• Certifications and Licenses
  • RN - Pennsylvania

    • In the Process of Becoming a Compact State
    • Does Not participate in NURSYS
    • Renewal every 2 years

    Overview

    The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing (PA BON) operates under the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) and consists of the Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs and 12 members appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the Senate. It protects public health and safety in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by establishing and regulating the standards of professional nursing practice. The PA BON issues Pennsylvania nursing licenses to qualified applicants, approves nursing education programs, and disciplines licensees as needed. More than 237,000 registered nurses were recorded in Pennsylvania in April 2022.

    About

    Applicants create an account on the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) online to apply for and renew their Pennsylvania nursing licenses or check the status of their license. Most applications may be submitted electronically but some, such as the application for re-examination, requires applicants to submit a paper application. Applicants must send documents to the BONs mailing address, not its physical address.

    State Board of Nursing PO Box 2649 Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649

    Renewal

    Pennsylvania RN license renewals are biennial and can be completed through the online portal or by mailing a paper application to the PA BON. Renewal applications are usually available 30 to 60 days before expiration dates. PA BON assigns one of four expiration dates to Pennsylvania RN licenses: 

    • April 30 in the even-numbered years

    • October 31 in the even-numbered years

    • April 30 in the odd-numbered years

    • October 31 in the odd-numbered years

    The BON sends Pennsylvania RN license renewal notices to each active licensee before their expiration date. However, licensees are responsible for knowing when their license expires. Licensees who don’t complete renewal requirements before the deadline must submit an RN license reactivation application. To apply for licensure renewal, RNs must: 

    • Disclose any other nursing licenses or allied health professions in any other state, U.S. territory or possession, and country

    • Pay the biennial Pennsylvania RN license renewal fee

    • Verify they’ve completed the continuing education requirements during the current licensure period

    • Disclose any discipline imposed by a state licensing board on any nursing or allied health professional license or certificate during the current licensure period

    • Disclose any criminal charges or pending criminal charges that occurred during the current licensure period

    Processing renewal applications and issuing RN renewal licenses generally take three calendar days. Delays may occur if there’s new disciplinary actions or criminal charges that must be evaluated.

    Continuing Education Requirements

    The Pennsylvania RN license renewal process requires licensees to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) during the two years preceding a biennial renewal of their license. Of these 30 hours, they must complete 2 hours of Board-approved CE covering child abuse recognition and reporting offered by an approved provider. CE results must be submitted electronically by the CE provider, which can take up to 7 days. Applicants with questions about submitting CE should contact the approved provider directly before they contact the PA BON.

    Applicants must complete all 30 hours of CE during the current renewal period and they can’t carry over any hours completed over the required 30. They must keep all certificates and other documentation for completed CE for at least 5 years. Certificates of completion must include:

    • The applicant’s name

    • CE course title

    • Number of CE hours awarded

    • Dates of CE activity

    • CE provider’s name

    • Name of the organization that approved the CE activity

    Applicants’ employers may use an electronic database to track their CE hours in lieu of holding onto paper CE certificates. All information normally found on a certificate of completion must be included in the database. Applicants shouldn’t submit their CE certificates or other proof of CE completion when they submit their Pennsylvania RN license renewal application. They will attest to completing the requirement but only submit proof if selected for a random audit.

    Approved CE activities (pdf) include those approved and/or sponsored by:

    • Any Board or Nursing in another jurisdiction

    • A BON-approved professional nursing or nationally accredited graduate nursing program

    • Regionally accredited institutions of higher education

    • Accredited hospitals and healthcare facilities

    • Hospitals and healthcare facilities licensed by the Department of Health or Department of Human Services

    • An accredited professional nursing, CRNP, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Nurse Specialist or Nurse Midwifery education program

    • National nursing, medical, osteopathic, and other healthcare professional organizations and their state and regional affiliates

    • National nursing, risk management, healthcare quality, and patient safety organizations

    • National trade organizations, associations, and their affiliated groups and state and regional affiliates

    • Federal and state agencies

    Requirements

    Fingerprinting Requirements

    Applicants must provide a recent Criminal History Records Check (CHRC) from the state police or other state agency in their current state of residence and in every state they’ve lived, worked, or completed professional training or studies for the past 10 years. Alternately, applicants may submit the state CHRC from the state in which they currently live and an FBI History Summary Check, instead of separate CHRCs for every previous state of residence.

    CHRC reports must be dated within 90 days of the date they submitted their application for a Pennsylvania nursing license. An official CHRC is automatically generated for applicants currently living, working, or completing training or studies in Pennsylvania and the fee for this report is added to their checkout total when they submit their application. Due to laws in California, Arizona, and Ohio, the PA BON isn’t an eligible recipient of CHRCs from these states or the states won’t issue CHRCs to applicants for uploading to the PA BON. 

    Contact Information

    Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing One Penn Center 2601 North 3rd Street Harrisburg, PA 17110 [email protected] (833) 367-2762

    Multistate

    The Governor of Pennsylvania signed Act 68 into law on July 1, 2021, starting the process of adding the state to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). Pennsylvania wasn’t part of the original NLC, so it’s in the process of implementing the enhanced NLC. Implementation requires FBI approval of the NLC language to provide criminal background checks, technological changes to the online licensing system, and formally putting the multistate licensing fees into effect.

    Once Pennsylvania fully implements the NLC, its nurses have the opportunity to apply for multistate licenses to practice in other NLC states without additional licensure. Nurses from other NLC states will be able to practice in Pennsylvania without additional licensure. However, none of this can occur until after the PA BON completes the implementation process. The BON will post an implementation date on its website once it’s been determined.

    Licensure by Endorsement

    Registered nurses who graduated from an approved professional nursing education program in the U.S. or Canada and obtained initial licensure in another jurisdiction by passing a licensure exam the PA BON considers equivalent to the exam required for nurse licensure in Pennsylvania may be granted a Pennsylvania RN license by endorsement. Applicants for endorsements without an equivalent exam must complete an application for licensure by endorsement with exam rather than a standard licensure by endorsement or licensure by exam application. This allows the BON to confirm there are no outstanding reciprocal issues in other states of licensure. Endorsements applicants must:

    • Have graduated from an approved professional nursing education program in the U.S. or Canada

      • Nursing school must submit official transcript identifying the degree awarded and date of completion directly to the PA BON

    • Have passed the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) or another exam equivalent to the NCLEX-RN

    • Have an active RN license in good standing without disciplinary action or criminal convictions

    • Complete three hours of BON-approved continuing education on child abuse recognition and reporting

    • Request a verification of licensure from each state or jurisdiction they hold/have held a license

    Licensure by Exam

    Graduate nurses must apply for a Pennsylvania RN license by exam. They can reduce their license processing time by submitting their application before they graduate. However, the PA BON can’t begin processing applications for RN licensure by exam until it receives applicants’ notice of completion from their nursing education institution. Applicants must: 

    • Complete an approved nursing education program that results in a diploma, an associate degree, or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing

      • Pennsylvania nursing programs automatically forward Education Verification to the BON for graduates

      • Graduates of nursing programs outside of Pennsylvania must request their nursing program to submit official transcripts directly to the PA BON that identifies the degree awarded and date of completion

    • Register for the NCLEX-RN with PearsonVUE and pay the required fee

      • Receive a passing grade on the NCLEX-RN or the State Board Test Pool Exam (SBTPE)

    • Complete three hours of BON-approved continuing education in child abuse recognition and reporting

    The PA BON mails exam results to applicants within 30 days of their test date. Candidates who pass the exam after completing all other licensure requirements receive their Pennsylvania RN license. Candidates who fail the exam receive a Candidate Performance Report issued by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. They must:

    • Submit a paper application for re-examination and re-exam fee to the PA BON

      • The re-exam application isn’t available online

    • Re-register and pay required fee to PearsonVUE to retake the exam

      • Once the BON evaluates the applicant’s re-examination application, PearsonVUE sends an Authorization to Test (ATT)

      • Applicants can only retest 45 days from the last test date

    Licensure for Foreign Educated Nurses

    Graduates of nursing education programs located outside the U.S. must complete additional application steps. If their nursing education programs weren't conducted in English, they must provide the PA BON with proof of a passing score on a BON-approved English proficiency exam. The testing agency administering the English proficiency exam must submit the applicant’s test score directly to the BON.Approved English language proficiency exams and minimum scores required include:

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

      • Internet–based version: passing score of 84 or higher overall and a minimum speaking score of 26

      • Paper-based version: passing score of 540 or higher overall

    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

      • Passing score of 6.5 or higher overall and a minimum of 6.0 on each module

    • Pearson Test of English (PTE)

      • Academic Test: passing score of 55 or higher overall, with no Communicative Skills sub-scores lower than 50

    • Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) with Speaking Test

      • Passing score of 81 or higher overall and a minimum score of 3 on the speaking test

    The MELAB stopped being offered in June 2018 but the PA BON still accepts results of MELAB exams sent directly from the examiner for tests completed before the exam’s closure. The PA BON hasn’t approved any at-home English language proficiency exams. It won’t accept a copy of the exam scores. Valid English proficiency scores must come directly from the examiner.

    Foreign educated applicants must also provide education verification through a BON-approved foreign credentials evaluator. Currently, the only approved credentials evaluation service is the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS). Applicants must request that a Credentials Evaluation Service (CES) Professional Report be sent directly to PA BON.

    Timing

    BON staff can’t begin to process applications for RN licensure by exam until it receives the notice of program completion from the applicant’s educational institution. Overall, it takes approximately 7 weeks from the time the BON receives this notice to the time it issues the applicant their initial Pennsylvania nursing license. The timeframe for initial RN license by endorsement is between 4 weeks and 12 weeks based on whether the BON has follow-up requests.

    Temporary Nurse License

    Graduate nurses may apply for a temporary nurse license in Pennsylvania that allows them to practice professional nursing under the supervision of a licensed RN, meaning the RN must be physically in the area while the graduate nurse provides patient care. Temporary nurse licenses are valid for up to one year from the date of issuance but they can be extended and expire immediately if the graduate nurse fails the NCLEX-RN. Applicants must submit the: 

    • Application and fee for a temporary practice permit for a graduate nurse

    • Application and fee for RN licensure by exam at least 90 days before the permit expires

    • NCLEX-RN registration and fee to PearsonVUE at least 90 days before the permit expires

     Graduate nurses wanting to extend their temporary practice permit due to illness or hardship must do so at least 60 days before it expires. They must:

    • Submit the application and fee for temporary practice permit extension

    • Provide a written, detailed explanation why they requested the extension

      • If due to illness, they must include certification of the illness from their treating physician

    The PA BON also may grant a temporary practice permit to RNs currently licensed by another state, U.S. territory or possession, or Canada applying for Pennsylvania nurse licensure by endorsement. Licensed RNs don’t require supervision while practicing under their temporary permit. These permits expire in one year or until the BON makes a decision on their application for licensure, whichever occurs first. These permits also may be extended due to illness or hardship. Applicants must: 

    • Submit the application and fee for a temporary practice permit for a currently licensed RN

    • Submit an Applicant Data Sheet of the application for licensure

    • Demonstrate proficiency in English by submitting proof their nursing education program was conducted in English or through a passing score on a BON-approved English proficiency exam

    • Submit the Verification of Licensure Form within 45 days of temporary practice permit issuance date

    • Request verification of their nursing education program from the licensing board or appropriate educational authorities

    Fees

    Fees are nonrefundable and must be paid by credit card when applying online. Applicants may pay with a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order made payable to the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” when submitting paper applications. Current application fees and related costs of applying for a Pennsylvania RN license include:

    • In-State Educated RN Licensure by Exam: $95

    • Out-of-State Educated RN Licensure by Exam: $115

    • Re-Examination: $75

    • Licensure by Endorsement Without Exam: $120

    • Licensure by Endorsement With Exam: $145

    • Temporary Practice Permit: $70

    • Temporary Practice Permit Extension: $85

    • Biennial Pennsylvania RN License Renewal: $122

    • RN License Reactivation: $130

    • Verification of License: $45

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    Frequently asked questions

    What type of CE is acceptable to fulfill Pennsylvania RN license renewal requirements?

    Acceptable CE must be relevant to professional nursing or patient care and enhance the knowledge and application of the physical, biological, behavioral, and social sciences. Licensees may use advanced life support courses like Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and Advanced Trauma Life Support towards their required 30 hours of CE. However, licensees may only use advanced life support courses once during a two-year renewal cycle.