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

If you want to become a registered nurse (RN) in Massachusetts, you must seek an education from an accredited nursing program, earn your RN certification, and follow the steps required to apply for licensure, which is regulated at the state level. Only then can you perform work as an RN in the state.

Getting the necessary nursing education and completing the application process to become an RN requires a serious time commitment, but it is worth it if you want to enter a meaningful career field with job security and high income potential — particularly as healthcare staffing shortages continue to impact America.

Massachusetts is a great state to become an RN. In fact, the annual wages for RNs in the state are among the highest in the country. As of 2018, they earned an average hourly wage of $44.30, which is much higher than the national average pay for RNs.

If you want to pursue this career path, you need to have a road map. This guide will give you the information you need to become eligible and apply for licensure as an RN in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing

As laid out by Massachusetts law, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing is responsible for applying the statutes and regulations that govern nursing. This includes those related to nursing education and licensing, among other considerations in the field. The Board is located at:

239 Causeway St.
Suite 500, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

There are several different levels of nursing licensure in The Bay State. In addition to RNs, there are certified nurse aides, practical nurses, and advanced practice registered nurses. While this guide will only discuss licensing requirements for the first of these, it’s important to be aware that each of these levels have different education/licensing requirements and career outlooks.

If you want to become licensed as an RN in Massachusetts, strive to meet the requirements by following the steps outlined below. If you have questions, you can contact the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing by phone at (800) 414-0168 or by email at (for general queries) or (for questions related to the application process).

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

Across the United States, prospective RNs are expected to meet certain education requirements before they will be eligible for licensure. The minimum degree you can get in order to become an RN is an associate’s degree in nursing, though U.S. standards are slowly shifting toward a bachelor’s in nursing as the new requirement. This is reflected, for instance, in New York’s “BSN in 10” law, which mandates that all nurses must obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing within a decade of receiving their initial RN license.

Whichever degree you decide to pursue, there are many nursing schools in Massachusetts that can help you on your journey to become an RN. The state recognizes programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education In Nursing (ACEN). Such programs are designed to prepare you with the knowledge and skills necessary to pass the certification exam and ultimately perform your duties to the best of your abilities in your new role as an RN.

RN Licensure by Examination

Once you’ve graduated from an accredited nursing program, you need to apply for a license from the Board of Registration in Nursing. Only then will you be able to perform work as an RN in Massachusetts. RNs who are already licensed in another state may be eligible to apply by reciprocity — read more on this later in this guide — while individuals who are seeking licensure for the first time should apply by examination.

If you need to apply for a nursing license by exam, there are some steps you must follow, including submitting to a criminal background check, taking an exam, and meeting other requirements.

After reviewing the application regulations and policies, you can begin the application process on the Professional Credential Services website. Follow the prompts on this page to proceed with your application. Note that there is an application fee of $230, which is only payable by credit card.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

Applicants exhibit good moral character through “reliable evidence of good conduct,” as noted by the Board. This includes conduct that demonstrates honesty, integrity, and accountability, among other positive characteristics. Conduct that shows a lack of these virtues, such as past criminal or disciplinary actions, may disqualify an applicant from becoming licensed.

Your moral character is assessed through a criminal background check and through screening questions during the application process. As part of your application, you must submit a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Acknowledgement Form. This authorizes the Board to submit a CORI check to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Systems to conduct a criminal background check.

If you have anything in your criminal or disciplinary history that may give the Board reason to doubt your moral character, you must provide documentation regarding your past conduct. If you have any questions, refer to the Determination of Good Moral Character Compliance Information Sheet.

Approved Exams

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing requires that applicants pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to become licensed by exam. Practice test questions are available to help applicants prepare for the exam ahead of time.

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

Once the Board declares you eligible to take the NCLEX-RN (after you submit your application and pay any required fees), you will receive an authorization to test by email. This email will give you a time range in which you will be eligible to schedule your exam.

You can then schedule to take the NCLEX-RN on the Pearson Vue website or by phone at (866) 496-2539. There is a nonrefundable fee of $200 to take the exam, which is payable by credit, debit, or prepaid card. Be sure to schedule your exam so that you can complete it within the time frame noted on the authorization email you received.

If you pass, you will receive a License Letter via email on behalf of the board; if you fail, you’ll receive instructions on how to apply for a re-examination by mail. For more information on the NCLEX-RN refer to the NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin.

Additional Requirements for Certification for Non-U.S Educated Applicants

Non-U.S. educated applicants must meet some additional requirements. Whether you’re applying by examination or endorsement, you must complete a Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools evaluation, then submit the report on the application portal.

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

If you are already licensed to perform work as a nurse in another state, you may be eligible to be licensed by reciprocity in Massachusetts. While Massachusetts does not take part in the Nurse Licensure Compact, you may be able to provide sufficient documentation to qualify. This includes:

  • Your Social Security number;
  • Your existing license information;
  • Proof you graduated from a board-approved nursing program;
  • The results you received after passing the NCLEX-RN;
  • Evidence of your good moral character (as discussed above).

If you are eligible, follow the application process outlined in the previous section to apply by reciprocity. Applications by endorsement are also handled by Professional Credential Services, and you can apply online through their website. Applying by endorsement requires an application fee of $275 and a license verification fee of $30, also payable exclusively by credit card.

RN License Renewal

Up to 90 days before your license’s expiration date, you can renew your license online at the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services website. Alternatively, you can request a paper renewal form via email at The completed paper form should be mailed to:

Mass Department of Public Health
Division of Health Professions Licensure
Post Office Box 414394
Boston, MA 02241-4394

There is a fee of $120 for an RN license renewal and a $15 fee for a Certified Statement of Registration. These fees are payable by credit card. If you need guidance during the renewal process, consult the instructional video located at the bottom of this page of the Board’s website. If you need assistance, call the Help Desk at (617) 973-0935.

Once you complete the online renewal process, your license should automatically be updated, which will be reflected in the license verification tool described below. Note that the board no longer mails out paper licenses, so you will not receive a new physical license.

Continuing Education Requirements

A part of your professional responsibility as an RN in Massachusetts is to comply with mandatory continuing education requirements. From reinforcing the basics, such as common places patients may get sick, to understanding how to leverage technological advancements like AI, continuing education is an essential aspect of being a nurse.

This means completing at least 15 contact hours within the two years leading up to every license renewal deadline. Note, however, that you do not have to complete this requirement for your first renewal.

There are many types of continuing education programs meet state standards, from academic lectures and courses to home-study or web-based programs. If you are uncertain whether an option qualifies, there is a checklist you can download on the Board’s page on continuing education requirements, under “Find a CE program” > “Additional Resources.”

Massachusetts Nursing License Verification

If you’d like to confirm the licensing status of a nurse in Massachusetts, you can do so on the Massachusetts Health Professions License Verification Site. You can conduct a search using the individual’s license number, name, or contact information. It will let you know whether the license is current, expired, or inactive. If you become licensed as an RN in the state, your information will also appear on this tool.

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