With increasing lifespans and an aging population, the demand for nurses is high. Home to several renowned hospitals, Georgia offers many opportunities in healthcare. The average annual salary for a registered nurse (RN) in Georgia is nearly $65,000; however, specialized nurses in the Atlanta metro area can earn as much as $121,000.
Most nursing positions in Georgia require a nursing degree and successful completion of the state’s licensing exam. Depending on your interests and career goals, becoming a nurse can take as little as one year, or as many as 11. For example, RNs in Georgia must complete at least a two-year associate degree, while a licensed practical nurse can earn a degree within one year.
With a variety of accredited nursing programs in Georgia, you can complete an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral nursing degree online, on campus, or as a hybrid of the two. The information below outlines key information, resources, and opportunities for those earning an online degree in nursing in Georgia.
How to Become a Nurse in Georgia
Becoming a nurse in Georgia requires education and licensure. Nurses must earn a nursing degree before completing licensure exams from the state’s board of nursing. Like other states, Georgia does not allow nursing graduates to work without a valid license. The licensing exam costs $200, and Georgia charges a $40 exam application fee. The information below details the state’s requirements.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
The minimum requirement for a registered nurse in Georgia is an associate degree, while licensed practical nurses (LPNs) must hold an LPN degree. Graduates of these programs may work in many positions, including registered nurse, school nurse, and travel nurse. However, if you’re seeking advanced positions with higher pay and more career options, you should consider advanced degrees, such as a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning a nursing degree at a college or university usually requires that students possess a high school diploma or GED, with prerequisites including English, mathematics, and science. Schools may also require ACT or SAT scores for admission. Depending on which degree you pursue, your education can last anywhere from 2-11 years. You can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor’s in four, a master’s in six, and a doctorate in 9-11. Most nursing degrees include onsite clinical training in the curriculum.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
After earning your degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN before you can work as a registered or practical nurse in Georgia. It is recommended that students spend two months studying for the exam, reviewing written materials and completing practice questions. The NCLEX-RN takes six hours to complete, while the NCLEX-PN takes five hours.
Nursing Licensure in Georgia
While earning a nursing degree is the first step toward becoming a nurse, you must also complete one of two licensure exams to work in the field. Typically, aspiring nurses take these examinations after graduating from a nursing program. The NCLEX-RN is for students with an associate degree or higher, while the NCLEX-PN is for students who completed LPN programs.
Students submit an exam application to the Georgia Board of Nursing, register for exam administration, then schedule an appointment to sit for the exam.
Because Georgia participates in the Nursing Licensure Compact, earning your license in this state enables you to transfer your license to other states in the compact.
State Requirements by Nursing Type
Learners seeking to become RNs in Georgia should complete an accredited nursing program. The Georgia Board of Nursing publishes a list of approved schools with links to the institutions, the types of nursing programs they offer, and the kinds of approval they boast. Graduates from any of the RN or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs on the list are eligible for licensure. Another table features information on how well graduates from these schools do on the licensure exams.
After graduation, candidates should register for an account with Georgia’s fingerprinting system before filing an application with the nursing board. The application includes a fee and a criminal background check. Graduates from online programs must also submit transcripts and use the mail-in form. Applicants must submit information to Pearson Vue, the company that issues the NCLEX-RN.
When candidates receive authorization to test forms, they can schedule their NCLEX-RN dates. The company charges $200 for registration and additional fees for changes. The NCLEX uses Computerized Adaptive Testing. With this software, the test adjusts the difficulty of the questions based on the student’s accuracy. When the program is 95% certain whether a tester will pass or fail, the exam ends.
Nurses with active licenses in other states do not have to take the NCLEX to work in Georgia. Instead, these professionals apply for licensure by endorsement. The paper application must include a $75 nonrefundable fee and official transcripts.
The Georgia Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS), which is part of the Department of Community Health, oversees licensure for any Georgian seeking to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA). MMIS requires learners to first complete an approved program, which may take place at a higher learning institution, secondary school, nursing home, medical facility, or home care agency. Georgia does not require students in these programs to have high school diplomas. Applicants can search the MMIS database to find programs aligned with their needs.
After completing a program, candidates must take the licensing exam within one year of graduation. Students can find testing sites through the MMIS website. Learners typically pay around $100 to take the test, but fees vary by testing site. During the skills portion of the test, students must complete typical CNA duties in front of a proctor who can ask students to redo some parts. The proctor issues test results before students leave.
After passing the test, candidates get their CNA licenses. These credentials expire in two years. For renewal, applicants must prove they worked at least eight paid hours as a CNA in the past two years. The state does not charge renewal fees.
Licensed CNAs from out of state can apply for Georgia licenses with the reciprocity form. Candidates must be on a CNA registry, have clean records with no open allegations or charges of abuse, valid Social Security numbers, and at least eight completed hours as CNAs in two years.
LPN candidates can earn licensure through examination, endorsement, or reinstatement. Applicants without LPN credentials must go through examination. Before learners can take the exam, they must complete a qualifying nursing program. Students who complete programs outside of Georgia but apply for first-time licensure within the state may qualify. These candidates must submit transcripts with their exam application.
All first-time licensing applicants must register with Pearson Vue and the state’s fingerprinting system before applying for examination with the board. Applications include a $40 fee and criminal background check. Candidates who complete state-approved programs use online or paper forms to apply to take the licensing test. Out-of-state applicants must use the paper forms. Once learners receive approval from all agencies, they register for the NCLEX-PN.
Practicing LPNs from other states may apply for licensure by endorsement. These candidates must submit paper applications and a $75 nonrefundable fee. Applicants must submit transcripts, verification of licensure from the most recent states, and verification of licensure from the original state if applicable. These applicants must also prove that they either worked 500 hours as LPNs in the four years before applying, graduated from LPN school in the past four years, or completed Georgia’s LPN reentry program.
LPNs must renew their licenses every two years. Renewal applicants must prove 20 hours of approved continuing education and submit an application. The nursing board keeps a detailed list of continuing education options.
Nurse practitioner (NP) candidates go through the same licensing process as other advanced nursing applicants. First, students must complete a board-approved graduate program, then candidates submit proof of a Georgia RN license, a $75 fee, official postsecondary transcripts, and verification of specialty certifications.
The certification can come from national organizations, such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). These credentials must be at the NP level. Most organizations like the AANP and ANCC require certification candidates to take exams. Georgia does not ask for exam results; it only asks for the certification.
NP applicants must also submit proof that they have worked 500 hours as an advanced practice nurse or graduated from an accredited NP program in the preceding four years. NPs who transfer from other states submit the same documents; however, candidates must have an RN license in Georgia at the time of application.
The board requires additional authorization for NPs who want to prescribe medicine. After submitting the initial application to the nursing board, applicants submit the Advanced Practice Registered Nursing Protocol form through the state’s medical board. Once the board sends approval, NPs apply for registration numbers with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. NPs pursue the same renewal and continuing education options as RNs in Georgia. All license renewal candidates must update their personal information and pay a fee.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Georgia
Georgia employs more nurses than many other states in the country. While there are numerous job opportunities throughout the state, the Atlanta metropolitan area offers the most prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% rise in nursing employment in Georgia by 2026; it also projects a 3% rise in nursing wages.
While the entire nursing field is projected to grow, some specializations offer faster growth and higher wages. The three most popular nursing specializations in Georgia include nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and nurse midwife. Nurse anesthetists work with doctors to administer anesthesia and monitor patients' vital signs during recovery. In Atlanta, nurse anesthetists can earn up to $121,000 per year. Nurse practitioners may work without supervision to diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication, while nurse midwives assist with baby deliveries.
Employment Data For RNs in Georgia
RNs in Georgia make less than the national average. The BLS reports that the mean pay for nurses in the country is $73,550 annually; Georgia’s RNs earn an average of $64,750 per year. Industry and type of employer can affect nursing pay. For example, RNs who work for government agencies and hospitals earn wages above the national median. Hospitals employ about 1.7 million of the 2.9 million American nurses and pay a mean salary of $75,820 annually.
Georgia employs more nurses than many other states, with 73,330 working RNs. Most of these professionals work in the Atlanta area. With 40,400 RNs, this area is one of the top metropolitan regions for nurses. Nationwide, the BLS projects the need for RNs to grow 15% by 2026. PayScale reports that the average RN in Atlanta makes $71,929 annually. Major healthcare employers, like Kaiser Permanente and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, boast some of the highest-paying RN jobs in the region. Experience impacts earnings. New RNs make $52,897 on average, while those with 7-9 years of experience earn a mean wage of $65,376.
Employment Data For CNAs in Georgia
The average CNA in the country makes $27,520 per year, which is about $10,000 less than the average worker across all industries. Many people use CNA positions as stepping stones to LPN or RN careers. Assistant positions give nursing students experience and help pay for expenses while they work toward their goals.
Professionals in the Peach State earn a little less than the national average at $24,840 per year. Georgia is home to 36,270 CNAs, which is more than most states. The Atlanta area accounts for 19,000 of these professionals and boasts a higher average salary than the state overall at $26,630. Payscale reports that the top quarter of CNAs in Atlanta make between $31,000 and $57,000 per year. Those who work in hospice care earn 3% more than average, and those with 10 or more years of experience enjoy salaries that are 13% higher than average.
The BLS projects nursing assistant jobs to grow 11% by 2026. This expansion is faster than the average for all positions.
Employment Data For NPs in Georgia
On average, NPs in Georgia make $100,660 per year, which is slightly lower than the national median of $107,480 annually. However, NPs in Georgia make significantly more than their RN colleagues, who earn about $64,750 per year.
While the BLS projects most healthcare jobs to grow by 2026, NPs enjoy some of the highest growth rates. The average growth rate for all advanced nurses is 31%; NPs are projected to see a 36% growth rate nationwide. Atlanta and its suburbs employ many of the state’s NPs. The 2,900 professionals in the region make it one of the most populated areas for NPs in the country. The Atlanta area also pays higher NP wages with an average of $106,430 per year.
Nationwide, physicians' offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers employ the majority of NPs. Some NPs work in specialty doctors’ offices and earn above-average salaries. The top-paying industry for NPs is personal care services with an average salary of $139,460 per year. Other high-earning NPs work in management, religious facilities, or dentist offices.
Biggest Hospitals in Georgia
Georgia boasts several respected hospitals, including Emory University Hospital and Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital. Ample health facilities means increased internship, practicum, and employment opportunities, as well as higher salaries.
- Emory University Hospital: This large hospital, located in the Atlanta metro area, is nationally recognized in five adult specialties, four of which are top ranked. Its 293 physicians and numerous support staff serve nearly 26,000 patients on 548 beds per year. Patients report high levels of satisfaction with their care.
- Navicent Health Medical Center: While smaller than Emory University Hospital, Navicent serves a large rural area and employs an above-average number of nurses. The hospital is known for its quality nursing care and boasts well-respected ICU and trauma centers.
Additional Nursing Resources in Georgia
- Georgia Nurses Association: GNA is Georgia’s largest nursing association. Its goal is to advance the causes of its members and the profession. The association improves workplace conditions and access to healthcare. It also awards scholarships to nursing students.
- Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: This organization provides nurses with educational resources and training. It also assists school nurses in difficult cases, such as children with chronic conditions, and helps school districts manage health manuals.
- Georgia Nursing Leadership Coalition: GNLC implements recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report. It fosters cooperation among nurses and builds strategic partnerships with professionals outside of the nursing profession. Among its many achievements is studying ways to increase participation in Georgia’s nursing doctorate programs.
- Georgia Association For Nursing Education: GANE awards several scholarships to nursing students and recognizes exceptional nursing faculty in Georgia. Such recognition is accompanied by opportunities to speak publicly at GANE events, such as the annual conference, or receive research grants.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Georgia