From its sparkling coastline to its breathtaking mountains, North Carolina is as beautiful as it is a great place to live and work. The state’s population is growing, and that’s a result of its mild winters, its booming economy, its excellent healthcare and research facilities, and its plentiful job opportunities.
In this article, we will cover:
- How to get your North Carolina nursing license by exam
- How to get your license by endorsement
- How to renew your North Carolina nursing license
- Licensing fees
- Continuing education requirements
- How to contact the North Carolina Board of Nursing
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How to get your North Carolina nursing license by examination
Step 1: Education
Whether you earn your nursing degree at one of the many fine programs in North Carolina or from a school that is outside of the state, your journey to becoming a licensed registered nurse begins as you are approaching graduation. Students are encouraged to begin the application process within two months of completing their program.
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing for those who have achieved a bachelor’s degree and who take the additional classes necessary to become a registered nurse.
Step 2: Apply
The first step to submitting your application for a North Carolina registered nurse license is to visit the state’s Nurse Gateway to create a username and password. Once you have set up your account, you will be able to log in to your profile and complete the examination application.
Begin by electing ‘Exam Application’ in the Licenses/Certificates dropdown and complete the required information. You will be asked to pay $75.
If you are a graduate of a North Carolina nursing program, electronic school verification will be sent to the North Carolina Board of Nursing (NCBON) by your program director within 30 days of program completion. Out-of-state graduates will need to provide a final official transcript directly from their school.
At least two weeks before you complete your program you should register and pay for NCLEX testing through Pearson VUE. The fee is $200.
New graduates are eligible for a Temporary Permit to Practice that will be sent to them automatically upon completion of all the requirements: NCBON online application for licensure by examination, payment of the $38 for the criminal background check (CBC), registration and payment to Pearson VUE ($200), and receipt of their nursing education verification. The temporary permit will be issued within 5 days of completing all requirements and will be valid for 6 months with no renewal option.
Step 3: Submit Transcripts
Electronic school verification will automatically be sent to the North Carolina Board of Nursing for graduates of North Carolina nursing programs within 30 days of their program completion. Out-of-state graduates must provide a final official transcript that includes their legal name, the degree that they have earned, and the date of completion or conferral. This must be sent directly from the school or through an approved transcript vendor.
Transcripts can be sent to:
P.O. Box 2506
Raleigh, NC 27602-2506
E-scripts can be sent to [email protected]
Step 4: Criminal Background Check (CBC)
All applicants for Licensure by Examination in North Carolina must submit to a criminal background check.
North Carolina residents can complete the Live Scan application and have their digital fingerprints transmitted electronically to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the FBI. The background check application is completed within the initial application process. The fee is $38.
Once submitted, you can access, print, and sign your Live Scan application forms, which include the Electronic Fingerprint Submission Release of Information and the form containing Applicant Information. Most North Carolina Sheriff’s offices are able to process fingerprinting services and transmit your fingerprints via Live Scan directly on your behalf.
Out-of-state applicants should contact their local fingerprinting office to confirm that they can provide a hard copy of your fingerprints. After completing the initial application process and paying the $38 fee, you will be able to access, print, and sign your Live Scan application forms, which include the Electronic Fingerprint Submission Release of Information and the form containing Applicant Information. Print both out and take them with you to the fingerprint agency, which will provide you with a fingerprint card. The completed card must be mailed to the address listed on your forms. Upload your signed copy of the release form in your Nurse Gateway account.
Step 5: Take the NCLEX
Once your application has been successfully submitted, the North Carolina Board of Nursing will notify Pearson VUE that you are eligible to take the NCLEX and Pearson will send you Authorization to Test via email. The NCLEX exam provides confirmation that you are fully prepared to provide competent nursing care to patients. The test will cover the topics you learned during your nursing program, including:
- Safe and Effective Care Environment
- Management of Care
- Safety and Infection Control
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
- Psychosocial Integrity
- Physiological Integrity
- Basic Care and Comfort
- Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
- Physiological Adaptation
Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, your permanent license will be issued and will be available on the State Board of Nursing’s website. If you fail to pass the NCLEX, you can retake the test after 45 days. You must register with Pearson VUE and pay the $200 fee again, and you must apply to retake the test and pay a $75 fee. North Carolina does not limit the number of times that you can take the NCLEX. You can take it up to eight times per year, but must have passed within three years of completing your nursing school program per the rules of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
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Licensing by endorsement (already have RN licensure)
To apply for a North Carolina nursing license after being registered in another state, you will need to apply for licensing by endorsement. To complete the application process you will need:
- The name, location, and year of graduation of your nursing program
- The state, year, and license number of your original license by examination
- The state of your current license and your license number
- The dates of employment and position(s) you held with your two most recent nursing employers
- Social Security number
- Verification from your original state of license and, if different, the last state where you practiced
- Criminal Background Check conducted by the North Carolina Board of Nursing
Your application can be submitted through the Nurse Gateway after you have created an account. The application fee is $150. If you or your spouse are active-duty military, the state of North Carolina may waive the application fee or provide a credit.
You may be eligible for a non-renewable temporary license that is valid for six months after you have submitted your endorsement application.
To verify your nursing license, visit the NURSYS website and select “Request Verification.” You will be charged $30 per license. If your state does not participate with the NURSYS system, contact its nursing board and request that verification be sent directly to the North Carolina Board of Nursing at:
North Carolina Board of Nursing
Post Office Box 2129
Raleigh, NC 27602-2129
A background check application is contained within the application process. North Carolina residents should complete the Live Scan application and have their digital fingerprints transmitted electronically to the State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. The fee is $38.
Once the fee has been paid, you can access, print, and sign your Live Scan application forms, which include the Electronic Fingerprint Submission Release of Information and the form containing Applicant Information. Most North Carolina Sheriff offices can process your fingerprints and transmit them via Live Scan directly on your behalf.
Out-of-state applicants should contact their local fingerprinting office to confirm that they can provide a hard copy of your fingerprints. After completing the initial application process and paying the $38 fee, access, print, and sign your Live Scan application forms, which include the Electronic Fingerprint Submission Release of Information and the form containing Applicant Information. Take both with you to the fingerprint agency, which will provide you with a fingerprint card. The completed card must be mailed to the address listed on your forms. Upload your signed copy of the release form in your Nurse Gateway account.
How to renew your North Carolina nursing license
Step 1: When to submit your renewal application
North Carolina’s nurse licenses are good for two years and expire on the last day of the nurse’s birth month. Failure to renew by that day automatically leads to the license being considered expired, and requires completion of the reinstatement process. The license can be renewed at any time within 90 days of its expiration. The renewal fee is $100.
Step 2: Fulfill continuing competency requirements
North Carolina requires nurses to attest to the completion of a self-assessment of their practice, the development of a learning plan, and the completion of one of the state’s approved learning activity options, which include:
- 15 contact hours of continuing education and 640 hours of active practice
- National Certification or re-certification by a national credentialing body
- 30 contact hours of continuing education
- Completion of a Board-approved refresher course
- Completion of a minimum of two semester hours of post-licensure academic education related to nursing practice
- 15 contact hours of continuing education and completion of a nursing project as Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator
- 15 contact hours of continuing education and authoring or co-authoring of a nursing-related article, paper, book, or book chapter
- 15 contact hours of continuing education and conducting a nursing continuing education presentation or presentations totaling a minimum of five contact hours
The state does not require nurses to provide evidence of completion of these requirements unless the nurse is audited.
North Carolina nurses can take advantage of the free continuing education units offered on the Incredible Health website. Once completed, the site provides immediate certificates of completion for your records.
Step 3: Submit your renewal application
To complete the license renewal process, visit the state’s Nurse Gateway.
North Carolina nursing licensing fees
Below are the fees for becoming a nurse in North Carolina whether you are a first-time nurse or are moving to North Carolina from another state. For more information visit the North Carolina licensing page.
Licensing fees by examination (first-time nurses):
- NCLEX exam fee: $200
- Application fee: $75
- Fingerprint processing fee: $38
Licensing fees by endorsement (already have RN licensure):
- Application fee: $150 (RN/LPN); $25 + $100 per physician for NP non-volunteer status
- Fingerprint processing fee: $38
License renewal fee:
- Application fee: $100 (RN/LPN); $50 per physician for NP non-volunteer status
Additionally, North Carolina is a nursing compact state, which allows nurses to hold multi-state licenses.
*Fees are subject to change.
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Continuing education requirements
RNs, LPNs, APRN-CNSs, APRN-CNRAs:
One of the following is required every two years:
- Thirty (30) contact hours of continuing education activities; or
- National certification or re-certification by a national credentialing body recognized by the Board (*APRNs must maintain national certification); or
- Completion of a Board approved refresher course; or
- Completion of a minimum of two semester hours of post-licensure academic education related to nursing practice; or
- Fifteen (15) contact hours of continuing education activity and completion of a nursing project as principal or co-principal investigator to include a statement of the problem, project objectives, methods, and summary of findings; or
- Fifteen (15) contact hours of continuing education activities and authoring or co-authoring a published nursing-related article, paper, book, or book chapter; or
- Fifteen (15) contact hours of continuing education activities and developing and conducting a nursing education presentation or presentations totaling a minimum of five contact hours for nurses or other health professionals to include a copy of program brochure or course syllabi, objectives, content, and teaching methods, and date and location of presentation; or
- Fifteen (15) contact hours of continuing education activities and 640 hours of active practice within the previous two (2) years.
APRN-NPs are required to maintain national certification, which includes meeting continuing education requirements of 50 contact hours each year.
- If authorized to prescribe controlled substances – 1 hour required in controlled substances prescribing practices, signs of abuse or misuse of controlled substances, and controlled substances prescribing for chronic pain management.
How to contact the North Carolina Board of Nursing
North Carolina Board of Nursing
Phone: (919) 782-3211
Fax: (919) 781-9461
PO Box 2129
Raleigh, NC 27602-2129
4516 Lake Boone Trail
Raleigh, NC 27607