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

RN certification in the state is issued by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing. Licensure aids students in gaining the attention of employers, increases their earning capabilities, and displays their commitment towards the nursing profession. There are several schools in Pennsylvania that offer each type of nursing degree, which are:

  • Associate’s degrees in nursing (ADN);
  • Bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN);
  • Licensed practical nursing degrees (LPN);
  • Registered nurse (RN);
  • Master’s of Science in nursing degrees (MSN);
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees (DNP).

Based on 2018 estimates, RNs in Pennsylvania earned an average of $70,390 annually, which is not too far from the national average salary for RNs. According to Nurses of Pennsylvania, as of 2017, there are 180,000 nurses on the Pennsylvania state official state registry. However, even though that may seem like a lot, there is still a nursing shortage in PA. In fact, the Nurses of Pennsylvania also state that in 2017, 94% of nurses report that their facility does not have enough nursing staff, and 87% report that staffing levels affecting patient care are getting worse.

Pennsylvania Licensing Board, Office, or Authority

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing aims to “protect the health and safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the licensure/certification and regulation of the practice of professional and practical nursing and dietetics-nutrition by registered nurses, practical nurses, certified registered nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, dietitian-nutritionists, and graduate nurses.” They can be contacted at:

Mailing Address:
State Board of Nursing
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105

Physical Address:
One Penn Center
2601 N. 3rd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Tel: (833) 367-2762
Fax: (717) 783-0822

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

The national certification standards for an RN require that prospective students obtain a degree from an accredited agency and/or nursing school that the Pennsylvania State Board approves, whether the school is in-state or otherwise. In order to qualify for these state-approved programs, applicants must complete the application for licensure (by examination or endorsement).

RN Licensure by Examination

Obtaining a nursing license by examination is just one of the multiple ways students are able to get their license. To do so, students must complete the following examination requirements:

  • Submit an application;
  • Pay the required fee of $95;
  • Complete continuing education courses about child abuse recognition and reporting;
  • Provide recent criminal history records;
  • Forward all education verification to the nursing board;
  • Register with PearsonVUE;
  • Once all paperwork has been submitted, PearsonVUE will send an authorization to test (ATT);
  • Once the ATT has been received, applicants will need to schedule an exam;
  • Submit all the required official transcripts (if applicable);
  • Provide Testing Accommodation Form (if applicable)
  • If applicable, submit court documents;
  • Provide U.S. Social Security number in the licensure application.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

Fingerprinting and criminal background checks will need to be conducted prior to obtaining nursing licensure in Pennsylvania. This includes:

  • Submitting a request to the FBI either online or via mail;
  • Submitting a set of your fingerprints;
  • Submitting a payment of $18 via credit card or money order;
  • Reviewing the Identity History Summary Request Checklist;
  • Mailing the items above to:
    • FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
      1000 Custer Hollow Road
      Clarksburg, WV 26306

Approved Exams

The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is an exam used by Nursing Regulatory Bodies to test the competence of entry-level nursing candidates. The NCLEX exam is an exclusive computerized adaptive test. When taking the exam, one must answer a minimum of 75 questions. Their level of understanding of those 75 questions will determine whether or not you will be required to answer more questions. Practice questions for the test may be accessed online for free ahead of time to help applicants prepare.

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

When registering to take the NCLEX-RN exam, applicants will need to:

  • Submit an application for licensure/registration to the Nursing Regulatory Body where they wish to be licensed/registered;
  • Meet all of the Nursing Regulatory Body’s eligibility requirements to take the NCLEX Examination;
  • Register and pay for the NCLEX examination with Pearson VUE;
  • Receive eligibility from their Nursing Regulatory Body.

Testing Vendors and Proctors

There are 11 testing locations in Pennsylvania:

Pearson Professional Centers-Harrisburg PA
4000 Crums Mill Road
Suite 202
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17112
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Scranton PA
330 Montage Mountain Rd.
Suite 102
(SIGN on-road reads “330” )
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18507
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Lancaster PA
205 Granite Run Drive
Suite 130
Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17601
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Allentown PA
5100 W Tilghman Street
Suite B-30
Commerce Corporate Center II
Allentown, Pennsylvania 18104
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-King of Prussia PA
150 South Warner Road
Suite 400
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania 19406
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Blue Bell PA
1777 Sentry Parkway West
Suite 303
VEVA Bldg-14
Blue Bell, Pennsylvania 19422
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Warrington PA
865 Easton Road
Suite 280
Heritage Warrington Center
Warrington, Pennsylvania 18976
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Philadelphia PA
1800 John F Kennedy (JFK) Blvd
Suite 1001
Tenth Floor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Pittsburgh(East) PA
1500 Ardmore Blvd.
Suite 401
Digital Place Office Complex
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15221
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Pittsburgh(West) PA
2 Penn Center Blvd.
Suite 109
Building 2
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15276
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Erie PA
3123 West 12th Street
Suite D
Edgewood Place
Erie, Pennsylvania 16505
United States

Applying for Licensure

Applicants will fill out the application that consists of the following categories:

  • License type;
  • Education;
  • Exam and temporary permits;
  • Regulatory questions;

After filling out these sections, the applicant will be prompted to preview the application to check it for errors. After verifying that everything is indeed correct, the applicant may then submit the application with the appropriate fees attached.

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

The procedure to obtain licensure by endorsement in Pennsylvania is as follows:

  • Pay the required fee of $120 ($145 if applying by endorsement with the exam);
  • Provide criminal history and background check from every state in which the applicant has lived;
  • Log-in to their PALS account (if they do not have an account they will need to create one);
  • Once into their PALS dashboard, they will select “Apply for New License” located at the bottom of the webpage;
  • Complete the mandatory three hours of Department of Health Services (DHS)-approved training in child abuse recognition and reporting;
  • If their original nursing education program was not conducted in English, they must then provide the Pennsylvania State Board with proof of English proficiency by achieving a passing score on a Board-approved exam;
  • Answer all legal questions honestly;
  • Provide any address or name changes;
  • Obtain a temporary practice permit (TPP) (optional). Individuals are able to apply for a TPP by answering a question within the original endorsement application and pay an additional fee of $70. They are not to submit a separate application just for a TPP.

RN License Renewal

All RN licenses in the state of Pennsylvania expire on June 20th of every even-numbered year. Individuals will be notified of their need to renew via email 60 days prior to their license expiration date. In order to renew their license, applicants are required to complete 30 contact hours of continuing education accepted by the Board in the specified renewal cycle. Applicants must pay the renewal fee of $297 and fill out the proper renewal application (RN, CNS, CRNP).

Continuing Education Requirements

The state of Pennsylvania requires every nurse to complete continuing education (CE) requirements. Requirements and facts on doing so include:

  • Completing 30 hours of continuing education courses offered by a Pennsylvania State Board approved provider;
  • Keeping all certificates of completion from all CE courses over the past five years;
    • The certificate must include your name, course title, number of CE hours awarded, dates of activities, provider(s) of the activities, and the name of the organization which approved the activity.
  • Selecting courses that are approved for CE;
    • Physical, social, biological, and behavioral sciences;
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS);
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS);
    • Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS).

CE courses that are not approved are courses related to:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS);
  • Change in attitude;
  • Courses designed for laypersons;
  • Employee orientation programs;
  • Financial gain;
  • Mandatory annual education on facility-specific policies that aren’t related to nursing practices;
  • Self-improvement.

Pennsylvania Nursing License Verification

In order to verify that an individual or facility holds an active license, you may use any of the following ways:

quick RN guide links