How Do I Apply for a Compact State Nursing License?

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Are you wondering, “How do I apply for a compact state nursing license?” The Nursing License Compact, or NLC, allows nurses to hold multistate licenses, eliminating the need to apply for multiple licenses. You must live in a member jurisdiction and apply through your nursing board to get one.

nurses sitting and using computers

Is a career in nursing in your future? You have a lot to look forward to, such as helping people in need and high earning potential with a strong industry job growth rate. Plus, there are many diverse career options and opportunities for advancement.

The process of becoming a nurse has its challenges. Be prepared to work hard in nursing school; an intense study schedule is a necessity. After graduating, the journey to becoming a registered nurse (RN) isn’t quite over. You must also pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN). All aspiring nurses must pass this exam to apply for state licensure, and they need to periodically renew their licenses and take continuing education (CE) classes.

Some nurses need to apply for more than one license. For instance, after receiving your state license, you may find that your career will benefit from a multistate license through the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

What is this, and how do I apply for a compact state nursing license? Don’t worry; we’ll cover the process of getting a compact nursing license here.

What Is the Nurse Licensure Compact?

The process of becoming an RN is determined by each state. While there are some differences, all states share certain requirements, such as completing a nurse training program (e.g., a baccalaureate nursing degree) and obtaining a nursing license.

Despite these similarities, in previous years, nurses had to undergo the licensure process all over again to obtain a new license from another state if they wanted to move or work across state lines. The Nurse Licensure Compact is an attempt to streamline the process by reducing bureaucracy.

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With the NLC, a nurse with a multistate license can legally practice as an RN in any other state that belongs to the NLC. As of March 2024, 41 U.S. states and territory jurisdictions are NLC member states. With a multistate license, you could work in any nursing compact license state without going through the licensure process again.

The Process: How Do I Apply for a Compact State Nursing License?

The potential to work in a wide range of states can be particularly appealing to aspiring travel nurses, but obtaining a multistate license can be beneficial for other reasons. For instance, if you want to work in telemedicine, having a multistate license will allow you to provide nursing care to patients across state lines (provided they live in an NLC member jurisdiction).

Now that you have the necessary background information, let’s look at how to get a compact RN license.

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1. Apply to Nursing School

Of course, you’ll need to become an RN before obtaining an NLC multistate license. It all starts with applying to nursing school, but you might not need to return to school for four more years. If you already have a non-nursing college education, you may qualify for an accelerated baccalaureate nursing degree program, such as the one at Madonna University in Michigan.

Looking beyond nursing school? Explore these 14 alternative careers for nurses.

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2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

Nursing school requires a lot of dedicated study hours to master the rewarding field of patient care. In addition to learning nursing theories and concepts in your classes, you’ll learn how to provide clinical care in nursing skills labs. You’ll work through patient care scenarios in nursing simulation labs and develop evidence-based decision-making skills. You’ll gain practical experience working with and treating patients during clinical rotations.

3. Apply for Compact Licensure by Exam and Authorization to Test

After graduating, you’ll be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN. Note that the process to sign up for the test isn’t as straightforward as it may be for other types of exams. If you already know you want to apply for a multistate license, you’ll need to register for the NCLEX slightly differently than non-multistate candidates.

First, confirm that you’re a member of a participating jurisdiction. If so, head over to your state’s Board of Nursing website and find the webpage for nursing licensure. Look for an application for a multistate license by examination (this means you don’t already have a nursing license and want to obtain one by taking the NCLEX.)

Each state has slightly different procedures for applying. Be sure to follow the directions on the website. You should receive authorization to test, allowing you to schedule your NCLEX exam.

Madonna students studying

4. Pass the NCLEX-RN

The next hurdle is to pass the test itself. Ideally, you will have begun preparing for the test well in advance, even as early as your first semester in nursing school. Expect the NCLEX to be rigorous, but don’t expect it to be all about rote memorization of nursing concepts.

The test also evaluates whether you can follow the nursing process, from patient assessment to care plan implementation to evaluation. It examines how well you think critically and whether you can make evidence-based clinical care decisions appropriate for the individual patient.

nurse checking child patient's heartbeat

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How to Get a Compact RN License When You Already Have a License

If you’ve already graduated from nursing school and have a single-state license, you may want to get a multistate license at some point. Let’s take a quick look at how to get a compact nursing license if you are already a working RN.

If you don’t live in a member state or qualifying jurisdiction, you’ll first need to relocate. You cannot apply for an NLC multistate license unless you live in a participating jurisdiction.

Once you’ve relocated, you can apply for a multistate license by endorsement, which is the equivalent of transferring your license. The application process is similar to applying for a license by examination, except you won’t apply to retake the NCLEX. Since each state has a slightly different procedure, you’ll need to visit the state nursing board and follow their website’s application directions.

Nursing Compact License States

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Curious to know if you already live in an NLC jurisdiction? Thinking of moving and need to know whether your intended destination is a participating member? You can easily check the list of current nursing compact license states on the NLC website. As of March 2024, there were 41 participating jurisdictions, and the map of member states can be seen right on the NLC home page.

Here are a few participating member states:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Some jurisdictions have completed the legislation necessary to join the NLC but have not implemented it or only partially implemented it. These include:

  • Guam
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virgin Islands

Other states, such as Michigan, New York, and California, have pending legislation to join the NLC. Only a few U.S. jurisdictions are neither members nor have any pending legislation. These include Oregon, the Northern Mariana Islands, Nevada, and American Samoa.

If you’re on the fence about applying for an NLC license or moving to an NLC territory, you may want to reflect upon the benefits of having a multistate license. These include:

  • Career flexibility
  • Ability to become a travel nurse
  • Potential to be a telemedicine provider
  • Ability to relocate to a wide range of areas without having to apply for another license
Madonna nursing students

See Where a Career in Nursing Can Take You

When you’re ready to pursue a meaningful nursing career, Madonna University supports you. As a Catholic school, we emphasize our Franciscan values-based education that teaches effective leadership and social responsibility. Graduate fully prepared with the necessary skills to pursue a nursing career wherever opportunity leads you.

If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or at least 60 non-nursing college credits, you may be eligible to apply to our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. Graduate in as few as 16 months and confidently pursue licensure as a registered nurse. Our nursing instructors are committed to supporting your progress, and you’ll have the help of a dedicated admission officer through every step of your application.

Contact an admission representative today for information on the application process.