Registered Nurse Certification in How to Become an RN in Arkansas: Nursing License Application and Renewal Guide

Licensing for registered nurses in the state of Arkansas is regulated at the state level and delegated by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. Like many state-level RN certifications, there are two general paths to licensure: examination or endorsement.

A career as a registered nurse requires you to take many steps: obtain an education, take an exam, become licensed, and maintain a specific set of skills to be successful. There are many benefits to nursing careers, making employment in the field worth it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses is projected to grow by 12% from 2018 to 2028. This is much higher than the national average for occupations and is in part due to the impact of healthcare staff shortages.

Nursing salaries and wages vary by state. In 2018, the national average income for nurses was $75,510 per year or $36.30 per hour. In 2017, the average salary for nurses in Arkansas was lower, sitting at roughly $58,810 per year, or $28.28 per hour.

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Arkansas State Board of Nursing

Per the Nurse Practice Act, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing (ASBN) is the governing body for nurse licenses in the state. There are different levels and types of nursing that the Board regulates, including:

Send written correspondence to the Board at:

Arkansas State Board of Nursing
University Tower Bldg.
123 South University
Suite 800
Little Rock, AR 72204-1619.

You can also contact the Board by calling 501-686-2700 or faxing 501-686-2714.

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Registered Nurse Education Requirements

To meet the educational requirements to become a registered nurse, you must attend an accredited nursing school. The accrediting bodies include the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

In addition to accreditation, the Arkansas State Board of Nursing requires applicants to attend schools approved by the Board, or receive equivalent educations. There are many nursing programs available from approved Arkansas schools. The levels of degrees include:

There are numerous nursing scholarships and grants available, and some programs offer online RN courses to help you satisfy the educational requirements.

RN Licensure by Examination

Licensure by examination is typically for recent graduates and new applicants. If you already hold a license from another state, you will apply by endorsement as detailed later in this guide. To apply for licensure by examination you must meet the following criteria:

  • You should submit your application to the ASBN 60 days prior to graduating from your nursing program.
  • To apply, you must create an account with the Arkansas Nurse Portal where you will receive more detailed instructions to complete your application.
  • You must also complete an application with Pearson Vue to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) at the same time or before you submit your State Application for Licensure.
  • Include a valid Social Security number.
  • Include a Declaration of Primary State of Residence.
  • You must pay a non-refundable certification by an examination fee of $100.
  • Your application must include an affidavit of graduation.
  • You must complete a state and federal criminal background check that includes a separate application submission.

If you must wait to take the examination, you may apply for a temporary permit through the online portal which will authorize you to practice for up to 90 days until you can complete the exam. The temporary permit fee is $30.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

Federal and criminal background checks are required by Arkansas law and must be applied for through the online portal for a fee of $36.25. The Federal Criminal Background Check requires your fingerprints in order to check the criminal history records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Fingerprinting may be obtained either by Arkansas Live Scan fingerprinting or through ink-based fingerprint cards.

Arkansas Live Scan is the only ASBN-approved vendor for digital fingerprint scanning for background checks and requires a fee of $15. For more information and to fill out an application and schedule an appointment, contact prints@arkansaslivescan.com, or call 888-292-4211, ext 6. There are three locations for live scan fingerprinting:

1402 Arapahoe
Springdale, AR 72764
(Inside the Farmers Insurance Building).

3811 Rogers Ave.
Suite C
Fort Smith, AR 72903.

3901 McCain Park Dr.
Suite 110
North Little Rock, AR 72116.

To have your ink-based fingerprints obtained you must:

  • Use a fingerprint card provided by the ASBN.  
  • Fill out an application through your nurse portal account and request a criminal background check.
  • Submit the appropriate fees.
  • Request a fingerprint card to be mailed to you and fill the card out completely.
  • Bring a nine-by-x12 mailing envelope with you to your fingerprinting appointment.
  • Contact and make an appointment with your local police or sheriff’s department for their fingerprinting service, which may require a fee.
  • Include the two-page fingerprint verification form in the envelope. The technician that performs the fingerprinting will place the fingerprint card and verification form inside the envelope, seal the envelope and return it to you.
  • Mail the sealed envelope to:

Arkansas State Board of Nursing
1123 S. University #800
Little Rock, AR 72204.

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

To take the NCLEX exam through the proctor Pearson Vue, you must apply and register. You will receive further information through the ASBN online portal, as well as the Pearson Vue registration portal. You may view the fees associated with the test online and access practice questions online to help you prepare for your certification exam.

For more information on registering for the exam, call 866-293-9600, email nclexinfo@ncsbn.org, or write to:

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.
Examinations Department
111 E. Wacker, Suite 2900
Chicago, IL 60601-4277.

RN Licensure by Endorsement (Out of State Applicants)

If you already hold a nursing license in another state you may obtain an Arkansas nursing license through endorsement. To apply by endorsement you must complete, submit, and meet the following criteria:

  • Create an account with the Arkansas Nurse Portal where you will receive more detailed instructions to complete your application.
  • Submit a Declaration of Primary State of Residence.
  • Pay a non-refundable license by endorsement fee of $125.
  • Submit a Verification of Licensure form to the ASBN. If you were originally licensed in one of the states participating in the NURSYS system, you must submit a verification request through the NURSYS portal. Some states may charge a verification of licensure fees.
  • If you are applying for licensure through endorsement, but have not been engaged in active nursing practice for a period of longer than five years, you must complete an Arkansas Board-approved refresher course and provide any other documentation requested by the Board.
  • Complete and submit criminal background check information through the online Arkansas application portal.

You may request a temporary permit for a fee of $30 while awaiting permanent licensure. You may verify the temporary permit status by accessing the online portal through the Nursys website.

Nurse Licensure Compact

Arkansas is a compact state under the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Obtaining an Arkansas nursing license does not automatically provide you with an eNLC. The eNLC has specific requirements known as the Uniform Licensure Requirements. By holding an eNLC, you are able to practice among compact states via multi-state privilege. Your eNLC is determined and licensed through your primary state of residence. The following list shows states that are NLC members:

AlabamaMontana
ArizonaNebraska
ArkansasNew Hampshire
ColoradoNew Jersey
DelawareNew Mexico
FloridaNorth Carolina
GeorgiaNorth Dakota
IdahoOklahoma
IndianaSouth Carolina
IowaSouth Dakota
KansasTennessee
KentuckyTexas
LouisianaUtah
MaineVirginia
MarylandWest Virginia
MississippiWisconsin
MissouriWyoming

RN License Renewal

The ABSN renews licenses on a staggered biennial birth date system. The first license issued may be valid anywhere from three to 27 months. You will need to renew your license through the online Arkansas Nurse Portal on a desktop device only — no smartphones — and pay a renewal fee of $100.

The renewal link will be available for 60 days prior to your license’s expiration date. If you do not renew your license by the expiration date, you will be subject to a late fee of $100. Your renewal application must include a Declaration of Primary State of Residence and your continuing education compliance information.

Continuing Education Requirements

Continued education compliance for renewing your license may include the following actions:

  • 15 practice-focused contact hours from a nationally recognized or state continuing education approval body recognized by the ASBN.
  • Or, certification or recertification during the renewal period by a national certifying body that is recognized by the ASBN.
  • Or, an academic course in nursing or a related field.

Arkansas Nursing License Verification

If you wish to check the status of and verify a nursing license, you must have a subscription to the online nursing portal. If you wish to search for an individual’s nursing license, you may check the Arkansas State Board of Nursing License Verification Portal by including a first and last name, as well as the type of license.

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