licensure.
As part of the application process, candidates should request that official transcripts for the graduate or post-graduate advanced nursing program be sent directly to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.7 Applicants must also request that evidence of certification from a national certifying body in all applicable focus areas be sent by that body to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.7 The paper application form, Advanced Practice Nurse Licensure Application, should be completed and submitted to the board along with the requisite fees.7
5. Complete Background Checks at the State and Federal Levels.
All candidates for licensure as nurse practitioners must complete state and federal background checks.7 Candidates who are currently enrolled in an advanced practice nursing program must complete the background checks through the nursing program.7 Candidates who have already graduated an advanced practice nursing program must obtain the fingerprint card through the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to complete these background checks.7 In either event the background check must be completed in twelve months or less from the date of application for licensure.7
6. Apply for Prescriptive Authority.
Prescriptive authority is not included in licensure for nurse practitioners, but may be obtained by following a separate process.7 Licensed nurse practitioners may earn a certificate of prescriptive authority upon completing an advanced pharmacology course approved by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.1 At a minimum, the course must encompass six graduate credit hours in pharmacology at an accredited college, university, and/or advanced practice nursing program in addition to 45 contact hours completed within two years of the application for prescriptive authority.2 A nurse practitioner must then complete 300 clock hours of prescription experience under the supervision of a preceptor.2
To exercise prescriptive authority, a licensed nurse practitioner must also have a collaborative practice agreement with a licensed physician and submit evidence of the same to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.1 Those who intend to prescribe Schedules III-V controlled substances must apply for a Drug Enforcement Agency control number.7 Further instructions regarding this process are outlined on the Arkansas State Board of Nursing Instructions for Completion of Certificate of Prescriptive Authority Initial Application.8
Arkansas Nursing Associations
Prospective or currently licensed nurses in Arkansas may find additional education, assistance with common licensing requirements, and professional opportunities through nursing associations in Arkansas.
1. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: Nurse Practice Act
2. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: Rules
3. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: Examination
4. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: FBI and Arkansas Criminal Background Checks Instructions for Online Applicants
5. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
6. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: Requirements for Certification as a Diabetes Self-Management Educator
7. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: Instructions for Completion of Advanced Practice Nurse Licensure Application
8. Arkansas State Board of Nursing: Instructions for Completion of Certificate of Prescriptive Authority Initial Application