How To Get a Nursing License in Florida: Your Step-By-Step Guide
If you want to practice nursing in Florida, congratulations! Nurses in this state get to enjoy a lot more than ocean-proximity and sunshine.
Whether this is your first nursing license or your fifth, we’ve gathered the research and some expert insight on Orlando’s local nursing scene to make your licensure process a little clearer. Florida nursing licenses are administered a few different ways. It's not a difficult process, but it can be hard to wrap your head around the steps you need to take for your specific situation.
If you are a nursing student in Florida going for initial licensure, for example, the process is pretty simple. If you already hold a license in another state, your process will be a little different.
The good news is, no matter where you start from, states want to make it easy for great nurses to gain licensure and practice in their area. “Remember, we need nurses,” says Barbara Ratte, full-time nursing instructor at Rasmussen University in Orlando. Florida’s nursing board, like most nursing boards, wants to attract nursing talent. They do their best to make the licensure process straightforward.If you are coming from a foreign country, the military or other places that may have a specific licensure process, skip ahead and read about gaining licensure from those circumstances. These next steps will apply to most nurses or nursing students in the U.S..
How to get a Florida nursing license in 6 steps
Step 1: Determine which licensure path fits your situation
You can apply for a Florida nursing license as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), a registered nurse (RN) or an advanced practice nurse (APN), according to the Florida Board of Nursing. All of these options require evidence that you've successfully completed nursing education like a practical nursing program, a professional nursing program or a Bachelor’s in nursing.
You also need to decide if you will seek licensure by examination vs. nursing license by endorsement.
Licensure by examination basically means that you take (or verify that you’ve already taken) the exams required for your level of nursing. If you’ve already been working as a nurse somewhere else, you can contact the Florida Board of Nursing and ask them to look up your license. They may direct you to apply for the license by endorsement to kick start that process.
Step 2: Get your transcript to the Florida Board of Nursing
If you are a nursing student in Florida, your accredited program will release your name to the Florida Board of Nursing, according to Ratte. Then, you can sign yourself up, electronically, for testing. “Getting a license your first time is the simplest,” Ratte says. “It’s all very streamlined.”
If you are a nursing student in another state, you can submit a transcript request through your nursing school after graduation. The Florida Board of Nursing will not accept any form of transcript from you as an individual—it has to come directly from your nursing program.
Direct your program to send your secure electronic transcript to: [email protected].
Step 3: Apply for licensure in the state of Florida
Before you can register to take the NCLEX exam, you will need to apply for a nursing license in the state of Florida (or in whichever state you want to work in) and verify that you’ve completed an accredited nursing program.
When the Florida Board of Nursing reviews your materials, they will notify you that you may take your exams through Pearson VUE (this is the organization that administers the NCLEX®).
Step 4: Take the NCLEX and wait for your results
You can take the NCLEX at a testing location in your area. Since you need to pay a fee to take the exam, and since you can’t obtain your nursing license without passing, it’s worthwhile to give it your best shot. Read up on some NCLEX study tips and rock that exam when the day arrives.
The testing location will send you exam results to the board of nursing in the state where you applied for licensure. That nursing regulatory body will then send your results with your nursing license. It can take up to six weeks to get your official NCLEX exam results from the state board of nursing.
Ideally, things happen faster. But the Florida Board does allow you to check up on your NCLEX results with their online portal.
If you do not pass, you can re-apply and retake the NCLEX exam. It may delay your plans since you need to wait 45 days before a retake. But it’s certainly not the end of the world. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) allows you to take the NCLEX exam up to eight times a year.1
Step 5: Wait for your official Florida nursing license
How long does it take to get your Florida RN license? How long does a Florida LPN license take? Once you've submitted your complete application, Florida law requires the board to review your materials within 30 days. However, their processing times are usually much faster. As of this article, the Florida Board of Nursing reported a 3 day processing time average for all their nursing license applications.
Step 6: Start applying for jobs!
Once you receive your Florida nursing license, you can start applying for positions! Check out these 8 Things Employers LOVE to See on a Nursing Resume, and take a shot at your dream job.
How to get a Florida nursing license when…
Some situations involve specific steps in the nursing license process. But first and foremost, you should go through the nursing regulatory body (the Florida Board of Nursing). Ratte points out that sometimes third-party organizations might show up as ads in a Google search for state licensure.
“They will say ‘we will help you get your license,’ but all it’ll do is cost you extra money,” Ratte says. Just go right to the nursing board of any state you want to work in and follow their process.
You’re a nursing student or recent graduate
If you are not yet in Florida but plan to apply for your Florida nursing license, you can take the NCLEX exam at any Pearson professional testing location near you.
Walking through the licensing steps can feel a little confusing when it’s your first time. Check out this registration process video from the NCSBN.2
You are an out-of-state nurse
If you already have a license as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) in a different U.S. state or territory, you can contact the Florida Board of Nursing and ask them to verify your license, according to Ratte.
“They use a database where they can look up your previous license, and most places can do it that way.” Ratte’s husband was an active duty coast guard, and they moved around a lot. “I had to change my license many times. With electronic records it’s gotten a lot easier! Fill out the forms and pay the fee, and they’ll track it down.”
The process also involves electronic fingerprinting as a screening measure. If your nursing career might involve another move at some point, you could also look into getting a multistate nursing license, which will allow you to practice nursing in multiple states.
You need a testing accommodation for the NCLEX
If you have a disability and require a special testing environment, Florida has NCLEX testing accommodations available. You will need to first apply for a Florida nursing license, then fill out an application for special testing and provide medical documentation. Plan ahead—you’ll need to submit this request at least 60 days before the exam.
Find more specifics in the Florida state department of health’s instruction booklet for special testing accommodations.3
You are a travel nurse
If you hold a license in one of the 39 nursing compact states, that license can be valid in Florida as well (since Florida is part of the compact) with a multistate upgrade. Multistate nursing licenses work pretty much like you'd think--they allow you to actively practice nursing in multiple areas.
Apply for licensure by endorsement in Florida, pay the fee, and you can practice under your existing compact-state license until you receive your multistate license in Florida. Ideally, your travel nursing agency will handle most of this paperwork.
You are a military nurse
If you graduated from a military nursing education program that has been issued an NCLEX code by NCSBN, you can follow the same steps as any other nursing school graduate who wants to get a Florida license, according to the Florida Board of Nursing.
You are an international nurse
If you are interested in immigrating to the U.S., reach out to your international nursing education program for details, they likely have advice for which steps you will need to take. If your program holds accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, your nursing school should be able to help you meet U.S. licensure requirements and transfer your credits.
Nurses wishing to relocate to the U.S. need to follow immigration law and demonstrate their credentials. The process typically involves:
- Meeting immigration, education and professional requirements
- Applying to CGFNS International, Inc. (state boards require this step first) to request verification for your documents
- Passing a licensure exam that includes an English language proficiency element
Check out these steps from CGFNS International for more specifics.
Your Florida nursing license is inactive or about to expire
If you need to reactivate or renew your Florida nursing license, the main barrier is making sure you have the necessary continuing education requirements. These will vary a lot based on your situation, so contact the board to get specifics. Be sure to start this process well before your license expires in case you find out you need more continuing education.
There are some exemptions to the nursing education requirements for those who are in the military or for volunteer health and public school health, so look into those if they apply to you. Once you’ve confirmed that you have the continuing education you need, you can pay a fee to reactivate or renew your license.
Working as a nurse in Florida
No matter where you are coming from when you seek your Florida nursing license, you’ve chosen an amazing place to practice nursing. Florida has a diverse nursing landscape with lots of interesting opportunities to dig deeper in your areas of interest.
Want to know about a few more perks? Check out “ Florida Nursing: 3 Great Reasons for Becoming a Nurse in the Sunshine State.”
1EXAM RESULTS: How to Receive Results & Retake Details, Next Generation NCLEX, Copyright ©2023 National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (2023) https://www.nclex.com/results.page#iw_comp1649336836412 [accessed April, 2023]
2Candidate Registration Process, The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2020) https://www.ncsbn.org/video/nclex-candidate-registration-process-overview [accessed April, 2023]
3State of Florida Department of Health Instruction Booklet, Special Testing Accommodations for Examinees with Disabilities (2013) by the Operational Support Services Bureau of Operations: Division of Medical Quality Assurance, https://floridasnursing.gov/applications/instructions-sta-ada.pdf [accessed April, 2023]