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Pennsylvania Nursing License Requirements

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing licenses practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners as well as other nursing specialties. To become qualified for nurse licensure in Pennsylvania, candidates must first complete an education in nursing appropriate to the type of license sought. Licensed nurses may also choose to continue their education to higher levels of practice. Learn more on this page about becoming a practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner in Pennsylvania.

» How to become a licensed practical nurse (requires completion of a training program)
» How to become a registered nurse (requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree)
» How to become a nurse practitioner (requires a master’s degree)

4 Steps to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Pennsylvania

1. Complete an Education Program in Practical Nursing.

Prospective practical nurses in Pennsylvania must complete a nursing education program that includes at least 1,500 hours of instruction over a period of at least twelve months.1 The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing provides a list of practical nursing programs in Pennsylvania which it has approved.2 National Council Licensure Examination results from program graduates are also available.3

2. Apply for a Temporary Permit to Practice, If Desired.

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing issues temporary licenses to practice to practical nurse candidates who are within ninety days of graduation from a nursing program approved by the Board.4 Note that only graduates of Pennsylvania approved nursing programs are eligible for the temporary permit privilege.

Eligible temporary permit candidates can apply for the permit online through the Pennsylvania Department of State.5 Alternatively, the paper application for license by examination and/or temporary permit may be used.6 Note that candidates must submit a nursing education form in addition to completing the online application to be eligible for a permit.4 Temporary permits are usually issued in approximately 14 business days from receipt of all required documentation.4 Temporary permits expire immediately if a candidate fails an attempt at the National Council Licensure Examination.7

3. Submit the Application for Graduate Temporary Practice Permit/Exam/Reexam.

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing uses the same form for applicants to request temporary permitting, license by examination, and re-attempt of the examination.6 Candidates should check all appropriate boxes for their requested permitting and licensure at the top of the form.6 Included in the application is the Nursing Education Verification form, which must be completed by a school administrator and forwarded directly to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.6 If more than one year has passed since graduation, the candidate must also request that the program forward official transcripts to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.6

Note that the application materials must be received by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing within ninety days of the date the documents were signed.6 Pennsylvania licensure candidates are only required to complete a criminal history records check if the applicant answers “Yes” to question one of the Criminal/Disciplinary History section of the application.6

4. Complete Registration for and Attempt the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing uses a third party testing service, Pearson VUE, to administer the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).7 A passing score on this exam is required of all practical nurse licensure candidates.7 Candidates must register for the exam through Pearson VUE after applying for licensure with the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.8 After a materials review an Authorization to Test will be issued that allows the candidate to sit for the exam.7 A passing score will result in a license being issued; candidates who are not successful may apply to re-take the exam.7

4 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Pennsylvania

1. Earn an Education in Registered Nursing.

Registered nurses in Pennsylvania must obtain a diploma, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree in professional or registered nursing from a program approved or acceptable to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing to become eligible for licensure.9 A list of programs that have been approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing is available.10 Candidates can also view past graduate performance on the National Council Licensure Examinations.11

2. Apply for a Temporary Permit to Practice, If Desired.

Nurses who are within ninety days of graduation from an in-state program approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing may apply for a temporary license to practice.4 Note that only graduates of Pennsylvania approved nursing programs are eligible for the temporary permit privilege.

A temporary permit to practice can be requested either through the online permit portal of the Pennsylvania Department of State or by paper application.5,6 To receive a temporary permit candidates must request that the nursing program completed provide a nursing education verification form.4 Once all required documentation is received a temporary permit can usually be issued within 14 business days.4 Temporary permit holders should be aware that a failed attempt at the National Council Licensure Examination causes a temporary permit to expire immediately.7

3. Submit the Application for Graduate Temporary Practice Permit/Exam/Reexam.

The same paper application is used by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing for temporary permitting, license by examination, and re-attempt of the examination.6 Applicants should check the appropriate boxes on the top of the form to indicate the type of application being made.6 A Nursing Education Verification form is included with the application; this form must be completed by a school administrator and sent directly from the school to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.6 Note that applicants submitting forms more than one year after graduation from a nursing program must also request that the school of nursing attended forward official transcripts to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.6

Application materials must be forwarded to and received by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing within ninety days of the date the documents were signed.6 A criminal history records check is only required for licensure in Pennsylvania if the applicant answers “Yes” to question one of the Criminal/Disciplinary History section of the application.6

4. Complete Registration for and Attempt the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

Pearson VUE, a third party test administrator, proctors and scores the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) on behalf of the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.7 A passing score on the NCLEX-RN is required to earn a registered nurse license in Pennsylvania.7 Applicants must complete the NCLEX-RN registration process through Pearson VUE after the application to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing has been submitted.8 Following review of the application an Authorization to Test to schedule and attempt the exam will be issued.7 Applicants who post a passing score will receive a registered nurse license; candidates who are not successful may apply to re-take the exam.7

6 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Pennsylvania

1. Complete a Graduate Level Education in Nursing.

Nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania must hold a master’s or post-master’s degree to become eligible for licensure.9 In addition to programs for practical and registered nurses, the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing also approves programs designed to educate nurse practitioners in various specialty areas of care.12 Lists of approved graduate programs in Pennsylvania by specialty are available.12

2. Obtain National Certification from a Recognized Association.

Pennsylvania nurse practitioners are required to achieve and maintain national certification from a certifying organization recognized by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.9 The certification must be awarded on the basis of examination in a designated specialty area.9 A list of recognized associations and certifications is provided in the application packet for licensure.13

3. Submit the Application for Certification as a Registered Nurse Practitioner.

Prospective nurse practitioners must complete the Application for Certification as a Registered Nurse Practitioner.13 Note that the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing must receive the completed application within ninety days of the applicant’s signature on the form.13 Note also that a criminal history background check is only required for licensure if the candidate answers “Yes” to question one of the Criminal/Disciplinary History section of the application.13

The Verification of Nurse Practitioner Program form found in the application packet should be completed by the nursing program director following graduation. Applicants who attended an out of state master’s or post-master’s degree program must also request official transcripts to be forwarded directly to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing from the program.13 In addition, the certifying association from which an applicant for licensure obtained national certification should forward evidence of certification directly to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.13

4. Execute a Collaborative Agreement with a Physician Licensed in Pennsylvania for Prescriptive Authority, If Desired.

To exercise prescriptive authority, nurse practitioners must have a written collaborative agreement with a Pennsylvania licensed physician.9 Such an agreement must outline the approved areas of practice for the nurse practitioner, the types and amounts of drugs that the nurse practitioner may prescribe and/or dispense, and protocols for activity that are in agreement with the rules of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.9

5. Submit the Application for Prescriptive Authority, If Desired.

Nurse practitioners may apply for prescriptive authority by submitting the Application for Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Prescriptive Authority form and all required supporting documentation.14 Note that prescriptive authority in Pennsylvania requires a criminal history records check performed by a state law enforcement agency from each state in which the applicant has lived during the five years previous to the application, and such reports must be dated within six months of the date that the application is submitted.14

The application for prescriptive authority must be accompanied by a collaborative agreement naming at least one substitute physician should the primary collaborating physician be unavailable during the nurse practitioner’s practice.14 The collaborative agreement is evidenced by the physician and nurse practitioner signatures on the Collaborative Agreement for CRNP Prescriptive Authority form found in the prescriptive authority application.14 In addition, a Verification of Advanced Pharmacology form must be completed by the nursing program at which the nurse practitioner completed the required 45 hours of pharmacology coursework.14

To ensure timely delivery and processing, applicants for prescriptive authority should be sure to mark all materials sent to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing “Attn: CRNP Area.”14

6. Obtain Professional Liability Coverage As Required.

Nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania are required by law to maintain adequate professional liability coverage to their level and scope of practice.13 Nurse practitioners should therefore be sure to acquire insurance as outlined in the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Nursing Associations

Student nurses and practicing nurses can join Pennsylvania nursing associations to find links to continuing or advanced education, professional networking, and employment opportunities.

Pennsylvania Association of Directors of Nursing Administration

Pennsylvania Association of Practical Nursing Administrators

Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners

Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners

Pennsylvania State Nurses Association

Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Nursing Salary

Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants 71,660 $27,290
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses 35,680 $42,390
Registered Nurses 125,220 $65,000
Nurse Practitioners 3,460 $82,720

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

References:
1. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Practical Nurse Law
2. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Approved Practical Nursing Programs
3. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: NCLEX-PN Performance of First-Time Candidates Educated in Pennsylvania
4. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Apply Online for Graduate Nurse Temporary Practice Permit and/or Licensure by Exam
5. Pennsylvania Department of State: Pennsylvania Online Licensing Registration
6. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Application for Graduate Temporary Practice Permit/Exam/Reexam
7. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Frequently Asked Questions about Temporary Practice Permits, Licensure by Exam and Authorization to Test
8. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
9. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Nurse Practice Act
10. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Approved Registered Nursing Programs
11. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: NCLEX-RN Performance of First-Time Candidates Educated in Pennsylvania
12. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Board Approved Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Programs
13. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Application for Certification as a Registered Nurse Practitioner
14. Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing: Application for Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner Prescriptive Authority