What is the NCLEX?

In the US, to become a nurse you must pass a specific exam set by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). There are a number of tests, which one you take is based on which of the following hierarchy your qualifications best fit:

Level Typical education requirement Current practitioners Median annual salary Scope of practice
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) 75-hour vocational course 1,534,400 $24,000 (2012)  Sometimes called orderlies, Certified Nursing Assistants are trained to perform a limited range of procedures in support of Registered Nurses, under whose supervision they are generally required to work. These include taking vital signs, dispensing prescribed medications, bathing patients, and moving patients in wheelchairs.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) one-year vocational course 738,400 $41,540 (2012) In addition to the duties of a CNA, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is generally also qualified to administer injections, perform therapeutic massage, prepare patients for surgical procedures, maintain patient medical records, change bandages and dressings, and sometimes manage intravenous drips. LPNs are also responsible for communicating a patient's needs to medical staff.
Registered Nurse (RN) Associate of Science (A.S.) in Nursing or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Nursing 2,711,500  $65,470 (2012) In addition to the duties of CNAs and LPNs, RNs are qualified to make nursing diagnoses, and to supervise the work of CNAs and LPNs.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) postgraduate education in specialized aspect of nursing and RN licensure 151,400 $96,460 (2012) Advanced Practice Registered Nurses include nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists.


In the U.S., every nurse must meet additional state requirements and take the NCLEX as established by the State Board of Nursing. Each state has its own Board of Nursing. There are some state boards of nursing that will accept the Canadian Nurses Association Testing Service (CNATS) or the Canadian Registered Nurses Examination (CRNE). 

There are also a few state boards of nursing that will directly endorse foreign educated nurses who have never take the NCLEX. Because this information can change, it is necessary to contact the state board of nursing to determine if they have a policy regarding direct endorsement for foreign-educated nurses.

Last modified: Friday, 21 August 2015, 9:00 AM