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Massachusetts Nursing License Requirements

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing is responsible for ensuring that nurses licensed to practice in Massachusetts are qualified to provide nursing care. Among the categories of nurse licensure recognized in Massachusetts are licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners. All nurses must have an education appropriate to the level of practice intended. Learn more about the education and licensing requirements for nurses in Massachusetts by selecting one of the options below.

» 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 Massachusetts

1. Obtain a Practical Nursing Education.

Eligibility for licensure as a practical nurse is contingent on completing a practical nursing program approved by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing.1 A list of currently approved practical nurse programs is available on the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services website.2 Candidates can also access historical graduate performance from approved programs on the National Council Licensure Examination.3

2. Register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing uses a contract service, Professional Credential Services, Inc., to review and process new nurse licensing applications.4 Prospective practical nurses must register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) prior to completing the online application for licensure with Professional Credential Services.5 Registration for the NCLEX-PN is completed through Pearson VUE, another third-party company that is used by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing for the NCLEX exams.6

3. Submit the Application for Initial Nurse Licensure by Examination.

The Application for Initial Nurse Licensure by Examination should be completed in its entirety and submitted through Professional Credential Services website.1 The supporting documentation should include a recent passport style photograph of the applicant, in color, signed by the applicant.1 The Certification of Graduation form found in the application packet must be completed and signed under the school seal by a nursing program administrator.1

4. Take the NCLEX-PN.

Professional Credential Services typically issues an Authorization to Test for the NCLEX-PN seven to 10 business days following receipt of a completed application in good order.1 Once an applicant has an Authorization to Test he or she may schedule and attempt the NCLEX-PN through Pearson VUE.1 The Authorization to Test is valid for 60 days.5 Candidates have one year from the date of application to meet all licensure requirements, including passage of the NCLEX-PN.1 Once a candidate passes the NCLEX-PN, a license will typically be issued by US Mail 21 days after the passing score is posted.1 If a passing score is not achieved candidates may apply for and schedule a re-attempt at the NCLEX-PN immediately, but the re-attempt must occur at least 45 days after the unsuccessful attempt.1

4 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Massachusetts

1. Obtain a Registered Nursing Education.

Prospective registered nurses must complete a registered nursing program approved by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing.1 Approved programs may include programs granting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, diplomas of completion from hospital based programs, and certificates of completion from graduate degree programs.7 Candidates can access a current list of approved programs through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services website.2 Performance summaries from graduates of approved nursing education programs on the National Council Licensure Examination are also available.3

2. Register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing has contracted with Professional Credential Services, Inc., a third-party service, to handle new nurse license applications.4 Candidates for registered nurse licensure must register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before submitting the online application for initial licensing to Professional Credential Services.5 The registration for the NCLEX-RN is completed through a second contract service, Pearson VUE, which is used by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to administer the NCLEX.6

3. Submit the Application for Initial Nurse Licensure by Examination.

All sections of the Application for Initial Nurse Licensure by Examination should be completed online through the Professional Credential Services website.1 The application materials should include a recent, color photograph of the candidate in passport style and size, which should be signed by the candidate.1 The Certification of Graduation form found in the application packet must be completed and signed under the school seal by a nursing program administrator.1

4. Take the NCLEX-RN.

After receiving a complete application in good order, it typically takes Professional Credential Services seven to 10 business days to issue an Authorization to Test for the NCLEX-RN.1 The Authorization to Test is valid for 60 days and allows the applicant to schedule and attempt the NCLEX-RN through Pearson VUE.1 Application materials are active for one year following the date of application, which means candidates should plan to pass the NCLEX-RN within that time frame.1 After a passing score is earned on the NCLEX-RN a license will be sent to the applicant by US Mail.1 If a passing score is not achieved candidates may apply for and schedule a re-attempt at the NCLEX-RN immediately, but the re-attempt must occur at least 45 days after the unsuccessful attempt.1

6 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Massachusetts

1. Obtain a Massachusetts Registered Nurse License.

A Massachusetts registered nurse license is a prerequisite for nurse practitioner licensure.8 Prospective nurse practitioners must therefore obtain an active registered nursing license in Massachusetts, which requires a passing score on the NCLEX-RN.

2. Earn a Graduate Education in Advanced Practice Nursing.

Nurse practitioners must obtain a graduate-level education in advanced nursing practice from a school that is nationally accredited and acceptable to the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing.7 To qualify a prospective nurse practitioner for prescriptive authority, the education must include at least 24 contact hours in pharmacotherapeutics beyond generic or standard nursing education.7

3. Pursue National or Specialty Certification.

To become licensed as a nurse practitioner, candidates must obtain national or specialty certification in advanced nursing practice from a recognized national association.7 The certification issued must be issued on the basis of an examination, which the candidate must pass to become eligible for a license as a nurse practitioner in Massachusetts.7 Acceptable certifying organizations are listed on the Application for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Authorization.9

4. Complete the Application for Nurse Practitioners.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing uses a third-party company, Professional Credential Services, Inc., for review and processing of applications for nurse practitioner licensing.8 The Application for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Authorization is available on the Professional Credential Services website.9 Applicants should include with the application:9

  • A recent, signed color photograph of the candidate;
  • A copy of the candidate’s current, active Massachusetts registered nurse license;
  • A copy of current national certification in advanced practice;
  • An official, sealed transcript from the graduate school of nursing attended, sent directly by mail to Professional Credential Services.

Review and authorization of the application typically takes three to 10 business days, after which a license to practice can be issued if all requirements are met.95. Execute a Collaborative Agreement with a Licensed Physician.

Nurse practitioners practicing in Massachusetts must practice under a written collaborative agreement with a fully licensed physician.7 The physician should be expert in the same area(s) of practice as the nurse practitioner and be available to provide medical direction as necessary.7 The agreement should fully define the nature and scope of the nurse practitioner’s responsibilities and activities and outline instances where consultation or referral would be required.7 Nurse practitioners who intend to prescribe drugs must have included in the collaborative agreement protocols and frequencies for review of prescriptions and dispensations of prescribed substances (see below).7 These guidelines must be approved either by the nursing and medical leadership of an employing institution or by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing.10

6. Request Prescriptive Authority, If Desired.

In Massachusetts, prescriptive authority is not automatically granted with a nurse practitioner license.8 Nurse practitioners who wish to obtain prescriptive authority must first become licensed and then request prescriptive authority through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health – Drug Control Program.8 Nurse practitioners must also obtain a control number from the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.8

A nurse practitioner may complete the Application for Massachusetts Controlled Substances Registration for Advanced Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants to request the requisite prescriptive authority.11 Note that a supervising or collaborating physician must also sign and date the form and include copies of his or her current Massachusetts Controlled Substances Registration and federal DEA Controlled Substance Registration Certificate.11 The control number from the DEA can be applied for online after a Massachusetts license is issued.12

Massachusetts Nursing Associations

Nursing associations in Massachusetts can help current and future nurses practicing in the state access employment openings, professional networking events, and continuing education, as well as other benefits.

Massachusetts Nursing Salary

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants38,590$30,960
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses15,890$55,190
Registered Nurses85,140$89,060
Nurse Practitioners6,190$117,860

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2016.13,14,15,16

Job Search Advice

We in Massachusetts do not have a nursing shortage, therefore my recommendations reflect the current state in nursing employment. My recommendations are as follows for students in schools of nursing and those with plans for entering the nursing field:

  1. Enroll in a BSN program.
  2. Work as a nursing assistant or in the hospital setting while in nursing school, developing relationships with staff.
  3. Have an excellent academic record.
  4. Become active in your state student nurse association. Demonstrate leadership in this organization.
  5. Display an enthusiastic interest in every clinical affiliation by engaging with staff and demonstrating clinical caring and willingness to learn the skills required for their patient population.
  6. Cultivate relationships with employed nurses or persons in the health field. They can be friends, family, etc., and can provide a future employment recommendation.”

-Dorothy Upson McCabe RN, MS, M.Ed. is Director of Divisions of Nursing and Health and Safety for the Massachusetts Nurses Association

  1. Ponder: Think about what you really want to do in nursing and follow your passion. Even if jobs are scarce in the area you want, keep working toward the goal.
  2. Prepare: Take classes in your area of interest; join the professional nursing organization; arrange informational interviews to find out more about that specialty; read current articles and books about the specialty.
  3. Prepare: Have an updated resume that highlights your skills and strengths. Put any language skills in a prominent location. Make sure everything is spelled correctly and formatted logically. Use nice, quality paper.
  4. Plan: Contact your current, professional references and have them ready on a typed sheet of paper with emails and phone numbers. Make sure your references agree to speak on your behalf.
  5. Appearance: Be on time for the interview, dress professionally, remove abundant piercings (nothing against them, but they can be off-putting). Have an extra copy of your resume, references, license etc. with you. Carry a portfolio with all of your documents. You will look organized and if you have to jot down some information you will look organized.
  6. Practice: Find interview questions online and practice with a friend or family member. You want to be prepared and confident. Make good eye contact. Research some of the job expectations in the field. If you want to be a school nurse, do not say that you hate teaching! School nurses teach in and out of the classroom all day.”

-Marie DeSisto, RN, MSN is the Director of Nurses/District 504 Coordinator at Waltham Public Schools and NASN Director at the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization.

References:
1. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing: Application for Initial Nurse Licensure by Examination
2. Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services: Approved Registered & Practical Nurse Programs
3. Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services: National Council Licensure Examinations by School
4. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing: Applications & Other Forms
5. Professional Credential Services: Application Process for Educated in the US
6. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
7. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing: Statutes and Regulations
8. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing: Advanced Practice Registered Nursing Frequently Asked Questions
9. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing: Application for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Authorization
10. Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing: Practice & Prescriptive Guidelines
11. Massachusetts Department of Public Health Drug Control Program: Application for Massachusetts Controlled Substances Registration for Advanced Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants
12. US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration: Application for Registration Under Controlled Substance Act of 1970
13. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Nursing Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311014.htm
14. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
15. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Registered Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
16. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Nurse Practitioners: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm