5 Quickest and the Longest States to Get RN Licenses | Health Carousel Travel Nursing (2023)

Whether you’re a first-time travel nurse or a seasoned veteran, the matter of obtaining licensure in a new state you’d like to work in is always a hurdle. In some states, nurses can obtain licensure from the state’s board of nursing usually within 2 weeks. We’ll discuss the states that have the longest licensure windows, on average, for nurses who reside in another state. We’ll also review the top 5 quickest states to get a nursing license in.


If you’re an experienced travel nurse, you likely are familiar with the term “compact state license.” A compact state is one that has enacted the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) through legislation. This enables registered nurses with an active RN license and who are a permanent resident of that state to work in other participating compact states without having to obtain additional nursing licensure. For example, a nurse whose permanent residence is in Baltimore, Maryland, can work a travel assignment in Augusta, Maine, without having to obtain licensure. Why? Because both states are members of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) agreement or compact state alliance. Get the ultimate guide to compact nursing states here.

See a map and full explanation of compact state traveling by clicking here.

If a nurse resides in a state that is not an NLC member, but wishes to travel to a state that is an NLC member, they must apply for licensure in that state just as they would anywhere else. Upon obtaining a license in that compact state, however, they do not have the same access to all other compact states, as someone who resides in an NLC member state would—they only have licensure for that single state. We have travel nurse assignments available in all 50 states. View them in On Demand where you can search, apply and be first in line for your dream job.


Now that we have a general understanding of NLC member states and who can travel on a compact license, let’s look at the states that can be most time-consuming for a nurse when trying to obtain permanent licensure. Each timespan listed is an average—in some cases licensure can be obtained more quickly, while in some circumstances, it could take even longer. Also, for newly graduated nurses, licensing will usually take longer pending receipt of your nursing board scores and nurse graduate program transcripts.


Surprised California doesn’t top the list? The Buckeye State actually takes the cake as the longest state to get licensed in, on average, and with attractive Midwestern cities like Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, many nurses in the surrounding states (and beyond) go through Ohio’s long licensure process. Like most states, Ohio requires a fingerprint and criminal background check. Learn more by visiting the Ohio Board of Nursing website. If you want to work in Ohio, we can get you submitted quickly to the top travel nurse jobs in the state.


Ah, California—a bucket-list destination for many travel nurses. With promises of gorgeous weather and high pay (though be sure to consider the high cost of living in many major cities), California is the state our recruiters are most-asked about when the topic of licensure comes up. With a similar (though sometimes shorter) time frame to Ohio’s licensure process, travel nurses interested in California jobs must take the long-view. Consider applying for licensure first while taking another assignment elsewhere as the process plays out. Once you obtain your California RN license, you can then begin your Golden State job search. Please keep in mind that California does require fingerprints.

To learn more about obtaining a California nursing licensure by endorsement, check out this recent article from HCTN. You can also explore the California Board of Nursing website for more information. Land your dream California travel nurse job faster when you travel with us. Start your next travel nurse adventure in California today by checking our assignments available.



Before diving too deeply into the Maryland RN licensure process, it’s important to again recognize that Maryland is a compact state. Therefore, if your permanent residence is in another NLC member state and you have a compact nursing license, you can work as a travel nurse in Maryland without additional licensure.

If you do not already have a compact state license and are interested in working in Maryland, however, be prepared to wait 10 weeks, on average, for a Maryland RN license. With excellent opportunities for travelers in Baltimore, the wait is worth it for many nurses. Be the first in line for Maryland travel nurse jobs when you travel with us. View our Maryland jobs available. Learn more about the fingerprint and background check process and more on the Maryland Board of Nursing website.


Another compact state, Maine is home to beautiful Acadia National Park, world-famous lobster festivals, and many quaint seaside towns. For these reasons and more Maine assignments have become a hot commodity in the traveler community, especially in the summer and fall months. If you’re interested in working as a travel RN in Maine (and you don’t have a compact state nursing license), expect to wait 8-10 weeks for licensure. Fingerprints and a background check are required; learn more about the process on the Maine Board of Nursing website. We will help you get first in line to the top travel nurse jobs in Maine. Discover plenty of our outstanding assignments available.


The Last Frontier is calling! While that may be the case, a nurse interested in working in Alaska must first go through the (on average) 8-week nursing license process. Alaska, like all the aforementioned states, requires fingerprints and a background check from nurses applying for a license. Learn more about obtaining your license in Alaska on the state’s Board of Nursing website. When you travel with us, we'll help you get that Alaskan travel nurse experience of a lifetime faster than any other agency. Take the first step by applying to our available assignments.


While these states didn’t make the top 5, they were very close, and are worth keeping in mind as a travel nurse.

  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa

5 States Where One Can Get a Nursing License Quickly

Now that we’ve reviewed the states with the longest licensing turnaround time, let’s review the quickest states to get a permanent nursing license.


Georgia notoriously has one of the quickest turnaround times for permanent nursing licensure. After you submit your application and requirements, expect to have your license within 10-14 days. We have plenty of amazing positions available in Georgia that we can get you submitted to quickly!


Alabama is another state with an average licensure time frame of around 2-3 weeks. Land your ideal Alabama travel nurse job faster when you travel with us! We have plenty of opportunities available in Alabama.


While the Hawaii Board of Nursing’s website states an average of 45-60 days for licensure, most nurses receive their new license within 2 weeks. We help you get first in line to the top travel jobs. Start your dream assignment today by applying to our available job openings.

South Carolina

South Carolina’s Board of Nursing website states the licensure process takes around 14 days. We have a multitude of fantastic travel nurse opportunities available in South Carolina that we can get you submitted to quickly!


Kentucky is another state where nursing licensure turnaround time is typically quick, averaging around 7-14 business days. If you want to work in Kentucky, we can get you submitted quickly to the top travel nurse jobs in the state.


There are a few cases when temporary licenses can be obtained through the state board of nursing. Sometimes states grant temporary permits for nurses to practice. This is when a nurse has applied for permanent licensure within the state, but the state may be backed up with processing. In this case, the state grants a temporary state nursing license.

Other states, like Arizona, provide a temporary travel nursing license to travel nurses. These are referred to as walkthrough states. Travel nurses often apply for these, which allows them to practice nursing in the state during the duration of their travel nursing assignment. Not all states will grant temporary licenses, so check with the state board of nursing before assuming.

Remember, the average times listed above will vary depending on the time of year and current demand. If you live in a compact state and hold an active RN license, apply for a compact nursing license, which allows you to work in other participating compact states. A compact license can help you bridge the gap when awaiting permanent licensure. Get offers to top jobs faster when you travel with us. Get submitted quickly and be the first in line for an interview.


Which state is the fastest to get nursing license? ›

Easiest states to become a nurse – Length of licensing process
  • Maine: 1-2 weeks.
  • Maryland: 2-3 days.
  • Missouri: 2 weeks.
  • Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
  • Texas: 2 weeks.
  • Vermont: 3-5 business days.

What is the best state for travel nursing? ›

The index revealed that overall, the Dakotas are the best states to work as a travel nurse, scoring high marks across the board for salary, cost of living and travel nurse job opportunities statewide. Taking the top spot, South Dakota scored a full 100, followed closely by North Dakota, with a score of 96.62.

How long does it take to get Alaska nursing license? ›

Every application is reviewed within 15 days, and the whole process usually takes 4-5 weeks. The general qualification for Alaska nursing licensure by endorsement is: A nurse must hold a current license in another state to be eligible for a nursing license by endorsement in Alaska.

Which state has the highest nursing shortage? ›

North Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Florida, and Nevada are all projected to have the largest shortages of nurses, with North Dakota only getting 84% of its demand met. Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Hampshire are all projected to have a surplus of nurses in 2030.

What state has the highest demand for registered nurses? ›

Projections Central estimates the job outlook (projected number of positions available) for nurses between 2020 and 2030 is greatest in the following states:
  • California: 21,200 projected positions.
  • Texas: 16,210 projected positions.
  • New York: 14,430 projected positions.
  • Florida: 13,250 projected positions.
Apr 25, 2023

Is travel nursing going away 2023? ›

Reliance on Travel Nursing Will Continue in 2023

Many hospitals and facilities are finding it difficult to fill in their registered nurse, or permanent, positions. The beginning of 2023 will also likely see another surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations during the winter.

Where are travel nurses in highest demand? ›

Texas offers the most travel nurse jobs, partly because it is a compact state. Travel nurses most want to work in California and Florida. The most in-demand travel nurse specialties are in med-surge, emergency department, and step-down, says a new report that looks at current travel-nurse trends.

Where is the highest paying travel nurse located? ›

High-Paying Cities for Travel Nursing Jobs and Their Approximate Housing Stipends
  • Los Angeles, CA – $2,977.
  • San Francisco, CA – $2,843.
  • San Jose, CA – $2,817.
  • Stockton, CA – $2,467.
  • San Bernardino, CA – $2,445.
  • Washington DC – $2,4.
  • New York, NY – $2,3.
Sep 13, 2022

How long does it take to get a Hawaii nursing license? ›

Application processing time is generally 45-60 business days, from receipt of a completed application. Processing time may be longer or delayed for reasons below: Application incomplete (missing information, fees, documents) Pending receipt of 3rd party documents (education, experience, employment)

How long does it take to get Texas RN license by endorsement? ›

Complete the online application at Nurse Endorsement Application. Print a copy of the receipt page for your records. The Texas Board of Nursing (BON) will issue a one-time, 120 day, temporary license (if you are eligible) within fifteen business days of receipt of the completed application and fee.

How long does it take to get a Washington state nursing license by endorsement? ›

After you have completed the necessary steps, you may find yourself wondering: how long to get a Washington nursing license? Most nursing licenses are issued by the Board within 4-6 weeks, but this amount of time can vary on a case by case basis. A temporary license is usually issued within 3 weeks.

How long does Oregon RN license take? ›

Approximately 3-6 weeks for a license upon receipt of all required materials, but the Oregon Board of Nursing does not commit to a definitive timeline.

How much does an RN get paid in Alaska? ›

Salaries by years of experience in Alaska
Years of experiencePer hour
1 to 2 years$68.33
3 to 5 years$71.72
6 to 9 years$74.30
More than 10 years$83.08
1 more row

How long does it take to get North Carolina nursing license? ›

It can take four weeks or more to receive your new North Carolina nursing license, but you may be eligible for a temporary nursing license while your application is in process. Talk to a recruiter about your assignment needs.

What state has the lowest paying nurses? ›

South Dakota is known to have the lowest nursing salary compared to any other state at an average annual wage of $60,540.

What states are in nursing crisis? ›

State RN Shortage by Population
State2022 US Census Pop EstEmployed RNs BLS May 2022
New Jersey9,261,69978,340
48 more rows
May 26, 2023

What states pay nurses the least? ›

The lowest-paying states are South Dakota ($60,540), Alabama ($61,920), Mississippi ($63,130), Iowa ($64,990), and Arkansas ($65,810).

What state has the happiest nurses? ›

Top Happiest 5 states for nurses in the US
  • #5 Colorado. Quality of life ranking: #10. Average RN salary: $69,990.00. ...
  • #4 Alaska. Quality of life ranking: #19. Average RN salary: $88,510.00. ...
  • #3 Oregon. Quality of life ranking: #18. ...
  • #2 Wisconsin. Quality of life ranking: #3. ...
  • #1 Minnesota. Quality of life ranking: #2.

What is the best and worst state for nurses to work in? ›

Washington is the best state for nurses while Hawaii is the worst, according to personal finance site WalletHub. In a report released May 2, WalletHub determined the best and worst states for nurses. The site compared the states across two dimensions: opportunity and competition, and work environment.

How old is to old for a travel nurse? ›

Travel Nursing Knows No Age Limits – Just because you're an older nurse doesn't mean you won't get anything less than what younger travel nurses experience. Regardless of your age, you'll still have the chance to explore a new city, help a new community of patients, meet new people, and grow in your career.

How old are most travel nurses? ›

Traveling Nurse age breakdown
Traveling Nurse YearsPercentages
40+ years59%
30-40 years28%
20-30 years14%
Sep 9, 2022

How old is the average travel nurse? ›

The median age to start travel nursing is 42.

As you can see, there is a difference of 3-4 years between the average age people start travel nursing and the average age of current travel nurses.

What is the best travel nurse pay right now? ›

Highest Paying States for Travel Nurses
  • Minnesota - $2,572 per week.
  • Arizona - $2,525 per week.
  • Nevada - $2,500 per week.
  • New York - $2,484 per week.
  • Maine - $2,470 per week.

What is the highest paying travel nurse in USA? ›

ZipRecruiter reports that as of May 2023, travel nurses in the US earned an average annual income of $105,021 or $50/hr. They also add that salaries range widely across the country, with the lowest earners making $40,000 and the highest earners making $155,500 annually!

How to be a rich travel nurse? ›

10 Ways to Boost Your Travel Nurse Salary
  1. Choose a High-Paying Specialty. ...
  2. Seek Professional Certifications. ...
  3. Obtain a Compact License. ...
  4. Work in Higher Paying Locations. ...
  5. Don't Be Afraid of Overtime. ...
  6. Work Weekends and Holidays. ...
  7. Be Smart About Housing to Make the Most Money as a Travel Nurse.
Jan 23, 2023

Where are travel nurses needed the most 2023? ›

23 Best Places to Travel Nurse in 2023
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque is one of the best travel nurse destinations. ...
  • Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage offers breathtaking views and endless outdoor activities. ...
  • Austin, Texas. ...
  • Atlanta, Georgia. ...
  • Boston, Massachusetts. ...
  • Denver, Colorado. ...
  • Honolulu, Hawaii. ...
  • Jacksonville, Florida.
Feb 13, 2023

What travel nurses are in demand? ›

Rural Communities Have the Greatest Need for Travel Nurses
  • Experienced Registered Nurse, In-Patient Medical Detox. ...
  • Experienced Registered Nurse / Licensed Practical Nurse, In-Patient Behavioral Health, Opportunities at Multiple Campuses. ...
  • Registered Nurse (RN) Cardiac Heart Failure Unit.
Mar 1, 2023

What is the largest travel nurse agency? ›

Just click & go. As America's largest travel nursing agency, and a leading allied and locums agency, we make things simple. We provide you with the opportunities, resources, technology and support you need to grow your career. Traveling with Aya is as easy as 1-2-3.

How much does Hawaii pay nursing? ›

Rn Salary in Hawaii
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$146,775$71
75th Percentile$111,700$54
25th Percentile$71,300$34

How much does RN makes in Hawaii? ›

Salaries by years of experience in Hawaii
Years of experiencePer hour
1 to 2 years$65.61
3 to 5 years$68.87
6 to 9 years$71.35
More than 10 years$79.78
1 more row

How long does it take to get Georgia nursing license? ›

Processing Time – Applications are generally processed within 20 business days of receipt, excluding weekends and holidays. Applications are individually evaluated by the Board in order of date received, and processing times can vary based on individual circumstances and volume.

How long does it take to get Colorado RN license by endorsement? ›

Approximately 8 weeks after receipt of all required documents.

How long does it take to get an RN endorsement in Arizona? ›

Have met one of the following practice requirements: Practiced as a nurse for 960 hours or more in the past 5 years OR. Graduated from a nursing program and obtained a degree within past 5 years OR. Completed an Arizona Board approved refresher course in the past 5 years OR.

How long does it take to get Maryland RN license by endorsement? ›

How Long Does it Take to Get a License by Endorsement? After the Maryland Board of Nursing has received all required documentation and fees, they will normally issue a nursing license in 3-4 weeks. Timing can vary by seasonal demand.

How long does it take to get a Montana nursing license? ›

License by Endorsement

Permanent license issued approximately 10 days or longer upon receipt of required documents.

How long does it take to get a nursing license in Ohio? ›

Getting your nursing license in Ohio will normally take around 6 weeks from the date your complete application is submitted. Travel nurses can ensure the fastest turnaround by working with American Mobile's licensing team and following our streamlined process.

How long does it take to get a nursing license in Illinois? ›

Permanent License

Approximately 2-4 weeks upon receipt of all required documents.

What is the highest paid RN nurse? ›

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) earn a nationwide average of $202,470 per year according to the BLS; this makes CRNAs the highest-paying type nursing job by a significant margin.

How much does a BSN make in Alaska? ›

Bsn Salary in Alaska. $78,000 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $105,400 is the 75th percentile.

Is it expensive to live in Alaska? ›

Average Cost of Living in Alaska: $54,331 per year

Tighten up your monthly budget if you have your heart set on moving to Alaska. Data gathered by MERIC 2022 ranked Alaska as the state with the sixth highest cost of living. (Hawaii had the highest cost of living in the whole country.)

How long does it take to get a Tennessee nursing license by endorsement? ›

Nurses who already hold an active license in another state can apply by endorsement. New nurses who have graduated from nursing school and are applying for their first license will need to apply by exam. You should allow approximately six weeks for license processing.

How long does it take to get a Rhode Island nursing license? ›

A temporary license is good for 90 days, is issued only once, and takes approximately 4 weeks. A permanent RN license takes approximately 8 weeks.

How long does it take to get a nursing license in Connecticut? ›

How Long Does it Take to get a CT Nursing License? It takes approximately four weeks to receive a permanent nursing license in Connecticut after all documentation has been received.

What is the fastest you can become an RN? ›

The way to become an RN with the lowest level of education is to go through an associate's degree in nursing or ADN program. Most ADN programs are two years long and are held at community colleges. There are numerous options to choose from, including part-time and full-time programs.

Which state is easier for NCLEX? ›

New Hampshire boasts the highest NCLEX pass rate average in the U.S., over 14% higher than the national average. In 2022, five of the state's eight bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs reported first-time pass rates above 90%, including a 100% rate for Plymouth State University.

Which state is easiest to get NCLEX? ›

None. There is no “easy” state to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Because it's national, the NCLEX will be the same regardless of what state you choose to take it in.

Where is the easiest place to be a nurse? ›

Easy-to-get-into nursing jobs can be found in extended care facilities. Nursing homes, rehab facilities, and assisted living all fall under this umbrella. Although you should be able to find a job in many of these environments, working in an assisted living facility may be your best option.

What type of RN gets paid the most? ›

Highest Paid Nursing Jobs:
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist – $202,000.
  • Nursing Administrator – $120,000.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse – $120,000.
  • General Nurse Practitioner – $118,000.
  • Critical Care Nurse – $118,000.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife – $114,000.
  • Informatics Nurse – $102,000.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist – $95,000.
Dec 5, 2022

Is 40 too old to become a RN? ›

Don't Worry About Being “Too Old” to Become a Nurse

The truth is that many adults enter nursing in their 40s and beyond. Many do so as a second career because they want to pursue their passion for medicine and enjoy greater financial security.

How much do most RN make an hour? ›

Salaries by years of experience in California
Years of experiencePer hour
1 to 2 years$52.29
3 to 5 years$54.88
6 to 9 years$56.86
More than 10 years$63.57
1 more row

Which state to take NCLEX unlimited? ›

California: Every 45 days as many times as you want. Florida: 3 attempts then you have to go back to school. Pennsylvania: Unlimited attempts. Ohio: Unlimited attempts.

What state has the lowest NCLEX pass rate? ›

2 and Dec. 9, 2022. Last year, 63.88 percent of registered nursing students passed the NCLEX, down from 64.79 percent in 2021 and 68.92 percent in 2020. Florida has had the lowest NCLEX pass rates in the country since 2017, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

What is the hardest part of the NCLEX? ›

Let's look at the 16 most common challenges NCLEX candidates face and ways you can overcome them.
  1. Second-Guessing Your Abilities. ...
  2. Changing Answers Repeatedly. ...
  3. Reading Questions Too Fast. ...
  4. Cramming Before the Test. ...
  5. Not Using the Right Study Tools. ...
  6. Not Getting Enough Rest Before the Test. ...
  7. Reading Too Much into a Question.

What state is the fastest to process NCLEX? ›

If you are looking for the best state for NCLEX or easiest state to pass NCLEX, here are the top 5:
  • #1 Connecticut. ...
  • #2 Montana. ...
  • #3 New York. ...
  • #4 Northern Mariana Islands. ...
  • #5 South Dakota.
Jan 20, 2022

What percent of nursing students never pass the NCLEX? ›

All nursing students dream of graduating and passing the NCLEX. Unfortunately, more than thirteen percent of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt.

What percentage of nurses pass the NCLEX? ›

According to the NCSBN, the national first time NCLEX-RN pass rate for US educated nurses in 2020 was 86.5% and the PN pass rate for the same period of time was 83%. The pass rate for repeat RN test-takers was only 42.9% and for PN 35.6%.

Where do the happiest nurses live? ›

#1 Minnesota
  • Quality of life ranking: #2.
  • Average RN salary: $72,310.00.
  • RN pay compared to cost of living ranking: #10.
  • Nursing surplus or shortage: +3,100 (surplus)
  • Overall hospital rating by nurses: 86%
Apr 29, 2018

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