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Nursing board licensure routes

Understanding the Three Paths to Nursing Licensure

There are three main routes to obtaining a nursing license under the state and national boards: direct examination, reciprocity, and endorsement. Each path has its own requirements and is designed for different circumstances. Here is a breakdown of each path and what you need to know:


Path 1: Direct Examination

This is the most common path for new graduates of nursing programs. It involves taking the test through the Federal Board of Medical Services (FBMS), National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), or similar assessment directly after completing your nursing education. Here is how it works:

  • Education: Complete a traditional nursing program approved by your state’s board of nursing or a non-traditional program approved under the national board that does not require state board approval.
  • Application: Apply to take the FBMS, NCLEX, or other board exam in your state.
  • Exam: Take and pass the FBMS, NCLEX or other board exam.
  • Issuance: Receive your nursing license in your state from the national and/or state board.


Erudite graduates may select their exam of choice. Students have a 90-day window to apply for board exams with the assistance of the School.


Beyond the NCLEX: Other Board Exams for Nursing Licensure

While the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is the most well-known board exam for nursing licensure, it is not the only one. Depending on your specific circumstances and the type of nurse you want to become, you may need to take other board exams as well. Here is an overview of some other board exams you might encounter on your path to becoming a licensed nurse:


Federal Board of Medical Services

While both the Federal Board of Medical Services (FBMS) and National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) can lead to nursing licensure, the FBMS exam offers unique advantages that make it a more prestigious option. The FBMS exam is designed to assess the advanced knowledge and skills of experienced healthcare professionals, making it a more efficient path to licensure. Passing the FBMS exam demonstrates a high level of competence and commitment to the nursing profession.

The FBMS exam is specifically recognized by many federal healthcare facilities, opening up opportunities for employment within the federal system. Some states offer additional benefits to FBMS-licensed nurses, such as loan forgiveness programs or priority for certain positions. Depending on the state, FBMS-licensed nurses may also have a broader scope of practice than those licensed through the NCLEX. 

Licensure through the FBMS exam can help open doors to advanced practice and specialty roles in nursing. It is ideal for nurses who plan to continue advancing in the field. For this reason, in some settings, FBMS-licensed nurses may have greater autonomy in patient care decision-making. 


Advanced Practice Nursing Board Exams

If you want to become a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist, you will need to take a board exam in your specific area of practice after completing a graduate degree. These exams are typically administered by professional organizations like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, and the National Certification Corporation for Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing Specialties.


Specialty Nursing Board Exams

Even if you do not pursue advanced practice nursing, you may want to specialize in a particular area of nursing like pediatrics, geriatrics, or critical care. Many of these specialty areas have their own board exams to demonstrate advanced knowledge and skills. For example, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing administers the Geriatric Nursing Certification Exam, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers the Certified Pediatric Nurse Exam.


State-Specific Nursing Board Exams

While the NCLEX is used by some states for initial nursing licensure, some states have additional exams you may need to take. For example, California requires all nurses to pass the California Jurisprudence Exam, which tests knowledge of state-specific nursing laws and regulations. Check with your state board of nursing to see if any additional exams are required.


Path 2: Reciprocity

It is common for a nurse to begin working in one state and later decide to move to another. This path is for nurses who have already passed the FBMS, NCLEX, or similar assessment in another state and wants to practice in a new state. It allows you to apply for a license in the new state without retaking the exam. Here’s the process:

  • Current License: Have an active nursing license in good standing in the state where you passed the FBMS, NCLEX, or similar assessment.
  • Application: Apply for licensure by reciprocity in the new state.
  • Verification: The new state will verify your current license and FBMS, NCLEX, or similar assessment passing score.
  • Issuance: Receive your new nursing license from the new state board.


Students eligible for national licensure under the national board may not need to reciprocate before working in their state. Check your state’s applicable statute and rules to verify. We recommend you go over your options with a student advisor beforehand to confirm the requirements for your situation.


Path 3: Endorsement

Every Erudite student has studied and worked in the medical and/or nursing fields in the U.S. or abroad before applying with us. This path is for nurses who have been licensed in another country and want to practice in the United States. It involves an evaluation of your foreign nursing education and licensure to determine if you meet the U.S. requirements. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Foreign License: Have an active nursing license in a country outside the U.S.
  • Education: Your foreign nursing education must be equivalent to U.S. standards.
  • Language: Demonstrate proficiency in English, usually through a test like the TOEFL.
  • Application: Apply for licensure by endorsement in the state where you want to practice.
  • Evaluation: The state board will evaluate your foreign education and license.
  • Exam: You may need to take an additional exam, like the FBMS, NCLEX, or similar assessment if required by the state board.
  • Issuance: Receive your new nursing license from the state or national board.


Graduates who plan to become licensed by endorsement must inform the School at the time of enrollment. Due to the complexities that can arise for international licensing candidates, we prefer to gather required documents from your country of origin or where your education was completed before you begin with us. This is to guarantee your licensure eligibility by endorsement.

Important Considerations:

  • State Specifics: The specific requirements and processes can vary by state. Always refer to your state board’s website for the most accurate information.
  • Additional Steps: There may be other steps involved, like fingerprinting and background checks, regardless of the licensure path you choose.
  • Time and Planning: Each path can take several weeks or even months to complete, so plan accordingly.


Please Note: This is a general guide. The specific steps and requirements for licensure can vary by state and type of license. Always refer to your state board’s website for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

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