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

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the registered nursing field is projected to grow 12% over the next ten years, making it a popular and lucrative career choice for those wishing to work in healthcare. Becoming a certified RN not only increases your earning power, but allows you to practice preventive care, trauma care, and restorative treatment in a wide range of healthcare fields.

As of 2018, salaries for RNs in the District of Columbia (D.C.) were reported at $94,820 per year. This is 11.2% above the national average for RN salaries. Below, you can find a comprehensive guide to achieving your RN certification and licensure in the District of Columbia. 

District of Columbia Board of Nursing

The District of Columbia Board of Nursing, under the D.C. Health Department regulates and maintains the licensing of RNs, Licensed Registered Nurses (LPNs), Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), and Nurse Assistive Personnel. You can reach the Board of nursing by email at, or by phone at (202) 442-5955.

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

Before you can apply for a nursing license, you will have to complete an accredited nursing program. Programs must be approved by the D.C. Board of Nursing, but most nursing programs in D.C. will be. There are certifications available at: the associate degree level, which can take one to two years to complete; the baccalaureate level, which can take three to five years to complete; and master’s level, which can take three to six years to complete. There are also direct programs for those who are already certified, such as LPN-to-RN or RN-to-BSN programs. Once you complete your program, you can apply for RN licensure by examination. 

RN Licensure by Examination

All graduates, regardless of program level, will need to take and pass the approved D.C. Board of Nursing exam. To take the exam, you will need:

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

To apply for your RN license, you will have to submit a background check and fieldprints. You will only receive your fieldprint code and instruction packet after you’ve paid your fee via the D.C. Health CBC Payment portal.  

Approved Exams

Currently, the only exam approved by the D.C. nursing board is the National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). All applicants for a District of Columbia RN license, including foreign applicants, will need to pass the NCLEX-RN. There are practice exam questions available for those wishing to prepare. Should you need special accommodations for testing, you can submit a letter from a medical professional identifying and confirming the accommodation needed. 

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

In order to take the NCLEX-RN in D.C., you will need:

  • A completed, signed, and dated application for licensure by examination;
  • Completed registration with Pearson VUE;
  • $187.00 application fee (non-refundable);
  • Two 2×2 size passport-type photos;
  • Social Security number or signed affidavit;
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended colleges or universities;
  • An Authorization to Test (ATT);
    • Note: ATTs are valid for 90 days; if you do not test within 90 days, you will have to pay another registration and testing fee.
  • Schedule your test at your nearest testing center;
    • Note: you will need a valid driver’s license, military ID, or passport to be admitted to your testing center.

Testing Vendors and Proctors

There are two Pearson VUE testing centers in D.C.:

Pearson Professional Centers-Washington D.C.
901 New York Avenue NW
Suite 320
Washington, District Of Columbia 20001
United States 

Pearson Professional Centers-Washington D.C. (East)
601 New Jersey Ave NW
Suite 340
Washington, District Of Columbia 20001
United States 

Additional Requirements for Certification

Applicants educated outside the U.S. and Canada must request a Credentials Evaluation Service Professional Report from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and submit it to the board before testing.

Applying for Licensure

Once you have submitted your application for licensure by examination, the nursing board recommends waiting 15 business days to allow for processing. When your application is approved and you have taken the NCLEX-RN, Pearson VUE will send your official scores directly to the D.C. Board of Nursing upon completion.  

RN Licensure by Endorsement (Out of State Applicants)

D.C. does offer RN licensure by endorsement. Those licensed outside of D.C. wishing to apply for licensure by endorsement will need:

  • A complete signed and dated application
  • Payment of the application fee to the D.C. Board of Nursing;
  • Completion of a criminal background check and payment of fees;
  • Verification of previous license. 

RN License Renewal

All District of Columbia RN licenses expire on June 30th of even-numbered years. To renew your license, you can log into the D.C. Health portal to renew online, or mail your application for renewal and money order to:

D.C. Board of Nursing 
P.O. Box 37802 
Washington, D.C. 20013  

Continuing Education Requirements

The D.C. Board of Nursing recognizes continuing education administered by the following organizations:

  • Any nursing or health service organization recognized by the board;
  • Any course or training by an accredited institution, college, or school;
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or Continuing Medical Education (CME) certified by the American Medical Association. 

Log in to your D.C. Health portal to view any continuing education requirements to maintain your license. 

District of Columbia Nursing License Verification

To verify your license, you can use the Nursys verification portal or the D.C. Health web lookup.

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