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

Obtaining a registered nurse certification in South Carolina is just one of the many prerequisites that are needed in order to become an RN. Being a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) means an individual is a registered nurse that is licensed in a compact state. Being a part of the NLC also means they are allowed to continue their nursing practice in another compact state, even when they do not have an RN license there. If this said individual plans to move to a state that is not a part of the NLC, then they must complete the application process for their RN license in that state.

Typically, an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) takes one to two years to complete, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing takes four years, a Master of Science in Nursing takes two to three years, and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice takes three to six years. There are several schools offering each degree type throughout South Carolina. Based on 2018 estimates, RNs in South Carolina earned an average of $64,940 annually, which is lower than the national average salary. There are an estimated 64,480 nurses, LPNs, and RNs in South Carolina.

South Carolina Licensing Board, Office, or Authority

Certification in the state is issued by the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which aims at promoting and safeguarding the health and economic well-being of the residents of South Carolina by providing licensing, program and education, regulation, and enforcement. Here, they offer three different license types: advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), RN, and licensed practical nurse (LPN). The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation can be contacted at:
110 Centerview Dr, Columbia SC
Columbia, SC 29210
Tel: (803) 896-4300
Office Hours: 08:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

The national certification standards for an RN require that prospecting students obtain a degree from an accredited agency and/or nursing school that the state board recognizes. There are a variety of degrees and courses that can be pursued to prepare students for certification exams. For example, students may want to enroll/complete entry-level college courses such as:

  • Math;
  • Physiology;
  • Psychology.

Once these courses have been completed, students will then apply to complete either their two-year Associate Degree (ADN) or four-year Bachelor’s Degree (BSN).

RN Licensure by Examination

To obtain an RN certification in South Carolina, the applicants must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Foreign-educated applicants who have completed their graduation from foreign nursing schools are required to scan and email or attach a photocopy of their nursing license from the country where they obtained their original licensure. They must also provide:

  • Credential Evaluation Service report by requesting it from CGFNS (Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools). You must also request a Credential Evaluation Service Professional Report description of your nursing program;
  • Application for examination by requesting it from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). You must take and clear the TOEFL exam.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

In South Carolina, it is required that all applicants pass a fingerprint and background check prior to obtaining their license. Resident producers may schedule fingerprint appointments online using the following steps:

  • Visit the IdentoGo website;
  • Under Search for services by state, select “South Carolina” then “Go;”
  • Click on “State Fingerprinting”;
  • Under “For New Appointments” click on “Schedule a New Appointment;”
  • In the drop-down box, select “SC920124Z-DOI Producer Licensing/Renewal” and click “Go;”
  • Enter your Zip Code;
  • Choose the location and date you want, select “Click to Schedule,” and choose the time of your appointment;
  • On the remaining screens, complete the fields as requested to schedule and pay.

Only out-of-state individuals or residents who are physically unable to be digitally printed are allowed to mail in their print cards.

Approved Exams

When taking the NCLEX-RN exam, one must answer a minimum of 75 questions. Your level of understanding of those 75 questions will determine whether or not you will be required to answer more questions. The test must be completed in six hours or less and consists of the following styles:

  • Charting;
  • Drag and drop
  • Fill in the blank;
  • Hot spots;
  • Multiple choice.

Applicants will be tested on their critical thinking skills, nursing judgment, and other nursing content.

All applicants who failed the NCLEX-RN exam on the first attempt may retake the licensure examination every 45 days for up to a period of 1 year from the date he/she took the first attempt. If the applicant does not pass within the 1-year duration, he/she must provide proof satisfactory to the board of remediation which needs to be approved by the board before re-examination. If the applicant does not pass within a time period of 3 years after graduation, he/she is required to re-qualify, and must demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and ability of a graduate nurse.

Requirements to retake the exam include:

  • Enclose an appropriate fee of $65 made payable to the South Carolina Board of Nursing.
  • Submit a photocopy of all the Diagnostic Profiles (if you took the test in another state) from all the previously taken exams and also complete the repeater’s application.

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

To apply for the exam applicants will need:

  • Documentation of home address. This can include:
    • Driver’s license as proof of your home address;
    • Voter registration card indicating your home address;
    • Federal income tax return, which must declare your primary state of residence;
    • Military Form #2058, a legal residence certificate of the state;
    • W2 from any bureau or US Government, agency, or division indicating the declared state of residence.
  • Provide a photocopy of your valid passport or birth certificate. Note: Do not provide a copy of your hospital birth certificate, as the Board will not accept it;
  • Submit a photocopy of your permanent resident card, Social Security Card, or a resident alien ID card, previously assigned to every alien resident who does not have a Social Security Number (SSN);
  • Provide a recent 2″ x 2″ full-face, passport-size photo including the date and your signature;
  • Provide a copy of legal documents verifying your name or address change (if applicable);
  • If you have completed your graduation from a South Carolina Nursing School, you are required to provide the date indicating the completion of your course work. To obtain this, you may request it from the Dean or Director of the Nursing Program;

Testing Vendors and Proctors

There are 3 Pearson VUE testing locations in South Carolina:

Pearson Professional Centers-Columbia SC
220 Stoneridge Drive
Suite 300
Columbia, South Carolina 29210
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Greenville SC
777 Lowndes Hill Road, Building 3
Suite 150
Greenville, South Carolina 29607
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-North Charleston SC
3955 Faber Place Dr
Suite 105
North Charleston, South Carolina 29405
United States

Additional Requirements for Certification

  • Provide fingerprints for a criminal background check;
  • Submit the appropriate examination processing fee of $90;
  • All out-of-state graduates are required to submit an official transcript mailed directly from the school to the South Carolina Board of Nursing office, which must include the following information:
    • Nursing courses that fulfill the degree requirements;
    • Type and date of degree awarded;
    • Graduation date;
    • School seal and registrar’s signature;
    • Each nursing course accepted for transfer credit must meet the requirements for the nursing degree. If it does not provide transfer credit, you are required to request an official transcript from each nursing school where the course credit relating to nursing was earned.

Applying for Licensure

To apply for the APRN/RN license, applicants must submit an online application. APRN/RN applicants must also meet the following requirements

  • Meets all qualifications (mentioned above) for licensure as a registered nurse;
  • Holds current specialty certification by a board-approved credentialing organization. New graduates shall provide evidence of certification within one year of program completion; however, psychiatric clinical nurse specialists shall provide evidence of certification within two years of program completion;
  • Has earned a master’s degree from an accredited college or university;
  • Provides documentation as requested by the board that the applicant has graduated from an advanced, organized formal education program appropriate to the practice and acceptable to the board before December 31, 1994;
  • Graduated before December 31, 2003, from an advanced, organized formal education program for nationally accredited nurse anesthetists;
  • Has paid the board all applicable fees;
  • Has declared a specialty area of nursing practice.

An applicant for licensure as an APRN with a license in another state and who is currently restricted to prohibit the practice of nursing by any disciplinary action (i.e. suspension, revocation, or other action) will not be considered for South Carolina license. This is only until the license from the other state of discipline is reinstated to permit the practice of nursing.

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

Applicants applying for licensure in the state must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Submit the appropriate fee in the form of money orders, personal checks or cashier’s checks made payable to the “LLR-Board of Nursing.”
    • Fees:
      • Endorsement License Only: $100.00
      • Endorsement License with Temporary Permit: $110.00;
  • Submit a photocopy of your nursing license issued in another jurisdiction or state;
  • Submit evidence of successful completion of continuing competency requirements;
  • Provide verification of your licensure from your original state board. If your original state of licensure is listed on the Nursys website, attach the verification form provided in the endorsement application to your state board of licensure;

RN License Renewal

All licenses in South Carolina need to be renewed biennially, and it costs $75 to do so. You must complete any one of the following continuing education or competency requirements for renewal of an active license:

  • 30 contact hours of continuing education from a continuing education provider recognized by the board;
  • Maintenance of certification or recertification by a national certifying body, which must be recognized by the board;
  • Successful completion of an academic program in nursing or any other related field recognized by the board;
  • Verification of competency practiced and the number of hours as verified by employer certification, which must be mentioned on a form recognized by the Board.

Temporary License

Temporary License – You may apply for a temporary license if you provide evidence of the successful completion of continuing competency requirements. You are not eligible to obtain a temporary license if you have completed your education outside the U.S. and have not passed the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

Continuing Education Requirements

According to the Nurse Practice Act, section 40-33-40, the competency requirement criteria for continuing nursing education includes:

  • There is not a limit for contact hours that may be obtained by correspondence or online/computerized courses as long as the offering is approved by one of the providers/organizations listed;
  • An approved course offering may be counted only one time within the licensure period regardless of the number of times attended;
  • For license renewal: Contact hours must be completed during the licensure period and may not be carried over to the next licensure period.
  • For reinstatement from a lapsed or inactive status license of five years or less: Contact hours and legal aspects in nursing courses must be completed within the preceding two years.

The State Board of Nursing for South Carolina (SCBON) will accept continuing education contact hours by approved providers/organizations only. In order to receive credit, the Certification of Attendance (what you recieve after completing the continuing education requirements) must include:

  • Name of licensee;
  • Title of educational activity;
  • Date of activity;
  • Approving provider/organization name, course number and address;
  • The number of contact hours awarded.

How to convert continuing education credit:

  • 1 contact hour = 60 minutes;
  • 1 CME = 60 minutes or 1.0 contact hours;
  • 1 contact hour = 0.1 CEU;
  • 1 CEU = 10 contact hours.

South Carolina Nursing License Verification

In order to verify your RN license, you may use any of the following methods:

  • Licensure Quick Confirm: Provides online license reports to the general public as well as the employers.
  • Nurse License Verification: The NLV provides online verification to all nurses who wish to practice in any other jurisdiction. After the completion of the online process and payment of the applicable fee, you may verify your license in those jurisdictions. To verify the license(s), you need to be from a participating board of nursing.
  • Online Verification Method: Here you will be asked to enter your username and password. If you have forgotten your username and/or password, you can ask for login recovery on the sign-in page.
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