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How to Progress Your Nursing Career in a New State

This news story was published on December 11, 2019.
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Being a nurse is a rewarding, fulfilling career, but the job prospects near you might not live up to expectations. Moving to secure yourself a better job is one of the most common reasons for starting anew, but with nursing, it’s somewhat more complicated. 

That is because each state has its own nursing requirements. If you are moving from Ohio to a neighboring state or vice versa, for example, you are going to have to retake the state license exam and acquire a new license before you can find a job. 

That is because Ohio is not a compact state and doesn’t have pending legislation to join the compact states. 

A compact state is a collection of states where you can obtain one nursing license and use it throughout the collective. There are more than 25 states and more joining in 2020. 

How to Transfer Your Nursing License 

Before you can worry about progressing your nursing career in a new state, you will need to switch you license. Even if you live in a compact state, if you plan on permanently moving, you need to switch your license. 

The good news is that it’s easy! 

From a Non-Compact State 

If you are moving from a non-compact state like Ohio or moving to a non-compact state, then you will need to: 

  1. Contact the Nursing Board in the state you are moving to or visit the Board of Nursing (BON) website to find the full list of requirements. 
  2. Apply for Licensure by Endorsement 
  3. Pay the Fee 

In most cases, applying and paying for your new state license takes 10 minutes or less. Some states aren’t sponsored by Nursys, where you can otherwise apply online. In those cases, give yourself extra time as you will need to mail your application in.

Tip: You don’t have to revoke your previous license to obtain a compact state license. So long as you maintain your previous license, you can keep your right to work in both your home state and within compact states. 

To maintain your original license, you will still need to: 

  • Complete your continuing education hours 
  • Practice nursing within your home state 
  • Renew it before it expires 

From a Compact State to a Compact State 

Having a multi-state license from a compact state means you don’t have to do anything extra if you are working for an assignment or a brief period of time in a different state. So long as your permanent address doesn’t change, you are good to go. 

If you are moving your permanent address, you will need to transfer your license. This is best done at least 2 months in advance. 

To transfer your license, you will need to: 

  1. Complete a primary state of residency declaration 
  2. Inform the BON that your permanent residency is moving 

You can use your old license for up to 30 days, though in some states, this goes up to 90 days. Simply pay the fee for your transfer license, and you will be sent a new one. Your previous license will then be deactivated. 

When You Will Need to Retake the NCLEX 

In most scenarios, you won’t need to retake the NCLEX when moving from state to state. The instances where you will have to retake the exam are simple: 

  1. You have allowed your license to lapse. 

This will only truly be an issue if you left nursing for a time and then moved, but you would need to retake the exam regardless of whether you have moved or not. 

Choose How You Wish to Progress Your Career 

There are two main considerations you will make when it comes to moving to a new state:

Choosing the Right Destination

If you have any say in which state you move to, then it is important you fully understand the state of nursing within that state. The District of Columbia, for example, has one of the highest congregations of nurses, whereas other states have more job opportunities and higher pay. 

Know what to expect in terms of working conditions, pay, and career progression before you commit. A lower wage is not necessary a bad thing if the cost of living is comparatively low. Similarly, a healthy, supportive working environment is going to be key while you work and study in your career. 

Your Career Path 

The best move for your career is to achieve a Bachelor in Nursing (BSN) as this is the most efficient method to progressing your career. If you have become a registered nurse through a nursing degree rather than a BSN, now is the time to use your experience and go the final mile for that formal qualification. 

The reason why you want a BSN over a nursing degree is simple; it is the option that gives you the greatest career potential. 

When it comes to developing your career further, you will be looking at acquiring a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN). Done right, however, and you can easily acquire both the MSN and specialize in your dream job. 

How to Progress Your Nursing Career in a New State 

Moving can be done to further your career, but due to the nature of the nursing industry, you will always have to achieve formal qualifications. Knowing where to achieve these qualifications in your new state and how you can transfer them is key to making your move as smooth as possible. 

Choose an Online, Flexible Degree 

Attending night school and transferring once you move is not your only option. In fact, it’s far from being the best option even. Online degrees offer the same quality education with the flexibility to attend the best schools in the state in your own time. 

For those who don’t want to take time off from work to achieve their BSN or MSN, online education is the perfect option. 

Don’t Delay Your Education

Just as there are restrictions on licensing between states, there are also issues with continuing your education, and you might need to transfer your credits to another institution. 

If you plan on moving in the future but don’t want to put your education on hold, then there are a few easy options: 

  1. Choose a great university that offers your degree in both states. 
  2. Call ahead to ensure that you can transfer your degree and credits. 

Some universities offer degrees like the MSN-FNP in several states. Choosing a university that offers these multi-state options is key.

Say, for example, you are moving from a non-compact state like Ohio to a compact state like Colorado. By choosing a university that offers the same degree in both compact and non-compact states, you can simplify your degree and not be forced to put your education on hold. 

Simply start your MSN-FNP degree in Ohio with one university and then transfer to its nurse practitioner school in Colorado when you move. You can continue your education without dealing with a complicated transfer process and be qualified in your new state. 

Key Skills to Showcase to Make Yourself More Hirable 

One of the pitfalls of moving to a new state is that many of your old contacts likely won’t hold much sway in your new hometown. You will, therefore, have to start from scratch when job hunting. 

That is why it is key to showcase not just your qualifications and experience but your passion and compassion for the job and your patients. Caring nurses who truly believe in what they do are perfect for any position. 

Becoming a nurse is one of the most selfless acts a person can undertake. In a society of so many different races, cultures, customs, and beliefs, nurses are a universal gift to all, and the dedicated work that they do and kindness they deliver on a daily basis should serve as a reminder of the fundamental humanity inside us all.


  • Ariel Jacoby 


You can show your compassion by: 

  • Volunteering your services 
  • Having great references 

Another great way to stand out from the crowd is specializing your career. Having an MSN as a Registered Nurse is great, but if you really want to go far, you will want to complete it with a certification. 

A FNP is going to provide you with plenty more opportunities than an RN and put you at the top of the hiring list. 

Other ways that you can improve your job hunt include: 

  1. Searching for positions in cities and towns that are facing a shortage
  2. Not limiting yourself to positions in hospitals 

There are so many places qualified nurses can work, including clinics, doctor’s offices, recruitment agencies, schools, universities and beyond. Open your search field when job hunting so that you can better find the perfect position and secure yourself a new job role faster. 

There are currently 800,000 unfulfilled RN positions in the United States right now, but it is important to know the job market in any given state. Some states have an overabundance of RNs, and others are desperate for them. If you can choose a state that has plenty of job opportunities available, you can keep your options open and find your dream job.

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