Facing the growing needs of an aging population and a steep increase in insured persons, Florida medical centers increasingly require qualified nursing professionals. Florida nurses treat and provide emotional support to patients and educate the public about health-related topics. The average salary for nurses is $68,450 and increases with experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for registered nurses to grow 15% through 2026.
As a registered nurse (RN), you can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including schools, nursing homes, military facilities, physicians’ offices, and hospitals. Job openings are plentiful for qualified candidates with traditional or online nursing degrees. The American Nurses Association cites Florida among the states that constitute half of the overall growth in the field. Employers in the state seek skilled professionals with a strong academic background and experience.
The Florida Center for Nursing reports state hospitals prefer to hire those with a BSN degree. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate or a working professional, nursing schools in Florida provide the education you need to join this rapidly expanding field.
How to Become a Nurse in Florida
To become a registered nurse, you must obtain at least an associate degree through an on-campus or online RN program, or earn an equivalent diploma through hospital training. Because the profession is highly regulated in the U.S., most nursing students take similar classes and follow the same steps toward credentialing. However, licensing procedures and costs vary slightly by state.
1. Choosing the Right Path for You
There are several ways to become a registered nurse. Some nurses start as hospital aides and advance to an RN position through an internal diploma program. Others pursue an associate degree from one of the nursing schools in Florida. This is a great option for those seeking to start work quickly, but employment options for those without a bachelor's are limited. Entering an online RN-to-BSN program in Florida improves employment prospects. Online BSN programs in Florida enable students to take on more advanced roles, such as nurse administrator or community health specialist. Online MSN programs in Florida prepare you for careers in advanced nursing, research, consulting, and teaching.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Distance education through one of the nursing schools in Florida is an affordable and flexible way to earn your degree. Students applying to an associate or bachelor’s program need a high school diploma and adequate ACT/SAT scores; they must also fulfill prerequisites. Most programs require hands-on experience through fellowships and internships, and all require clinical training. Diploma and associate programs take one to three years to complete; bachelor’s degrees usually require four; master’s take an additional two years, though there are options to accelerate this process; and doctorates vary by program.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
To qualify for entry-level nursing practice, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Candidates must have an accredited traditional or online nursing degree, which reflects the knowledge and experience needed to pass the exam. Examinees have up to six hours to complete the test. You should start studying for the NCLEX-RN at least two months prior to the test date.
Nursing Licensure in Florida
Passing the NCLEX-RN is required to legally practice nursing in the United States. To qualify, candidates must hold an accredited on-campus or online nursing degree. Test-takers have up to six hours to answer the questions, most of which are multiple choice. Since the test is computerized, it adapts to ability. The more questions you get right, the more difficult the test becomes. The test calculates your score based on the number of questions you got right and their difficulty. There are optional breaks after 2.5 and 3.5 hours. Nursing schools in Florida provide curricula that are aligned with the exam material, which consists of four primary categories and eight subcategories. Many schools provide tutoring and resources to help students pass the test.
Though the NCLEX-RN is standardized across the U.S., registered nurses can only practice in the state in which they pass the exam. For detailed information on licensing procedures, requirements, and professional resources, visit the Florida Board of Nursing.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Florida
App Fee $110
Specialist Certification $75
State Requirements By Nursing Type
In Florida, you can become an RN through examination or endorsement.
If you choose the examination track, you must complete a state-approved nursing education program. Examples of state-approved programs include those accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, as well as military nursing education programs and certain international programs. You must also submit your fingerprints for a criminal background check.
After meeting these requirements, you can sit for the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX-RN features adaptive questioning, meaning the number of questions you receive depends on how you answered previous questions. Your exam may include anywhere from 75-265 prompts. The NCLEX-RN consists of roughly 90% multiple-choice questions, which cover topics such as physiological integrity, safe and effective care environments, health promotion and maintenance, and psychosocial integrity. You must pay $200 to take the exam and an additional $110 in application and licensing fees to the state board of nursing.
If you previously passed the NCLEX-RN and held an RN license from another state for at least two years, you can apply for a Florida license through endorsement. You must submit to a criminal background check and pay the same application and licensing fees. The board may request additional information after reviewing your application.
In 2012, the Florida legislature passed a law that instructed the state board to refuse any type of nursing license to any individual found guilty of a felony related to healthcare fraud.
Aspiring certified nursing assistants (CNA) in Florida can also receive their license through examination or endorsement.
To become a CNA through examination, you must be at least 18 years old or hold a high school diploma. Alternatively, you can complete the coursework laid out by the Enterprise Florida Jobs and Education Partnership Grant. Many technical schools and community colleges offer these classes. Before sitting for your exam, you must pass a criminal background check.
In Florida, Prometric administers the Florida nursing aide examination. The written portion of the exam includes 60 multiple-choice questions and lasts up to 90 minutes. These questions cover topics like the role of the nurse aide, promotion of safety, and promotion of resident function and health. The clinical skills portion of the exam takes roughly 30-40 minutes and requires candidates to demonstrate skills such as ambulating patients, dressing residents, providing catheter care, and measuring radial pulse. Two nurses oversee and evaluate your performance of each of these activities. The exam costs about $155.
If you hold an active CNA license in another state, you can apply for your Florida license through the endorsement method. While you do not need to take the state nursing aide exam, you must submit your fingerprints for a criminal background check. The fee for submitting your fingerprints varies by provider.
To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) through examination in Florida, you must complete a state-approved nursing education program. Like the RN licensing track, you must graduate from a program with accreditation from either the Accreditation Commission for Education or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Some military education international programs also hold authorization from the state board.
After completing a criminal background check, you may sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practicing Nurses, or NCLEX-PN. The NCLEX-PN shares many of the same features as the NCLEX-RN. For example, the test also uses adaptive questioning, so you may see between 75-265 questions depending on your responses. Most of these questions are multiple choice, though you should also prepare to fill in blanks, choose all correct answers from a list, put steps in the correct order, and identify a specific area on a picture or illustration. Topics covered include management of care, safety and infection control, pharmacological therapies, and reduction of risk potential.
The exam costs $200, but you must also pay $110 in application and licensing fees to the Florida state board of nursing. After passing the exam and submitting the required fees, you should receive your license in 7-10 days.
If you hold a practical nurse license in another state, you do not need to take the NCLEX-PN. However, you must pass a criminal background check, submit endorsement documentation, and pay the application and licensing fees.
In Florida, nurse practitioners (NP) must pursue a license as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). NPs can manage certain medical problems, order occupational or physical therapy, monitor patients with stable chronic diseases, and diagnose and treat some behavioral issues. The same application requirements for NPs also apply to registered nurse anesthetists, psychiatric nurses, and nurse midwives.
To receive an APRN license, you must be a licensed registered nurse and hold at least a master's degree in nursing from an accredited school or nursing education program. You also must submit documentation of national advanced practice certification from a state-approved nursing specialty board, as well as proof of malpractice insurance. Some candidates can receive an exemption from the malpractice insurance requirement.
As with all nursing licenses in Florida, you must get fingerprinted for a criminal background check and pay application and licensing fees. The APRN license costs $110. Nurses who desire a dispensing license so that they can sell medicine to patients in their office must pay an additional fee of $100 and submit additional documentation.
Out-of-state APRN applicants must follow the same procedures as registered nurses from Florida. Once you receive a license as an APRN, you must renew this standing every two years. On-time renewal costs $60. APRNs must complete 32 hours of continuing education biannually, though some nurses, such as members of the military and those holding certification from an accredited healthcare specialty program, can receive exemptions from this requirement.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Florida
Florida boasts many hospitals, which constitute the largest employers in nursing. Many nursing schools in Florida cultivate partnerships with local hospitals for online nursing degree students to receive clinical practice, internships, and job opportunities.
As shown in the table below, wages for nurses in Florida lag slightly behind national averages, but the cost of living in the state is relatively low. The demand for BSN programs in Florida is rising alongside employment prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida has one of the highest employment levels for nurses in the nation, and the number is expected to grow. Nursing schools in Florida offer in-demand specializations, including pediatric care, adult critical care, and gerontology.
Employment Data For RNs in Florida
According to the BLS, more than 178,000 registered nurses worked in Florida in 2017, earning an annual mean wage of $64,890; the annual mean wage across all U.S. occupations approached $45,000 that year.
Nationwide, the BLS projects employment for registered nurses to grow 15% through 2026, which is more than twice as fast as the national average for all occupations. An aging population and the need for trained professionals in all medical settings, such as residential care facilities and outpatient centers, lead to continued demand for RNs. Those with at least a bachelor's degree in nursing enjoy the most job prospects.
Living in an urban center, like Miami or Orlando, can position you to take advantage of new employment opportunities in the state. However, many elderly individuals prefer in-home treatment and care, meaning registered nurses can often find work in rural areas of Florida as well.
Employment Data For CNAs in Florida
In 2017, slightly more than 92,000 nursing assistants worked in Florida, earning an annual mean wage of $25,930. The national median salary for nursing assistants and orderlies approached $28,000 in 2017, compared to a national median wage of $37,690 across all occupations.
The low wages for certified nursing assistants can, in part, be attributed to the relatively low educational requirements for the position. You can qualify for most of these roles with a high school diploma and a certificate from a state-approved nursing education program.
Despite below-average compensation, the BLS projects employment for nursing assistants to increase 11% through 2026, which is significantly faster than the national average. Many nursing assistants help care for the elderly. According to the Aging and Disability Resource Council of Broward County, 23% of Florida's population is over the age of 60.
While you can likely find nursing assistant jobs across the state, the majority of positions exist in or near a city. The Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater metropolitan area, for example, employs more nursing assistants than all but seven other urban centers nationwide.
Employment Data For NPs in Florida
Approximately 10,000 nurse practitioners worked in Florida in 2017. The annual mean wage of these nurses approached $100,000, which is significantly higher than the average salary for all other Floridians, though slightly trailing the median wage for nurse practitioners nationwide.
Nationally, the BLS projects the need for roughly 56,000 additional nurse practitioners through 2026 -- a growth rate of 36%. Aging populations and a heightened focus on preventive care can explain much of this demand, though changing laws, greater public recognition of the profession, and the need to reduce costs have also led nurse practitioners to take on primary roles in many healthcare settings. All advanced practice registered nurses must hold a master's degree and pass a national certification exam.
The majority of nurse practitioners work in physicians' offices and hospitals, with the remainder working in outpatient care centers or in educational or home care roles. Nurse practitioners aspiring to institutional positions should consider working in highly populated areas, while those seeking roles in in-home treatment or at smaller healthcare organizations can often find employment in rural areas.
Biggest Hospitals in Florida
Graduates from online nursing schools can find career opportunities at one or more of the state’s medical facilities. Some of the largest and most renowned hospitals in the U.S. are located in the Sunshine State, including a branch of the Mayo Clinic, which is highly ranked for the quality of its medical treatment and the breadth of its specialized care. With so many hospitals and care centers in Florida, nurses of all levels enjoy expansive professional opportunities.
- Jackson Memorial Hospital: With 1,550 registered beds, Jackson Memorial Hospital is the largest healthcare facility in Florida. Founded in 1918, it’s part of a state health network that employs more than 12,000 physicians, nurses, and supporting staff. Jackson Memorial is also an established teaching hospital for the University of Miami’s online nursing program, providing students a direct channel to job opportunities.
- Florida Hospital Orlando: As the flagship campus for the Florida Hospital network, the Orlando branch employs approximately 8,400 doctors, nurses, and administrative staff. FHO is a nonprofit healthcare organization that provides acute care and nationally recognized adult specialty treatments. The hospital has 1,398 registered beds, and, as part of the Adventist Health System, has connections to medical facilities throughout the Caribbean and South America.
Additional Nursing Resources in Florida
- Florida Nurses Association: The FNA is a constituent of the American Nurses Association, the largest professional organization for nurses in the United States. In addition to providing information on online nursing programs, the site provides professional development and job search resources. The FNA partners with nursing schools in Florida to create research assistance and internship opportunities for students.
- Florida Nursing Students Association: As a member of the National Student Nurses Association, the FNSA provides opportunities for nursing students to share information and resources with their peers nationwide. This includes the opportunity to collaborate on research and projects as well as participate in conventions sponsored by the FNSA or partner organizations.
- Florida Center for Nursing: The FCN provides Florida nursing statistics, including job growth projections and data on what regions offer the most opportunities for registered nurses. The organization also provides details on the various nursing schools in Florida as well as professional development resources and a digital library.
- Registered Nursing: A resource for prospective and experienced nurses across the U.S, this site provides information on accreditation, career assistance, and a job board. It also provides details on individual states, including licensure requirements and programs available through nursing schools in Florida.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Florida
The following database includes all accredited ADN , BSN, RN-to-BSN , MSN , and DNP online nursing schools in Florida. Each online nursing degree varies in regards to its format, course offerings, specializations, and professional opportunities. This database will help you find a program that fits your unique career goals.