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Illinois Nursing License Requirements

The practice of nursing in Illinois is overseen by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation and guided by the Illinois Center for Nursing and Nursing Advisory Board. Prospective nurses in Illinois may pursue licensure in three main categories: licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner. Select the category of licensure that you are interested in learning more about to find out how to obtain a nursing license in Illinois.

» 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)

6 Steps to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Illinois

1. Complete a Program in Licensed Practical Nursing.

Prospective Illinois licensed practical nurses must complete a program in practical nursing to be eligible for licensure. The Illinois Center for Nursing publishes a list of approved licensed practical nursing programs on its website.1 Historical pass rates for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses from each program are also available to help students evaluate their options.1

2. Undergo a Criminal Background Check.

All applicants for practical nurse licensure must complete a criminal background check through the Illinois State Police or an approved criminal background check vendor, such as LiveScan.2 The criminal background check in Illinois should be completed before the nurse licensure application because a receipt for the submitted fingerprints must be included in the application packet for consideration.2

Note that fingerprints must be taken within a 60 day window of the date that an application for licensure is submitted.2 In-state applicants can locate a fingerprinting facility on the Division of Professional Regulation Fingerprint Vendors List.3 Out of state applicants should contact the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation for a fingerprint card and further instructions.2

3. Complete the Licensed Practical Nurse Licensure Application.

Graduates of Illinois approved nursing programs may complete a simplified licensure application, the Licensure And/Or Examination Application for Graduates of Illinois Nursing Programs.2 This allows the program in licensed practical nursing from which the applicant graduated to send a roster of graduates or the Certification of Education (ED-NUR) form, included in the application packet, in lieu of further verification of education.2 Graduates of programs that are equivalent to Illinois approved programs but are not on the approved list should complete the Licensed Practical Nurse Application for Licensure And/Or Examination.4

Note that all physical application materials must be sent to Continental Testing Services and not the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, unless otherwise directed.2 The Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation uses Continental Testing Services as a third party application processor.2 The appropriate destination for physical application materials is:

Continental Testing Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 100
LaGrange IL 60525-0100

Note that the application fee(s) should be included in the application materials payable as a certified check or money order payable to Continental Testing Services, Inc.2 Alternatively, applicants may choose to complete an online application through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation portal to Continental Testing Services.5

4. Register with Continental Testing Services as a Candidate for Licensure.

Candidates who choose to submit a paper application for licensed practical nursing must register as a candidate for licensure with Continental Testing Services online to continue the application process.6 Continental Testing Services can only issue an Authorization to Test for the required National Council Licensure Examination if the candidate is registered.2,6

5. Register to Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

In addition to registering as a licensure candidate with Continental Testing Services, candidates must register with Pearson VUE as a candidate to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).2 Pearson VUE is a third party testing administrator used by Continental Testing Services and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to administer the NCLEX-PN.2 Registration with Pearson VUE for the NCLEX-PN should be completed through the Pearson VUE website.7 Once a candidate is registered with Continental Testing Services and Pearson VUE and the initial application for licensure is approved, Continental Testing Services will issue to the candidate an Authorization to Test which allows the candidate to schedule and be admitted to the NCLEX-PN with Pearson VUE.6

6. Achieve a Passing Score on the NCLEX-PN.

A passing score the NCLEX-PN is required for practical nurse licensure.8 Prospective licensed practical nurses have three years from the date of the first attempt at the NCLEX-PN to pass the exam.8 If the exam is not passed within that timeframe the applicant must re-complete an approved practical nursing education program.8 Once the NCLEX-PN has been passed the candidate will be notified by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and Continental Testing Services of any further requirements remaining prior to a full license being issued.2

6 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Illinois

1. Earn a Degree in Registered Nursing.

Registered nurses in Illinois must obtain an associate’s or baccalaureate degree in order to pursue a license. A list of approved education programs at the associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels is available through the Illinois Center for Nursing.1 Students can also view program graduates’ historical pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing on the site.1

2. Undergo a Criminal Background Check.

Note that those who already hold a license in practical nursing in the state of Illinois are not required to repeat the criminal background check for registered nursing.8 All other applicants must submit a criminal background check through the Illinois State Police or a vendor approved by the Illinois State Police, such as LiveScan.2 The criminal background check must be completed prior to submitting an application for licensure as the application packet requires the candidate to submit proof that fingerprints have been provided for the criminal background check.2

Fingerprints must be submitted within 60 days of submitting the licensure application.2 A list of approved fingerprinting facilities in Illinois is available on the Division of Professional Regulation Fingerprint Vendors List.3 Applicants who are out of state may contact the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation for a fingerprint card and further instructions.2

3. Complete the Registered Nurse Licensure Application.

A simplified application form, the Licensure And/Or Examination Application for Graduates of Illinois Nursing Programs, is available to applicants who earned a degree in nursing from an Illinois approved program.2 Out of state applicants who did not earn a degree from an Illinois approved nursing program should complete the Registered Nurse Application for Licensure And/Or Examination.9 The Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation uses a third party company to review and process applications for registered nurse licensing.2 As such, all application materials must be sent to Continental Testing Services, unless otherwise directed.2 The appropriate destination for physical application materials is:

Continental Testing Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 100
LaGrange IL 60525-0100

It is important to make note that the application fee(s) required should be in the form of a certified check or money order and made payable to Continental Testing Services, Inc.2 Applicants also have the option of submitting an online application, which is done through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation.5

4. Register with Continental Testing Services as a Licensure Candidate.

Candidates have submitted a paper application to obtain a license in registered nursing must complete an online registration with Continental Testing Services to continue the application process.6 Continental Testing Services can only issue an Authorization to Test for the required National Council Licensure Examination if the candidate is registered.2,6

5. Register to Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

Prospective registered nurses must register with Pearson VUE, the company that Continental Testing Services and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation use to administer the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).2 This additional registration is completed through the Pearson VUE website for NCLEX-RN candidates.7 After registration with both Pearson VUE and Continental Testing Services is completed and the initial application is reviewed, Continental Testing Services will send the candidate an Authorization to Test.6 This Authorization to Test allows the candidate to schedule and take the NCLEX-RN with Pearson VUE.6

6. Pass the NCLEX-RN.

To be eligible for licensure as a registered nurse in Illinois candidates must achieve a passing score on the NCLEX-RN.8 Applicants for registered nurse licensure must pass the NCLEX-RN within three years of the first attempt at the exam.8 Prospective registered nurses who are unable to do so will be required to complete a minimum of two additional years of education in professional nursing from an approved education program.8 Once a passing score on the NCLEX-RN has been recorded, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and Continental Testing Services will notify the candidate if any further steps remain before a registered nurse license can be issued.2

7 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Illinois

1. Become a Registered Nurse in Illinois.

Nurse practitioners in Illinois must first obtain licensure as a registered nurse in the state.8 This requires prospective nurse practitioners to first meet all licensure requirements and complete the steps to registered nurse licensure, including passage of the NCLEX-RN.8

2. Earn a Master’s Degree in Nursing.

A graduate education in nursing, such as is obtained through completing a Master of Science in Nursing program, is required for prospective nurse practitioners in Illinois.8 The Illinois Center for Nursing provides a list of approved programs in the state that offer a graduate degree in nursing on its website.1

3. Earn National Certification for Advanced Practice/Nurse Practitioners.

National certification issued by a recognized certifying body is required for nurse practitioners to obtain a license in Illinois.8 Prospective nurse practitioners can view a list of recognized certifying bodies in the Nurse Practice Act in the Illinois Administrative Code.8 Note that any approved association must use an examination as the basis for certification.8

4. Complete the Nurse Practitioner Licensure Application.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation provides the Application for Advanced Practice Nurse Licensure for prospective nurse practitioners.10 All required sections of the form must be completed for consideration.10 Note that unlike practical nurse and registered nurse licensure, applications for nurse practitioners should be sent to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation at:10

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
ATTN: Division of Professional Regulation
P.O. Box 7007
Springfield, IL 62791

Fees should be included with the application and made payable to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.10 In place of a physical form applicants may choose to submit an online application through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation.5 A current copy of the national certification that the prospective nurse practitioner has earned must be forwarded either physically or electronically regardless of the application method used.10 Applicants must also provide official transcripts sealed with the school seal to demonstrate completion of a graduate nursing program.10

5. Request a Temporary License, If Desired.

A temporary license to practice as a nurse practitioner may be issued provided that the applicant has met all nurse practitioner licensure requirements except national certification if the examination for such certification has been scheduled but not yet taken.10 Temporary permits are valid for six months from the date of issue.10 If a temporary license is desired, applicants should complete the regular application for nurse practitioners as well as the Temporary Permit for Advanced Practice Nursing, included in the regular application packet, and submit documentation from the national certifying association that the required certification exam has been scheduled.10 Note that temporary practice does not allow prescriptive authority.10

6. Execute a Collaborative Agreement with a Physician.

Nurse practitioners in Illinois are required to practice under a working collaborative relationship for the purposes of medical consultation, but not necessarily under an employment agreement, with a physician as defined by a written collaborative agreement.8 The agreement must outline the services, authorized procedures, and activities the nurse practitioner may perform with and without the supervision or consultation of the collaborating physician.8 A written copy of the collaborative agreement must be made available to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation upon request.8 Note that nurse practitioners who are practicing in a hospital or an ambulatory surgical treatment center as defined in the Illinois Administrative Code are excepted from the collaborative agreement requirement.8

7. Obtain Prescriptive Authority.

Licensed nurse practitioners working under a collaborative agreement with a physician may be delegated prescriptive authority as outlined in the Illinois Administrative Code for non-controlled substances if the delegating physician holds a valid, current license in Illinois as well as federal registration.8 This delegation must be included in the scope of the collaborative agreement and there are limitations to the authority outlined in the Illinois Administrative Code.8

Controlled substances prescriptive authority for nurse practitioners in Illinois is contingent upon the nurse obtaining a mid-level practitioner controlled substances license.8 This license can be applied for during or after the initial application for nurse practitioner licensure by completing the Application for Advanced Practice Nurse Mid-Level Practitioner Illinois Controlled Substances License.11 After this license is issued, nurse practitioners must also obtain federal controlled substances registration through the Drug Enforcement Administration.10

Nurse practitioners may not prescribe or dispense controlled substances except as delegated by the collaborating physician; note also that licensed dentists may not delegate prescriptive authority.8 A physician wishing to delegate controlled substances prescriptive authority must file a notice of the delegation with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.8 Such notice can be given by completing the Notice of Delegated Prescriptive Authority for Controlled Substances (Advanced Practice Nurse).12

Illinois Nursing Associations

Prospective and current nurses at all levels may find benefits from joining professional nursing associations that focus on nursing practice in Illinois, including professional networking and continuing education.

  1. American Nurses Association of Illinois
  2. Illinois Association of School Nurses
  3. Illinois Emergency Nurses Association
  4. Illinois Nurses Association
  5. Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders
  6. Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing

Illinois Nursing Salary

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants60,790$24,570
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses22,810$42,680
Registered Nurses114,730$66,260
Nurse Practitioners2,610$80,550

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

References:
1. Illinois Center for Nursing: Education Opportunities
2. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Licensure And/Or Examination Application for Graduates of Illinois Nursing Programs
3. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Division of Professional Regulation Fingerprint Vendors List
4. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Licensed Practical Nurse Application for Licensure And/Or Examination
5. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Nurses, Licensee Application Forms
6. Continental Testing Services, Inc. Information
7. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
8. Illinois Administrative Code Title 68, Chapter VII, Subchapter b: Professions and Occupations Part 1300 – Nurse Practice Act
9. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Registered Nurse Application for Licensure And/Or Examination
10. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Application for Advanced Practice Nurse Licensure
11. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Application for Advanced Practice Nurse Mid-Level Practitioner Illinois Controlled Substances License
12. Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: Notice of Delegated Prescriptive Authority for Controlled Substances (Advanced Practice Nurse)