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

The process for registered nurse (RN) licensure in Kentucky is taken care of at the state level. Excluding the educational requirements, applying for licensure generally takes between one to two months to complete. Similar to all state RN certification requirements, the licensing process is in place to ensure that you meet all of the various criteria requirements. The criteria generally include educational requirements, fingerprint-based background checks, and examination verification.

In comparison to the Bureau of Labor Statistics publication on the 2018 RN occupational employment and wages, the salary for RNs in Kentucky is just a tad under the national average RN wages. Where you reside within the state, the license you hold, and your experience can change what you are paid as an RN.

There are many reasons for choosing to become an RN, from addressing the national impact of healthcare staff shortages to obtaining licensing and a career in a stable industry. Regardless of the reason for entering the nursing field, there are actionable steps to follow in order to work as a registered nurse in the state of Kentucky.

Kentucky Board of Nursing

The Kentucky Board of Nursing is responsible for establishing the necessary criteria for RN licensure in the state according to the Kentucky Nursing Laws. There are three levels of nursing licenses in Kentucky: registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Each respective license has its individual requirements for licensure.

Application info, fees, transcripts, and any other required documentation can be sent via mail to:

Kentucky Board of Nursing
Attention: Licensing Application
312 Whittington Pkwy, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40222

For any additional information or clarification:

Contact: KBN Contact Directory
Phone: (502) 429-3300

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

The state of Kentucky requires a degree from an accredited registered nursing school that is approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing. There are an abundance of registered nursing schools in Kentucky. There are three types of RN nursing programs available:

  1. Associate’s degree (ADN): ADN programs generally take 2 years to complete (sometimes longer) and they help provide the framework for entry-level RN careers. They require half the amount of credits as a BSN degree;
  2. Bachelor’s degree (BSN): BSN programs generally take 4 years to complete (sometimes longer) and they provide more comprehensive training for students. These programs expand on advanced nursing theory and clinical practice;
  3. Accelerated BSN program: Accelerated BSN programs are expedited BSN programs designed for people who have a bachelor’s degree outside of nursing. They generally last two or three semesters

General requirements for applying to nursing school include:

  • Being 18 years of age;
  • Submitting to a criminal background check and drug screening;
  • Earning your high school diploma or GED;
  • English fluency;
  • Taking and passing the Test of Essential Academic Skill (TEAS).

RN Licensure by Examination

When you graduate from an accredited program, the first step towards getting licensed is applying for licensure by examination. If you were licensed in another state or outside of the U.S. you will need to follow the endorsement process detailed below.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

All RN and LPN license applicants need to undergo a criminal background check and request a fingerprint card. Note that all federal background checks are valid for six months, so if you have undergone one in the last six months you are not required to do so again. You can access the fingerprinting instruction sheet online for additional clarity. Once you send the fingerprint request card in you can fill out an online request form for a background check through the Kentucky Court of Justice. Fingerprints and background checks can both take up to four weeks to process. This number is sometimes shorter, but also longer in others.

The initial fingerprint card and the required fee of $13.25 must be mailed to the Kentucky State Police at:

Kentucky State Police
Records Branch
1266 Louisville Rd
Frankfort, KY 40601

Approved Exams

There are two tests you need to take to become a licensed RN in the state of Kentucky:

  1. National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX);
  2. Kentucky Jurisprudence Examination.

Both can be taken online, but you can find a testing center for the NCLEX exam if you would rather take the test proctored in-person.

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

Both certification exams can be applied for online. The NCLEX requires a non-refundable fee of $125 in order to sit the exam. Since the fee is non-refundable, you may want to take an NCLEX practice test prior. The jurisprudence exam requires a $15 non-refundable fee. You can find various jurisprudence exam study guides online. Both tests are paid for online, or paid via check through the mail to the Kentucky Board of Nursing address listed above. As you are waiting to take the NCLEX you may apply for a provisional license.

Additional Requirements for Certification

In Kentucky, applicants must apply for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Credential (SANE). There is a $120 required fee (payable online), and the application can take up to three months to process.

Applying for Licensure

Once you have completed the educational requirements, both exams, your background check, your fingerprint screen, and your SANE test, you need to apply for a license. This can be done online or using the paper application, and requires a $40 non-refundable licensing fee. If you choose to use the paper application, all fees and required documentation need to be sent to the Kentucky Board of Nursing address listed above. You can check the status of your application online using your Social Security number.  

RN Licensure by Endorsement (Out-of-State Applicants)

More often than not, those obtaining their RN licensure by endorsement are already licensed within another state. Individuals must fill out the endorsement application online and provide the $165 required fee. Once you start the endorsement process you have six months to complete it. RN licensure by endorsement still requires a background check and fingerprint card. You will also need to take the endorsement jurisprudence exam online before getting licensed. You will also need to provide verification of your original licensure and national examination. For any additional information, reach out using the endorsement contact form.

RN License Renewal

You will need to apply online to renew an RN license. There are various continuing education requirements indicated below that you will need to complete, as well as a renewal fee of $65 that can be paid online. You will need your Social Security number, date of birth, RN license number(s), and payment ready in order to apply for license renewal. If you do not renew your license on time, you will need to apply for reinstatement and pay the required $135 fee.

Continuing Education Requirements

There are three options for continuing education requirements in Kentucky. You can obtain fourteen approved contact hours, participate as a preceptor for a new licensee (120 hours), or complete a nursing research project. The kicker is that you need to be either the principal investigator, co-investigator, or the project director in order to complete a viable nursing research project for your annual CE requirements. You can find a list of acceptable CE providers online.

Kentucky Nursing License Verification

When you apply for a job, employers want to ensure that you are licensed in the state. This can be done through the Kentucky online license verification portal.


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